Politicians’ assistants (a.k.a. parliamentary assistants) are the heart and soul of the UK’s political landscape. These guys provide vital administrative support to the MPs who make the major political decisions which affect all of society.
Politicians usually employ a team of two or three assistants, who are tasked with administrative responsibilities relating to legislation, research, media relations and lobbying.
If you enter this line of work, you’ll be responsible for providing administrative, personal, secretarial, research and political support services to the MP who employs you. You may also act as a liaison, coordinator and de facto media representative simultaneously.
On a daily basis, you’ll be getting to grips with general administrative and secretarial work, such as answering phones, responding to emails and filing. Furthermore, you may be supervising paid and volunteer support staff, updating databases, arranging meetings, conducting research, helping MPs to write speeches and briefing the politician on urgent issues and other matters of interest.
Salary & benefits
Entry-level politicians’ assistants tend to earn between £12,500 and £24,000, while personnel with more than five years’ experience can earn salaries up to £35,000 or more.
Although politicians’ assistants tend to have a fairly regular schedule of around 40 hours a week, long and irregular working hours are the norm leading up to election campaigns, during times of high-profile political change and following national emergencies.
Travelling across constituencies to national conferences and meetings is common for experienced assistants, who usually accompany elected representatives on such trips.
The vast majority of politicians’ assistants have undergraduate degrees (some even have postgraduate degrees), so it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to secure a position without one.
Graduates from any discipline can get involved, but candidates with degrees in subjects such as political science, public administration, economics, maths, history, international studies and law are likely to be preferred.
Gaining work experience through volunteering activities and internships with specific political parties or politicians is usually another essential requirement. After all, you will need an extensive amount of relevant political knowledge and a strong interest in government matters and current affairs.
Training & progression
Initial training is mainly provided ‘on-the-job’ by shadowing experienced assistants and politicians, and taking on more and more hands-on responsibilities as the job progresses and your level of experience builds.
In order to develop specialist expertise, you will need to take relevant administrative and I.T. courses that are offered by external agencies and organisations.
Career progression is entirely up to the individual. Many political assistants enter this field because they have future political aspirations themselves, while others may turn to employment with NGOs (non-governmental organisations), lobbying firms, trade unions or think-tanks.
Another popular path is to break into European politics, where you may get the opportunity to work alongside influential politicians within the European Parliament or other related organisations.