How to Become a Lobbyist: Education Requirements & Career

Jan 22, 2022

Learn how to become a lobbyist. Explore the educational options, and find out what type of skills and real-life experience you'll need to start a career as a lobbyist.

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What Do Lobbyists Do?

Lobbyists communicate with government representatives, officials, and legislators on behalf of clients and causes. They represent a variety of entities, including individuals, companies, foundations, charities, and local governments. Lobbyists might attempt to persuade government officials through direct contact or by organizing grassroots efforts that encourage citizens to communicate with their elected officials about state topics. They often put in long workdays, which can include overtime. The following article outlines the necessary qualifications to be a lobbyist, various ways for how to start lobbying, and the average salary of lobbyists in the U.S.

Lobbyist Career Information

Degree Level Bachelor's degree is most common; optional certificate is available through the Association of Government Relations Professionals
Degree Field(s) Political science, journalism, law, communications, public relations, economics
Experience Varies; employers typically require related experience
Key Skills Communication, interpersonal, organizational skills; the ability to solve problems
Mean Annual Salary (2020) $62,810 (for public relations specialists in general)
Job Growth (2020-2030) 11% (for public relations specialists in general)

Sources: Association of Government Relations Professionals; The Princeton Review; Job postings from employers (September 2019); U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Lobbyist Salary and Job Outlook

Although the BLS doesn't collect data for lobbyists specifically, they reported that public relations specialists, which includes lobbyists, made a median annual salary of $62,810 in May of 2020. The report for those working specifically in government made a median salary of $ 67,590/year and those working for business, professional, labor, political, and similar organizations made a median annual salary of $68,610. The profession is expected to grow 11%, or faster than average, during the 2020-2030 decade.

How to Become a Lobbyist

how to be a lobbyist

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

While there are no lobbyist degree requirements, as public relations specialists, lobbyists usually have a bachelor's degree. Undergraduate majors typically include political science, public relations, communications, journalism, law, or economics. A degree program in political science may include classes that cover lobbying and its role in the political system. One example of these lobbying courses is 'Lobbying: Theory, Practice, and Simulations' given at the Harvard Kennedy School. Such coursework may provide instruction on the legislative process and how lobbyists participate in the creation of rules and regulations. Individuals who would like to become an environmental lobbyist can choose a science major.

Success Tip:

  • Earn a certificate. The Association of Government Relations Professionals (AGRP) offers an 11-session lobbying certificate program that can greatly improve a new lobbyist's understanding of the process. The AGRP's Professional Lobbying Certificate covers all aspects of the lobbying profession, including the necessary background, methods of networking, and regulatory knowledge.

Step 2: Find a Lobbying Internship

This is an important step on the path of becoming a lobbyist. Lobbying internships may consist of paid or unpaid work for an agency or group requiring legislative representation. Interns can gain real-world experience, required by many employers, while learning how to actively advocate and influence politicians. These are crucial lobbyist qualifications that are necessary as one steps into the professional field. Exposure to a government network of lobbyists and politicians provides students with opportunities to make professional contacts that could lead to potential job opportunities in lobbying once an internship is completed.

Success Tip:

  • Make valuable connections. According to the Princeton Review, success as a lobbyist often depends on networking effectively and knowing the right people. Even low-ranking jobs in government organizations at all levels can be very helpful for gaining the professional contacts necessary to become successful in this field.

Step 3: Register as a Lobbyist

According to the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, anyone defined as a lobbyist, or those who participate in lobbying activities, must register by filling out an initial registration form. Professional lobbyists are also required to file a quarterly report listing their current contacts and lobbying activities. Once registered, the lobbyist job position may work independently as a self-employed lobbyist or as an employee of a lobbying firm.

Step 4: Create a Network of Contacts

Career longevity for lobbyists is heavily dependent upon networking with legislators, policymakers, and other lobbyists. An active and diverse network is crucial to success in the process of how to be a lobbyist. By attending conferences, roundtables, and other events, lobbyists create connections that could advance the position of their legislation, and they may learn invaluable pieces of advice. These events are sometimes hosted by professional organizations in the field, including the AGRP. Acquiring a large pool of contacts can not only ensure job security for lobbyists but also help them develop influence and establish trust, which could propel their lobbyist career to the next level.

Start Lobbying!

What Does it Take to be a Lobbyist?

  • Excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to research accurately and effectively
  • Diplomatic political strategy
  • Direct public speaking
  • Negotiation skills and the ability to think analytically

Job Duties of a Lobbyist

  • Direct lobbying with politicians to affect change
  • Grassroots efforts through sending direct mail or phone calls
  • Wide and local research to understand public opinion and relay that information to employers
  • Create publicity materials such as press releases or advertisement brochures
  • Track legislative bills and agendas to establish and advance goals

Getting Paid

Lobbyists can either work for, and be paid by, a lobbying services firm that provides business to clients or be hired directly by the organization or business to be used to promote its individual interests. Statista.com reports the top lobbying firms in the U.S. according to their total income in 2019, as Akin, Gump et al, Brownstein, Hyatt et al, and the BGR Group. If a lobbyist elects to work with an organization or business, the most common sources are state legislators, congressional representatives, or local city councilors. The average lobbyist salary depends on who you choose to work for. According to salary.com as of December 2021, the lowest 10% salary range for lobbyists is $94,452 with the highest 10% at $161,511.

Let's review. You'll most likely need a bachelor's degree in political science, public relations, or another relevant major to work as a lobbyist. Public relations specialists, including lobbyists, earned a median annual salary of $62,810 in May 2020.

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