There are many routes to becoming a political analyst, but all require mastering certain skills and technical knowledge. Here is a comprehensive guide with 5 steps to help you become a political analyst—including key skills, job roles, and responsibilities.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
Are you passionate about improving government systems? Do you regularly track political trends domestically and internationally? If so, a career as a political analyst may be right for you. Let's find out how you can become one with the help of 5 easy steps.
Whether you're entering the field as a new grad or transitioning from your current job, becoming a political analyst requires the following steps.
First and foremost, you must have certain skills and traits to excel in a political analyst role, including:
No amount of education or training can prepare you for the job if you don’t possess and nurture these skills, particularly those related to data analysis. Much of a political analyst's job involves researching and analyzing data, so investigative and data interpretation skills are critical to your success.
To succeed in a political analyst role, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree in a field that helps you understand how politics work. For example, majoring in political science is common among political analysts, as these degree programs comprehensively cover topics such as data analysis, statistics, political theory, and judicial processes. Degrees in international studies, journalism, or statistics can also provide a strong foundation for a job as a political analyst.
Motivated political analysts rarely stop at the undergraduate level. Obtaining an advanced degree in public affairs, public policy, or international relations will enable you to concentrate on a specific area of interest.
It's not uncommon for a motivated political analyst to also pursue a doctorate. Political analysts seeking a Ph.D. often specialize in national politics, comparative politics, or political theory.
In addition to analytical and political competence, an aspiring political analyst must demonstrate experience in politics or a related field. Working as a journalist or in a junior analyst position, for instance, is an excellent way for you to cultivate your research and investigative acumen, as well as hone your communication skills.
If you are pursuing a political analyst job, you may also benefit from volunteer work with a national political organization or a local club. In these settings, you can apply your education and training to real-world experiences and further develop your critical thinking.
Internships also provide a valuable opportunity to interact with nonprofit organizations and government agencies. Many learning institutions offer paid and unpaid internships to expose their students to different industry sectors and political processes.
Political analyst positions are available in both public administration and private sectors. If you choose to work in a government role, your analysis and input may influence policymakers and shape broad public policy. If you opt to work in the private sector—for instance, for a corporation—you can focus on specific political issues relevant to your employer's field, such as healthcare, education, or technology.
As a political analyst, you can use your knowledge and passion for current events to tackle the opportunities and challenges facing governments and private organizations alike. Focusing your expertise on a specific area could enable you meaningfully impact both international relations and domestic government policies.
A political analyst’s job can be demanding. They must research and analyze governments, political systems, domestic and international policy, and foreign relations. Their analysis plays a key role in policy and decision-making affecting U.S. interests and national security. A political analyst may be required to travel both nationally and internationally, learn a foreign language, and even put themselves in harm’s way to stay abreast of political shifts behind the scenes.
Because of these varied job requirements, there is a wide range of potential political analyst salaries. The analyst’s education, experience, and job location can also play a role in determining their pay. According to one popular job search site, political analysts in the United States earn an average salary of $74,455 per year. Entry-level analysts make approximately $65,000 per year, while senior-level professionals earn up to $160,000 annually. Political analyst jobs in Washington, Alaska, Idaho, Wisconsin, and California tend to offer the highest salaries.
While it's challenging to create a definitive timeline for meeting your goal of becoming a political analyst, most prospective candidates typically need four years to earn their bachelor's degree. If you pursue a master's degree or doctorate, you can anticipate two to six more years of study.
Whether it's a government agency or a private-sector job, employers typically look for candidates with a minimum of two years of political and policy-related experience. Opting for an intensive boot camp course can shorten your learning curve and help you find a political analyst job more quickly.
If you intend to work as a political analyst in a foreign country, you'll likely need at least several years out of school to become adequately familiar with the field. For example, it's required by the CIA that its candidates have traveled extensively or resided in the area in which they are interested. Many employers also require you to be proficient in at least one language relevant to your stated area of expertise.
Some schools offer dual bachelor's and master's degree programs in political science and related fields. By enrolling in one of these programs, you could earn both of your degrees in a shorter time and move into a political analyst job sooner while also enhancing your career opportunities and earning potential by widening your network connections.
Regardless of which educational or vocational path you choose, it's essential to keep in mind that learning is an ongoing process and will likely continue long after you’ve secured a political analyst position.
Whether you want to work as a political analyst in government, business, or the nonprofit sector, the proper education, training, and experience can help distinguish you as a leader on the national or international stage. Throughout your career as a political analyst, you’ll have the opportunity to research both local and global issues and offer impactful solutions to help governments and their citizens navigate the complexities of our increasingly connected world.
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