Pursuing a career in politics can seem daunting. High-profile political campaigns that involve television ads, heated discourse and dynastic families such as the Kennedys provide the first exposure to politics for many.
Underneath a seemingly intimidating and impenetrable surface, however, there are countless local offices where most well-known political figures got their start. Succeeding in the political landscape takes not only a willingness to hustle but also the right education, and a BA in political science is a good place to start.
Start Small, Start Local
Every town and city needs a local government to hash out budgetary issues, and many of these government positions are within reach of qualified individuals. This means the competition isn’t nearly as stiff and the outcomes don’t have the same weight as they do in a national political race. The Motley Fool contributor Daniel B. Kline writes, “Even if you live in a big city, there are often elected positions that a newcomer stands a chance at winning.” Many politicians get their foot in the door through these positions.
Running for these local offices involves handshaking, canvassing and developing a platform that appeals to the local constituents. While the competition might not be fierce, it is important to understand the needs and concerns of the people you represent.
If you aren’t interested in running for office, you can always volunteer or work for someone who is. The Muse contributor Betsy Aimee writes, “Many Councilmembers and State Representatives have staff that serve as their community representatives and help them implement policy.” Working for a local or state representative will help you gain political experience and meet influencers in the party without the rigors of running for office yourself.
Working for Nonprofits
If a political issue excites you, you might consider working for a relevant nonprofit organization. Aimee writes, “For just about every issue out there, there’s an organization that works to influence policy outcomes around it by lobbying and educating politicians and the general public.” While individual politicians and political parties must tackle a wide swath of issues, nonprofits can focus on one.
Like running for or volunteering for office, working for a nonprofit group can help you gain exposure to politicians and party officials. This networking is invaluable to anybody seeking a career in politics. As Kline points out, “When it comes to starting a career in politics, it’s not what you know as much as who you know.” Introducing yourself to important political figures while doing nonprofit work can pay off down the road.
While the early days of a career in politics may not be glamorous, this time can provide opportunities to do important work. Motivated individuals can progress from campaign volunteer to political figure. Learning about the ins and outs of the political system through a BA in political science program can help prepare you for the world of politics, and getting involved in local and nonprofit political work is the best way to get your foot in the door.
Learn more about A-State’s online Bachelor of Arts in Political Science program.