Blog Archives

Political Science Jobs: Where to Work with a Political Science Degree

July 28, 2013

A degree in political science is a fairly common thing for people to want to get.

However, there is a misconception out there that there aren’t any jobs in the realm of politics.

Thankfully, there are some jobs you can get that don’t require being elected to office. In fact, with a degree, you can get a wide variety of political science jobs. Here are some of the most common ones that people want.

Political Analyst

political science jobsIf you have a Poli-Sci degree, then you are more than qualified for a wide variety of political analysis positions. These can come in several forms.

The government itself hires political analysts to observe the going-ons of other countries. The Central Intelligence Agency in particular is well known for doing this. They hire political analysts to look into the political climates of foreign nations, that way they are fully prepared for any kind of international crisis before it happens.

Of course, you’re likely thinking more along the lines of being on TV if you want to be a political analyst. And that is more than possible. If you have a TV personality and opinions that people will gladly listen to you share, you could end up being a TV political analyst. Even if it is just for a local news team, this is a great way to use that political science degree.

Government Teacher

If you like working with high school students, a great political science job to have would be to work as a high school government or social studies teacher. This would give you a chance to share your love of politics with students, and hopefully prepare those students for when they get their chance to make a difference in the world of politics.

If you want to become a government teacher, here is a great article that I wrote about becoming a teacher in general that should help you out.

Journalism

Another option for those who like to write or report the news is to be a political journalist. There are always job and freelance opportunities out there for political reporters. You can easily make a full career out of this. Check with your local news stations, newspapers, and even radio stations to find work in the beginning. With the right combination of hard work, talent, and luck, you could end up working for a major national publication in no time.

Non Profits

If you want to work for an organization on a noble mission, then you should consider working for a not-for-profit. The larger of these types of organizations have to employ lots of political science graduates simply because they need to keep on top of an enormous amount of legislation. Our government regulates non profits more than any other type of association, and therefore they have to be extra careful to stay on top of the political side of things.

Campaigns

A great place to get started working in political science is for campaigns. During campaign season there are a myriad of political campaigns that you could potentially work for.

Call around to various campaign offices and ask what they are in need of help with, and see if you can get hired. There are a variety of jobs that you can work at in a political campaign. See a full list of them here.

Lobbying

Lobbying is a controversial, yet very profitable job for many. Lobbyist involves attempting to persuade a politician to vote a certain way on a particular issue. If you want to be a lobbyist, you can work for a large variety of organizations.

Corporate lobbyists are notoriously well paid. Companies often have a vested interest in how a certain piece of legislation turns out, especially if that legislation regulates them or costs them millions of dollars (which is fairly common). Because of this, they pay lobbyists substantial amounts of money to convince politicians of their views.

You can also lobby for a special interest group. Many special interest groups have a vast majority of the money they spend go towards lobbying efforts. Think of groups like the National Rifle Association of People for the Equal Treatment of Animals. Both groups pay lobbyists good money to speak up for those that donate money to their causes.

If you are interested in becoming a lobbyist, read my full article on the subject here.

Local Government

If you are a new graduate, you may want to consider getting a job in your local government. There are all sorts of non-elected positions that you could potentially work in, ranging from secretaries to analysts to committee positions.

State Government

Similarly to your local government, if you have a little bit of experience under your belt you can potentially go work for you state government. These jobs won’t be as easy to get as a local job most likely, but they normally pay more, and offer you a chance to have a broader impact.

Congressional Staffer

If you want to work on a national level, there are all sorts of positions that you can get if you have a political science degree. You can work for congress itself simply assisting in getting things done. You can also work for your congressman or senator of choice if you want in a wide variety of positions, ranging from internships to strategists.

Of course, once you have some experience and connections, you can potentially move up further and work in the White House itself.

Become a Politician

And the ultimate political job out there is of course to become a politician. While a political science degree doesn’t automatically qualify you to become a politician (read our full article here to discover what can), it does give you a big resume piece. Remember that people are oftentimes weary of career politicians, so do something besides politics for a while if this is the path you are thinking about taking.

Lobbyist Salary

June 27, 2013

Lobbyists have the potential to earn a very admirable salary depending on experience level and nature of work. The lobbyist can produce earnings upward of $100,000 annually, although the average pay lands near the $45,000 range. Some people do not really know exactly what lobbyists do. What do lobbyists do for their money?

A lobbyist is a person who works on behalf of a client to persuade legislation that favors their employer. Most lobbyists are professionals that hold a political science or other related college degree. They lobby to political figures to influence various types of legislation. A simple way to describe a lobbyist is an activist that receives financial compensation for their work. Their sole purpose is to persuade members of government. Virtually every institution or interest group will have lobbyists. This is good news because you will be able to look virtually anywhere. But what if you are just starting out in this field?

