A major e-commerce corporation, a healthcare insurer that serves as a Medicare contractor and a nonprofit organization that works to protect endangered species: What do all of these groups have in common? They are all examples of organizations that commonly hire lobbyists to represent their interests to lawmakers and other governmental decision makers.
Lobbyists play a significant role in the inner workings of the government. Most of them may never become household names, but they provide the grease that turns the wheels of the political machine in the U.S. Interested in learning how to become a lobbyist? Explore this career guide to learn more!
In This Article:
- What Does a Lobbyist Do
- Becoming a Lobbyist
- Would a Lobbyist Be in High Demand?
- Become a Lobbyist by Pursuing a Degree at GCU
What Does a Lobbyist Do?
When a company or other organization believes it would be in their best interests to influence political decisions of lawmakers, they hire lobbyists to advocate on their behalf. So, what do lobbyist do? Lobbyists meet with local, state and federal lawmakers and other political figures to try to influence them to vote a certain way or to establish or revoke certain policies.
For example, a manufacturing corporation might hire a lobbyist in an attempt to loosen environmental regulations, or conversely, an environmental protection nonprofit might hire a lobbyist to try to persuade lawmakers to tighten environmental protections. Some lobbyists decide to specialize in certain areas, such as healthcare, oil and gas, insurance or technology. Advocating for a client’s interests requires a deep knowledge of the issues involved.
Although every day might look a little different, a lobbyist is generally responsible the following tasks:
- Developing a comprehensive knowledge of the client’s industry, issues and interests
- Meeting with lawmakers and other decision makers to discuss the issues at hand
- Preparing and giving presentations to policymakers about the client’s needs
- Creating and distributing press releases, and representing the client’s interests to the media
- Responding to regulatory inquiries
Becoming a Lobbyist
If the idea of becoming a lobbyist appeals to you, you can get started right now on your career path, even if you’re still in high school. Talk to your high school guidance counselor about adding as many classes as possible in communications and government. History courses are also important for aspiring lobbyists.
In addition, consider joining a debate club or similar extracurricular activity. Lobbyists need polished communication skills, and practice makes perfect.
After high school, you’ll need to plan on earning both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. A communications degree is a good choice for your undergraduate education, and a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree is an excellent option for your graduate degree.
During your college years and after graduation, you’ll want to explore internship opportunities at relevant organizations. Professional networking is just as important for lobbyists as their academics, and you’ll be able to build your network during internships.
Earn Your Undergraduate Communications Degree
Since communication skills are essential for lobbyists, a communications degree is a good choice for your bachelor’s degree. If possible, try to enroll in a communications degree program that has an emphasis in political campaigns or a similar focus. This will give you hybrid competencies in both communications and political science.
During this four-year degree program, you’re likely to study topics such as the following:
- Small group communication skills, with a look at participation, leadership, information sharing, problem solving and decision making
- Verbal and nonverbal intercultural communication competences, with an exploration of cultural differences through the lenses of mass media, politics, education, social life and other cultural facets
- Interpersonal, organizational and international conflict communication and negotiation processes
- Ethical principles and issues pertaining to the communications field in theory and in practice
- Communication theories and practices in political campaigns, including the writing and delivery of political addresses, as well as the management of political campaigns
You’ll have the opportunity to take some electives during your time as an undergraduate student. If you already know which particular areas you might like to specialize in as a lobbyist (e.g. healthcare or insurance), you may want to use your electives to take courses relevant to those areas.
In addition, bear in mind that connections are everything in the political world. While you’re working toward your degree, take the opportunity to pursue internships. These can be a great way to build your professional network.
Earn Your Master of Public Administration Degree
Master’s degrees are quite common among lobbyists. There is some flexibility regarding the type of master’s degree you should earn. Some lobbyists, for example, hold degrees in economics, political science or public relations.
However, if you’re certain that you wish to become a lobbyist, a degree closely related to government would be an excellent choice. One great option is a Master of Public Administration (MPA) with an Emphasis in Government and Policy.
An MPA in government and policy allows you to develop competencies in the inner workings of public sector organizations. You’ll learn about public governance, administrative processes and reform. You’ll also develop strong leadership skills, and explore important concepts like ethics in public governance.
Although the curriculum will vary from one school to the next, MPA students can generally expect to study topics such as the following:
- Fundamental principles and best practices in public governance, including resource management, service delivery and regulatory powers
- Public organizational leadership and administration, with an emphasis on relationship building, political awareness and collaborative approaches
- The power and political structures within public organizations, including the ethical application of power and the ways in which individuals might be influenced
- Modern theories in policy analysis and the policy-making process, with a look at the impact of public policies on various demographics
Complete a Relevant Internship or Other Entry-Level Work
If you didn’t complete an internship as an undergrad, or even if you did, it’s a good idea to apply for an internship after graduation. Many aspiring lobbyists get their start as political campaign workers and congressional aides. Remember that networking is the lifeblood of effective lobbying, and it will be in your best interests to look for an internship or an entry-level job that will enable you to meet with high-profile individuals.
Would a Lobbyist Be in High Demand?
The agency tasked with tracking employment data in the U.S. is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS doesn’t track data specifically for lobbyists, but it does for the closely related profession of public relations.
Taking a look at the employment trends for public relations specialists may offer some limited insight as to the employment trends for lobbyists. According to the BLS, 11,300 new jobs are estimated to open for public relations and fundraising managers from 2020 to 2030, as of September 2021.1
As you consider this employment trend, do bear in mind that lobbyists aren’t quite the same as public relations specialists. Both of these professionals do work to curate a certain public image for their clients, but they go about their work in different ways, and PR specialists typically don’t lobby lawmakers. However, the employment data for PR specialists might be encouraging for aspiring lobbyists.
Become a Lobbyist by Pursuing a Degree at GCU
If you’re passionate about making a positive difference by pursuing a career as a lobbyist, you can prepare for your future at Grand Canyon University. Start with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, and then work toward earning a Master of Public Administration with an Emphasis in Government and Policy degree.
Our MPA degree instills fundamental leadership, policy and governance competencies in learners, who will graduate with a strong understanding of how to work within local, state and federal governmental bodies to drive forward progress.
1 COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is based on 2020, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Public Relations and Fundraising Managers.
Approved by an instructor for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences on Jan. 25, 2023.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.