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Political Consultant Job Description, Career as a Political Consultant, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training Advanced degree

Salary Varies—see profile

Employment Outlook Very good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Political consultants promote the election of certain candidates or the interests of certain groups. They plan campaign strategies, coordinate campaign staffs, and arrange meetings to publicize candidates or causes.

Using advertising, press releases, fund-raising drives, and other activities, political consultants introduce politicians and their ideas to the voting public. Consultants function as public relations specialists, salespeople, and managers. Their goal is to "sell" the public on the politicians they represent.

Corporate lobbyists are also political consultants, although they specialize in representing companies to federal or state government. They try to persuade officials to understand their companies' problems and to sway governmental policy or legislation. They may also help market companies' products to governmental departments. Lobbyists often discuss such issues as taxation and regulation with members of Congress and other senior officials.

Education and Training Requirements

If you are interested in becoming a political consultant, you should take college courses in political science, communication, English, and foreign languages. Other useful fields of study are economics, business, law, and sociology.

Political consultants meet with politicians to promote the election of certain candidates or the interests of certain groups. (© Catherine Karnow/Corbis.)

Volunteer work for local politicians or interest groups will give you experience and helpful contacts. A master's degree in government or public administration may be supplemented by part-time work on a campaign staff or in a legislator's local office.

Getting the Job

Volunteer and part-time work during school and college will be a good springboard for finding full-time employment. Jobs in the personnel and public relations divisions of companies may lead to corporate lobbying positions. Many trade and professional associations have well-established lobbying offices and regularly hire new personnel.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

As local, state, and federal political contests become more complex, candidates increasingly rely on consultants to manage their organizations. While there may be more jobs at the local level during election time, state and federal representatives often employ full-time political consultants in Washington, DC, and state capitals.

Smaller companies that cannot afford full-time lobbyists hire outside lobbyists who are experts on specific issues. Specialization has created new advancement possibilities for many political consultants who have opened their own consulting firms.

The employment outlook for political consultants is very good. However, competition will be stiff for those in beginning positions or those who are starting their own consulting firms.

Working Conditions

Political consultants work at an energetic pace, arguing for their candidates or causes. They spend a considerable amount of time on the telephone and in face-to-face contact with legislators and other officials. They must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills. During an election campaign consultants often travel ahead of the candidates, organizing meetings, interviews, and publicity. The job often requires evening and weekend work as well as extensive travel.

Earnings and Benefits

Entry-level political consultants may receive payment for out-of-pocket expenses. Starting salaries range from $26,000 to $31,000 per year. However, as word of energetic and successful strategies gets around, candidates and corporations will offer higher wages and benefits. In 2004 the median salary of corporate lobbyists was $96,825 per year.

Where to Go for More Information

American Association of Political Consultants
600 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Ste. 300
Washington, DC 20003-6300
(202) 544-9815
http://www.theaapc.org

Political consultants who work for corporations also receive health insurance, retirement plans, and vacation benefits. Self-employed consultants must arrange benefits for themselves.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesLaw and Public Service