If you've decided on a political career, working for a Member of Parliament (MP) is a good place to start, as opportunities exist within your local constituency as well as at the heart of the action in the House of Commons
The December 2019 General Election saw 650 MPs elected to the UK parliament, one from each constituency. MPs split their time between their constituency, their political party and Parliament in Westminster, and are responsible for voting on new laws and legislation, attending debates and campaigning for the key issues that the people of their constituency feel most passionately about.
As an MP's assistant, you'll be essential to the smooth running of campaigns, events and day-to-day life in the community.
Why work for a Member of Parliament?
Political issues are often at the front and centre of news bulletins, and the unpredictability of the field means every day will bring new challenges and obstacles to overcome. The devastating nature of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is an example of how the government has had to react to a deadly yet unforeseen situation.
In your role, you'll be making and implementing change that will have a real effect on the lives of those within your constituency, if you work in local government - or on a national scale if you're employed in Westminster.
If you feel passionately about a political party, you'll experience a great deal of job satisfaction seeing plans and policies put into action that you've helped to bring together.
Working as an MP's assistant is often the first step in a political career. If you're working in local government, moving to parliament may be your next career move. The skills and experience you'll gain could see you working for more high-profile politicians, working internationally or embarking on your own political career.
Find out more about the responsibilities, salary benefits and working hours of a politician's assistant.
What jobs are available?
When it comes to political jobs, MPs typically hire a team of people, rather than a single assistant. The team is usually split between the MP's constituency office, for the purpose of meeting constituency members and welcoming other MPs, and the national political offices in Westminster. However, as MPs hire their staff directly, the structure of their teams, whether they hire full or part-time staff and where their team is based, can vary.
As a caseworker in a constituency office, you'll be responsible for providing advice and support on issues in the local community such as immigration, housing and benefits, as well as liaising with government agencies and local media outlets. You'll attend local and national events and help to solve problems in your local community.
Parliament jobs in Westminster are more directly related to assisting MPs with their workload. Your responsibilities may include:
- keeping your MP up to date on key issues and policy developments
- drafting and writing speeches, articles and correspondence
- overseeing media coverage of your MP
- liaising with the constituency office team on local and national issues
- general diary management.
Titles you could be hired under include parliamentary researcher, parliamentary secretary and parliamentary assistant, each with their own set of responsibilities.
What qualifications do I need?
The role of a politician's assistant can be demanding. Because of this you'll need a well-developed skillset, including:
- the ability to cope in high-pressure situations
- adaptability at short notice
- excellent written and verbal communication
- high levels of organisation, including the ability to multitask
- firm but fair debating skills.
You'll also need a degree to work for an MP. While the role is open to all graduates, a degree in a related subject, such as politics, law or social policy, will be an advantage. Your classification isn't essential, as in this field a first-class degree won't put you ahead of other candidates.
Instead, it's your work experience and enthusiasm that will make you stand out. Highlight any prior experience of shadowing an MP, completing a work placement in local government, or the skills MPs look for in their assistants that you've developed as early on in your application as possible.
Don't worry if you haven't had the opportunity to gain relevant work experience. You could impress employers by getting involved in your university's student elections or sharing your knowledge of, and passion for, politics online. This could be through a blog, vlog or podcast - read more about these mediums at 5 tips for getting media work experience.
How do I apply to work for my local MP?
Search for MP assistant vacancies at:
- The Guardian - Parliament Jobs
- Jobsgopublic - local government jobs
- UK Parliament - Job vacancies
Local government websites display opportunities within constituencies.
Alternatively, political party websites display vacancies for positions available nationwide.
However, many roles are filled via word-of-mouth, or through existing MP assistants moving positions, so won't be advertised to the general public. If there's a particular local MP or party you'd like to work for, consider sending a speculative application to show your interest.
You're more likely to be offered work if you can demonstrate a real connection and so approaching the MP of the constituency you live in is a good starting point.
In your application, explain why you'd like to work for your local MP in this particular position. Show that you're familiar with the MP's policies and beliefs, and what you could bring to their party.
How do I become a Member of Parliament?
If you're contemplating becoming an MP, you'll require a strong understanding of both local and national issues while having a knowledge of current affairs.
To be eligible to stand, you must be:
- aged 18 or over
- a British citizen, Commonwealth country citizen or from the Republic of Ireland
- nominated by at least ten parliamentary electors of the constituency where you'll be hoping to be elected.
In addition to the above, you'll need to place a £500 deposit when you submit the documents for nomination. This fee is returned if you receive more than 5% of the total votes.
The first thing you'll need to do on your path to becoming an MP is to make a decision regarding which political party's values most closely matches your own.
While you can stand as an independent candidate, by joining a political party as a member (for a small monthly or annual fee), this provides you with support and a platform for becoming an MP.
At this point, you'll be given access to opportunities for campaigning, can attend the party conference and will be given a voice for shaping the policies of the party. As well as online resources to aid you in your quest to become an MP, you'll also be given the chance to apply for candidate training - where you'll acquire the skills and experience required to stand as a party candidate.
When you're ready, you can state your intentions through your local party office or its national register and seek party approval. Although references are typically required to demonstrate your personal and professional capabilities, there's no expected route to becoming an MP and so you'll be judged on your own merits.
Once you've been selected as a candidate, you'll get plenty of campaign support from your party. However, you'll also be expected to dedicate your own time to fundraising initiatives, which may take place in public as well as online. You'll attend meetings, deliver speeches and will need to be proactive in discussing your proposed policies with the local media.
There are rules to follow in terms of accepting donations, spending money and claiming expenses. See the Information Commissioner's Office's (ICO) Guidance on political campaigning.
Find out more
- Search graduate jobs in public services and administration.
- Discover the skills you'll need for a successful career in public services.
- Read about what else you can do with a degree in politics.