Legislators are elected officials who develop, introduce and enact laws, statutes, amendments and other government regulations. They operate at the local, tribal, state or federal level.
Legislators keep abreast of the issues affecting their constituents and represent them when creating or voting bills into law. They also serve on investigative and legislative committees, appoint nominees to government posts, and seek federal funding for local projects.
Duties and responsibilities
- Keep in touch with issues facing constituents with personal visits, calls and town hall meetings
- Stay current with local, national, and international news and events
- Research, analyse and comprehend the local, state and national implications of proposed legislation
- Confer with colleagues and political party members on relevant issues and strategies for solutions
- Hear testimony from constituents, commission members and interest groups on bills and related issues
- Prepare drafts of laws, amendments, policies, budgets, programmes and other government regulations
- Review bills in committee and vote on motions, amendments and decisions
- Debate and negotiate with members of opposing party on all law-making issues decisions
- Serve on investigative and legislative committees; study and research committee topics thoroughly
- Make decisions that balance needs of constituents, public officials and party leaders
- Vote on laws, rules, regulations, policies, programmes, budgets and other government procedures
- Appoint or approve nominees for government posts
- Promote industries and products of electoral district; seek federal funding for local programmes
- Organise and maintain campaign organisations and fundraising; support other political party campaigns
- Determine campaign strategies for marketing, public appearances and position on issues
- Attend receptions, dinners and conferences to meet constituents, network and exchange ideas
- Inform public of important changes in policies or laws through newsletters, town halls and media
Skills and knowledge
AVERAGE WORKING HOURS
Legislative work can vary depending upon the level of government and region. Federal congress members typically have many commitments and full daily schedules. They may put in well over 40 hours a week during crises, important deliberations and campaigning.
Legislators at lower levels of government are busiest when in session but, overall, may make a part-time commitment. Some may even have full-time jobs in addition to their legislative position.
A career as a legislator can be complicated, fast-paced and stressful. There can be a lot of travel between your office, public appearances, meetings and interviews. Federal legislators must travel between Washington, DC and their home district. International travel is possible. Campaigning will also keep you out on the road, particularly at the state and federal level.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
Bachelor’s degree in political science
While there are no minimum education requirements for legislators, most have a bachelor’s degree. Typical courses of study include political science, business, economics or law. Candidates with a solid educational background are often more competitive in campaigns.
Relevant work experience is also helpful to winning an election as well as excelling at the position. Many legislators begin as legislative aides, volunteering for community organisations and services, or working for political action groups. Lawyers and business owners are also prevalent in legislatures.
Legislators usually begin their career path by running for a local office. Achieving success in the position, networking and marketing well can help you move to the next level. Several years as an effective state lawmaker can lead to a position in federal legislature.
A career as a legislator can last many years, but you may also segue into other government positions. Some former lawmakers also go on to become political consultants, media pundits, authors or speakers.