Become a Lobbyist: Education and Career Roadmap

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

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  • 0:04 Lobbyists
  • 0:33 Career Information
  • 1:00 Step 1: Bachelor's Degree
  • 1:55 Step 2: Lobbying Internship
  • 2:45 Step 3: Registration
  • 3:15 Step 4: Networking

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Video Transcript


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

Career Information

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 Communication, interpersonal, organizational skills; the ability to solve problems
Salary (2015) $56,770 (Median annual salary for public relations specialists in general)
Job Growth Employment expected to increase by 6% (as fast as average) from 2014-2024

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

Step 1: Bachelor's Degree

As public relations specialists, lobbyists usually have a bachelor's degree. Undergraduate majors typically include political science, public relations, communications, journalism, law, or economics. A degree program in political science may include classes that cover lobbying and its role in the political system. Coursework may provide instruction on the legislative process and how lobbyists participate in the creation of rules and regulations.

Success Tip:

  • Earn a certificate. The Association of Government Relations Professionals (AGRP) offers an 11-session lobbying certificate program that can greatly improve a new lobbyist's understanding of the process. The AGRP's Professional Lobbying Certificate covers all aspects of the lobbying profession, including the necessary background, methods of networking, and regulatory knowledge.

Step 2: Lobbying Internship

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

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: Networking

Career longevity for lobbyists is heavily dependent upon networking with legislators, policymakers, and other lobbyists. By attending conferences, roundtables, and other 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 help them develop influence and establish trust, which could propel their careers to the next level.

Let's review. You'll most likely need a bachelor's degree in political science, public relations, or another relevant major to work as a lobbyist. Public relations specialists, including lobbyists, earned a median annual salary of $56,770 in May 2015.

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