Special interest groups can be comprised of corporations, nonprofit organizations, trade associations, labor unions or other public interest groups. Lobbyists advocate for legislative policies on behalf of their clients, acting as a voice for the opinions and concerns of constituent groups.
While a majority of lobbyists work in Washington, DC, some are based in cities across the country to influence legislation in local and state government. Individuals in this field may work directly for an association or organization, or may work for a contracting firm that represents various clients.
While a bachelor’s degree is the minimum educational requirement for most lobbyist positions, many lobbyists also hold law degrees or other graduate degrees. Even more important than education is hands-on experience in government and politics. Many lobbyists spend years working for legislators, learning about the legislative process and developing relationships with key political figures and their staff.
To start out, potential lobbyists could intern or volunteer in a congressional office, a lobbying firm or the office of a special interest group. Participation in political campaigns, fundraising, school government or the school newspaper could also prove beneficial for a future in lobbying.
Lobbyists are hired for their expertise in legislative policy and their extensive understanding of how the government works. In representing the best interests of their clients, lobbyists research issues and become familiar with the history and current implications of those policies for special interest groups. Lobbyists use that information to inform legislators, particularly Members of Congress, of the effects of legislative policies on constituent groups.
Lobbyists should gain experience that will enable them to perform the following duties:
Lobbyists often work long hours and work under tight deadlines. Meetings with clients and legislators often require substantial travel and time out of the office.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of public relations will grow at a rate of 8% through the year 2018. A May 2008 government report cites the average hourly wage for a lobbyist as just over $26.50.