Becoming a lobbyist in Washington DC means you are one of the select few who have access to the halls of Congress and can influence the legislative calendar. According to the website OpenSecrets.org, there were 11,514 registered lobbyists in DC in 2015. Lobbying firms spent more than $3.2 billion on lobbying activities in 2015, and, year-to-date (2016) have already spent $1.6 billion to influence legislation. The top 5 sectors who have spent money on lobbyists in 2016 include healthcare ($266 million), business ($254 million), financial services and insurance, including real estate ($242 million), communications and consumer electronics ($187 million), and energy and natural resources ($154 million).
What are the skills and qualifications that it takes to become hired as a lobbyist in Washington DC? The following information is a quick guide to the career opportunity as well as information that may be helpful for you to determine if you possess the skills and motivation to work in the high paced, stressful, yet rewarding field of lobbyist.
The Core Skills Required
Although experience on the Hill as a Congressional aide or working with a national or international not-for-profit organization such as USAID, Habitat for Humanity, the World Wildlife Fund, etc. may be useful when lobbying on behalf of a specific cause or issue, prior work experience in Washington DC is not always necessary. Lobbyists deal with issues covering a broad range of industries and as well as issues within a certain industry sector. Therefore, of the core skills required, experience or knowledge in the field you plan to lobby in should be present on a resume. Additionally, most lobbying firms located in Washington DC require, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Advanced degrees and designations such as an MBA, MPA, CPA, or JD may be an important differentiator when applying for a position to lobby in the nation’s capital.
Becoming a Lobbyist in DC
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) under the classification “Public Relations Specialist” reports in its employment outlook handbook that a lobbyist earns a median salary of $56,770. The range can be from $20,000 for an entry level lobbyist up to $150,000 or more, depending on the level of outside experience brought to a firm and any professional designations you may hold. Lobbyists hail from all walks of life so envision the field you are competing against for the positions available in a prestigious K Street NW DC firm (K Street NW being where many firms are located in the city). Your competition includes former government officials, members of policy think tanks, attorneys, accountants, and former elected officials.
If you are an individual seeking a job as a lobbyist in Washington DC, you may also consider a course of study at The Association of Government Relations Professionals or AGRP. AGRP offers training in the inner workings of government as well as training, which pertains to the ethical aspects of the job, specific tasks and duties and what you need to do to be successful and serve the best interests of your clients and/or the issues and causes you represent.