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					                              Working
                              in
                              politics
                              If you elect to pursue a career in politics, you’ll need to learn
                              more about your options. Here’s a good place to start.




                              M
                                         any children dream of being President of the United
  by
  Colleen D.
                                         States, drawn to the idea of leading the country.
  Teixeira                               However, the President is only one of many workers
                              who help shape our Nation through politics.
                                 Jobs in politics exist at all levels of government: local, State,
                              and Federal. Although the President is our most prominent official,
                              many others—some elected, some not—help to create policy.
                              In addition to legislators and their assistants, some workers lobby
                              public officials and others help to elect candidates.
                                 Read on to learn about jobs in politics. You’ll find out about the
  Colleen D. Teixeira
  is an economist in          work of legislators, staffs of legislators, lobbyists, and consultants.
  the Office of Occu-         There’s also information about earnings, followed by descriptions
  pational Statistics
  and Employment              of the ups and downs of working in politics. After reading
  Projections, BLS,           some suggestions for getting into politics, you’ll find additional
  (202) 691–5157.
                              information about these careers.
 Occupational Outlook Quarterly • Summer 2008
       Jobs in politics                           and house of representatives, that mirrors the
                                                  Federal system. At the local level, legislators
Jobs in politics involve many different work-
                                                  compose boards of selectmen, city councils,
ers. Legislators and their staffs work directly
                                                  county boards, or other groups.
on bills and laws. Others, such as lobbyists,
                                                       Process. Legislators have similar jobs at
affect the lawmaking process by working
                                                  all levels of government: They enact laws and
to persuade legislators to support or oppose
                                                  provide oversight of the executive branch.
the proposed bills and laws. Still others are
                                                  This work requires that they research how
consultants who work on candidates’ election
                                                  proposed laws, known as bills, might affect
campaigns.
                                                  their town or district and that they speak to
Legislators                                       other legislators to convince them to support
Legislators exist at all levels of government.    or oppose the bills.
Towns, cities, counties, and States, as well as        Legislators meet with constituents—busi-
the Federal Government, have some type of         nesses, individuals, or groups from their
legislative body.                                 district—and with lobbyists. Both constituents
    In the Federal Government, legislators        and lobbyists might try to persuade legisla-
form the U.S. Congress, which includes the        tors to vote for or against a bill or to react to a
U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Repre-          particular issue. During this process, says Ala-
sentatives. In every State except Nebraska,       bama State Senator Arthur Orr, it’s up to leg-
legislators make up a political body with two     islators to gather information to balance their
separate entities, such as the State senate       perspective. “Lots of times, there isn’t anyone

                                                                                     Summer 2008 • Occupational Outlook Quarterly   
                                making alternative arguments about a bill’s        funds for colleges and universities. State legis-
                                merits or shortcomings,” he says. “Those situ-     lators may require statewide education exams
                                ations require that legislators educate them-      or might distribute funding among school
                                selves about the opposition arguments so they      districts. At the local level, officials might
                                can make educated decisions.”                      determine teacher salaries and the specific
                                    In larger cities and at the Federal and        curriculum taught in the district.
                                State levels, a bill starts in a committee made         Other tasks. Legislators are responsible
                                up of legislators. During committee meetings       to their constituents. In some cases, this
                                and hearings, legislators may make remarks or      responsibility includes helping constituents to
                                ask questions of the bill’s advocates and oppo-    resolve problems or to locate the government
                                nents. They may also propose amendments to         resources, such as social services, that can
                                the bill.                                          assist them. Legislators also need to commu-
                                    Issues. The way that bills are passed is       nicate with their constituents about how these
                                similar at every level of government, but the      parties might be affected by the bills being
                                issues vary. At the Federal level, Congress        discussed and the laws being passed, and they
                                may work on both international and domestic        must respond to constituents’ letters, e-mails,
                                matters. At the State level, legislators might     and phone calls.
                                deal with bills related to providing money for          Responding directly to constituents may
                                schools, roads, and public services; they also     be most prominent at the local level. For ex-
                                might try to pass bills to attract businesses      ample, Greg Gerratana is an alderman for the
                                and industries to the State. At the local level,   city government of New Britain, Connecticut.
                                aldermen and city councilors work on is-           While much of his legislative work relates to
                                sues such as traffic-light placement and noise     budget issues, even that work focuses on con-
                                ordinances.                                        stituents. “We deal with constituents’ every-
                                    Although legislative issues vary by            day problems, and sometimes we even create
                                government level, some—such as education,          new ordinances to deal with those problems,”
                                public health, or transportation—overlap. For      he says. “It’s not about lofty ideas, but practi-
                                example, Congress may allocate education           cal solutions.”

