Career Path Options for a Legislator

The average value of the Bachelor degree needed to become a Legislators is $181,131.00.

Points of interest

Legislators hold a challenging position in governments at the local, state and federal level. Their primary responsibility in helping to shape the legal regulations that govern society and to meet certain needs of the general population can have a huge impact. The positions are based on election by the public, making for fierce competition.

Nature of the Work

Legislators have a number of responsibilities once elected into office. The competition for offices at the local level can be high, but can be very intense at the state and federal level. When working to formulate the legal statutes and regulations for the government, they must do research into how the legislation will affect the general population. This means meaning with citizens in their area, lobbyists and other professionals to get feedback on a bill. They may also have to speak before the government when supporting or being against the passing of certain legislation.

They also deal with issues that affect society, a town or area as a whole. These can include: setting salaries and duties for government employees, budget issues, where to place public equipment such as traffic lights and establish rules for zoning and building requirements.

Legislation Careers

The work can be stressful and require some long hours, including meeting often with local businesses and the general public. The individual will work generally in an office type setting, but may have to travel around the area during their term of service. Maintaining a position as a legislator depends on the individual’s ability to successfully run against other candidates in an election at set intervals to maintain their seat. The legislator may also have to establish an affiliation with a particular political party in order to run.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

The individual, in order to run for office, may have to meet certain guidelines in regards to residency and age. Formal educational training varies, and there is no set degree that a person has to have in order to run for office. Most individuals pursue office after having working in a particular field for a number of years or after achieving advanced schooling. Some pursue degrees in law, political science or a related field, though there is a broad range of schooling that can be applied to this position.

Those entering this field must have good skills in dealing and interacting with others. This is essential when dealing with the public, other government officials and in collaborating with other professionals. Speaking ability is essential for communication to the public when making speeches, especially when trying to persuade others to support a particular stance or bill. The legislator will also need excellent written skills for writing up items such as: press releases, speeches and paperwork for legislation.

Individuals entering this field can best prepare by getting a solid understanding of the political process. They will also need to have a good understanding of current events, how to work on a team and how to negotiate with others. This will be important when working with colleagues on legislation. Depending on the type of office that he or she will be running for, the individual should have experience in that area through work and academic training.


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Legislators work in a variety of tasks, including city council members, in Congress and possibly as lobbyists. Many begin their employment in a local government setting, such as the member of a local school board, in order to gain experience and understand the process. Running for local office is an excellent way to gain experience. Newer elected officials can learn on the job from more experienced officials who can provide feedback, guidance and direct them to necessary resources.

Starting in a smaller office is also a way for legislators to advance into positions of more responsibility. They can also pursue advanced degrees in their particular area, giving them a better position than an opponent. The candidate will also need to be well informed on various issues and needs of the local area so that they can address them during the campaign and once in office. Job Outlook

Positions in this field at the local level are highly dependent on the population, which can affect the number of legislators needed. There will always be a need for city council members and related positions within this field for handling of local affairs and needs. As needs change and population shifts, additional elected officials may be needed. This is especially true for areas with a special focus, such as budgeting. Those with the required experience and schooling will have the best chance at obtaining a position in an election.


The projected outlook for this field is dependent on the population and needs of each area. Positions in state governments and the federal government are dependent on election by the general population. Currently, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 65,750 individuals employed in these positions. Local government has around 61,990 positions in this area, with 3,760 at the state level. The following states have the highest number of these positions: Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Alaska and Arkansas. Wisconsin had the highest number with 3,910 positions and Alaska at the lowest number with 370. Falling in the middle is South Dakota, which employs approximately 640 legislators.


The average yearly salary for a legislator at the local level is $36,780 and approximately $49,870 at the state level. These are also the top two paying areas in this field for yearly earnings. The annual salary of various legislators varies according to the area, the government budget and the amount of responsibility that the individual has. A city manager or chief administrative officer earns approximately $94,992 a year, where a chief elected official earns on average $44,928 a year. In areas with a smaller population, the average salary for an official may be much less. If the area has a lower tax base, the tighter budget can adversely affect the salary level.


In regards to wages, the states with the best pay in the field are the following: Indiana, New York, Washington, Arizona and California. The top pay state is Indiana, with an average yearly salary of $91,460. The state with the lowest annual salary is California, at $51,010. Washington comes in the middle annual salary range of $57,070. The top wages in urban areas for a legislator are found in Louisville, Kentucky and Jefferson County, Indiana at $128,970 per year. The lowest annual pay is found in Evansville, Kentucky at $91,250 per year.

Related Occupations

Legislators can work in a number of areas of similar scope and study. These include some of the following: city council member, school board official, public works director, chief elected official and health officer. Each of these roles requires working for the general public good and meeting societal needs.

Sources of Additional Information

For additional information, the International Public Management Association for Human Resources has valuable resources. It can be contacted at the following address:

  • 1617 Duke Street Alexandria, VA 22314
  • The International City/Council Management Association provides information and resources related to local government positions. They can be reached at the following contact information:
  • 777 North Capitol Street, NE, Suite 500 Washington, DC 20002

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