Acquaintance: Oh you’re at Warwick now? What do you study?
Me: Yeah, I do Politics with International Relations.
Acquaintance: Politics? How come? Do you want to be the next prime minister? (Or insert some other clichéd joke.)
Me: * Cringe on the inside. * Well, politics isn’t really about current affairs as such. You don’t necessarily learn ‘content’ that you can use in a particular career path like you do in medicine or engineering. It’s more the skills you gain from the course- critical thinking to better understand the world and presenting an argument in a coherent way. In fact, a politics degree can take you anywhere- from investment banking to NGOS. You can do anything except for maybe a brain surgeon!
I pretty much regurgitate this answer in one form or the other anytime I get asked if I want to be the next prime minister. And if I were given a pound every time I was asked the question, let’s just say I’d be rolling in money right now.
If you’re a Politics student like me, or even a social science student, chances are you too have had to validate your degree choices at some point. Would a medicine, engineering or business student ever have to defend their degree? Why are we social science students made to feel as if we’re not studying a worthy degree?
To be honest, there was a time where I too had begun rethinking whether I made the right decision because everyone around me was going on about gaining employable skills. But with each passing day, I’ve grown to love my course more and realize why I had chosen to do it in the first place.
Not to put other degrees down; the world needs doctors, lawyers and engineers. But the world also needs historians, philosophers and political scientists.[video:https://youtu.be/ON7Te2tdo_c]
How is a Politics degree relevant?
There’s a common misconception that Politics is current affairs; that we’re sat in class discussing what goes on in parliament. But that is not the case.
Politics is essentially the theoretical study of political activity and behaviour. There are many sub-branches of the field. Take Political theory for instance. It is more of a historical module that looks at the contribution of key thinkers such as Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. And no, we don’t just memorise what these thinkers have said but rather analyse their work. It is, in fact, the foundation of many of their thought that characterise the world we live in today. By scrutinising these texts and engaging with these ideas, we are able to better understand the world.
International Relations, on the other hand, deals with the international system. Studying mainstream theories such as realism or liberalism gives you a lens with which to view current affairs. While studying other theories like feminism or post-colonialism enables you to challenge the status quo.[video:https://youtu.be/eKSDM1w0onk]
Or perhaps International Political Economy takes your fancy? Put simply, it looks at how economics and politics are intertwined. We look at classical political economists, how they have been misunderstood by mainstream economists, and the implications of this. We also look at contemporary issues such as the Global Financial Crisis, the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system, or Off Shore tax havens.
In a nutshell, Politics is very much a relevant subject, and it is by no means a worthless or easy degree.[video:https://youtu.be/AquUx5Ig7JA]
What can a Politics graduate do?
Politics as a course is not a politician in training. Of course, many Politics students do end up becoming MPs, working in the foreign ministry, or for the non-profit sector. However, many also do not.
The skills gained from such a degree is vast. As I mentioned earlier, you’re able to understand the world better, think critically, and have research and writing skills. An obvious alternative to entering politics is going into media or journalism.
But for any corporate job you go into, these skills will also be appreciated. Firms want well-rounded people and hire students from a diverse range of background. Whatever you study, as long as you’re able to do it well, firms are keen to hire you because they know you can always learn on the job.[video:https://youtu.be/mn15XV91YPc]
So in short, there is no definite career path for a Politics graduate. But that’s the beauty of it — its what you make of it.
To put it out there, I do Politics. But I don’t study Politics in order to become the prime minister or enter politics for that matter. I do politics, essentially, because everything is political.
What do you think? Do you study politics? What do you hope to do with your degree? Have your say in the comments section below.