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Qualifications Needed to Become a U.S. Senator

Learn about the qualifications needed to become a United States senator. Get a quick view of the constitutional requirements to be a senator and details about salaries, job duties, and state requirements to find out if this is the career for you. View article »

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  • 0:59 Age Requirements
  • 1:19 Citizenship Requirements
  • 1:42 Inhabitancy
  • 1:54 State Requirements
  • 2:27 Job Outlook & Salary

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Video Transcript

How to Become a Senator

The qualifications to become a U.S. senator are stated in the U.S. Constitution; article one, section three, and clause three. The constitution states that to become a senator an applicant must meet a specific age, citizenship, and state status.

The U.S. Senate was formed in 1787 by a convention informally referred to as the 'Framers of the Constitution.' These requirements have been in effect since that time. There are no constitutional amendments that apply to the requirements for becoming a U.S. senator.

Age 30 years or older
Citizenship U.S. citizen for at least 9 years prior to running
Inhabitancy Must reside in the state in which they are elected
State Requirements Pass background check
Be up-to-date on taxes
Meet state registration requirements
Skills Legal, business, or teaching experience; exceptional organizational, leadership, and communication skills
Job Outlook (2018-2028) No change (2 senators per state by law)
Annual Salary (2019) $174,000
$193,400 (for president pro tempore and the minority and majority leaders)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Senate.gov

There are no specific requirements regarding education or training, but many senators have experience in law or business, and they often hold at least a bachelor's degree. Some senators have an undergraduate degree in business management or a constitutional law degree. Solid leadership, communication, and organizational skills are vital for anyone who wishes to be elected senator.

How Are Senators Elected?

Senators are elected through national elections that take place every other year, where one-third of the Senate are up for reelection. This coincides with presidential elections every four years. Each stat is represented by two senators.

Qualifications for Senate

Let's take a more in-depth look at the different qualifications that must be met to become a senator.

Age Requirement for Senate

The minimum age requirement to serve as a U.S. senator is 30 years of age. James Madison, one of the framers of the Constitution, justified the higher age requirement in the Senate, saying serving as a senator required greater life experience and stability of character, according to the United States Senate (www.senate.gov).

Citizenship Requirements to Be a Senator

An applicant into the U.S. senate must be a U.S. citizen for nine years prior to applying for the senate. The nine-year rule helps ensure that foreign-born senators show more loyalty to the United States than to their countries of birth. This helps promote fairness when senators have to deal with treaties and make other foreign policy decisions.

Inhabitancy Requirements to Be a Senator

A U.S. senator is required to be an inhabitant of the state in which he or she is elected. The constitution does not specify for how long a senate candidate must reside in the state in order to run.

Additional State Requirements

In addition to the constitutional requirements, U.S. senators must also meet state registration requirements, be up-to-date on taxes, and pass a criminal background check. Registration requirements may vary by state, but typically include being registered with a political party and being eligible to vote.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also noted that candidates might benefit from legal, business, or teaching experience. They must also have exceptional organizational, leadership, and communication skills to represent their state effectively.

Salary and Employment Outlook

The job outlook for senators is based upon the rules established for term lengths and number of senators; because the constitution limits the senate to two senators per state, there won't be any additional senators unless a new state enters the union. According to the United States' senate's website, most senators made $174,000 annually in 2019, while the president pro tempore, and the minority and majority leaders, made $193,400.

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