- Courses Courses
- Credit Credit
- Degrees Degrees
Browse Schools by Degree LevelCareer Counseling & Job Center
- Create Account
- Contact Support
Research the requirements to become a legislator. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career as a legislator.
Legislators draft legislation and pass bills into law. The job involves a good deal of research, discussion and debate, so these professionals must have strong persuasive speaking and negotiating skills. Legislators work long hours, travel often and experience continued job uncertainty due to elections. Extensive contact with constituents is common and can be both rewarding and stressful.
Legislators are generally elected into state or federal legislatures as representatives and senators. Board members in county and municipal offices are often elected as well. While citizens from all walks of life and educational backgrounds can be elected to a legislative office, many legislators hold at least a bachelor's degree. Graduate education in business or law is common as well. The following table describes the general requirements to become a legislator:
|Degree Level||None required, but a bachelor's or graduate degree may be preferred*|
|Degree Fields||Law, business or public administration, but any degree field is acceptable*|
|Experience||Experience is not required***, but prior work in government, business or management may give a candidate an edge*|
|Key Skills||Communication skills, analytical skills, debating knowledge, ability to develop expertise in subjects related to committee appointment**|
|Additional Requirements||Most offices have minimum age, residency, citizenship and registered voter requirements. A criminal record may disqualify a candidate in some jurisdictions***|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net Online, ***Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Rhode Island federal and state laws.
A degree is not required to work as a legislator; however, the BLS stated that many legislators must earn bachelor's degrees in government or business to increase their competitiveness when running for office. A political science bachelor's degree program can prepare individuals for a legislative career by covering related topics on government institutions, campaigning, international studies, law and public policy.
To run for office, a legislative candidate must meet minimum age, residency, citizenship and registered voter requirements. State offices have different requirements than federal offices, while local offices generally have the least stringent requirements. Some states also require that candidates are clear of criminal convictions that could appear to compromise the public trust invested in that office. Candidates who meet these requirements must determine if they have the necessary experience, skills and aptitude for the position they are considering. Public office is very demanding, and candidates must demonstrate effective leadership, communication and people skills.
Once a candidate has assessed his or her qualifications, he or she must decide what office to run for. Municipalities are overseen by city councils, counties fall under county commissioners, and the state and federal government contains representatives and senators. Each of these legislative offices has influence over different areas of law that affect the voters in the district. The legislative policies that the candidate wishes to influence can often determine which office he or she runs for.
Once a candidate has announced his or her candidacy for a particular office, the government requires that the individual files certain paperwork under strict deadlines. Generally, this starts with an affidavit of candidacy which is filed with the Secretary of State's office, along with a filing fee. The candidate may also have to file a personal financial disclosure statement. As the campaign progresses, there will be additional forms that must be filed before various deadlines expire. Forms and information about required filings are usually available at the Secretary of State's office.
The next important step to becoming a legislator is getting the candidate's name on the ballot by filing nomination papers. Candidates are typically selected through one of three nomination processes. The first involves obtaining the nomination of a political party. The candidate must be a registered voter affiliated with the party and receive the votes of a defined percentage of delegates at the party's state assembly, which is held early in the election year. Another method is for the candidate to collect a certain number of signatures from registered voters in the candidate's district. The last method is running as a write-in or sticker candidate, which generally requires an affidavit or a declaration of the write-in candidacy. This declaration may need to be accompanied by a filing fee or petition with voter signatures.
A legislative candidate's most important job is to campaign and rally for votes. This generally involves making public appearances, participating in debates, giving speeches, answering journalists' questions and meeting with voters. Candidates should inform the voters of their platform and why they should vote for them over another candidate. A candidate's public presence is very important, as are the statements he or she releases to the media.