By Ann van der Merwe, Published January 23, 2012
If you are interested in a government career, you might already be contemplating a graduate degree of some kind – perhaps in law, business or public administration. An MA in government is another option, though, and it might be a particularly good one depending on your interests and goals. Many specializations are out there, ranging from democratic history and theory to international politics to national security. And, the job opportunities are as varied as the government agencies operating today, attracting people with different backgrounds and professional paths.
At Regent University, for instance, Assistant Professor Mary Manjikian often has former or current military men and women from all branches and all ranks in her courses related to national security. These include Disaster Assistance Management, Terrorism and National Security, and Intelligence and National Security. “I respect the practical expertise which they bring to the classroom,” she says, “and they benefit from the wider lens which I equip them with – the ability to place the activities that they have engaged in within a larger international and historic context.”
Of course, as a former U.S. Foreign Service officer, Manjikian has a wealth of her own professional experience to share. The experience and credentials of faculty in a graduate program is something you should consider when choosing your program; especially if you plan to follow a nonacademic career path. Faculty who have worked in the professional industry are more likely to blend theory and practice in their teaching and help you toward your own career goals. Manjikian, for example, encourages students to take internships during their course of study, and she and her colleagues have placed people with agencies such as the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Joint Forces Staff College and more.
Every MA program in government has unique characteristics, too, and you will want to find one that suits you. This is typically referred to as the “personality” of the program. For example, a “personality trait” of Regent’s program is its integration of Christian belief into the curriculum. Manjikian, for example, expects her students “to engage in thinking about fascinating and enduring ethical questions.” This enables her to foster a connection between faith and politics in the classroom. “We ask questions about just wars, the ethics of using unmanned vehicles like drones, whether it is ever acceptable for an intelligence officer to lie in the course of duty, and whether one should ever use torture to obtain information,” she says.
Depending on your needs, you might also want to consider whether a prospective program can be completed partially or fully online. Most of Regent’s MA courses are offered in both traditional classroom and electronic formats, allowing students a great deal of flexibility. It’s up to you to decide if you want an online, campus or hybrid government graduate program.
As you search for the MA in government program that’s best for you, remember to consider the experience of the faculty, the “personality” of the program and the format in which it’s offered.