Your location will affect the salary and the amount of jobs available to you. Living in a large city is a good first step. Los Angeles, Miami, New York and Washington D.C. host some of the highest paid lobbyists. Although you can be a successful lobbyist without living in the country’s capital. Since lobbying is a political venture, being in areas that have the most political influence will greatly enhance your employment opportunities. Being very knowledgeable about the legislative process is also extremely important. So what is the difference between higher and lower paid lobbyists?

As you can see, the earning potential varies widely. So how can you increase your earning potential? Unlike many types of employment that simply require attendance for a given amount of time, lobbying success depends greatly on having a good reputation and superior credibility. Industries that are particularly successful spend an incredible amount of money on lobbying. Industries like insurance, pharmaceuticals, oil and gas are among those at the top of the list. A lobbyist needs to make sure that any and all information and advice they give is honest and correct. The room for error is small. Whatever you do, make sure that you are very educated and honest about the lobbying you wish to do. Beyond that, the world of lobbying is yours to take.

How to Become a Judge

June 27, 2013

A great aspiration for many law students is to achieve a judgeship. The path to such a position is long, arduous, and not well understood. Below is a basic overview of the requirements, experience, and process needed to become a judge in the United States.

Educational Requirements

First, you are going to have to receive a bachelors from an accredited university. Ideally it would be in a subject such as political science, criminal justice, sociology, history, and the like. This is not a hard and fast requirement however, and almost any degree gives you the opportunity to be accepted into law school.

You now must take the LSAT. These are the standard entrance exams for SAT required for undergraduate studies. Given the extreme difficulty of being accepted into law school, it is important that you score highly on the LSAT. Study courses such as the Kaplan classes will aid you, but it is advised that you dedicate your own time to studying as well.

Speaking of law school, that is the next step. You must obtain a J.D., preferably near the top of your class. It is advisable to attend the most rigorous law school that accepts you, as this will allow you to better prepare yourself for a job in the legal world, and will make you more attractive to firms looking to hire. Once you have graduated, you must pass the bar exam for your state, and then find employment.

Experience Requirements

How to Become a JudgeAt this point, you have to find employment. One option is to apply for entry level positions at firms. These will provide you with steady work, the opportunity for advancement, and most importantly, valuable experience. Another option is to start a private practice. This essentially allows you to be your own boss, and can be a good option for small towns and cities, but the pay may not be as steady and you will have to build a good reputation over time. Finally, you can choose to become a prosecutor. This may not pay quite as well as a job with a firm, but the overwhelming majority of judges were prosecutors first. This also ensures that you spend a lot of time in the courtrooms, whereas an entry level position in a firm will likely have you in the office more often than not.

No matter the position you choose, you have to spend time becoming familiar with the way a courtroom works. You need to understand what makes a judge good or bad at his or her job, and you must know whether or not you truly want to pursue such a position. Additionally, at this point you must begin networking. Make a good impression with everybody you meet: it will aid you in the future. Assume that you are always being observed by those who will decide if you obtain a judgeship. Any display of temper or unprofessional behavior may affect your chances.

Obtaining a Judgeship

The process for obtaining a judgeship varies from state to state, but you will generally have to either apply through a judicial nominating commission or be recommended by another judge or elected official. At this point, the real fun begins. You will be scrutinized thoroughly, and you must be prepared to answer for every slight misdeed you have ever committed.

The chances of you receiving a judgeship on your first try are low, but don’t give up. Apply again and again. If you are denied, step up your game. Get to know your district judges well and appear in court as often as possible.

There is another way to become a judge if this process isn’t working out: popular vote. Some judgeships are awarded through democratic election, so if you have a solid reputation in your community, run for office. For this to work, you must be eloquent and charismatic, but it can be a great alternate path to a judgeship.

Overall, tenacity is key. Only the best of the best get accepted as judges, but if you work hard in school, make a great impression on those already in the judicial system, and have a patient mind, becoming a judge is within reach for you.

How to Work for a Political Campaign

February 27, 2013

Political campaigns are considered by many to be shady organizations, and many times rightly so. However, if you want to become involved in politics, working for a campaign is a fantastic opportunity. Doing so will give you experience, help build connections, and maybe be a great starting out point for an up and coming political career.

Keep in mind though that it isn’t all glory when working for a campaign. These jobs are often very strenuous, and require massive amounts of overtime work. In fact, 20 hour days are not unheard of when working for a campaign. Be prepared for long hours, high stress, and intense situations.

