|What is it like to be a politician?
Politicians run Federal, State, and local governments. They are
the Nation's chief executives and legislators. They get their
jobs by being elected. They make and pass laws that affect all
You know some politicians. The President and Vice President of
the United States are politicians. The governor of your State
is also. So are your Senators and Representative in Congress.
The mayor of your town is a politician. So is your elected school
board member or county council member.
Chief executives are responsible for their organizations. They
work with people who make laws. They set goals and then decide
how to reach them. They hire heads of offices and they make budgets.
They also nominate people for other jobs in government. They get
bids from contractors to do public work, like building roads.
They meet with other executives to solve problems. They rely on
many people to help them do this work. In small towns, they do
most of the work themselves.
Legislators pass laws. They bring up bills and vote on others.
In preparing legislation, they work with all parties with an interest
in it. They approve budgets and appointments submitted by the
chief executive. Chief executives and legislators also perform
many ceremonial duties.
Time spent at work can vary a lot. A local council member may
meet only once a month. A U.S. Senator may work 60 hours or more
a week. Many State legislators work full time while in session
(usually for 2 to 6 months a year) and part time the rest of the
year. Most local elected officials work a full-time schedule.
The schedule often includes unpaid duties.
Government chief executives and legislators who do not hold full-time
positions usually keep working in the job they had before elected.
Some jobs require some out-of-town travel. Others involve long
periods away from home when the legislature is in session. In
rural areas, the drive to work may be very long.
|How do you get ready to be a politician?
Candidates for office usually must be a certain age. They must
live in their area, and be a U.S. citizen.
Some have business, teaching, or legal experience; but many others
have done other kinds of work. Many also have been volunteers
with all kinds of social, political, religious, and other groups.
Being a good speaker and manager is important. Candidates must
inspire and motivate voters and their staff. They should be sincere
and honest. They also must know how to compromise. In addition,
they must have a lot of energy and be good fundraisers.
It is hard for politicians to "advance" in the usual sense. The
voter is their boss. If politicians are good at their jobs, they
may get elected to the next level of political office. For example,
a council member may run for mayor or for a job in the State government.
A State legislator may run for governor or for Congress. Not all
elected people want to advance and many do not try to. Others
do not get reelected or just leave the occupation. Most politicians
serve for only short periods of time.
|How much do politicians make?
The middle half of all legislators earned between $13,180 and
$38,540 a year in 2002. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned less
than $12,130. The highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $69,380.
Earnings of public administrators range from little or nothing
for a small town council member to $400,000 a year for the President
of the United States.
Annual salaries of governors ranged from a low of $50,000 in
America Samoa to a high of $179,000 in New York. In 2003, U.S.
Senators and Representatives earned $154,700, the Senate and House
Majority and Minority leaders earned $171,900, and the Vice President
was paid $198,600.
Legislators in Federal, State, and local governments held 67,000
jobs in 2002. The Federal Government had 535 Senators and Representatives
in addition to the President and Vice President.
The amount of competition in elections varies from place to place.
Often, a lot of people try to get elected to the same job in large
towns, cities, and States. In small areas, there is much less
competition for these kinds of jobs. An increase in the number
of jobs for chief executives and legislators is most likely to
occur in local governments. Some cities and towns may take on
professional managers or move from volunteer to paid career executives.
|Are there other jobs like this?
- Corporate board members
- Corporate chief executives
- High ranking officers in the military
|Where can you find more information?
More information about top executives (in government and the
private sector) can be found in the Careers
Occupational Outlook Handbook -- U.S. Department of Labor Bureau
of Labor Statistics