Staff members assist                                                               Staffs of legislators
legislators with a variety of                                                      Because legislators have many different com-
                                                                                   mitments, they often need assistants to help
tasks, such as coordinating                                                        them fulfill their duties. Staff workers provide
appearances at events.                                                             this help to legislators, particularly those in
                                                                                   Congress. A legislator’s staff generally works
                                                                                   in a few different areas: legislation, com-
                                                                                   munications, and administration. (For a brief
                                                                                   description of some legislative staff titles, see
                                                                                   the sidebar on the opposite page.)
                                                                                        Legislation. Staff members who assist
                                                                                   on legislative issues research bills that are
                                                                                   proposed or that the legislator for whom they
                                                                                   work is interested in proposing. They write
                                                                                   questions for the legislator to ask during
                                                                                   committee hearings, sometimes write open-
                                                                                   ing remarks for hearings, and might suggest
                                                                                   amendments to bills for the legislator to
                                                                                   propose. They might also draft entire bills.
                                                                                   The legislative staff tracks the progress of

 Occupational Outlook Quarterly • Summer 2008
                                                           Other occupational titles commonly
                                                           held by staff workers in politics
bills throughout the enactment process and keeps the       Each legislator in Washington, DC, organizes his or her office. Fol-
legislator informed.                                       lowing is a list of titles commonly found in offices on Capitol Hill.
     Often, legislative staff members specialize in        Not all of these titles are found in all offices, and some offices
a particular issue or topic, sometimes working on          may have alternative titles.
committees that focus entirely on that issue. Special-          Caseworkers respond to constituents’ requests and may
ization allows them to become more familiar with           also assist constituents in resolving problems related to Federal
the intricacies and nuances of the topic. As they gain
                                                           agencies, including problems with Social Security, Medicare,
experience, staff members generally have more say
about which issues they will cover.
                                                           veterans’ benefits, or passports.
     Communications. Those who work in commu-                   Chiefs of staff are usually responsible for the overall office
nications help their legislator get out messages to        administration and the allocation of work among staff. They
constituents. Doing so requires assisting the legis-       report directly to the legislator.
lator in developing the message. Communications                 Legislative assistants are usually assigned to a particular
staff members also set up interviews with the media        area of legislation, such as healthcare, taxes, or foreign policy.
and draft press releases or newsletters that highlight     These workers are responsible for following bills as they make
the legislator’s accomplishments and bills that have       their way through the legislative process and for researching the
passed. As a result, they need to pay attention to all     possible effects of a bill. They also may write questions or open-
issues that the legislator works on.                       ing statements for the legislator to use in committee hearings,
     A legislator’s perceived effectiveness can hinge,     and they may brief senior staff about bills pending in Congress.
in part, on constituents recognizing his or her ef-
                                                                Legislative correspondents focus on relaying information
forts—especially the accomplishments. The com-
                                                           to constituents. They may respond to constituents’ questions and
munications staff works to report such news, but the
complexity of legislation can make the job difficult.      concerns regarding legislation or national policy, either over the
“It’s challenging to find ways to communicate about        telephone or in writing. Sometimes, forming an accurate and
complicated legislative procedures in ways that            thoughtful response may require doing research; other times, a
people can understand and that keep them engaged,”         form letter may cover routine questions.
says Will Jenkins, communications director for U.S.             Legislative directors usually monitor the legislative sched-
Representative Tim Bishop of New York.                     ule and brief the legislator on bills and issues before Congress.
     Administration. Members of legislators’ ad-           They also oversee legislative assistants.
ministrative staffs work on a variety of tasks. Some            Press secretaries communicate the legislator’s message
of them answer telephone calls, welcome visitors,          to constituents and the general public, often by writing press
and take messages. Others draft responses to con-          releases and speaking to the media.
stituents’ letters and e-mails or assist constituents in
                                                                Receptionists, also called front-desk staffers, greet visitors
resolving problems related to government agencies.
                                                           and guests who come to the legislator’s office and direct them to
Still others may be responsible for coordinating their
legislator’s schedule, which often includes ensur-         the appropriate staff member. They often answer the telephone,
ing attendance at meetings and arranging travel for        take messages, and route calls, messages, and mail to the rest of
visits to the home State or for other business-related     the staff. In some cases, they may be responsible for coordinat-
purposes.                                                  ing tours of the Capitol for constituents.
