Is becoming a legislator right for me?

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:

What do legislators do?
Career Satisfaction
Are legislators happy with their careers?
What are legislators like?

Still unsure if becoming a legislator is the right career path? to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become a legislator or another similar career!

Described by our users as being “shockingly accurate”, you might discover careers you haven’t thought of before.

How to become a Legislator

Becoming a legislator involves a multi-step process that varies depending on the level of government and the specific legislative body you aspire to join. Here are some general steps to becoming a legislator:

  • Meet the Basic Requirements: Ensure you meet the basic eligibility requirements to run for office. These requirements may include being a certain age (typically at least 18 or 21 years old), being a U.S. citizen, and being a resident of the district or state you intend to represent.
  • Research the Position: Familiarize yourself with the role and responsibilities of the legislative position you are interested in pursuing. Understand the scope of the work, the legislative process, and the issues that legislators deal with.
  • Build a Strong Foundation: Develop a strong educational and professional background that aligns with the interests and needs of your potential constituents. Many legislators have experience in fields such as law, public policy, or public administration.
  • Engage in Community and Political Activities: Get involved in your community and engage in political activities. This may include joining local organizations, volunteering for campaigns, attending public meetings, and building relationships with community leaders and activists. This involvement helps you establish connections and gain a better understanding of local issues.
  • Join a Political Party: Decide whether you want to run as a member of a political party or as an independent candidate. Joining a political party can provide support, resources, and access to established networks, but running as an independent allows you to have more freedom in your positions and campaign.
  • Establish a Platform: Develop a clear and compelling platform that outlines your policy positions, goals, and priorities. Identify the issues that matter to your potential constituents and craft positions that resonate with them.
  • Campaign and Fundraise: Launch a campaign to gain support and spread your message to potential voters. This involves creating a campaign team, developing a campaign strategy, conducting outreach, attending events, and utilizing various communication channels. Fundraising is also crucial to support your campaign, so be prepared to engage in fundraising activities.
  • File Candidacy and Meet Filing Requirements: Research and comply with the specific filing requirements set by the election authorities. This includes submitting the necessary documents, such as candidate nomination papers or petitions, financial disclosures, and other relevant paperwork.
  • Run in Primary and General Elections: Depending on the electoral process in your jurisdiction, you may need to participate in a primary election within your party to secure the nomination. If successful, you proceed to the general election, where you compete against candidates from other parties or independent candidates.
  • Campaign and Connect with Voters: During the campaign period, actively engage with voters through public appearances, debates, town hall meetings, door-to-door canvassing, and digital outreach. Demonstrate your commitment to addressing constituents' concerns and build connections with voters.
  • Win the Election: Work hard to secure a majority of votes in the election. If successful, you become a legislator and start serving in your elected position.

Helpful Resources
Legislators have access to various resources that can assist them in their work. Here are some helpful resources commonly utilized by legislators:

  • Congressional Research Service (CRS): The CRS is a non-partisan research agency that provides comprehensive and objective analysis on a wide range of policy issues to members of Congress. It offers reports, memoranda, and briefings on legislative topics, legal issues, and policy areas.
  • Congressional Budget Office (CBO): The CBO provides independent analysis and economic data to support the legislative budgeting process. It produces cost estimates for proposed legislation and evaluates the potential impact of policy changes on the economy, federal budget, and programs.
  • Government Accountability Office (GAO): The GAO is an independent agency that conducts audits, evaluations, and investigations to ensure accountability and efficiency in government operations. Its reports provide legislators with valuable insights into program performance, financial management, and policy implementation.
  • Library of Congress: The Library of Congress offers extensive resources for legislators, including legislative research tools, historical documents, legal resources, and access to the Congressional Research Service. It serves as a valuable research hub for legislators seeking information on a wide range of topics.
  • National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL): The NCSL is a bipartisan organization that provides legislators and staff with research, publications, and technical assistance. It offers resources on state policy issues, best practices, and legislative trends, enabling lawmakers to stay informed and learn from the experiences of their peers.
  • State Legislative Websites: Most state legislatures maintain websites that provide information on legislative activities, committee proceedings, bills, and resources for constituents. These websites often include legislative calendars, directories, and access to committee reports and transcripts.
  • Legislative Research Commissions/Offices: Many state legislatures have their own research commissions or offices that provide support to legislators. These offices offer policy analysis, bill drafting assistance, research reports, and legal advice, helping lawmakers navigate complex issues and develop effective legislation.
  • Professional Associations: Legislators can benefit from joining professional associations such as the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the National Association of Counties (NACo), or the National League of Cities (NLC). These associations offer networking opportunities, policy forums, training programs, and resources tailored to the needs of legislators.