A Congressional aide is an individual who works for a member of the U.S. Congress. These aides perform the support work that allows legislators to focus on creating laws and representing their home states. Congressional aides include everyone from the interns and clerical staff, to the speech writers and advisers that make up a political staff.
Congressional aide jobs can generally be divided into one of two categories. Clerical aides perform tasks like word processing, filing, fund raising, mailings, answering phone calls, research and marketing. The second group of aides perform more specialized tasks. They research bills and new laws and advise Congressmen on their votes. They may also write speeches or attend committee meetings that are relevant to the Congressman. Others perform much of the legwork involved in introducing a new bill, including research and writing the bill for introduction to the Congress.
Some aides work within the Capitol Building in Washington DC, while others work for Congressmen in their home states. They can also travel with the Congressman as he campaigns, or as he travels back and forth from DC to home. Some aides work full-time all year round, while others work only when Congress is in session. Many Congressmen hire additional aides and interns during the busy election season to help with campaigning. To secure a job as a Congressional aide, contact your Congressman's home office. Most hire staff as unpaid interns to start, but then promote strong candidates over time.
According to the "Career Questions" legislative assistants earn an average of $30,000 to $40,000 per year while legislative directors, who manage all Congressional aides within a single office, earn $50,000 to $80,000. According to "Simply Hired," congressional aides earn up to $60,000 per year, though pay varies by position and experience. "Payscale" suggests that aides with less than one year of experience earn $27,558, while those with five years of experience or more earn $37,340.
Those looking for a career as a professional aide must posses strong communication skills as well as a solid network of political and business contacts. Politicians value qualities like loyalty, confidentiality and an understanding of the demands of working in a public office. It is also helpful to understand the political process and to have some insight into issues that the Congressman is working on or campaigning on. New aides should be prepared to perform menial tasks at first, and must be able to wear many hats. They should expect to change jobs often, as politicians are voted out of office and new members take their place.
The majority of Congressional aide jobs require candidates to have a bachelor's degree. While majors may vary, a background in political science, sociology, public policy, communications or business can be helpful. Those looking for specialized positions, such as an adviser or speechwriter, should have an advanced degree or extensive experience in a field such as education, business, health or communications. For many clerical positions, a high school diploma or two-year degree is often sufficient.
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