     No matter what their primary job, though, most             Schedulers are responsible for distributing the legislator’s
legislative staff members do a little of everything.       time among the many meetings and events he or she is asked
For example, the day-to-day tasks of Brian Clifford,       to attend. They also must include time for the legislator to speak
a legislative staffer for U.S. Senator John Barrasso       with staff and prepare for upcoming meetings, debates, and
of Wyoming and president of the Congressional              hearings. In addition, schedulers may make travel arrangements.
Legislative Staff Association, include reviewing                Staff assistants may be asked to perform a range of tasks
response letters to constituents, tracking bills on        to support other staff members. Tasks may include word process-
the floor, preparing amendments, and providing
                                                           ing, photocopying, answering telephones, and running errands.
information to his boss before a vote. He also must
prepare for hearings and for meetings with lobbyists
                                                           Staff assistants might have duties associated with legislation or
                                                           the media.
                                                                           Summer 2008 • Occupational Outlook Quarterly       
                              and constituents. In addition, as a staff direc-    and their staffs via e-mail or telephone and
                              tor for a subcommittee his boss leads, Clifford     convincingly present research for or against a
                              researches issues that may appear before the        bill. Some lobbyists set up meetings for their
                              subcommittee.                                       clients with legislators and their staffs, in
                                                                                  which case they might first write background
                              Lobbyists                                           papers to prepare the clients for these meet-
                              Lobbyists present the interests of businesses       ings.
                              or groups of people to legislators. These                Building rapport through frequent com-
                              workers may have different titles, such as gov-     munication is essential for lobbyists to gain
                              ernment affairs coordinators. Organizations         credibility, which in turn helps them to influ-
                              of all types—from large corporations to small       ence legislators’ decisions. As lobbyist Dave
                              civic groups—depend on lobbyists to promote         Wenhold puts it, “Lobbying is about develop-
                              their agenda. Speaking to legislators and their     ing relationships.”
                              staffs, lobbyists explain to their clients what          Clients. Lobbyists work to influence
                              the effects of a particular bill or law would be.   lawmakers at all levels of government, but
                                   Lobbying requires solid research and           many concentrate on the U.S. Congress. At
                              communicating the results of that research to       every level, lobbyists’ jobs have both similari-
                              influence legislators’ support of or opposition     ties and differences. “The issues and topics
                              to pending legislation. The type of organiza-       change, but the basic tasks stay the same,”
                              tion, or client, lobbyists work for often affects   says lobbyist Paul Miller. “You still need to
                              the specific tasks that they do. Many of the job    get constituent input and do public relations.”
                              duties are similar in every setting, however.            Some lobbyists work for corporations and
                                   Research. To be effective, lobbyists need      businesses, advocating for their employer.
                              to stay current on the issues coming before the     They must be well informed about their busi-
                              legislature. They also must pay attention to        ness’ specific needs, products, and practices.
                              news and current events by watching televi-         These lobbyists might need to work with
                              sion and other media and by reading newspa-         others in the business to discuss how proposed
                              pers, Internet Web logs (“blogs”), and trade        legislation or regulations would affect it.
                              journals.                                                Lobbyists also work in law firms or lob-
                                   Lobbyist Adam Schwartz reads several           bying firms that handle government affairs.
                              publications daily, but his research includes       They may have a variety of clients, ranging
                              personal contact, too. He needs to find out         from private businesses and nonprofit organi-
                              about events before they are in the news, he        zations to local and State governments. These
                              says, so he often meets with Members of             lobbyists need to familiarize themselves with
                              Congress when he gathers facts. “I call these       each client’s needs and the legislation that
                              meetings ‘pollination visits,’ because I pick       affects it. As a result, lobbyists in this setting
                              up information from one office and bring it to      often need to learn about a broad range of
                              another,” says Schwartz.                            issues.
                                   Lobbyists must be aware of which bills              Agencies within the executive branch
                              are appearing before committees and, in some        often have staff members who are called con-
                              cases, may have to attend committee meet-           gressional liaison specialists. These workers
                              ings and hearings. In addition, they need to        follow legislation, advocate specific bills, and
                              research how proposed legislation, if passed,       understand how their agency works, as well as
                              would affect the company, organization, or          how a bill, if passed, could affect their agen-
                              group that they represent.                          cy’s day-to-day operations. In addition, when
                                   Communication. Much of lobbyists’ work         Congress allocates the Federal Government’s
                              requires that they be persistent and persuasive     annual budget, these specialists might lobby
                              when communicating with others. For ex-             Members of Congress to provide their agency
                              ample, lobbyists often must contact legislators     with as much funding as possible.

