There are many ways to make a career in politics without ever being a candidate. From pollsters to researchers, speechwriters to campaign operatives, the political process employs a diverse set of talents from equally diverse educational backgrounds. Politicians themselves come from an even wider range of backgrounds. We’ve seen professional wrestlers, comedians, even action heroes. Abraham Lincoln started his career as a bartender. The point is, if you’re looking for a job in politics, you probably have a viable option, whatever your background. Let’s get into the specifics.
It may seem like most legislators would have legal backgrounds. Law school is a safe bet but far from a requirement. In fact, one in four state legislators never got a bachelor’s degree. On the national level, however, most every member of Congress finished a degree, and the majority (about 65%) have advanced degrees ranging from public policy to neurology. Candidates can make up for educational gaps in many ways, so a specific path is impossible to plot. But, behind each candidate is a staff, and these jobs make up a big portion of those available in the field.
Political staff jobs employ a wide range of backgrounds as well, but there are more obvious paths than for candidates. Political staffers are often fast and proficient writers, organizers and self-motivated researchers. Many will enter the political job market through internships. Applicants are often political or social science students, or English or history majors. These backgrounds translate well to political staff positions, and internships are often awarded through social science departments.
Beyond basic staff positions, there are strategies to craft, speeches to write, social media pages to manage, websites to populate, and so on. Marketers play a major role in campaign strategy. Statistics and data analysis is absolutely essential across the board. Consultants for reaching every imaginable demographic will find a place in the political process. Influential writers, bloggers and media experts can make their bread and butter in politics. Political media is a constant downstream employer.
And let us not forget those most essential of all political players, the fundraisers. Raising money is a constant effort and a vital part of the political process. Every manner of method and innovation will be tried, and every new and potentially helpful technology will be incorporated. The workforce behind the political fundraising apparatus is not only in demand but well paid.
Whatever path you choose, if you’re looking for a career in politics, you can probably find your way there with a little effort.
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