From your local councillor to the current occupant at Downing Street, politicians make important decisions to shape our society. This is an exciting public sector job where you can make a genuine difference.
So if you have a burning interest in politics, an unwavering conviction in your beliefs and a strong desire to implement change, this could be the career for you.
So, what will I actually be doing?
Whatever level of politics you work in (local councillor, MP or in the European Parliament) you can expect to meet a huge variety of people, travel the world and campaign for the changes you believe in.
Your daily workload will vary depending on what area of politics you’re interested in and how high up you want to go.
Local councillors are expected to represent their ward or constituency (which is the area of the country whose political interests they look after), take part in strategic decision making and attend council meetings.
MPs are expected to perform a range of tasks including meeting with their constituents at ‘surgeries’ (one-on-one meetings with those who live in the area they politically represent), sitting in sessions in the House of Commons, giving interviews to the media and campaigning for their party. MPs can work very long hours – there’s little 9-5 routine in this career.
MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) are required to attend meetings and parliamentary committees in Brussels and Strasbourg. They also need to spend time dealing with local matters in their UK constituency.
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The nitty gritty
When it comes to working location, Members of Parliament are expected to spend large amounts of time in London at the Houses of Parliament and the rest of the time in their constituency.
Politicians often work their way up through the ranks of their own party. Members of Parliament can go from sitting on the back bench to a position in the Cabinet or some progress to becoming a peer in the House of Lords. Many high-ranking politicians also find lucrative consultancy roles once they’ve left the world of politics.
Money, money, money
Local councillors earn in the region of £10,000 per year in allowances and expenses. MEPs earn 38.5% of a European Court judge’s salary (circa 84,000 euros). There are 650 MPs in the Houses of Parliament who take home £65,738 per year plus allowances, while the Prime Minister earns an annual salary of £142,500.
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The good points...
Plenty of perks in this job; good pay, varied days, plenty of career prospects and a long summer break.
...and the bad
Be warned: this is no regular job! Being a politician is an all-consuming career and there’s no official clocking-off time
“In war, you can only be killed once, but in politics, many times,” said Winston Churchill. So if you’re looking at a career in politics, you’ll need to toughen up.
Is there study involved?
Top-tier politicians, such as those who make up the Cabinet (a group of politicians appointed to key roles in government by the Prime Minister) often boast degrees from Oxford or Cambridge - which should give you an idea of how competitive it is to reach this level.
Lower down the political ladder, however, there is no minimum requirement to standing for election as a councillor, although you’ll need evidence of a strong commitment to a political party. Many politicians have been actively involved from a young age so it’s never too early to start.
Routes into politics include:
- Working as a political researcher
- Working as a politician’s assistant
- Working as a trade union activist
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OK, I'm interested... But is it really the job for me?
Politicians are an eclectic bunch and this career attracts folk from every walk of life. However, to survive the choppy waters of politics you’ll need:
and you’ll also need to be a confident public speaker so there’s no time to be a wallflower.