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In an ever-evolving modern society, very few fields offer the diversity and challenge of the political stage. If being on the frontlines of where policy is formulated, analysed and made into legislation sounds like your dream job, then you have just clicked your way to your future.
The incredible range of politics-related careers, both in the limelight and behind the scenes, make it a field with a plethora of opportunities and roles, and a great industry to look at when choosing a career. Starting from campaign volunteers, interns and staffers, all the way up to the highest of elected offices and posts, there’s a career in politics to match your wants at any stage of your professional progression.
Being one of the most ruthless industries to survive in, politics compensates with infinite possibilities and job satisfaction and makes it worthwhile with some very highly paid and long-term careers in the job market.
Without further ado, let’s look at the 20 highest-paying careers in politics.
20. Security specialist
Average annual salary: $40,000 (£29,360)
This is perhaps one of the most multifaceted jobs in politics, as it’s a combination of brains, brawn and alertness. The role of security specialists involves conducting extensive background checks on a variety of people that are in contact with the office which they serve, ranging from employees and visitors to friends and family.
They’re also responsible for planning and executing a security strategy for their boss, establishing the safety of a venue, a detailed arrival and departure plan, and threat management and response. They’re the head of the politician’s security detail and sometimes even have their bodyguard. Usually former military personnel, security specialists may be randomly assigned to a post or recruited by the postholder or their advisors.
Average annual salary: $49,300 (£36,180)
A journalist deals with the research, writing and distribution of news and information. Depending on the type of media they’re working with and their specialty, they can have assignments ranging from field correspondent to show host.
While entry salaries are in the mid-$20,000 range, they can go all the way up to the millions, like CNN’s British-Iranian journalist and anchor Christiane Amanpour who, with over 25 years’ experience, receives an annual salary of about $5 million (£3.7 million).
With at least one university degree under their belts, journalists may decide to pursue additional degrees to specialise in a specific field.
Launch your journalism career with Michigan State University’s online course on Coursera.
18. Media strategist
Average annual salary: $52,760 (£38,720)
Along with the communications director, the media strategist is the person responsible for the overall image of an agency or administration. Under their direction, the media strategy indicates who the office holder will interview with, in what tone and to which end the media presence serves.
Responsible for projects from campaign advertising to ‘packaging’ platforms and policies to be publicised, and with a strong network in local and international media, they have a key job in politics. Successfully integrating policy and communication, they are masters in both.
17. Politician’s assistant
Average annual salary: $53,590 (£39,340)
Your main objective as a politician’s assistant is to offer administrative support to an elected politician. Your responsibilities will be a mixture of secretarial, research and publicity tasks, and will involve things like making travel arrangements, responding to correspondence, assisting with campaigns, and writing press releases, reports and newsletters.
This is quite a diverse role and is certainly a great steppingstone if you’re hoping to follow in a politician’s footsteps. Learning what goes on behind the scenes will definitely give you crucial insights and could also allow you to form useful contacts which could help you progress in the political sphere.
16. Campaign manager
Average annual salary: $60,605 (£44,480)
Campaign managers run the show for the years leading up to an election. They’re what you would call operations managers in a business environment. They lead an array of volunteers and staffers through the planning and execution of the campaign strategy and report to the candidate with results, polls and panning.
Depending on the type and seniority of the political campaign they’re managing, the average salary of campaign managers is in the five-figure range. However, the bigger the campaign and its significance, the bigger the rewards, with Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and her company reportedly netting $1.9 million (£1.4 million) from the presidential candidate’s campaign management.
14. Press secretary (tie)
Average annual salary: $62,810 (£46,100)
A press secretary is the connecting link between the organisation or political office holder and the press corps. They’re responsible for delivering political news and updates to the media, both for the local and international arena, and answering questions on behalf of the administration.
They’re required to be widely and correctly informed on a variety of issues and be in the position to handle or deflect unexpected and potentially dangerous questions from journalists. Press secretaries are masters in the use of the official language of the administration and usually a few other languages. In some instances, they may also be a speechwriter.
Nerves of steel, composure and diplomacy are key personal qualities of press secretaries, and some posts require 24/7 availability and flexibility.
14. Public relations specialist (tie)
Average annual salary: $62,810 (£46,100)
A public relations specialist is the person responsible for a politician’s public image and activities, promoting the role they wish to embody in the candidate and aiding in the furthering of their agenda and policies.
They draft press releases, approve accompanying visual material, and analyse and improve the image of the person or office they are employed to serve. They may be called to action in assisting in the diffusion of a crisis in the media regarding their employer.
Their salaries vary depending on their experience, the level of the political person or office they serve and, of course, the period in the electoral calendar they’re going through.
Thinking about a career in PR? Enrol in IE Business School’s online course with Coursera.
13. Public affairs consultant
Average annual salary: $63,010 (£46,240)
Public affairs consultants depend on their knowledge and understanding of political systems to offer public policy advice to their clients. They most commonly work with charities, NGOs, overseas governments and trade associations.
As a public affairs consultant, you would be required to keep up with ongoing developments of activities in the political sphere including houses of parliament, government departments, regional institutions, political parties, local government, think tanks and pressure groups.
Depending on where you will be employed, this role is a fair mixture of lobbying, public relations and researching.
12. Policy advisor
Average annual salary: $76,250 (£55,960)
Most political science or international relations majors dream of ultimately becoming esteemed policy advisors. They’re the people that formulate, manage and establish the policies and direction of an agency or administrative office.
They’re also the same people on the opposite side of the table who will formulate counter-policies or a complete offensive strategy to a policy that is not on the agenda of their employer.