 Occupational Outlook Quarterly • Summer 2008
    Finally, some lobbyists work for trade         ferent things,” says political consultant Mary
associations, advocating on behalf of the          Erin Casale, “all depending on when you ask.”     Lobbyists meet with
industry or occupation that their association           Media relations. Consultants who spe-        legislators and their staffs
represents. They study issues relevant to the      cialize in media relations help candidates        to build strong working
association’s occupation or industry and ana-      develop a strategy to deal with the press. As     relationships.
lyze how legislation affects it so that they can   political consultant Peter Robbio describes it,
                                                   “My job is to help [candidates] get into the
lobby legislators on behalf of the association.
                                                   media in a positive way.”
Political consultants                                   A media consultant assists candidates in
                                                   developing their message to the public. Dur-
Political consultants work on the election
                                                   ing a campaign, for example, candidates must
campaigns of candidates who run for public
                                                   convince voters to choose them over their
office at all levels of government. Usually,       opponents; media consultants help candidates
political consultants specialize in a variety of   to explain why they are the best choice and to
areas, with two of the most significant being      present that message through the media.
media relations and fundraising.                        Media consultants organize press con-
     Job tasks vary for political consultants,     ferences, write and distribute press releases,
and not just by specialty. “I do a lot of dif-     plan campaign events, and write editorials for

                                                                                   Summer 2008 • Occupational Outlook Quarterly     
                              newspapers. Some consultants are responsible             Consultants directly contact individuals,
                              for advertisements, including buying time on        such as those who have given money in the
                              radio and television stations or space in print     past, and ask them for a donation. They might
                              publications and on Web sites. When purchas-        assist candidates in contacting donors directly
                              ing ads, media consultants must determine           by setting up phone calls and meetings. They
                              how to stay within the campaign’s budget            may also ask some of these people to provide
                              while getting the most benefit from the ad.         names of others who may be interested in do-
                              This analysis requires that consultants set pri-    nating or in hosting a fundraising event. “It’s
                              orities in targeting specific areas of a candi-     all about names and the number of people you
                              date’s town, district, or State to maximize the     can reach,” says Susan Brodsky Burnett, a for-
                              ad’s effectiveness.                                 mer political consultant. “You get more names
                                   Some media consultants also monitor op-        from each person you talk to.”
                              ponents’ ads and assist candidates in respond-           Additionally, these consultants plan fund-
                                                                                  raising events, such as dinners or receptions.
                              ing to them. In addition, they might coach
                                                                                  Most fundraising events require the purchase
                              candidates in media interaction and public ap-
                                                                                  of a ticket, with the profits helping to fund the
                              pearances, including preparing for debates by
                                                                                  candidate’s campaign. Consultants follow up
                              holding practice sessions and writing answers
                                                                                  with attendees of events, as well as with those
                              to anticipated questions. Consultants also help
                                                                                  who have pledged donations, to ensure that
                              candidates respond to negative publicity.           the campaign contribution is made.
                                   Fundraising. Political consultants who              Other. Political consultants work in many
                              work in fundraising help candidates raise           other areas of a campaign, including polling
                              the money necessary to run for office. Cam-         and opposition research.
                              paigning can cost hundreds of thousands—or               Some consultants who specialize in poll-
                              millions—of dollars, even at the local level.       ing might telephone or visit people to ask
Personal contacts are         Because candidates rely largely on donations        questions about the candidates. Others may
important in politics, so     to fund their campaigns, they must contact          wait for responses to those questions; then,
most of these workers are     people who are likely to donate money. This         they analyze the data and brief the candi-
“people persons.”             task often falls to political consultants who are   date and his or her campaign staff about the
                              experienced at raising money.                       results.
                                                                                       Consultants who work in opposition
                                                                                  research spend long hours studying their
                                                                                  candidate’s opponents. They look through
                                                                                  public records for information that differenti-
                                                                                  ates their candidate from his or her opponents,
                                                                                  including details that may be detrimental to an
                                                                                  opponent’s campaign. The consultant might
                                                                                  report findings from this research to develop
                                                                                  political strategies, such as incorporating facts
                                                                                  about opponents into political ads.

