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Benefits of choosing American politics over other fields.


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Hey all,

So for a long time I was thinking of applying to PhD programs with a focus on comparative politics, but a change in course in research interests as I finish up my undergrad career has led me to start thinking that maybe American Politics is the path for me. I remember reading somewhere that there are certain advantages to focusing on American politics as opposed to CP or IR. At the very least, I know that American politics students often get their degrees faster because they can do dissertation research in country or even without much field research. Can anyone tell me if it is easier to get admitted to programs as an american politics applicant? Once you get a degree, do American politics students have an easier time getting hired once they earn their doctorate? I think I remember reading such things somewhere a while back, but I can't quite remember where.

Thanks!

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Being too strategic about your research interests is never a good idea. If you don't love what you're doing and have a genuine interest in it, you're not going to be happy or productive.

I agree. My interest is more topical than field, but I'm entering as an Americanist.

I will say this: I think that currently IR is the most popular field. Even schools who are a bit stronger in American are getting tons of very good IR students. That's not to say that you should give up IR if that's your thing, just know that the competition is the strongest and in 5 years, the jobs will probably be the most competitive. Well, unless you choose theory.

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My impression is that it depends on the school and maybe on the year. Schools which are good in IR will get a lot of IR applications but which are less good will get less and of course that is true for every subfield. I heard the opposite when I was applying (that IR is the least competitive field) but I did not switch and as it seems that was a wise decision as in some schools based on your info it is the most competetive.

I would suggest that many others that find the field that you are passionate about , can write a great SOP and you can get great recommendatons and in which you have a decent writing sample. If your interest changes later you can switch subfields. AP students may sometimes finish faster ecause they do not have to do language study and sometime extensive fieldwork. But if you work with formal models eg, you will not need to see the field no matter what. so it is really not the virtue of the subfield that the students finish faster but of the path they take in their research.

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Job markets ebb and grow, but what you say about easier access to research materials might be true. Be aware that quantitative/survey methods dominate the American subfield. In the end, just make sure you're applying to a field that matches your interests. It's always possible to switch to what you thought would be a secondary or minor field (my undergrad advisor started American and switched to IR).

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Job markets ebb and grow, but what you say about easier access to research materials might be true. Be aware that quantitative/survey methods dominate the American subfield. In the end, just make sure you're applying to a field that matches your interests. It's always possible to switch to what you thought would be a secondary or minor field (my undergrad advisor started American and switched to IR).

Yes, I definitely wouldn't advise choosing American if you're a qualitative researcher. Comparative can be ok, as can IR.

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My comment is not meant to single out the previous post, and it drifts away from the topic of the thread, but I think it is crucial to correct one common and serious error: we should always let the questions we develop drive the methods we choose, rather than the other way around. Build a toolkit of methods skills, develop a question of interest, and add to that toolkit as needed - it is a real shame to foreclose some options because of a disinterest in particular research skills.

Yes, I definitely wouldn't advise choosing American if you're a qualitative researcher. Comparative can be ok, as can IR.

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