How Long Does Legislative Assistant School Take?
Legislative assistants are professionals who help congressmen and senators fulfill the mandate of their office. They typically work as part of the legislative team of the representative, fulfilling such roles as researcher, communications liaison and public policy advocate. They will also perform clerical roles like answering phone calls, writing reports and scheduling meetings for the representative they work for. If you enjoy the fast-paced world of politics, public policy and lawmaking, working as a legislative assistant will certainly allow you to dabble with these every day.
Strictly speaking, there is really no such thing as a formal legislative assistant school. However, you do need to get a degree if you want to qualify as a legislative aide. The entry level requirement for this position is a bachelor’s degree in political science, public administration and similar areas. Other degrees that also provide ample preparation for a career as a legislative aide include business and communications. Bachelor’s degrees typically take four years to complete for a fulltime student. An undergraduate degree can qualify one for entry-level posts.
A position as a legislative aide, however, can be very competitive and as many aspiring aides have learned, a bachelor’s degree won’t be enough. Those who aspire for this position get postgraduate degrees, like a master’s degree in political science or public administration. Some also opt to go to law school after obtaining their bachelor’s degree before seriously applying for legislative aide positions. These postgraduate studies equip aspiring legislative aides to perform research, craft position papers and even help write pieces of legislation—serious duties that they can expect to perform on a regular basis. A master’s degree typically takes anywhere from one year to two years to complete while a doctoral degree can take longer at three to five years or even longer due to its dissertation requirement. Law school, meanwhile, takes three years to complete. As far as the time you need to spend in school to meet the educational requirement is concerned, it will take anywhere from five to ten years before you can become a legislative assistant.
However, fulfilling the educational requirements to become a legislative assistant is not going to be enough. Legislators want someone who already has practical experience in the world of politics. Thus, it’s important to look for internship opportunities. Even if these are unpaid, internships and volunteer opportunities help provide you with the necessary network of contacts that will prove to be very beneficial later on when you look for a job. Undergraduate programs typically incorporate internships into the curriculum so this should provide you with the exposure you need. Volunteering in campaigns is also one way for you to get exposed to the world of politics and polish your resume at the same time.
Aside from internships, legislators also value work experience which would showcase your ability to perform legal research, write reports and coordinate schedules. These administrative tasks are part of the work you do on a daily basis as a legislative aide and having background experience in handling these responsibilities will definitely give you an edge when you apply for this position.