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It may be necessary to have a degree in political science or a related field to become a legislative correspondent, a staff member who handles communications with constituents. There are no specific legal requirements for these positions, although legislators typically prefer to hire staff members with clean criminal records because they may handle sensitive information and work in secure environments. Failure to pass a background check can create problems with access passes and other permissions.
Degrees in subjects like political science, communications, and public relations can be helpful for someone who plans to become a legislative correspondent. It is critical to be familiar with the working of the legislature and the government as a whole. Many people get their start in this field by interning for members of congress. Internships are typically available to college students and competition can be fierce, so it can help to obtain references and produce a stellar academic record.
Internships may be available both at district offices and at the capital, with state and federal legislators. Regional offices sometimes have more openings and less competition, and can provide valuable experience and connections for someone who wants to become a legislative correspondent. Successful interns may be asked back in future summers and can lay the groundwork to apply for a job after graduation.
College graduates can typically apply to become a legislative correspondent by perusing job openings, often listed on the legislature’s website, or contacting specific members of congress they would like to work with. Recommendations from previous internships can be beneficial, along with evidence of extracurricular activity, particularly if it involves membership in campus leadership or political groups. Candidates who do not have degrees may be able to apply with qualifications like experience in the offices of public officials. Some legislative correspondents may start working with a legislator at a low level of public office and follow along with the rest of the office staff through a series of elections.
Once someone has become a legislative correspondent, it is important to keep up with ongoing political and social issues that may be relevant to a specific member of congress. Correspondents can handle a variety of topics from commentary on proposed legislation to personal requests for assistance. They work with constituents from a variety of political and social backgrounds. Familiarity with foreign languages can be helpful in some districts, as can knowledge of regional political topics like major construction projects, environmental concerns, or scandals.
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