"Target" schools for getting into politics/federal government work?

I currently have an undergraduate finance degree and work as an analyst at a ratings agency which is great. However, I have always wanted to work with government or politics in some capacity because I find the industry fascinating. To me, that could mean working for something like the MSRB or SEC, doing campaign finance, budgeting for an agency, or maybe trying to become a congressman one day. Are there graduate schools that are known for being good for things like this? For example, maybe some schools have active recruiting from government agencies?

So far, I was starting to look at the upper echelon DC universities (John Hopkins & Georgetown), as well as the typical Ivy schools like Princeton. Are there other unexpected schools I should look at?

Masters in political science at, in no particular order: Ohio State, TAMU, American University, Wisconsin, UIUC, George Washington University, UC Davis, or UCSD.

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Can you expand further on why any of those schools in the midwest are particularly good for this? I understand why DC is good, and why CA schools are good (large states with lots of government agencies and whatnot) but I don’t get the midwest or texas schools.

OSO, UIUC, and Wisconsin are powerhouses, and they also have political science departments which are highly regarded. Moreover, political opportunities are not just available to those who can walk or take a carriage ride to the Capitol. Summer internships are available to all, and senators and state representatives often push students from their own states.

OSU and Wisconsin are in their state capitols, which cannot be said of Stanford, Berkeley, or UCLA. Urbana, IL is the same distance from the state capitol as Berkeley, while Stanford is further, and it takes longer to get from UCLA to the Sacramento than it takes to get from OSU to DC.

Midwestern flagships have cache in their state governments far beyond that of Berkeley or UCLA.

I didn’t add UMichigan or UT Austin which also have top political science programs and opportunities for the same reason, since neither are targets for OOS applicants.

Please don’t get into the East and West Coast mindset in which the area from the Appalachians to the Sierra Nevadas is a wilderness where nothing exists but farmers producing food for the civilized strips of the West and East Coasts.

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I think one mistake you’re making is assuming my priority is a top polisci program whereas I care more about the networking/recruiting potential of an alumni network. While I’m aware internships and jobs are available to everyone, being local makes it much more likely that there is already an established alumni network in place and also more likely that an organization may literally recruit on your campus.

Also I’ve driven across the country twice and traveled a lot within it, but I vastly prefer the northeast and west coast, although Colorado is an exception thanks to its political views and topographical variety (meaning more exposure to things like skiing and downhill biking). The particular activities that I like to do (including traveling abroad, going to the ocean, etc) are simply much more available on the coasts, and my political and religious views (or rather lack thereof) mean I am ultimately uninterested in anywhere too conservative.

I totally see your point about schools being in their state capitals. UC Davis is definitely the closest quality school to Sacramento but god Sacramento is terrible haha. I think that your point is going to merit a larger internal dialogue about geographic proximity to state politics vs where I want to live.

The reason I believe DC and to a larger extend the northeast are the best places in general for political is that in addition to local and federal government you also have offices for international organizations such as the WTO, UN, IMF, and others that I would greatly enjoy working for. You don’t exactly have presences like that in the midwest. You also simply have more large metropoli clustered together.

Harvard, Kennedy School. Connections are good. Speakers and teachers are excellent. Lots of various options. People go into a wide range of jobs.

If your undergrad finance degree came with a very good GPA, solid math and econ coursesl and you have good STATA and/or R skills, consider applying for a Fed Reserve (Board or Regional Bank) RA position. Excellent launch pad to Econ Phd, law school and finance/econ related federal gov’t jobs - if further grad level degrees end up not being your thing.


A school doesn’t have to be located in DC for it to have strong ties to the federal government - the Woodrow Wilson school at Princeton and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard are two that are well-known in the political world, but neither of them are in DC. Organizations recruit on those campuses, too, and they have established and powerful alumni networks. The University of Michigan and Indiana University also both have excellent public administration programs. Another top school is the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, which isn’t in the largest of cities.

In DC itself, you’ll want to look at American, George Washington and Georgetown: they all have strong programs that are tied to good jobs in the federal government. In other large cities up and down the Northeast, in addition to the ones I mentioned there’s also NYU Wagner.

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I appreciate all of the info - I’m definitely not assuming admittance into an Ivy League or equivalent program, but I always like to split up a list by target vs match vs safety schools. I had a GPA of 3.6 in undergrad but I won’t really know how I match up until I take the GMAT/GRE. I’m definitely interested in federal reserve jobs, I think I need to brush up on my technical skills first but I’m not really sure how to prove that I’ve done so other than something like a certification or graduate degree. I am thinking about attempting the CFA though, which I think would also make me more competitive as a graduate school applicant.