They possess strong research and analytical skills and an extensive mastery of their scope of politics. They’re the officeholders’ primary consultants in every policy decision.
Average annual salary: $77,170 (£56,620)
Lobbyists are the movers and shakers in policymaking. They’re part of national and international organisations who are funded by groups and corporations to influence policy and legislation.
Working within or alongside strong networks, they’re probably the single most effective nongovernment player in politics. The extensive and expansive funding they receive help them employ the crème de la crème in their scope of interest, and they’re a prominent force to be reckoned with to any administration.
10. Civil servant
Average annual salary: $78,260 (£57,420)
Civil servants are permanent government employees that carry over from administration to administration. Qualifications required vary depending on the position and the seniority of the post, but entry requirements usually include success in an entrance examination.
Roles vary from department to department, and civil servants are usually careered government employees who move through and up the ranks of pay scale and position.
Average annual salary: $84,500 (£62,000)
A career diplomat is a key element of an administration’s international presence and international relations policy. Depending on seniority, they range from entry-level personnel in the country’s foreign service all the way up to ambassadors.
An ideal career for those who like to travel and learn new languages and cultures, posts range in duration from a few months to a few years, with many career diplomats going on to take other posts in international organisations and become senior aides to the head of government.
Thinking about becoming a diplomat? Take the global diplomacy course on Coursera.
Average annual salary: $93,290 (£68,450)
The absolute numbers person in politics is a statistician. From polling numbers to economic figures, a statistician is essential in the political life of a country. They crunch numbers to calculate probability, possibility, votes, and sociopolitical and economic trends.
They research and analyse data to go hand in hand with the work of the administration, providing the empirical results and effects of various projects and policies with the use of various mathematical processes and applications and specialised software.
Average annual salary: $108,350 (£79,500)
Economists are ever present in the political arena. Whether within an administration, as special advisors or even in business functions, they combine two of the greatest social sciences, politics and economics, to examine the impact of policies and to advise on the formulation of new ones.
Specialised political economy degree programmes are offered by some of the most prestigious universities in the world, as the two sciences are intertwined in many ways, effecting and affecting each other throughout history!
6. Chief of staff
Average annual salary: $109,600 (£80,420)
The chief of staff is one of the most rigorous and prestigious political positions after the office holder. They’re responsible for the efficient and effective running of the office, staffing and agenda, and they are the right-hand person to the office holder.
Nothing happens in an administration without the chief of staff’s involvement and consulting. They are often referred to as the operations director of the executive branch. Many qualified campaign managers have gone ahead to become chiefs of staff in the administrations they helped elect.
5. Policy analyst
Average annual salary: $125,350 (£91,990)
A policy analyst researches, collects, classifies and analyses a variety of data concerning policies. Not to be confused with policy advisors, analysts evaluate this data and create reports to assist in policy development and various strategies, including media and PR.
Engaging both their qualitative and quantitative analytical skills, they provide policymakers with a clear and unbiased picture of the outcomes of a policy, developing models measuring performance, reaction and effects.
Average annual salary: $126,930 (£93,150)
Like large organisations, political entities and governments too have their own legal counsels. Be it legal aides to chief justices and ministers, lawyers are ever present in politics, acting as upholders of laws and the constitution, helping to formulate laws and amendments, and developing policy and authoritatively deciding the legality of policies and actions.
With chief justices and senior legal counsels making well over six figures, the profession is quite well represented in politics, and lawyers often pursue their own careers in politics, rising to even the highest office of state.
Average annual salary: $136,000 (£99,800)
Speechwriters play a vital role in politics. While they may not be in the spotlight, their work has the power to move an audience. Most of the time, speechwriters are employed by senior-level elected officials and government executives.
Before you can begin working on a speech for a political figure, you’ll first need to analyse the audience demographics, research the topic and create a structure that suits the occasion. Most importantly, you must ensure that the speech represents the character, tone and style of the speaker, so that it appears natural upon delivery.
You must also be a master of rhetorical devices such as repetition, variation and cadence in order to ensure that the piece is impactful and memorable.
2. Communications director
Average annual salary: $141,490 (£103,840)
Former media strategists and PR specialists have gone on to become communications directors in the political arena. They’re hardened and successful professionals who have mastered the art of political communications.
They’re responsible for all internal and external communications of an administration or agency, often also being the first to go in crisis situations. On the flipside, a good communications director can be even more indispensable than the office holder themselves.
1. President / Prime minister
Average annual salary: $400,000 (£293,550)
Pretty self-explanatory, the office of the president or prime minister is the highest state position in politics, responsible for creating foreign and domestic policy. In the cases where there’s a reigning monarchy, the postholder could either be elected via public vote or selected by representatives of the public or the Crown.
While no specific educational qualifications are a prerequisite for the job, most politicians are either career politicians who rise in rank, or notable community and business leaders who can formulate a wide-reaching agenda and can better unite the public under their leadership.
Anthony Scaramucci, best known as the shortest serving White House Communications Director with a measly six-day tenure, said of politics in his 2018 Vanity Fair interview: ‘I want you to imagine the worst person that you've met on Wall Street, the most ruthless and the most diabolical. That's the best person in Washington’. While perhaps a little too over-the-top and bitter, he wasn’t completely wrong, as politics both in the local and international arena is a cutthroat jungle, and survival mode is fully engaged.
It takes a special kind of person to be on the frontlines of politics and to forge a long-lasting political career, but the rewards from being a part of history and policy are too valuable to put a price tag on.
Are you more of an aspiring politician or a behind-the-scenes professional? Let us know in the comments section below!
This article is an update of an earlier version published on 9 November 2018, and contains contributions from staff writer Melina Theodorou.