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Become a Lobbyist: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn the steps for becoming a lobbyist. Explore the educational options, and find out what type of career skills and real-life experience you'll need to start a career as a lobbyist.

Should I Become a Lobbyist?

Lobbyists communicate with government representatives, officials and legislators on behalf of clients and causes. Lobbyists represent a variety of entities, including individuals, companies, foundations, charities and local governments. They might attempt to persuade government officials through direct contact or by organizing grassroots efforts that encourage citizens to communicate with their elected officials about selected topics. Lobbyists often work overtime and commonly put in long workdays.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree is most common; optional certificate is available through the Association of Government Relations Professionals
Degree Field(s) Political science, journalism, law, communications, public relations, economics
Experience Varies; employers typically require related experience
Key Skills Interpersonal, organizational, problem-solving, research, verbal and written communication skills
Salary (2014) $55,680 (Median salary for all public relations specialists)

Sources: Association of Government Relations Professionals; The Princeton Review; Job postings from employers (July 2015); U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Step 1: Get a Bachelor's Degree

Lobbying does not require a specific academic degree. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies lobbyists as public relations specialists and individuals in this profession typically have a bachelor's degree. Aspiring lobbyists may consider a degree program in political science, which may includes classes that cover lobbying and its role in the political system. Coursework may provide instruction on the legislative process, as well as how lobbyists participate in the creation of rules and regulations.

Success Tip:

  • Earn a certificate. The Association of Government Relations Professionals (AGRP) offers a lobbying certificate program that can greatly improve a new lobbyist's understanding of the lobbying process. The Professional Lobbying Certificate requires 11 sessions, and covers all aspects of the lobbying profession, including necessary background, methods of networking, knowledge of regulations and training in best practices. Some universities also offer certificate programs in lobbying.

Step 2: Participate in a Lobbying Internship

Internships in lobbying may consist of paid or unpaid work for an agency or group requiring legislative representation. Interns can gain real-world experience, which is required by many employers, while learning how to actively advocate and influence politicians. Exposure to the government network of lobbyists and politicians provides students with opportunities to make professional contacts that could lead to a career in lobbying once the internship is completed.

Success Tip:

  • Make valuable connections. According to the Princeton Review, success as a lobbyist often depends on networking effectively and knowing the right people. Even low-ranking jobs in government organizations at all levels can be very helpful for gaining the professional contacts necessary to become successful in this field.

Step 3: Register as a Lobbyist

According to the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, anyone defined as a lobbyist, or those who participate in lobbying activities, must register by filling out an initial registration form. Professional lobbyists are also required to file a quarterly report listing their current contacts and lobbying activities. Once registered, a lobbyist may work independently as a self-employed lobbyist or as an employee of a lobbying firm.

Step 4: Continue Networking

Career longevity for lobbyists is heavily dependent upon networking with legislators, policymakers, and other lobbyists. By attending conferences, roundtables, and additional events, lobbyists create connections that could advance the position of their legislation, and they may learn invaluable pieces of advice. These events are sometimes hosted by professional organizations in the field, including the AGRP. Acquiring a large pool of contacts can not only ensure job security for lobbyists, but also gain them invaluable qualities, like influence and trust, which could propel their careers to the next level.

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