If you want to work for a political campaign, here are some things you can do to make it happen:

Join a Party

Joining a political party is a very important first step of this process. If you want to work for a political campaign, you need to make sure you are affiliated with a party which you can support. Find out which party’s ideologies align most closely to yours. You likely already have all of this figured out, but this is an important reminder for anyone who doesn’t.

Start out Volunteering

Most political campaigns pay only a few dedicated employees, the rest of their workforce is made up of volunteers. To get started at the ground level, you will need to do some volunteer work for a political campaign. Whether it is a national presidential campaign or a local one, any work you can do will help you later, even if you don’t get paid now. You will develop important connections by doing this, and hopefully make a little bit of a name for yourself.

Don’t Complain

When you are doing the lower level campaigning work, you likely won’t be doing anything fun. Stuffing envelopes and knocking on doors may not be your favorite thing in the world. However, try your hardest to avoid complaining about it in any way to anyone. You never know who will end up running for office one day, and if you want to get hired by someone who you volunteered with back in the day, you better hope they remember you as a hard worker.

Network Everywhere

This is one of the biggest keys to politics, and it is mentioned in almost every article on this site. Networking is extremely important, regardless of whether you are trying to simply work for a local campaign or run for a Senate seat. Use every opportunity possible to forge new connections, and strengthen existing ones. If you are volunteering, you will have tons of opportunities to make new connections with people who hold power within your party.

Do an Internship

Beyond just volunteering during campaign season, there are also lots of internships an aspiring political worker can take advantage of. For students especially, there are tons of internships that will connect you with people in high places, and give you college credit at the same time. All US Congress members run internship programs both in the offices in their state, as well as in Washington DC itself. Having one of these internships on your resume is a great way to show you know your way around the political system.

Climb the Ladder

If you’ve done some volunteering or maybe an internship, you are ready to begin climbing the ladder. Your experiences in one campaign will help you get a higher position in the next. The one key disadvantage to this career path is the gap in time between campaign seasons, but if you apply each year to campaigns and begin to build up a solid history of working them, you will no doubt have opportunities to work in the position you want for the campaign you want.

Job Getting Basics

Of course, there are lots of basic job getting skills that you should have a solid handle on when you are attempting to work a campaign. Resume writing, interviewing, self-promotion and more are hugely important, and your skills in each will likely determine the success of your employment quest. I highly recommend that you read Get a Job NOW, which is all about mastering these skills. It is a relatively short Kindle ebook that has tons of fantastic advice on the subject.

How to Become a Lobbyist

February 11, 2013

Lawmaking bodies like the United States Congress or the various state legislatures wield enormous power to affect the quality of life for each and every citizen. It is no surprise, then, that the plethora of interests present in the American economy and culture will also seek a presence in the halls of political power. These interests include – but are not limited to – farmers, labor unions, business organizations, import/export partnerships, non-profit issue advocacy groups, health care providers and local governments. Such constituencies seek to promote their points of view and gain favor with lawmakers by hiring experts in the legislative process to make their case. These professionals are referred to as “lobbyists” because petitioners of old would wait in Capitol lobbies to make their case.

Since lobbyists represent a wide array of interests, they are expected to be competent in the workings and goals of their respective employers. Representing a teachers’ union, for example, calls for some knowledge of merit pay, curriculum design and standardized tests. More than that, however, the lobbyist must be thoroughly grounded in the machinations of the legislative body to which she is petitioning. If working with an individual legislator, the lobbyist should know where that lawmaker ranks among his colleagues, what other interests are currently pressuring him, the politics of his home district and his voting history. If seeking to persuade committee staff members, on the other hand, the lobbyist must be up on the committee’s rules of procedure and legislative calendar. This is the knowledge for which the teachers’ union is paying her.

Understanding the political culture and unique rules governing Congress requires living within it. This means working on the staff of a congressman or congressional committee. These jobs are excellent training for prospective lobbyists, but require a certain amount of book learning. Although majoring in political science or public administration is not a prerequisite, some course work in such fields gives a student a theoretical grounding in the political process. The completion of relevant classes also makes a student eligible for an internship – an unpaid position that nonetheless gets a foot in the door of a congressional office. After a semester or two, the intern becomes a known quantity.

A college graduate is well-advised to cover the Hill with resumes, and to take the first offer. This may mean working as a legislative correspondent (LC) – sorting and answering constituent mail. Building a consistent record of rapid turnaround demonstrates efficiency and competence. When an opening for legislative assistant (LA) develops, the LC has a proven track record of getting the job done. Legislative assistants begin to follow policy formulation on a narrow range of issues, advising their member of Congress on voting options and positions. Once established as a policy advisor, the LA can seek a position as a legislative director for a member. In this role, the would-be lobbyist has charge of all the policy work in the office, serving as the senior policy consultant.