                                                                                                Earnings
                                                                                  Because of the way the U.S. Bureau of Labor
                                                                                  Statistics (BLS) classifies occupations, many
                                                                                  people working in politics are categorized by
                                                                                  job function rather than by where they work
                                                                                  or by job title. For entry-level workers espe-
                                                                                  cially, pay for political jobs was often below

 Occupational Outlook Quarterly • Summer 2008
the national median of $31,410 in May 2007.              Interesting. Laws affect our everyday
Anecdotal information suggests, however,            lives in countless ways. Enacting and main-
that earnings may be higher for many of these       taining those laws is the crux of working in
workers—such as those with many years of            politics, and the diversity of topics contributes
experience—than BLS data indicate.                  to the uniqueness of these careers. “There’s a
     In May 2007, for example, legislators had      wide range of issues,” says Farthing, “which
median annual wages of $16,220—meaning              makes working in politics very different than
that half of all legislators made more than this    working for a company.”
amount, and half made less. Ten percent of               Because of the importance of personal
legislators earned less than $13,090, and 10        contacts in politics, most of these workers are
percent earned more than $76,260. However,          “people persons.” Working with interesting
these data include wages for those who work         people need not be limited to outside con-
part time, such as elected officials in local       tacts, either. Political consultant Robbio has
government. Salaries for Members of Con-            worked on two presidential campaigns, where
gress were set by Congress at $169,300 in           he enjoyed being part of the candidates’ teams
2008, according to the Federal Register.            in seeking to win the White House. “We all
     Reliable wage information for other            came together from different walks of life,” he
workers in politics is even less clear. As men-     says, “to do something most people haven’t
tioned previously, staffs of legislators include    done before.”
a number of different occupations. Gener-                Exciting. Everyday work in politics can
ally, those who perform administrative tasks        present new challenges and different focuses
earned lower wages than those who worked in         that are based, in part, on the variety of job
communications and legislation.                     tasks. Working on a campaign or research-
     Lobbyists and political consultants had        ing legislation can be invigorating, and many
widely ranging salaries. Those with the             people in politics enjoy the fast-paced envi-
highest earnings usually bring many years of        ronment that defines lawmaking. As political
experience to the job.                              consultant Cathy Allen says, “It is fun. It’s
                                                    exciting. There is never a dull moment.”
    Ups and downs of                                     Not only can every day be exciting, but it
                                                    is often varied as well. One day might include
     political work                                 attendance at hearings and high-level meet-
Like most jobs in any field, working in             ings, followed by brainstorming sessions and
politics has its ups and downs. Political jobs      library research. Another day might require
commonly require long workdays and fre-             making telephone calls, visiting legislators or
quent travel; the uncertainty of election results   their staffs, and responding to inquiries. “It’s
creates additional stress.                          never boring,” says Farthing. Lobbyist Gina
    On the other hand, working in politics          Bancroft agrees: “Very seldom is one day the
also offers rewards. “There is a lot of interest-   same as the day before.”
ing work to be done,” says lobbyist Penny                Rewarding. Many who work in politics
Farthing. “Our process provides a lot of op-        say that their jobs are both professionally
portunities for groups to be heard, and advo-       and personally satisfying. For some, it’s the
cacy helps us hammer out the best policy.”          opportunity to ensure that the government
                                                    responds to those it is intended to serve. “I re-
Advantages                                          ally enjoy being able to help the local people
Many people enter these jobs and turn them          with their particular needs,” says Alabama
into careers because they are fascinated with       State Senator Orr.
politics. They are attracted to the interesting          Others get satisfaction from working
work, excitement, and opportunities for mak-        to maintain or improve their town, State, or
ing a difference.                                   country. The chance to make a difference is

