How do I find mentors? In short, reach out to people who have done the kind of work that interests you for advice. Start looking for mentors now, and keep up the practice after you graduate.
In addition to giving you academic advice, your CAs, teaching fellows, and professors can also provide some career advice. Many of us in the Government Department worked in politics, public service, or business before going to graduate school. In addition, Harvard provides advisers for pre-law and pre-med students through their Houses, as well as advisers for job hunters through the Office of Career Services (OCS). Finally, Harvard alumni working in your field of choice are valuable sources of information and advice.
The staff in the Undergraduate Program Office are also happy to speak with you more about your post-collegiate plans. Whether you need a sounding board for your post-graduation ideas, or help in preparing your applications, the Government Department Undergraduate Program Office is here to help you. Drop in, or make an appointment to talk about your plans.
How do I find a job? Government concentrators pursue careers in a wide variety of fields, including public service, law, business, media, and education among others. Our students are especially well prepared (and typically quite interested) in public service. Whether it’s working in the United States at the federal, state, or local level, joining the military, or traveling to another country to work with its government or an NGO, opportunities abound for you to put political science theories into practice. Can you increase voter turnout? Go out and try. How does Congress really work? Go work on the Hill and see. Do you see a need for better governing institutions in developing countries? Go and make it happen.
The Office of Career Services (OCS) is an important resource for all Harvard job seekers. Since OCS's on-campus recruiting services for big companies makes such a big splash every fall, students sometimes assume that OCS only helps students find jobs in business. In fact, OCS has listings for hundreds of career areas, including government, non-profit, and international opportunities. Your training in political science may make you an attractive candidate for jobs in many of these diverse fields.
How do I plan for graduate school? If you want to continue your education after college, there is no single answer for how to prepare for graduate school. The criteria for admission vary widely depending on the kind of degree you want to pursue.
Law School: While top law schools attempt to recruit a diverse set of concentrations to fill their ranks, Government concentrators can leverage their political science training in many important ways. Think, for instance, of how often the law and legal institutions were discussed in your classes. Across all four subfields, political science and legal scholarship are common bedfellows.
Those of you considering law school should talk to your House's pre-law tutors for advice and about the specific procedures your House uses to manage the application process. They will be able to show you the “grids” – the record of previous Harvard students’ acceptance rates (by LSAT score, concentration, and GPA). This will give you a great sense of your rough chances of admission to different law schools.
Medical School: Especially for students interested in health care policy, a Government concentration can be a good complement to the pre-med curriculum. Pre-med students should seek advice from your House's pre-med tutors and the premed advisors at OCS. In addition to advising students about medicine as a career, the pre-med advisors help students with the application process. For students who have not completed the required courses necessary to apply to medical school, pre-med advisers can also help students identify post-baccalaureate programs to complete the prerequisites.
Business School: Many Government concentrators go onto careers in business, and our courses on political economy and government-business relations in different parts of the world can provide useful preparation. For students interested in a career in business, an MBA can provide additional specialized training. But it is important for undergraduates to know that most business schools prefer students who have had work experience before they apply. Some students do gain admission directly from an undergraduate program, but it is usually easier to get in after that point. You may want to talk with your house pre-business tutors, or refer to the resources at OCS about business school.
Public Policy and International Relations MA Programs: Many Government concentrators seek additional training in political science for more specialized work for government agencies, non-profits, think tanks, and political consulting firms. Like business school, many of these master degree programs prefer students who have work experience before they apply. Some students do gain admission directly from an undergraduate program, but it is usually easier to get in after that point.
PhD Programs: Some government concentrators pursue a PhD in political science or related fields. A PhD is necessary for an academic career, and your teaching fellows and professors can of course advise you about how to follow in their footsteps. PhDs can also be useful for students interested in pursuing careers in diplomacy or intelligence. If you’re thinking about a PhD, you should make an appointment to see the Director of Undergraduate Studies. She can help you identify faculty members who might be a good resource for you as you explore your options and prepare your applications.
What if I'm looking for an adventure before choosing a career? Some students are not sure what kind of career they want to pursue after graduation; others have made that decision, but want to do something exciting and different before they go down that path. For these students, there are many different opportunities to pursue after graduation.
One option is to take advantage of a Harvard Fellowship to travel or study abroad. To find out about Fellowship opportunities, the place to start is the Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (URAF) website, and your House Fellowships Tutors. Your tutors should be able to help you identify fellowships that appeal to your interests.
Another option many of our alumni take is to work for a few years in public service, through organizations such as the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps VISTA, or Teach For America. In addition to an opportunity for adventure and a chance to give something back to society, this kind of work provides experience that employers and graduate schools value in hiring and admissions.