How to Become a Politician: The Complete Guide

You just might change the world for the better.

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

How to become a politician

There are fewer famous jobs out there than being a politician. The role is influential, high-profile, and enables you to be involved in making important contributions to society.

For many people, being a politician, especially a senior one like the President of the United States, is a dream job, especially if you are interested in serving people and making a difference.

This article takes you through what a politician does, details about the role, and steps you need to take when considering entering politics.

What is a politician?

Politicians are government employees holding a public office or seeking elections to certain political roles. The role is multifaceted, including representing the public, representing a political party, being involved in creating laws or policies, and participating in general decision-making. Politicians can be active at local, regional or national levels.

What do politicians do?

Politicians have a wide range of responsibilities that are split across legislative work, and time with the public and constituents. Here are the five main tasks of politicians:

  • Campaign for and support causes and policies that are important to them or the people they represent
  • Provide advice as to how public funds should be awarded, and campaign for funds as needed
  • Research, create and champion laws and policies, as well as vote on them
  • Engage with the public on campaign rallies, town halls and other public forums, as well as speak to the media
  • Represent constituents, making time for them and representing their needs

What is their work environment?

Politicians work in diverse environments. A fair amount of their time will be spent in government offices, where they will be based. Apart from this, they’ll need to spend time in their constituencies, meeting the very people they represent. This might involve significant time away from their office, and therefore there will be plenty of travel, during which time they will be expected to work.

Politicians will also need to be present at public events like political conferences, as well as visiting television or radio studios to speak about government updates. There will also be a need for a digital presence such as social media.

What is their schedule like?

As well as standard office work, politicians might need to take calls or catch up on work while traveling from one place to another. There will be a need to attend out-of-hours events such as early morning news shows or late-night dinners.

Some senior politicians will need to work overnight, talking to leaders in different countries or maintaining an “always-on” presence in times of crisis. Compounding this intense schedule is the need for politicians to always maintain a professional demeanor, even when they might be tired and run down.

How much do politicians earn?

Some politician roles pay a fixed salary that has remained unchanged for years. For example, the President of the United States earns $400,000 annually, a figure that hasn’t changed since 1999, and Members of Congress earn $174,000 per year.

State politicians’ salaries vary significantly. For example, the top-paying state was New York ($142,000 annually), followed by California ($122,694), Pennsylvania ($102,844), Illinois ($85,000) and then Massachusetts ($73,655). At the other end of the scale, New Mexico pays their state legislators nothing!

Politicians with a rural or local remit might earn much more modest salaries. One 2015 study put the average earnings of politicians in the US at approximately $42,530.

Some of the richest politicians are high net worth individuals, such as Silvio Berlusconi or Donald Trump, but it’s worth noting that such wealth is largely accumulated outside of their political careers.

What is the job outlook for politicians?

Whereas, in theory, the career outlook for politicians is favorable (there will always be a need for elected officials), individual politicians’ careers are only as secure as their reputation.

Politics is a fickle industry, and your popularity will impact your longevity in the role. Factors that influence this are election cycles, personal popularity of politicians, the impact they make, their relationships with senior politicians, and the wider political landscape (a popular politician connected to an unpopular party will still lose a lot of their sway).

Politicians must also ensure they uphold themselves to the highest degree of integrity to enjoy long successful careers.

What are the requirements for politician jobs?

It takes a lot of hard work and passion to get into politics. Here are the main requirements to do so, grouped together by education, skills, and other requirements.


Whereas a bachelor’s degree is beneficial, it isn’t mandatory, as some politicians gain practical experience and work their way up from there. Politicians will also need to practice continuous professional development to stay on top of legislative changes and trends.


Politicians will use a wide array of skills and attributes, such as communication and public speaking skills. Other important attributes include tactfulness, negotiation and diplomacy skills, leadership capabilities, and critical thinking. Ensure you showcase these skills in a federal résumé.

Other requirements

Age of candidacy laws vary from state to state; some will accept people for delegate roles as long as they are over 18. Politicians must also be professionally vetted to a high degree of security. Having a political affiliation is helpful but not essential, as many politicians run as Independents.

Do you have what it takes?

If you’re motivated by public service and a need to make the world a better place, then being a politician is one of the best ways to accomplish this. Politicians must also be resilient and hardworking, and influential enough to use their position to make meaningful changes.

If you feel you’re aligned to these values and interests but are still figuring out which career path to take, then consider taking CareerHunter’s six-stage assessment, which has been created by psychologists to provide jobseekers and career changers with a range of suitable jobs based on their interests and skills.

How to become a politician

We have discussed a great deal about being a politician and what to expect from the role, so if you feel that you want to take the plunge into working in government, then read on for the five main steps you need to follow to become a politician.

Step 1: Focus on your education

Good high school results in STEM subjects will ensure you can get into a leading college or university. Here, subjects such as politics, political history, law or political science will be the most beneficial. This said, plenty of politicians have enjoyed successful careers without going to university.

Finally, at school or university, get involved in extracurricular activities that can introduce you to the world of public speaking and diplomacy. For example, being elected to the student body will require campaigning and debating, and many institutions will also have debating clubs where you can practice this skill.

Step 2: Go private or go public

There are two main career pathways to becoming a politician.

The first, the private sector, offers more opportunities but a longer road to becoming a politician. Many politicians start off in industries like finance or law before segueing into the world of politics.

Alternatively, you can gain entry-level work in government organizations, such as working as an aide, staffer or in a support role in a government agency. This might not pay as well as the private sector, but it will give you valuable experience in the world of politics and government right from the get-go.

Step 3: Build your network and engage with communities

As you gain professional experience, work hard on building your network. If you’re in the private sector, seek networking opportunities with local community leaders or officials where you can (and where it’s appropriate to do so). If you’re working in the public sector, then get to know the teams around you, and build connections in the government and political parties that can support you in furthering your career.

Whatever sector you’re in, becoming involved in community outreach is essential. This can include becoming active in school associations, volunteering at city hall, or working on volunteering projects on behalf of local administration.

Step 4: Run for local elected roles

Once you have a strong and extensive network in place, it’s time to run in your first election!

Your first run at public office can make or break you, as if you do it too early without the funds, network or credibility in place, then you risk not having a platform to run again for a long time. Therefore, consider the timing of your first run at public office, and don’t overreach.

Good positions to run for initially will be local official roles, such as sitting on the board of school governors, elected roles in city or rural councils, or county commissioners. Ensure your audience knows and understands your political views, and focus your energies on what you can do to benefit local areas.

Step 5: Build a team and run for larger roles

As you become elected and use your credibility and network to better people’s lives and earn an impressive reputation as a skilled politician, it’s time to think about working up through the ranks.

Build a trusted campaigning team, and work with your party and network to become elected to larger roles. This might start with junior roles in national government, up to more senior roles such as senator for a congressional district, then state senator.

Politicians hereon can then be picked up by senior government for figurehead roles like cabinet members, or senior roles in the judicial, legislative or executive branches of government.

Final thoughts

Being a politician is an incredibly responsible role that can make a real difference to the world we live in. That said, it’s tremendously demanding, requires the application of many different skills in extremely difficult and stressful settings, and requires exceptionally long hours.

That said, there are many different ways to become a politician, and with many different types of politician roles out there, plenty of career avenues and options. So, if you feel that entering the high-powered world of politics is for you, work out your preferred route into this role and start thinking about how you can make a difference.

Are you thinking of becoming a politician or have made your first steps into the world of politics? We want to hear from you — let us know in the comments section below.