How to Become a Politician: Steps and Frequently Asked Questions

By Jennifer Herrity

Updated June 9, 2021 | Published February 4, 2020

Updated June 9, 2021

Published February 4, 2020

Jennifer Herrity is a seasoned career services professional with 12+ years of experience in career coaching, recruiting and leadership roles with the purpose of helping others to find their best-fit jobs. She helps people navigate the job search process through one-on-one career coaching, webinars, workshops, articles and career advice videos on Indeed's YouTube channel.

This article has been approved by an Indeed Career Coach

Politicians play an important role in local, state and federal levels of public service. From creating and implementing laws to establishing policies that govern society, politicians can greatly impact how the government is run. This position can be both challenging and rewarding and requires individuals to rigorously prepare themselves for all that a political life entails. In this article, we explore what a politician does, steps you can take to become a politician and frequently asked questions about this career path.

What does a politician do?

A politician is a professional who participates and has a say in how a government is run. Politicians can work on a local, state or national level and are either elected into office or appointed by a leader who is in office. The primary duty of a politician is to propose, vote on and enact laws and policies that will determine how a government functions. Examples of politicians include members of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, state legislators, city councilors, governors and mayors.

Common duties of a politician include:

  • Listening to and addressing public concerns and demands

  • Proposing laws that relate to the needs of the public, including budget plans and funding allocation

  • Making public appearances at various political functions and events

  • Attending public or private meetings to hear about and discuss political issues

  • Serving on committees

  • Meeting with constituents and lobbyists

  • Campaigning for election or re-election

A politician's specific job duties and schedule will depend on the office they are elected to and whether they work on a local, state or federal level. For example, local and state politicians may work on a part-time basis, whereas federal politicians are almost always full-time professionals. However, most politicians' job duties include consulting with lawmakers, constituents and trusted advisers, as well as playing a role in the creation and implementation of laws.

The average salary of a politician

A politician's salary can vary greatly. Some politicians' salaries are set, while others will depend largely on several factors, including the state they reside in and the office that they hold. For example, the president of the United States makes around $400,000 a year, while a governor's salary can be anywhere from $70,000 to $200,000 annually.

How to become a politician

Becoming a politician usually involves several years of experience and influence as well as an education in politics or a related field. Here are the steps you should take to become a politician:

1. Get a bachelor's degree

While there is no higher-education requirement to become a politician, most successful politicians hold a minimum of a bachelor's degree. Common areas of study for future politicians include political science, economics, business, international relations or another related field. Some politicians choose to complete law or business school in addition to obtaining a bachelor's degree. Having a bachelor's degree or higher is especially helpful for those who wish to pursue a career as a politician on the state or federal level.

2. Get involved in local politics and causes

Most politicians get their start at the lowest level of community politics and involvement. This will also provide you with a useful experience that you can add to your political resume. Common ways to get involved in your local initiatives include volunteering for a local campaign or committee, sitting on local boards and joining a chapter of your chosen political party. Becoming an active member of your local political affairs can help you get noticed by politicians and establish your passion and willingness to put forth time and effort for the great good of society.

3. Network with local political leaders

Forming relationships with political members in your area can help you learn the ins and outs of a political career and gain support for your own political aspirations. You can also use these relationships to gain insight as to how a successful politician acts and how they go about earning respect and confidence from the community.

4. Start campaigning

Many politicians begin their careers at the local level and work their way up to state and federal levels. You should focus on building support as a local politician before attempting to run for higher-level political positions. Choose a local political position that interests you and begin campaigning for it. For example, you could run for a position as a town council member or become part of a school board.

5. Form a team and platform to campaign for a higher-level political position

Once you have done your due diligence on a local level, you can begin preparing to campaign for higher-level political positions. This process can take several months or even years and requires a dedicated campaign team, a clear political platform and an effective marketing strategy. You will also need funding for your campaign which will require gaining the support of your community and beyond.

6. Run your campaign

After putting in the time and effort required to plan an honest and effective campaign, you will need to successfully run that campaign to become elected as a politician. Running a campaign can include making speeches, getting your platform seen by as many voters as possible and other initiatives to make your intentions as a politician known. If your campaign is successful, you will be elected into office as a politician.

Frequently asked questions

What is the work environment like for a politician?

Many politicians work in an office environment at a local, state or federal government office location. For example, a Senator works primarily in the Capitol Building located in Washington, D.C. However, many politicians spend time at various community locations such as town halls or travel to different parts of their state or country to perform political duties.

What skills does a politician need?

Being a successful politician requires a number of both hard and soft skills. One of the most important skills a politician should have is excellent communication skills. A politician's primary job is to listen to the concerns of citizens and interpret these concerns into actionable policies and laws. This requires politicians to effectively communicate with people at all levels of the community and government as well as compose both written and spoken communication.

Additional skills that many successful politicians have include:

  • Research skills

  • Public-speaking skills

  • Problem-solving skills

  • Decision-making skills

  • Negotiation skills

  • Listening skills

  • Emotional intelligence

Do you need training to be a politician?

While there is no required training to become a politician, there are several training options available for aspiring politicians that can help you develop the skills needed to be successful. Both nonpartisan and partisan organizations offer various types of training for budding political candidates and partaking in these training courses can prepare you for the various aspects of a political career.

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