What Is Political Management?

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If politics is your passion, you think campaigning is an enjoyable pastime, and you would love to be on the ground floor helping someone run for elected office, political management is a branch of study that speaks to your interests.

When people first think of campaign management and the education that’s necessary to be successful in this specialty, political science is typically considered the most relevant. Although both programs incorporate many of the same concepts, theories and ideas, political science is more about the “what;” political management is more about the “how” — how to win elections, how to put democracy into motion and how to achieve positive change at a grassroots level.

U.S. Capitol with American flag in the foreground

With an online master’s degree in political management from the Graduate School of Political Management at the George Washington University, you can learn about all the ways in which political campaigns operate, from building coalitions to lobbying to strategic public research strategies and more. Plus, since it is an online program, you can take the courses at your own pace, enabling you to maintain your current job while pursuing your ultimate long-term career aspirations.

Why is political management so important?

In some ways, political campaigns and running for office are a lot like moon landings: There is much more to it than the candidate alone, or, in the context of space, the astronaut. In addition to the shuttle — the means of getting there — flight crews have an entire team to draw from for support, or mission control. From the booster controller to the surgeon controller to capcom and several others, they all have jobs to do to help the crew reach the moon safely and with as few problems as possible.

Political management, from a campaigning perspective, works in a similar fashion — only the destination is elected office. Political consultants, advisors, strategists and managers all share the common goal of helping candidates win elections, but to achieve victory, the process requires ongoing management, which entails each person doing their job. A political management degree from GW will supply you with the tools and learning outcomes that can help you be effective in local or global politics. Courses such as Fundamentals of Political Management and Applied Political Communications address some of the methods and systems that can help you launch a successful campaign.

What is the job outlook for political management?

While U.S. senators may run for office once every six years and congresspeople every other year, elections are truly a regular occurrence. In short, if one person isn’t running, someone else is, be it locally, at the state level or national. In this way, there is always a need for professionals who work in political management.

But political managers have skills that go beyond the electoral realm. Several of GW’s online graduates work in industries that you likely wouldn’t associate with politics, including manufacturing, retail, the military and electronic media. The skill sets that are available to you through GW’s rigorous curriculum can enable you to enter a variety of fields, several of which may be in recruitment mode despite the recent coronavirus pandemic. For instance, based on the most recent figures from the Department of Labor, employment rose in retail by 368,000 in May and by 225,000 in manufacturing, a notable uptick for both in comparison to April.

What groups or organizations are associated with politics?

If public policy and electoral politics is your vocation, there are a tremendous number of organizations that are associated with it. Here is a partial list:

  • The American Political Science Association
  • Academy of Political Science
  • American Society for Public Administration
  • International City/County Management Association
  • The Heritage Foundation
  • The American Enterprise Institute
  • Center for American Progress
  • Cato Institute
  • Institute of Public Affairs
  • The Manhattan Institute
  • Human Rights Watch
  • Council on Foreign Relations
  • The World Bank

Several GW political management graduates have gone on to work in some of these organizations.

How much does someone in political management stand to earn?

Because political management is an umbrella term and encompasses a variety of positions — campaign manager, finance director, press secretary, campaign treasurer, communications director, etc. — how much you make is largely a function of the role, work experience and the position. For instance, according to Salary.com, the average campaign manager as of May 2020 had a median income of approximately $59,100. The range was between $55,318 and $66,301. A six-figure salary is possible, but it depends on experience and who is hiring.

Fundraising managers, meanwhile, have a median salary of $116,180, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Many online graduates who majored in political management are taking advantage of the rewards that frequently derive from a graduate degree. Approximately 55% earn a median salary that is higher than $75,000 and 40% make more than $100,000.

Additionally, more than three-quarters of GSPM grads received a promotion, moved to a management position or accepted a better opportunity with a different employer after completing their assigned coursework.

What does the curriculum in the political management degree program look like?

Students can realize the financial rewards available through a master’s degree in political management by leveraging the learning outcomes available through each class, which are grouped in clusters: Core, Electoral Politics, Advocacy Politics and Applied Proficiencies. They’re grouped in this fashion to give you a broad grounding in the key principles and concepts of political management.

Young professional smiling with sport coat flung over shoulder

While GW offers more classes than you’re required to take to obtain a political management degree, Fundamentals of Political Management is one that all students must complete. One of the core classes, this three-credit course will help you craft memos, create campaign messages, engage citizens and better understand and apply the basic aspects of political management.

Building off of this is Applied Political Communications. Here, students will put the concepts they learned in the Fundamentals of Political Management into practice by devising communications strategies designed to resonate with decision-makers, colleagues or any other audience you’re trying to appeal to. The communications methods touched upon include blog posts, video releases, fact sheets and press statements.

Elective courses that will help you gain a firmer, more well-rounded grasp of political management include Fundraising and Budgeting (Applied Proficiencies), Digital Strategy (Applied Proficiencies), Campaign Strategy (Electoral Politics) and Lobbying (Advocacy Politics).

All this and so much more is available through the Graduate School of Political Management online master’s program at GW: Where political ambition meets political action. Apply today.

Recommended Reading:
How to Become a Political Strategist
What is the Average Campaign Manager’s Salary

Bureau of Labor Statistics – May Jobs Summary
BLS – Fundraising Managers
Salary.com – Political Campaign Manager
USA Today
GW –  Graduation Outcomes