                                                                                      Summer 2008 • Occupational Outlook Quarterly   
                             its own reward. “I like that I get to play a part    legislators) or Washington, DC (Members of
                             in the process of engaging all the important         Congress), to keep in touch with their con-
                             issues facing America today,” says communi-          stituents. They might also have to travel for
                             cations director Jenkins. “I like being able to      political appearances, meetings, or conven-
                             help the country grow the way it needs to.”          tions, such as when Members of Congress go
                                                                                  overseas to visit troops or to meet with foreign
                             Disadvantages                                        dignitaries. Some staff members may need to
                             As gratifying as work in politics may be, it is      accompany legislators on these trips.
                             also demanding. Long hours, frequent travel,              Lobbyists must travel to other parts of the
                             and the uncertainty of the election cycle all        city, State, or country to meet with legislators
                             contribute to the stressfulness of these careers.    or legislators’ staffs. They might also need to
                                  Long hours. Many political jobs extend          travel for meetings with clients or with people
                             beyond the standard 40-hour workweek.                who may be affected by a specific policy or
                             Hearings, meetings, and events, such as fund-        piece of legislation.
                             raising dinners, are often scheduled outside of           Political consultants may need to travel
                             normal working hours—including evenings              frequently, depending on the type of election
                             that can turn into late nights. In addition, the     they are working on. In presidential elections,
                             preparation needed to attend a function may          consultants might have to travel across the
                             require working overtime. Legislation near-          country for many months, often without hav-
                             ing a vote may result in a flurry of activity,       ing a chance to return home. At the State and
                             requiring more work hours than usual. Work           local levels, consultants may need to travel
                             on the campaign trail may be continuous and          across the city, district, or State; however, they
                             exhausting.                                          may have an opportunity to go home at the
                                  However, these long hours may not be            end of the day or on weekends.
                             steady. Many legislatures are in recess for               Election uncertainty. In one way or
                             parts of the year. Legislators, their staffs, and    another, nearly all workers in politics are af-
                             lobbyists may be able to work shorter hours          fected by the uncertainty that comes with the
                             during these times. Outside of the election          election cycle. After all, life as a politician, or
                             season, some political consultants choose to         in association with one, is dependent on the
                             spend their downtime working in other posi-          politician’s being elected to public office.
                             tions, such as media relations and lobbying.              To continue in their position, eligible
                                  At the State and local levels, many             legislators—those not restricted by term limits
                             legislators serve part time in these positions       from serving additional years—must run for
                             and work full time in an unrelated job. Be-          reelection at the end of their term. This may
                             cause they may have little or no support staff,      require that they spend time campaigning,
                             these legislators must research, write, answer       making it more difficult for them to perform
                             the telephone, respond to constituents, and          their legislative duties. In addition to having
                             perform other legislative tasks themselves.          physical demands, campaigning can become
                             Fulfilling all of these duties may require that      more difficult if the tone is negative. Further-
                             they forfeit evenings and weekends to politi-        more, because of the uncertainty that they will
                             cal work.                                            be reelected, legislators’ positions are some-
                                  Frequent travel. Some jobs in politics          what unstable.
                             require lots of travel around the district, State,        Legislators’ staffs are affected by elec-
                             or country. What may seem like a glamorous           tions in similar ways. Staff members whose
                             job perk at first, such as the constant mobility     boss is not reelected may need to find other
                             required during a State or national campaign,        jobs. However, legislators and their staffs also
                             can quickly become burdensome.                       are affected by the elections of other legisla-
                                  Legislators may need to travel between          tors. For example, legislators and their staffs
                             their home district and the capital (State           may have difficulty getting their bills passed if

10 Occupational Outlook Quarterly • Summer 2008
                                                                                                        Jobs with State and local
                                                                                                        legislatures are available
                                                                                                        throughout the country.




