As a political assistant you work for one or more full time politicians, usually an elected Member of Parliament (MP). You may also work for think tanks and pressure groups.
To become a political assistant you will be politically minded and have a constant appetite for political news and analysis. You may already be an active member of a political party with ambitions to become a politician.
Political assistants undertake research, administrative support and publicity duties. Similar job titles include constituency assistant, personal assistant, research officer or executive officer.
Here at City, University of London you can prepare for a role as a political assistant. Located a short distance from the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, our Department of International Politics combines world-leading research with exceptionally high quality degree programmes.
What can I expect from a career as a political assistant?
Political assistants provide support services to MPs across the UK.
Your experience will be shaped by the politician you are working for and where in the UK you are working.
The duties of a political assistant involve whatever is required to help politicians represent their constituencies. These are likely to include:
- Communicating with constituents, lobbyists and the media
- Managing a complicated diary, often working months ahead
- Monitoring media output for relevant news
- Monitoring changes of legislation and assessing local impact
- Researching subjects to be debated in parliament
- Interpreting policy and advising the public
- Meeting constituents and writing official letters on their behalf
- Writing reports, minutes, press releases and other public materials
- Writing speeches and maintaining websites
- Producing a newsletter of activities.
Your work may be highly stressful, particularly during elections when the jobs of everybody depend on an election result.
Related courses at City
Whatever your level of interest in becoming a political assistant, City's courses can help you take one step closer to a career as a political assistant, develop specialisms that'll set you apart from the field or broaden your horizons with study in related subjects.
Who can I work for as a political assistant?
By definition, politicians and political parties employ political assistants. Politicians may be members of the UK Parliament, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Government or the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Every political party represented in these parliaments and assemblies will employ assistants. Even parties without parliamentary representation may employ paid assistants.
Relevant work experience and clear political commitment can be more important than qualifications or a specific degree subject when it comes to securing work as a political assistant.
An active and ongoing passion for politics and current affairs is vital in building your knowledge base. Party membership is often required and you should fully understand the party's stance on key themes.
What about work experience as a political assistant?
Demonstrable relevant work experience is essential to securing a job as a political assistant. This is usually gained by volunteering or taking internships with parties or politicians.
You may shadow a politician during an internship at a constituency or parliamentary office, or you might volunteer time for a non-governmental organisation (NGO) or think tank.
Get involved with your university's politics society, student council or students’ union, but tread carefully. This can reflect your commitment to politics, although certain types of political activism can be viewed negatively.
Be sensitive to the potential long-term impact of your social media activity.
What are my prospects as a political assistant?
When you have secured a role as a political assistant and gained several years of experience, your prospects are good.
As a constituency-based political assistant, a logical next step may be moving to a parliamentary office.
From there you might specialise in a policy area or select committees, allowing you to establish a network of contacts and build your profile. You could advance to take on financial and line-management duties, as well as speech writing and research.
Some people enter the field because they have future political aspirations. Others use it as a path to working for NGOs, lobbying firms, trade unions, think-tanks or media organisations.
The skills and knowledge you develop by working as a political assistant are valuable and easily transferrable to other fields including the media, the civil service and education.
If you decide to stay in politics, you might progress to become an adviser to a senior MP. You might consider standing to become an elected MP yourself.