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How to Become a Politician

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Running the Country

Politicians are elected officials who manage the government at the local, state and national level. If you are considering politics as a career, you'll be happy to hear that politicians earn salaries generous enough for a working mother to raise her kids and send them to college. You won't need to follow as rigid an educational path as you would to become a brain surgeon, but you'll need the background, experience and charisma to get elected to office. Then, to be effective, you'll need leadership skills to make things happen.

Job Description

Citizens elect politicians to run government at the city, county, state and federal level. Politicians represent the people in their areas, making laws and addressing important issues. Some say that politicians have two jobs: to get elected and to govern. Both require specialized talents and skills.

Once elected, a politician has to work with others to govern. In a democracy, this usually means that politicians need to be able to persuade and compromise to come up with legislation that serves the city, state or country. However, when one political party controls the government, compromise is often sacrificed to political expediency.

Education Requirements

While there isn’t a specific track to becoming a politician, you have to get enough education to appear qualified for office and get elected. The road is a long and hard one, and your success in this career path may depend on who you know and the amount of money you have as much or more than your educational background. However, many politicians do get a college degree in a field like law, business or public policy. More than you may think start out in law and jump to politics.

Experience in the field can also help you seem qualified enough to get elected. Some politicians enter the field by working as an aide for a politician, such as a legislative aide. In this role, they can build networks, form connections, and pull together their views on current events and issues.

Often, a first political position is as a local representative. After that, you will likely need to work your way up through the ranks to become a legislator.

You'll need to pick a political party to succeed in politics. The main parties in the United States are the Democrats, Republicans and Independents, but there are also a lot of other political parties. Then seek a mentor within your party. Try to find someone you admire to help and guide you.

Start by volunteering for your party to get to know the ropes. Work hard on every task and be engaged with your work when volunteering. But find issues you feel passionate about as they will be the focus of your political career.

Go to college or get a political aide job to get experience. Run for office when you are ready and not before.

About the Industry

Politicians work for the people of their city, state or country. Generally, they are not permitted to work for a private company while they are serving, and doing so can be considered an ethical violation.

Years of Experience

Unlike engineers or teachers, a politician's salary does not increase each year or each term she serves. All members of Congress make the same salary, including those just elected and those who have been in office for 20 years.

Members of the federal House and Senate earn almost $200,000. The president earns twice that. State politicians' salaries vary widely. For example, California legislators receive over $100,000 per year plus per diem costs to cover lodging, meals and incidentals. But New Hampshire legislators earn just $200 for a two-year term and do not get a lodging, means and incidentals' allowance.

Job Growth Trend

The number of jobs for politicians is likely to remain static for the next few years. You very likely won't see large increases in the numbers of federal House and Senate seats. While some states may increase the size of their legislative bodies, don't count on it. On the other hand, competition for the elected seats may be stiff.


Teo Spengler has worked as a trial lawyer, a teacher and a writer at various times in her life, which is one of the reasons she likes to write about career paths. Spengler has published thousands of articles in the past decade including articles providing tips for starting a job or changing careers. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson,, and Working Mother websites. She holds a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley, an M.A. in English and an M.F.A. in fiction.

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