An alternate route for an ambitious LA is to get a position on the staff of a committee. To obtain such a plum, the LA must be appointed by the committee chair or the ranking member of the minority. This is where legislation is forged, negotiations are conducted and compromises are made. Committee staff members are responsible for creating legislation that can pass in committee as well as on the House or Senate floor. Often, staff members at this level have earned additional degrees in law or their area of responsibility. A few years in this political crucible equips a staffer for the rough and tumble world of lobbying.

The organization for which a lobbyist works will often depend on his or her policy experience. If she worked on the staff of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, she may do well to seek employment at the American Farm Bureau Federation or the Monsanto (Seed) Corporation. Time served with the Judiciary Committee might make her a good candidate to lobby for the National Rifle Association or the American Civil Liberties Union. Whatever the group, the job will often be advertised as “Government Relations” or “Federal Affairs”. A strong resume will include full immersion in the congressional community.

Political Campaign Jobs

February 6, 2013

Every political campaign has the same essential needs, and its staff will reflect those needs. Its candidate needs to meet as many people as possible. It needs to spread its message to reach large sectors of the population. It needs to raise money and keep track of that money. It needs to develop strategies to gain consensus for ideas and maximize its volunteer labor.

Campaign Manager

The campaign manager functions as the executive of operations and staff. It is the campaign manager’s job to ensure that a schedule of events is adhered to, research is conducted on issues, and that volunteers and donations are being put into action.

Campaign managers in smaller local campaigns will often perform functions which replace other staff positions, and may be paid or unpaid. Salaries are usually in line with those of other project managers such as general contractors, advertising sales managers or media managers.

Fundraiser

The fundraiser is responsible for raising the capital needed to cover costs associated with the campaign. This job also involves drawing up projections for funding goals and expected receipts. The fundraiser needs to cultivate relationships with business leaders, contributors and political organizations to solicit donations to the campaign.

Fundraisers are usually paid a small stipend plus a commission of total funds raised. Generally this commission is 5 to 10 percent of total fundraising.

Treasurer

The treasurer has the responsibility of record keeping for donations and reports to authorities on financial matters. This position is responsible for the campaign’s bank account and paying any bills.

Common qualifications for a treasurer are accounting and bookkeeping skills, business management experience, and the ability to prioritize expenditures. Pay is usually equivalent to that of an accounting professional, but may be less and sometimes is unpaid in smaller campaigns.

Field Manager

The field manager is the person who develops public support for stances on particular issues and researches the opposition to exploit weaknesses. This person helps the volunteer coordinator by providing rationales and talking points for volunteers to use in recruiting and persuasion. The field manager is responsible for a network of teams operating in multiple locations and coordinating them simultaneously. Field managers are either paid or unpaid, with pay at about the same rate as local factory or labor supervisors.

Volunteer Coordinator

The volunteer coordinator is responsible for building the army of unpaid volunteers that make a campaign successful. They must recruit, inspire and supervise the volunteers in the day to day grind that makes for an effective campaign. Someone has to do the grunt work. The volunteer coordinator makes sure it gets done.

Volunteer coordinators are paid at about the same rate as labor supervisors in the general market.

Strategy and other Consultants

Strategists and consultants perform analysis of strengths and weaknesses in a campaign and in the opposition, and prepare strategies to deal with these strengths and weaknesses. Other consultants which might be used on a campaign are experts at media messaging, style and image, public speaking coaches, polling professionals to gauge support and speechwriters who create the campaign message or catch phrases to promote the campaign.

Pay for strategists and consultants varies widely. In some cases these individuals are volunteers who work without pay because of their belief in the campaign. In others they receive set fees for each consulting session or report. Some are paid a salary, usually based on a percentage of fundraising.

Press Secretary

The press secretary is responsible for issuing press releases, conducting sessions with the press and obtaining publicity through social networking, interviews and other dealings with the media.

In larger campaigns it is common for the press secretary to be paid a weekly or monthly salary, which is in line with those paid to advertising sales managers and public relations professionals. In many cases the press secretary is a volunteer and performs without pay or for a small fee.

As you can see, there are lots of different jobs you can have on a political campaign. Depending on the position and the size of the campaign, these may be part time volunteer gigs, or 80 hour per week highly paid careers. Find a job that is right for you and get involved in our beautiful political system!