Political research is not just about surrounding yourself with books in a stuffy library, brushing up on a bit of Machiavelli or Locke. In fact, it’s a vital step towards devising government policy and inspiring political action. Important governmental decisions are not founded on wild ideas and mindless conjecture – they are based on detailed political research.
Political research assistants are employed by tons of different organisations, including political parties, government departments, the Civil Service, executive government agencies, NGOs, charities, trade unions and political think tanks. Some characters are even employed directly by individual MPs.
The kind of research you‘ll be conducting in this profession will be entirely dependent on the kind of organisation you choose to work for. However, in general, all political research assistants will carry out pretty much the same basic duties.
You’ll be researching and monitoring resources that provide critical information on political issues. Furthermore, you’ll be tasked with reviewing and analysing media coverage (print and broadcast), public opinion surveys and expert opinions from economists, government representatives and political consultants.
Following your detailed research, you’ll be preparing analysis and reports on all the issues assigned to you by your employer. You’ll also be generally keeping your seniors in the loop on the latest trends, developments and critical factors, within the political, social and economic sphere.
Salary & benefits
Entry-level political research assistants may earn between £15,000 and £18,000 per annum. As you gain more experience, though, you could end up earning around £35,000 a year.
Normally, you will be working between 35 and 40 hours a week on a nine-to-five basis. However, you might be required to work beyond the standard schedule during elections or following major political events or crises.
A degree in political science, history, economics, international relations, public administration and other similar subjects are usually preferred.
Fluency in English and a second European language will also be helpful for candidates looking for positions associated with diplomatic services or the European Union.
Additionally, you’re going to need awesome verbal and written communication skills, an aptitude for conducting complex research and a sound understanding of political concepts and social conventions.
Training & progression
Training is usually provided in the form of ‘on-the-job’ experience, as participation in structured training programmes is very rare.
Career growth is driven by individual performance and your ability to provide timely and useful information to senior professionals. To thrive in this industry, you’ll need to develop a reputation for accurate and thorough research and objective analysis on crucial subjects and political issues.