Congressional staffers assist members of the U.S. Congress in the performance of their duties during each legislator’s term in office. These employees handle a wide range of responsibilities, so there is no simple, one-size-fits-all description but rather many different positions that fall within this overall category.
A number of positions can be found on the staff of virtually every federal legislator. Although the titles may vary slightly, the essential functions are the same. These positions, according to congress.org, include chief of staff, legislative director, legislative assistants, press secretary, personal assistant or scheduler and caseworker. The staffs of some legislators also may include an executive assistant, executive secretary, legislative correspondent, office manager and receptionist.
The ultimate responsibility of all staffers is to do their part to ensure that the legislator’s office runs smoothly and that he is fully informed about matters pertinent to his constituents, committee responsibilities and voting schedule. Overseeing all staff operations is the chief of staff, while the press secretary or communications director manages the interface between the legislator and the public. The legislative director is responsible for overseeing various lawmaking initiatives and is assisted in that task by a team of legislative assistants. The personal assistant or scheduler is responsible for managing the legislator’s schedule, while caseworkers assist constituents who need help in their dealings with the federal government.
Where Do They Work?
Although the vast majority of congressional staffers work in the legislator’s offices in Washington, D.C., some are based in offices in the home state of the senator or representative. There may be one or more such offices, depending on the size of the state the legislator serves. These staffers interact with the legislator’s constituents, providing a steady flow of information about public sentiment on various issues.
Pros and Cons
Young people who are looking for real job security may want to steer clear of work as a House of Representatives staffer, since each representative is elected to a term of only two years, while senators serve for six. If a legislator is not returned to office in the next election, the staffers who served him are likely to be looking for new jobs. It’s also not a place for those who want to stick to a strict work schedule of 40 hours a week. Congressional staffers work long hours and in most cases are paid no more for work in excess of 40 hours. On the plus side, they have the satisfaction of knowing they’re essentially working for the people who elected their boss, while they also learn about the ins and outs of Washington politics.
The OpenHouseProject reported estimates of average congressional staffer salaries, as of 2009: chief of staff, $120,051;legislative director, $72,137; senior legislative assistant, $57,133; press secretary, $50,524; scheduler, $41,344; and caseworker, $40,898.
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