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What Is Involved in a Politician's Education?

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  • Written By: Kenneth W. Michael Wills
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 11 April 2014
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A politician’s education may consist of a wide range of study and experience, depending on his or her background. Political leaders emerge from various aspects of society that converge with public administration. Educational backgrounds may consist of degrees in business, law, economics, history, social work and public administration. Whether in college or through experience, politicians usually gain a firm grasp of public policy development, legal development, public or business administration, executive leadership, economic development, sociology, political science and public affairs. Skills sought after include both oral and written communication as well as honed managerial and leadership capabilities.

For some elected positions, a bachelor’s degree is essential to a politician’s education, particularly at lower levels of government. Many others will require at a master’s degree in order to distinguish themselves or at least to compete with political opponents at higher levels. Additionally, a degree should be in a major that is relevant to public administration. Therefore, some elected officials will get a Master of Public Administration, while others will opt for a Juris Doctorate degree, Master of Business Administration or even a Master of Science in Political Science. Regardless of the degree obtained, politicians usually need to demonstrate an interdisciplinary familiarity of all domains of knowledge under the purview of their electoral seat.

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While formal education is important just like in many other fields, a politician’s education is not given the most weight in some electoral jurisdictions, while in others it is paramount. For example, in the United States voters often support candidates they have confidence in, who can motivate constituents and who have a track record of producing actions with outcomes that align with voter sentiment. In Singapore, however, candidates who hold doctoral degrees in their field of study are given far more attention than their counterparts who hold lesser educational qualifications, particularly members of parliament.

Experience as well is a crucial part of a politician’s education. Candidates moving from the private sector into public office are typically expected to have held positions of responsibility that closely mirror the office for which he or she runs. For example, the President or Prime Minister post is often considered similar to heading a multi-national corporation. Those who have dedicated their career to public service will usually need to demonstrate successful experience at lower levels of government. Reasoning behind such perceptions is that while education in the classroom is important, it in no way substitutes for the education obtained while on the job.

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