Become a Lobbyist: Education and Career Roadmap
Learn the steps for becoming a lobbyist. Research the various education requirements, training and experience you'll need to start a career as a lobbyist.
Do I Want to Be a Lobbyist?
Lobbyists communicate with government representatives, officials and legislators on behalf of clients and causes. Lobbyists represent a variety of entities, including individuals, companies, foundations, charities and local governments. They might attempt to persuade government officials through direct contact or by organizing grassroots efforts that encourage citizens to communicate with their elected officials about selected topics. Lobbyists often work overtime and commonly put in long work days.
While there is no official education requirement to become a lobbyist, most people in this profession have at least a bachelor's degree, and advanced degrees are common. The following table describes the core requirements for a career as a lobbyist.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree is most common*|
|Degree Field(s)||Political science, journalism, law, communications, public relations, economics**|
|Licensure and/or Certification||Optional certificate is available through the American League of Lobbyists*|
|Experience||Varies; employers typically require related experience***|
|Key Skills||Interpersonal, organizational, problem-solving, research, verbal and written communication skills****|
Sources: *American League of Lobbyists; **The Princeton Review; ***Job postings from employers (September 2012); ****U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Step 1: Obtain a Degree in Political Science or Public Relations
Lobbying does not require a specific academic degree. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies lobbyists as public relations specialists and individuals in this profession typically have a bachelor's degree. Aspiring lobbyists may consider a degree program in political science, which may includes classes that cover lobbying and its role in the political system. Coursework may provide instruction on the legislative process, as well as how lobbyists participate in the creation of rules and regulations.
- Earn a certificate. The American League of Lobbyists offers a lobbying certificate program that can greatly improve a new lobbyist's understanding of the lobbying process. This program, which requires 11 sessions, covers all aspects of the lobbying profession, including necessary background, methods of networking, knowledge of regulations and training in best practices. Some universities also offer certificate programs in lobbying.
Step 2: Participate in a Lobbying Internship
Internships in lobbying may consist of paid or unpaid work for an agency or group requiring legislative representation. Interns can gain real-world experience, which is required by many employers, while learning how to actively advocate and influence politicians. Exposure to the government network of lobbyists and politicians provides students with opportunities to make professional contacts that could lead to a career in lobbying once the internship or degree is completed.
- Make valuable connections. According to the Princeton Review, success as a lobbyist often depends on networking effectively and knowing the right people. Even low-ranking jobs in government organizations at all levels can be very helpful for gaining the professional contacts necessary to become successful in this field.
Step 3: Register as a Lobbyist
According to the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, anyone defined as a lobbyist, or those who participate in lobbying activities, must register by filling out an initial registration form. Professional lobbyists are also required to file a quarterly report listing their current contacts and lobbying activities. Once registered, a lobbyist may work independently as a self-employed lobbyist or as an employee of a lobbying firm.
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