Become a Political Consultant: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Should I Become a Political Consultant?

Political consultants work on election campaigns for political candidates. They may help candidates develop media strategies, explain their platforms to the public, create advertisements, respond to opponents or engage in fundraising. Other consultants may work in research or polling. In the former type of job, they investigate the major issues in a campaign or a candidate's opponent, while in the latter they ask the public how they feel about a candidate. This information can then be used to develop a candidate's election campaign strategy. Some of these consultants' job tasks overlap with those of political scientists, who are similar to consultants.

Political consultants work full-time, though they often put in overtime hours to meet deadlines or deal with crises. The job can be stressful, but it pays a salary that is much higher than the national average. Though there is strong competition for these jobs, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the field will grow at a faster-than-average rate over the coming decade.

Career Requirements

Degree Level There are no strict requirements, but a master's or doctoral degree is common
Degree Field Political science, political administration or a similar field
Licensure and/or Certification None required
Key Skills Strong analytical, critical-thinking and writing skills
Additional Requirements Knowledge of law, government, communications and media practices; an ability to analyze election results and other political data
Mean Salary for Political Scientists (2014) $104,000

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree is required for admission to a graduate program. A bachelor's degree program in political science or a related field teaches students about American government, international relationships, civil liberties, research methods, statistics and political theory. According to the BLS, this degree may prepare individuals to work as research assistants or policy analysts.

Success Tip:

  • Volunteer with a campaign. Volunteering or completing an internship in a political campaign provides aspiring political consultants with an overview of the types of work involved in campaigning. These positions may also lead to networking opportunities with candidates and other political consultants, which could make it easier to find a job in the future.

Step 2: Earn a Graduate Degree

A master's or doctoral degree in political science or political communication prepares you to work as a political consultant. Students in these degree programs learn about international law, human rights laws, public choice, judicial selection, political and civic organizations, election laws and decision theory. Graduating from one of these programs prepares individuals to work as political scientists.

Success Tips:

  • Consider a school's location. When selecting a graduate school, aspiring political consultants might consider the school's location. A school located in a state capitals or the nation's capital may make it easier to complete internships and interact with other consultants.
  • Complete an internship. Most graduate-level degree programs offer students the ability to complete an internship during their studies. Sometimes, these internships occur in Washington, D.C.

Step 3: Work as a Political Consultant

The BLS reported that many consultants work for the federal government. Consultants may work for candidates seeking election, while others can work for schools, lobbying groups, non-profit organizations or think tanks.

Step 4: Continue to Network

One way to find new contacts is to join the American Association of Political Consultants. The American Association of Political Consultants is a group of professionals working in politics. It welcomes members of any political group (i.e., Republican, Democrat, etc.) and provides consultants with networking opportunities.

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