If you have always been fond of legislation and want to work for a congressman or senator whose cause mirrors your own then you can consider a career as a legislative assistant. In this position, you will have the opportunity to help legislators dispense their duties to the public more efficiently by providing that much-needed support in areas like research, administration and communications.
You could be part of a team of legislative aides in the office of the congressman or senator and be assigned to focus on a policy area where you have the most experience and training in. You could be the aide that specializes in matters or policies involving education, peace and order, the environment or tax. Legislators are typically assigned to committees in congress and the policy focus of legislative assistants will depend on which committee the senator or congressman is a member or head of.
Since legislators are concerned with passing laws, a great deal of research surrounding proposed bills needs to be conducted. Undertaking research is one of your critical duties as a legislative assistant. You will be studying the background of proposed legislation which may require you to attend committee hearings and get copies of different testimonies and records. If the legislator you are working for is the one proposing a particular bill, you will be tasked with researching on the finer points of the issue and gathering the necessary supporting studies to strengthen the bill.
As a legislative assistant, you will serve as the communications coordinator between the legislator you serve and the different personalities and agencies that might want to get in touch with him. This includes his constituents who want to talk to him about their concerns and/or the pieces of legislation that they want him to pass for their benefit. Moreover, you will also be arranging or coordinating meetings and events for your legislator and in some instances, even attending gatherings on his behalf.
To succeed as a legislative assistant, you need to be very good at oral and written communication since you will be writing reports and meeting a diverse array of people in government and out. You also need to be able to multitask since you can expect to be juggling many activities at once. In addition, having analytical and problem solving skills will be helpful. Knowledge and skill in using computers will be essential since you will be using the Internet to do research and computer programs to prepare documents and presentations.
Why Become A Legislative Assistant
A career as a legislative assistant is very fulfilling for those who have always been fascinated by the law and the legislative process. It is the profession for those who want to play a role in helping legislators pass laws that will help improve the lives of their constituents in areas like education, healthcare, peace and order and the like. For those who are interested in a career in politics, becoming a legislative assistant enables them to know the ins-and-outs of the legislative process.
Legislative Assistant Work Environment
Legislative assistants work for offices of congressmen or senators at the state and federal levels. In the office of each legislator, there is often a team of legislative assistants but one legislative aide known as the senior legislative assistant is in charge of the entire team. The work is often fulltime although it’s not unusual for a lot of aides to put in many hours of overtime. They work in offices but they may also be asked to attend hearings and other events in the community. Since legislative assistants have to represent their members very well and ensure that their constituents are well-served, the work can be very demanding and stressful.
Legislative Assistant Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have salary data specific to legislative assistants. However, according to the agency’s Occupational Employment and Wages report, the mean annual wage of paralegals and legal assistants—a profession that is similar to legislative assistants—is $51,170.
Legislative Assistant Career Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have the job outlook specifically for legislative assistants. For paralegals and legal assistants, however, the employment rate is set to rise 17 percent, a rate that is faster than the average for all job types. For as long as senators and congressmen are going to be part of the electoral system, there will continue to be demand for legislative assistants.
Legislative Assistant Degree
The educational entry point for a career as a legislative assistant is a bachelor’s degree in political science, public administration and related fields. Those with a background in law are also preferred. Internships in public offices will also allow aspiring legislative assistants to gain real world experience in the field and will help them land a job. Since legislators want to work with the best and brightest, students who excelled academically in school might have a little edge when job hunting.