Jerry McBeath trained at the University of Chicago (A.B., 1963; A.M., 1964) and at the University of California, Berkeley (Ph.D., 1970).
At Berkeley, he became a Sinologist, attending the Inter-university Consortium of Chinese Language Studies (Stanford Center) in 1967-1968, and used both Mandarin and the Amoy dialect to conduct dissertation research on the Philippine Chinese. He is fluent in Chinese (speaking, reading and writing [haltingly]), and speaks some Japanese and Filipino.
Since 1976, McBeath has worked at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), where he is professor of political science and department chair. His research interests comprehend studies of Alaska and US government/politics, federalism, circumpolar northern studies, domestic and foreign policies of China, and environmental politics (domestic, comparative and international).