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What does a Political Science Professor do?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2018
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A political science professor may work at a community college or a college or university that may or may not offer graduate degrees. The term professor or doctor can also be used for those who have completed at least a PhD, no matter where they work. Yet the term mostly applies to college teachers, even if poly/sci professors at the junior and community college level only possess a master’s degree. Principally, the political science professor is a teacher who communicates his/her expertise to those interested in learning.

Depending on type of school the political science professor may teach, three to five, or possibly more, classes per school term. These may be undergraduate courses that emphasize introduction or that begin to involve more extensive inquiry into the subject and are offered as junior or senior level classes for political science majors. Professors may teach graduate level seminars or classes, too.

In the role of teacher the political science professor tends to design curriculum, choose methods of student assessment, and determines materials used for each course. Curriculum chosen may be in accordance with certain standards that are either set by the department, the college or by the political science community in general. An introductory course, no matter where it’s offered, may not vary that much in what is taught, though mode of presentation and methods for assessing knowledge might vary with each teacher.

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In schools that have graduate programs, a political science professor could also supervise or employ student teachers or student section leaders. Especially on large campuses it’s common for many introductory courses to be taught to high numbers of students, and part of the teaching may be the work of a section leader who helps a group of students prepare for testing on the material. Some graduate students may be given the opportunity to fully teach a course, but if they do so, a political science professor usually supervises their work.

Teaching and graduate supervision may be only part of the work involved. Professors could be academic advisors for students majoring in their field. They may not only offer this service, but they could be responsible for advising certain graduate students and might be part of doctoral or thesis committees that determine whether a graduate student’s work has earned a degree.

Another common part of the job for a political science professor is interacting in some way with the poly/sci department. Sometimes departments have rotating chair responsibilities and all teachers eventually take a turn at leading the department. Other times, becoming a department chair is a goal and more political in nature, and may be something some professors wish so they can have more say in the way political science is taught at a particular institution.

While it is the exception in junior or community college environments, in many schools, professors have to keep their jobs by getting their writing or research published in scholarly journals or sometimes in book form. This means many political science professors spend at least part of their time organizing and carrying out research or studies that will lead to eventual publication. Getting tenure may depend on the ability of a professor to bring prestige to a university through publication, and this is frequently the testing process universities use to determine if their teachers deserve full professor status via tenure.

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