Congressional aides perform a variety of tasks to support members of Congress, congressional committees and related administrative offices. Specific duties may include researching legislation, e-mailing supporters, answering phones and scheduling meetings.
Congressional aides work in a very fast-paced environment, which can be stressful to some. They must have the appropriate communication skills to speak in public settings and, in some cases, even act on behalf of a congressperson. Aides can work long hours while Congress is in session, but then they often return to normal work hours during congressional recesses. Since members of Congress are hired by election, all congressional staffers are subject to losing their jobs if their boss is not reelected.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree|
|Degree Field||Political science, public administration, communications, or other related field|
|Experience||Experience working in politics|
|Key Skills||Ability to deal with deadlines, pressure, and stressful situations; detail-oriented with strong reading, writing, and oral communication skills; ability to work long hours|
|Salary||$39,708 (2016 median for legislative assistants)|
Sources: United States Senate and House of Representatives; Job postings from employers (August 2015); U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), PayScale.com
A bachelor's degree in political science, public administration, communications or other related field is needed to work as a congressional aide. You should also have the ability to deal with deadlines, pressure and stressful situations and work long hours. An attention to detail and strong reading and writing skills are also important skills for congressional aides.
In August 2016, PayScale.com reported that legislative assistants made a median annual salary of $39,708.
Now how about if we take a look at the steps involved in becoming a congressional aide.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
While there are no set educational requirements to become a congressional aide, competition for congressional aide jobs can be fierce, and individuals will need at least a bachelor's degree. A degree in political science will teach students about several areas related to government, including political theory, the American Congress, legislative issues and international politics. Courses will prepare students for employment by educating them about civil liberties, political parties, due process, state and local government and constitutional law.
Participate in student government. While pursuing a bachelor's degree, it may be beneficial to participate in student government. This is an opportunity for aspiring aides to learn about the political process and develop legislative experience. Individuals will also have the chance to campaign for student government positions and debate in front of the student body.
Step 2: Find an Internship
Between the spring and fall semesters or right after graduation, individuals who want to work as congressional aides may want to consider an internship with a government agency. Whether it's with a local, state or federal agency, individuals will have an opportunity to get a close-up view of how the political process works and make contacts. It's also possible for an internship to lead to an entry-level position, which may pave the way for a job as a congressional aide.
Consider interning in Washington, D.C. Internships in Washington, D.C., can be very competitive; however, they can help individuals develop contacts and network with other congressional aides. Interning in D.C. may also give aspiring aides a chance to obtain professional references, which may be beneficial when seeking employment.
Step 3: Gain Political Experience
Many congressional members hire aides from their own states or districts, so recent graduates may want to research possible political candidates who are seeking election. Competition for these jobs may also be competitive, so individuals may want to consider volunteering if they can't obtain employment. While individuals may have the option to volunteer for any number of candidates, they may want to do some research and find someone who matches their political affiliation and takes many of the same positions.
Let's review. You'll most likely need a bachelor's degree in political science or a related field and some intern or volunteer experience to obtain a job as a congressional aide, after which you may earn a median annual salary of $39,708.