Guide for How To Become a Congressperson

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated February 22, 2021 | Published February 4, 2020

Updated February 22, 2021

Published February 4, 2020

Running a spot in the U.S. House of Representatives is a complex and multifaceted job, requiring strong interpersonal skills, practical experience and an understanding of government processes and policies.

Apart from drafting and proposing laws, members of Congress are also tasked with making decisions that could potentially have a significant effect on the lives of their constituents. This article details some of the most important things you need to know about becoming a congressperson.

What does a congressperson do?

Members of Congress are elected officials that essentially serve as representatives of the people of their district. Much of their work requires having a clear understanding of important issues, performing research and investigation, consultation, communication and plenty of decision making. Among the tasks that members of Congress are expected to perform are:

  • Holding hearings

  • Composing and co-authoring bills

  • Developing and voting on legislation

  • Attending meetings

  • Listening to concerns and ideas to help solve vital issues

  • Appropriating budget

Being a congressperson requires extensive understanding and knowledge of laws. The main function of a congressperson is to scrutinize and pass laws that affect peace and order, the economy, business, lifestyle, culture and the legal rights of citizens.

Many of these professionals are members of committees tasked with addressing policy issues involving specific areas of government. Committee members have additional responsibilities on top of the other responsibilities assigned to members of Congress, including:

  • Attending meetings, conferences and public discussions

  • Evaluating bills under the jurisdiction of the committee

  • Identifying issues and recommending solutions to the committee

  • Overseeing projects, programs, agencies and activities under the committee's jurisdiction

  • Cross-examining evidence and witnesses in congressional investigations

  • Recommending legislation and judicial actions if necessary

  • Attending press debriefings and making press statements

How to become a congressperson

A congressperson is an elected position. You can take measures to improve your chances of winning an election by following these steps:

  1. Add to your credentials with a bachelor's degree.

  2. Gain practical experience.

  3. Get involved with the community.

  4. Get involved with local politics.

  5. File for candidacy.

  6. Raise funds for the campaign.

  7. Start campaigning.

1. Add to your credentials with a bachelor's degree

Strictly speaking, there are no educational requirements for becoming elected into Congress. That being said, voters are more likely to elect a congressperson that they perceive to be qualified for the job. This often translates into increased voter confidence in a congressperson that has a bachelor's degree or higher educational attainment.

If you are interested in becoming a congressperson, it may be beneficial to get a degree in law, political science or international relations.

2. Gain practical experience

Experience in areas related to your causes can help prepare you for crucial tasks and decision-making processes that you will later have to work with as a politician. Most aspiring members of Congress start at the lower levels of public service. You could, for example, become an assistant to a public official, which should help you acquire knowledge on specific aspects of public service.

You could also volunteer for charity events and institutions. Involvement in charity work gives you a keen insight into problems affecting your community and different approaches to solving them.

3. Get involved with the community

Involvement with the community that you wish to serve is essential to becoming an effective congressperson. In particular, becoming familiar with community residents and their concerns will enable you to determine the most important focus areas to address if and when you are elected. Community involvement at the grassroots level also provides many opportunities to build relationships with potential voters, which can be beneficial to your electoral campaign.

4. Get involved with local politics

It would also be helpful to become involved in local politics early on, or at least become familiar with the local political landscape. Most local politicians are affiliated with state and national political parties and organizations. Strategic alliances with political figures you identity with could, therefore, be beneficial to your career plans.

5. File for candidacy

To become a congressperson, you will have to conform to the requirements of the U.S. Constitution, as well as those of the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). The Constitution allows most citizens to run for office, ensuring that everyone has a chance to serve the public. However, the FEC imposes filing requirements to ensure that campaign-related expenses are properly liquidated.

The Constitution's three basic requirements for becoming a congressperson, as stated in Article 1, Section 2, are:

  • Candidates must be at least 25 years old.

  • Candidates must have been a U.S. citizen for at least seven years.

  • Candidates must be living in the state they choose to represent.

The FEC requirements for filing candidacy are as follows:

  • Candidates must file a statement of candidacy 15 days from receiving contributions or exceeding an expenditure of $5,000 for their campaign.

  • Candidates should identify and form a principal campaign committee and file a Statement of Organization within 10 days.

  • Once the committee is formed, the committee must assign a treasurer who will be solely responsible for signing FEC reports and statements on behalf of the campaign. The committee will not be allowed to accept any contribution unless a treasurer is established.

6. Raise funds for the campaign

Raising funds is one of the most important parts of building a campaign. You will need considerable financial resources to get more exposure, pay for advertising and develop campaign materials. There is no minimum requirement for campaign expenditure.

Several politicians have managed to fund their campaigns via crowdfunding. This strategy is more likely to work for candidates that have forged strong relationships with the local community and their potential constituents. Local political parties could also help you raise funds for your campaign.

7. Start your campaign

The final step to becoming a congressperson is launching your campaign. You will find your interpersonal skills especially useful during this stage, as they will enable you to build rapport with potential voters. Communication skills will also enable you to push your platform, promote your advocacy and forge stronger connections with your constituents.

Related: How To Succeed in Your New Job: The First Week, Month and 90 Days

Frequently asked questions about being a congressperson

Below is a list of frequently asked questions and the answers to them when it comes to being a member of Congress:

Are wealth and popularity necessary to become a congressperson?

You don't need to be famous to become a congressperson, but you will need considerable exposure to the people and communities you will be serving. By working to become a familiar face with potential voters, you can greatly increase your chances of becoming a congressperson.

Not all politicians have the financial means to launch successful campaigns. Many have managed to raise the necessary campaign funds via crowdfunding, donations or affiliations with political parties.

What skill set do I need to become a congressperson?

To become a successful congressperson, you will need extensive knowledge of the law, government processes and issues that affect your community. You will also need strong interpersonal and verbal skills to build a good relationship with your supporters, potential voters and the people you will be working with.

Being attentive and highly observant will be beneficial for the job as well. You may also find it beneficial to develop reasoning skills that will help you during debates and deliberations.

What alternative jobs are available to a prospective congressperson?

Preparation for becoming a congressperson also makes you qualified to work in public service positions in government. You could also work with non-profit organizations that are aligned with your advocacies or platform.

If you have a political science degree, you may also work as a teacher or a professor. And of course, law degree holders have many options in legal careers in the private and public sectors,

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