other legislators in their political party are not   Skills
elected. This is because a party that is in the      Many of the skills that are important for
minority has less political power.                   working in politics are similar for all of these
     Lobbyists may need to adjust their ap-          occupations. Interpersonal skills are essen-
proach if legislators with whom they have            tial, because most positions require interact-
developed a relationship are not reelected.          ing with a variety of people. Some workers
Likewise, political consultants’ viability may       suggest that taking an introductory course in
rest on whether their efforts resulted in a          psychology may be helpful for understanding
client’s successful election.                        people.
                                                          Because success in these jobs often hinges
                                                     on being able to persuade others—whether
  Getting into politics                              to take a particular viewpoint or to vote for a
Jobs in politics vary by function. In general,       particular candidate—communication skills,
however, they require a similar educational          both written and oral, are also important.
                                                     Persuasive communication skills require
background and experience. There are specific
                                                     the ability to convey complicated legislative
skills, education, and experience that employ-
                                                     procedures to people who know little about
ers look for when hiring. Networking with
                                                     the process. Strong writing skills are critical,
people currently working in politics is also         especially for jobs that involve drafting posi-
important.                                           tion papers, bills, speeches, or press releases.
     The one exception is legislators. Because            In addition, anyone interested in getting
legislators are elected, not hired, their job        a job in politics must understand how the
entry requirements are different from those of       political process works. The legislative and
others who work in politics.                         political processes can be complicated, so

                                                                                    Summer 2008 • Occupational Outlook Quarterly   11
                             applicants who have a solid grasp of how                    have a law degree, but that is not the only path
                             things work are preferred.                                  of entry into the occupation.

                             Education                                                   Experience
                             Most occupations in politics require at least a             For entry-level work in politics, many em-
                             bachelor’s degree for an entry-level position.              ployers seek applicants who have some expe-
                             In undergraduate programs, many students                    rience. One of the best ways to get this experi-
                             interested in these careers study political sci-            ence is through volunteer work or internships.
                             ence, government, or communications.                        (The Congressional Page Program, designed
                                  Getting additional education may help                  for high school students, is described in the
                             boost your credentials, but some workers say                box below.)
                             that actions speak louder than degrees. “It’s                    Not all volunteers and interns find paid
                             really what you do with your education that                 positions in legislators’ offices or on cam-
                             matters,” says lobbyist Wenhold. “Education                 paigns. However, the experience of working
                             is great, but it’s really the implementation of             in a political setting is also useful for entering
                             the learned skills that counts.”                            other occupations, such as legislator or lob-
                                  For some occupations, however, an ad-                  byist
                             vanced degree is necessary. Those interested                     Volunteering. Because campaigns are
                             in working on legislators’ staffs on specific               expensive and resources are often tight,
                             issues may need at least a master’s degree                  candidates rely on volunteers to do a vari-
                             in political science or public policy. Gener-               ety of tasks. These tasks include answering
                             ally, those who work in polling must have                   telephones; canvassing, or soliciting votes;
                             a master’s or doctoral degree in statistics or              stuffing envelopes; and performing other ad-
                             survey methodology. Lobbyists commonly                      ministrative duties. The size of the campaign

                                                                Congressional Page Program
                             Both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representa-
                             tives have programs for high school students to get
                             experience on Capitol Hill by serving as pages. Pages
                             work as couriers for Members of Congress, carrying
                             messages and documents to offices, committees, and
                             the Library of Congress. In addition, they distribute the
                             Congressional Record and assist in cloakrooms.
                                  Pages may serve either for one semester during the
                             academic year or in the summer. They live in residence
                             halls in Washington, DC; during the academic year,
                             pages attend classes, which are generally held in the
                             morning before Congress is in session.
                                  Pages are appointed by Members of Congress and
                             must be in their junior year of high school. There are
                             72 positions in the House and 30 in the Senate, so the
                             selection process is highly competitive.
                                  Students interested in learning more about the
                             program and how to apply should contact their Senator
                             or Representative in Congress.


