Industry Expertise, Sharp Communication Skills—the Key to Influencing Legislation
Have your children ever used their powers of persuasion to convince you to buy a particular toy? If so, they have successfully lobbied by presenting you with good reasons why you should make a decision in their favor. As a professional lobbyist, your job is essentially the same: making a case for a particular piece of legislation on behalf of a client or organization. Expect long hours, and potentially high rewards, working in this fast-paced, highly competitive field.
Lobbyists are advocates for a particular point of view. Working as private individuals, for the general public or for an organization, the lobbyist uses expert knowledge of the topic and powers of persuasion to influence politicians to vote on legislation that would be beneficial to the cause. Lobbyists conduct research and collect data in order to build a case. Lobbyists may work directly, meeting with politicians and discussing research the lobbyist has prepared to inform and persuade. Through indirect lobbying, lobbyists write letters, make phone calls and use various forms of media to heighten awareness of an issue and rally public support.
A lobbyist must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree, and many have earned a master's or law degree. Although there is no formal requirement for a major, a career as a lobbyist demands excellent communication (both oral and written) and analytical skills. Since working as a lobbyist is as much about who you know as what you know, college coursework should include one or more internships that help you build a network as you learn about the legislative process. Trade associations often hire summer interns, and members of Congress hire interns for their personal offices as well as for committee staff. These positions will help you learn about the issues and gain experience in research and effective communication strategies.
There is no certification process for lobbyists. All lobbyists must register with their jurisdiction, whether at the federal or state level. Laws, rules and cost of licensure vary from one jurisdiction to another; your employer will help you navigate the registration process.
About the Industry
Lobbying is an extremely competitive industry. Although academic credentials are important, job openings are often filled through referrals and networking. Lobbyists work for a wide range of industries, including aerospace and defense, business, education, financial services, health care, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, technology and transportation. Some lobbyists work on Capitol Hill, while others find positions based at other locations around the country.
Lobbyists often work long hours, from 40 to 80 hours per week. They may work through the night if there's an upcoming vote on important legislation.
Years of Experience
The median annual salary of a lobbyist is $108,904, meaning half in the profession earn more while half earn less. Salaries can vary widely depending on a variety of factors, including geographic location and employers. Lobbyists can earn bonuses tied to their performance. Based on years of experience, here are some typical salary ranges:
- Less than 1 year of experience: $93,443 to $105,749
- 3 to 4 years of experience: $94,390 to $106,696
- 5 to 6 years of experience: $98,492 to $111,984
- 7 to 9 years of experience: $105,118 to $124,302
- 10+ years of experience: $108,904 to $132,309
Job Growth Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks political scientists and does not track lobbyists specifically. According to the Bureau's estimates, job growth in political science fields is expected to be lower than average over the next decade. Competition for jobs is intense, and it's predicted that the number of candidates will be greater than the number of job openings.