Political Research Assistant

Outline of Job

A political research assistant will work to provide information on social topics for political based organisations. There are various employers of political research assistants, including political parties, local MPs, charities, or public relations agencies. Work will differ according to the employer, some wishing you to concentrate on one social issue such as global warming, and others wanting you to research answers to questions they may be posed during debates.

Daily Activities

  • Researching political issues
  • Carrying out administrative tasks
  • Answering questions from constituents or the general public
  • Keeping up to date with political sources of information
  • Going over past publications concerning the topic of research
  • Working with outside organisations
  • Creating questionnaires on public opinion about particular social issues
  • Researching and explaining important information in a short space of time
  • Carrying out casework or other long running studies

Skills Required

  • Excellent communication and writing skills
  • Excellent research skills
  • Confidence when speaking to large groups, and ability to deal with senior politicians
  • Organised manner
  • Awareness of political and social issues
  • Interest in party’s aspirations
  • Work well under pressure
  • Able to build a trusting relationship with clients
  • Competent IT skills
  • Able to work on your own and as part of a team

Expected Earnings & Conditions

Typical starting salary is £12,000 - £18,000, with those in parliamentary positions likely to earn more than those constituency-based. After around five years experience you can expect to earn £18,000 - £35,000. The salary will depend on the employer, and you may be able to work in a part-time role and for more than one employer.

The working day is the typical 9 to 5, though extra hours may be required during important political times such as elections. Having to travel during the day is rare, but at times you might have to travel to party conferences or other events, sometimes at weekends. Travel abroad is uncommon, but is dependent on your employer.

Due to the political nature of the job it can be stressful, with workload dependent on the time of year. Having a trusting and working relationship with your employer is of great importance.

Qualifications & Experience Required

A HND degree would be of benefit, particularly in the following areas:

  • Politics
  • Law
  • Social policy or social research
  • International relations
  • Economics
  • European languages

A degree is often a necessity, with postgraduate study liable to boost your credentials. Without a degree you would need to demonstrate excellent administrative skills, and an interest in political issues. A second language would be of advantage, especially if you wish to work for a political group with overseas relations. Numerical skills are of value, as is the ability to analyse data quickly.

Work experience is of utmost importance. This can be done with local MPS’s, charity groups, governmental or non-governmental agencies, think-tank, extra-curricular activities at university, or shadowing a politician. Sending out speculative applications is often the best way to gain a placement, but only once you have thoroughly researched the position and the organisation. Knowledge of political issues is essential, especially that of a prospective employer.

Additional Training & Development

The job of a political research assistant is seen as a first step to a political career, with no typical career path in place. Politicians see this role as a good way of acquiring the skills that will open up opportunities in the political arena. The best thing to do is use your time attaining valuable experience and making political contacts, while seeing which areas are of particular interest.

Positions you can move into after working as a political research assistant include:

  • Undertaking research for an educational establishment
  • Working in political journalism
  • Advising political party’s
  • Working for non-government agencies, such as charities
  • Working closely with political leaders

Training is mostly on the job, where you will be learning from higher profile colleagues. Your employer, particularly politicians, will want you to attend courses on matters such as IT, and those detailing how parliament works. As there are no significant further training courses available it is important you make the most of your time in this role, and that you seize any opportunity that comes your way.