1 Occupational Outlook Quarterly • Summer 2008
doesn’t matter as much as the opportunity           Networking
for gaining experience. In fact, working on a       Networking is an important way to meet
small campaign, in which activities are more        people who currently work in politics. It can
                                                    help applicants find openings that may not
concentrated, might offer better learning op-
                                                    be advertised. Also, knowing people who are
portunities than working on a large campaign.       influential can be an advantage in the applica-
    Volunteering for a political campaign           tion process.
gives people a chance to learn about how                 Volunteering with a campaign and work-
                                                    ing as an intern are just two ways to network.
campaigns work. It also allows them to make
                                                    Helping with a local political party and volun-
a name for themselves. Those who work hard          teering for a politically active organization are
and take on additional tasks may be able to         other good ways to learn about jobs in poli-
translate their volunteer experience into a paid    tics and to meet people in political careers.
                                                    Networking is important both for starting out
position on a campaign or on the legislator’s
                                                    and for building steppingstones to a career in
staff.                                              politics.
    Internships. Legislatures at the Federal             Influential people exist at all levels. For
and State levels, as well as some lobbying and      many jobs in politics, especially when some-
political consulting firms, provide students        one wants to break in at the local level, net-
                                                    working within the community can be the best
with a chance to gain experience through            credential. “It’s not as important where you go
internships. These internships are frequently       to undergraduate and graduate school,” says
unpaid, but invaluable, opportunities to get a      legislative staffer Clifford. “Local connections
hands-on understanding of politics and to in-       count for more.”
teract with legislators, their staffs, and others   Legislators
involved in the political process.                  Becoming a legislator is different from enter-
    The experience gained in these positions        ing other occupations in politics. There are no
                                                    formal education or experience requirements
is often necessary for finding paid jobs in
                                                    for becoming a legislator, although legal
Washington, DC, or in State capitals. Interns       conditions vary by office and may include
usually have a variety of duties that give them     minimum age or residency requirements. The
a chance to learn about the legislative process     only prerequisite for entering this occupation
and about legislative offices. Interns who          is to be elected by the voters in a town, city,
                                                    district, or State.
prove themselves might get paid positions.               However, candidates should have some
    Most students think of internships as           personal or professional experience that is
a summer option, but positions exist year           related to the office they are seeking. For
round. Legislative staffers suggest that college    example, someone interested in running for
                                                    the city hospital board might have spent time
students interested in finding an internship
                                                    working in a hospital. Similarly, a candidate
with the U.S. Congress consider studying for        interested in running for State senate might
a semester in Washington, DC, during a time         have previous experience as a State represen-
when vying for a job on Capitol Hill is less        tative.
                                                         Running for office is often an arduous
competitive. Likewise, students might con-
                                                    process. Political campaigns can be expensive,
sider spending a semester in a State capital to     which means that candidates must be comfort-
intern with the State legislature.                  able asking people for money to fund their

                                                                                    Summer 2008 • Occupational Outlook Quarterly   1
                             campaign. Getting experience in fundraising           Several associations, including the fol-
                             is helpful for campaign work.                     lowing, also provide information related to
                                  Also, some politics become personal          careers in politics:
                             when opponents run negative campaigns and             American League of Lobbyists
                             attack a candidate’s private and professional         P.O. Box 30005
                             life. Candidates must be prepared for criti-          Alexandria, VA 22310
                             cism—and be able to work in spite of it.              (703) 960–3011
                                                                                   www.alldc.org
                             For more information
                             To pursue a job in politics, you should contact       American Association of
                             local elected officials to learn about opportu-       Political Consultants
                             nities available in your area. Contact informa-       600 Pennsylvania Ave, SE Suite 330
                             tion is in the blue pages of your telephone
                                                                                   Washington, DC 20003
                             book, and most governments also provide the
                                                                                   (202) 544–9815
                             detail on their Web sites.
                                                                                   www.theaapc.org
                                  Other good sources of information
                             include public libraries and offices of career
                                                                                   The National Conference of State Legisla-
                             counselors. To find a counseling office near
                             you, contact the U.S. Department of Labor         tures maintains a list of contacts for legislative
                             toll free, 1 (877) 872–5627, or go online to      internship and fellowship programs in all 50
                             find a One-Stop Career Center at                  States and many U.S. territories. For the list
                             www.servicelocator.org.                           and more information, including application
                                  Another useful resource is the 2008–09       suggestions, contact:
                             Occupational Outlook Handbook, available              National Conference of State Legislatures
                             in print at most local libraries, or online at        444 N. Capitol St. NW., Suite 515
                             www.bls.gov/oco. Job duties, working condi-           Washington, DC 20001
                             tions, earnings, and employment projections           (202) 624–5400
                             for many of the occupations described in this         www.ncsl.org/public/
                             article are in the Handbook.                            LegInternProg.htm#programs




1 Occupational Outlook Quarterly • Summer 2008

				
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