Qualifications to be a Politician

February 19, 2013

A career in politics appeals to many. However, politics is a unique path in many ways, especially when it comes to the actual qualifications that an aspiring politician needs to meet.

For most jobs, there is a basic list of requirements that all potential candidates need to meet in order to be considered for the position. These typically include things like education, work experience, and proficiency in technical skills.

Someone who wants to be a computer programmer, for instance, would get a degree in computer science, work internships in the field, and get certified in the various programming languages they want to work with. After accomplishing all of that, they would meet the minimum requirements for the job they are after and would apply for it.

Politics is a totally different ball game. Most political offices have little to no specific requirements to run. The most common requirements are age and residency. For instance, in order to become a senator in the United States Congress, you have to be at least 30 years of age, a US citizen for at least nine years, and be a resident of the state you are elected to represent. That means that virtually all American’s could run for that office, one of the highest and most powerful in the land. Many local offices have even less formal requirements.

While there isn’t a formal list of qualifications one must have to run for political office, there are some informal qualifications that set the standards for who will be successful in their bids for a political office. Here are some of the biggest informal requirements of a politician:

  • Excellent Public Speaker: Politicians do quite a bit of public speaking, both when running for an office, and when in office. Campaign speeches are of course a big part of the first. If you lack confidence in your public speaking ability, you may not even be able to get elected. And while in office, politicians will spend quite a bit of time reporting to their constituents and running large meetings. Public speaking ability is one of the most important things an aspiring politician needs to have.
  • Passionate About the Issues: Almost without exception, politicians in America have one thing in common: They are passionate about at least one major issue. Without a strong passion and drive to change the world around them, aspiring politicians would never have the motivation to go through the lengthy and complicated process of running for office. Be sure that you have at least one issue (and preferably more) that you are very passionate about before you think about running for office.
  • Successful in Other Areas: If you want to be successful in politics, you need to be able to sell yourself well. And it is awfully hard to sell yourself well as a political candidate if you don’t have some pretty major accomplishments in other fields. You’ll notice that all our past presidents, presidential candidates, and congressmen have been bestselling authors, successful businessmen, highly respected generals, or, in some cases, even movie stars. While being a lifelong politician may be what you want, it will be very hard to explain to voters what qualifies you if you don’t have a solid resume built up before running for your first office.
  • Empathy: One sometimes overlooked quality of successful politicians is empathy. If you don’t understand the problems of the people, or if they can’t see that you do, they are less likely to vote for you.
  • Well Educated: It is very rare to see a politician who doesn’t have a solid academic background. While some people may think that political science degrees are what is needed to hold office, that is definitely not the case. Often times, political science studies are aimed more towards the political process (jobs like campaign managers or analysts) instead of leadership skills or understanding of the economy. Degrees and experience in the fields of economics, business, law, or even something like communications would serve an aspiring politician well. In reality, what your degrees are in isn’t a big deal as long as you have them.
  • Excellent People Skills: Politicians spend a vast majority of their time interacting with people. Whether it is small talk with other politicians, voting in major meetings, or wooing donors for campaign funds, a politician needs people skills far beyond the average. Being able to talk to anyone, anywhere, on any subject, and convince them to believe you is a vital skill to have for politicians.
  • Connections: The size and authority of your network has a huge impact on your success as a politician. Who you know is oftentimes more important than what you know in life, and in no place is this more prevalent than in politics. Having connections with powerful people is a huge boost for politicians.

While there aren’t any formal qualifications to be a politician, meeting the above guidelines is a great starting point to begin a political career with. If you are interested in becoming a politician, make sure you read our in-depth guide.

Category: Becoming a Politician

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