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What a Politician Does
Politicians are directly involved in how democratic governments run and there are positions at every level. Starting at a local level, within school boards, cities, or counties, all the way through direct leadership of a country, taking on a role such as Prime Minister or President, the field is vast, offering positions suitable for anyone who wants to impact the world.
Because anyone from any background can become a politician and many in small towns and cities take on public service roles part-time, in addition to their main career, there is no clear path. However, people who set out to hold a major office and make a career out of public service generally work their way up.
Who would enjoy a career in Politics?
People who want to have an impact on the way their city, state or country is run, enjoy socializing, and have keen insights on how the government operates as well as how laws are made, make good politicians.
Who mightn't like the career?
Those who seek office for posterity, prefer anonymity, and who are not prepared for extensive campaigning or extensive unpaid time volunteering are not suited for politics.
Most of the people who follow this career path begin in law or business, but there is no direct path to holding a public office. Anyone, from military personnel, to celebrities, and even average citizens can run for office or become appointed. However, career politicians generally have at least a bachelor’s degree in a subject that lends well to the field.
While later “interviews” rely on extensive campaigns and votes from constituents, most people begin by interviewing to become an intern. Networking is a major part of landing a position as an intern, but those with stellar resumes including excellent marks at university and/or previous civic volunteering experience can get in as well.
- Tips on Finding an Internship in the UK
- Information on Working for an MP
- Examples of US Political Intern Questions to Review
- Parliamentary Internship Programme (Canada)
- Australian Public Service (APS) Careers Guide
Moving into Politics from another career
As mentioned above, many politicians come from a background in law or business, although one may transition in to politics from any field so long as they are voted in by their constituents.
Role: Interns are needed at every level and help out on the campaign trail and are routinely put to work in government offices. They may handle mailings, go door-to-door, answer phones, raise donations, or perform clerical work. Candidates always need help and are generally glad to put interns to work in an area that suits the individual’s skillset. Competition for intern positions becomes more aggressive the higher up in government the candidate’s position is.
Legislative Assistant/ Legislative Director
Role: While every campaign and politician has his or her own way of arranging and managing staff, there is usually a natural progression from unpaid volunteering or internship opportunities through paid positions. Assistants fall on the lower end of the paid spectrum and may gain extra duties, such as researching legislation for the politician he or she works for.
Oftentimes, several assistants will work through massive legislative books and will create reports on the pros and cons of it for the politician. They may also meet with lobbyists to discuss legislation and report information to the politician. Experienced and trusted assistants are sometimes asked to help draft legislation for the politician to review and propose. The director may handle these types of tasks as well and also manages the politician’s calendar, keeping him abreast of all the issues he needs to be aware of.
Role: The number of political roles one could take is vast and the duties associate with each will vary.
Travel varies based on the position. In some cases, travel is negligible, while in others, constant global travel is required.
Intern: Most interns do not get paid.
Legislative Assistant/ Legislative Director: According to Glassdoor, salaries for these positions begin at around USD$31,000 in the US, CAD$43,000 in Canada, and £15,000 in the UK. In Australia, the pay rates are generally regulated, and sit around AU$50,000.
Politician: Annual pay varies greatly based on position. For example, in the UK, local councilors will earn around £10,000 annually, while members of parliament will earn closer to £66,000 and the prime minister earns more than £143,000. In America, a mayor will earn USD$62,000, senator USD$174,000, and the president makes a base salary of more than USD$400,000. In Australia, senators and members of the House of Representatives earn a base salary of AU$199,040 yearly and the prime minister receives AU$507,338. In Canada, members of parliament make slightly less than CA$164,000 and the prime minister earns about CA$327,400.
Why a Politician moves on
Even well-qualified career politicians don’t always get the position they campaign for and the term limits frequently apply. Being a politician, especially at higher levels, is also incredibly stressful. Being in the public eye and constantly scrutinized, can take its toll on politicians and their families.
Because politicians come from every walk of life and follow different paths to office, they frequently return to their former careers once their political career has ended. However, there are lots of other opportunities as well.