How To Pursue a Successful Career in Politics (With Steps)

Jennifer Herrity

Updated September 15, 2022

Published February 25, 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.

An Indeed Career Coach has approved this article.

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In the United States, there are jobs in politics for a wide range of professionals. Political jobs are available across the country and usually include a steady salary and government benefits. Understanding how to pursue a career in politics can help you find a rewarding position that best suits your interests and goals.

In this article, we explain how to get into politics and what a job in this field typically involves.

What is politics?

United States politics involves all the activities and events associated with the federal and local governments. Political professionals like senators, members of congress, and lobbyists are responsible for making decisions and passing laws that protect and improve the country's operations. Federal politics primarily are based in Washington, D.C. Many political employees work on Capitol Hill, debating bills, holding hearings and presenting proposals.

State representatives and governors are responsible for meeting the needs and representing the opinions of the citizens of their particular state. They listen to voters' suggestions and complaints, using that information to guide voting on bills and passing laws. Local government officials, including city managers and planning directors, also work to meet citizens' needs and create ideal living situations for all residents. Politics are a critical part of how a country functions at every level.

Related: 12 Jobs in Politics

How to get into politics

If you are interested in pursuing a career in politics, one of the challenges is knowing where to start. Here are some specific steps you can take to get involved in politics:

1. Become qualified

Before pursuing a political career, first consider if you have the necessary qualifications. Politicians and political employees come from a wide range of educational backgrounds, but they usually have at least a bachelor's degree as their minimum level of education. Degrees in political science, law, business, finance or other relevant fields can benefit political employees. Four-year schools often offer extracurricular activities that might interest an aspiring politician, including student body government, debate club and activism associations.

While a postgraduate degree isn't necessary to pursue a career as a politician, you may consider obtaining one after you earn your bachelor's degree. Candidates with master's or doctorate degrees can learn more about the complexities of political systems and enhance their qualifications. This higher level of education may help you distinguish yourself from other candidates and win favor among voters.

Related: 15 Degrees To Pursue if You Want To Work in Politics

2. Volunteer and seek internships

To continue increasing your qualifications, you can strive to gain work experience. You can achieve this through various avenues, including entry-level jobs. One of the most common ways to get political experience is by volunteering. Many political campaigns function primarily on the volunteer work that unpaid individuals contribute.

If you contact local politicians running for office, you may be able to find opportunities to work for campaigns. This can allow you to work in a political environment and witness campaign activities directly. As a campaign volunteer, you may be responsible for answering phones, addressing envelopes, cold calling voters, handing out flyers and organizing fundraisers.

Related: How To Write a Volunteer Resume (With Sample and Tips)

3. Join a party

The political system in the United States comprises several key political parties. These parties adhere to different value systems and prioritize different beliefs. Despite their differences, they all work toward the common goal of improving the country. Before you can run for office or pursue a high-level political position, you can select the party you want to represent.

Begin by researching what each existing party believes in and join the one that best aligns with your values. Choosing a party can still help you achieve your political career goals even if you don't want to become an elected official. Politicians typically hire individuals who share their party affiliations, and the professional network that comes with choosing a party is highly beneficial to entry-level employees.

Related: 15 Political Science Careers To Choose From

4. Get involved in local government

After you have acquired the necessary education, experience and skills, you can begin searching for a job in politics. One of the easiest ways to secure your first job is to become involved in your local government. Look for entry-level jobs working in the mayor's or governor's office or your state's capitol building. You can also serve on government committees or assist with seasonal events like voter registration. Working with the local government can earn you the reputation of being a politically active citizen and help you establish your name in local political environments.

Related: Learn About Being a Civil Servant

5. Run for office

After establishing yourself in your political community, you may decide to run for office. This process may involve organizing a campaign, hiring a campaign manager, raising donor funds and touring the city, state or country to meet prospective supporters. Running for office is a significant time commitment and takes considerable effort, but it is one of the most effective ways to serve your country and secure a government position. There are dozens of offices you can run for at every level of government, including city or state board member, governor, mayor, chairperson and senator.

Related: 17 Best Jobs for Political Science Majors

6. Stay informed

One of the most important aspects of being a successful political professional is staying informed on local, national and international news. You can benefit from remaining constantly aware of what's happening in the world throughout your political career. Being highly knowledgeable about political affairs is necessary for all lawmaking professionals, including lobbyists, legislative aides and elected officials.

If you find success in politics, you may receive opportunities for career advancement, which can take the form of a promotion, a pay raise or the chance to run for a higher elected office. As your career advances, you can continue to search for ways to improve your skills, increase your expertise and develop professionally. Staying relevant, engaged and informed is crucial for anyone hoping to maintain a lengthy political career.

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