The process of becoming a legislative assistant varies somewhat depending on where you are and the sort of organization in which you are seeking work, but generally requires a university-level degree in government or law, and an interest in the political process. Most of the time, the phrase “legislative assistant” is reserved for individuals who work as support and advisory staff to elected government officials. In the United States, senators and congressmen are the largest employers of legislative assistants. The same is true of members of parliament (MPs) in much of Europe, Canada, Australia, and India. Depending on where you are, you may also be able to become a legislative assistant in the private sector by working in the lawmaking or lobbying arm of an independent corporation or foundation.
It is not usually possible to become a legislative assistant without some advanced understanding of how the lawmaking process works. In the United States, senators and congressmen at both the state and federal levels hire staffs of legislative assistants, also calls LAs, to help research and draft possible new laws. With few exceptions, these LAs all have law degrees. Practical experience is not always necessary, but the education is.
In order to become a legislative assistant in the United States, then, you must generally attend law school after completing a undergraduate degree. For the most part, the topic of your undergraduate work does not have a direct bearing on your success as an LA, though most people in the position have backgrounds in government, politics, or communications. The most important thing is that you have formal schooling on the U.S. law-making process and a firm grasp of how to draft effective regulation.
Most U.S. legislators hire a separate LA for each issue, from health care to the environment. You need not have demonstrated expertise in any specific area in order to become a legislative assistant at the outset, but you must be able to quickly learn new information and become a fast expert on a host of nuanced fields related to your assigned area. Most of the time, new LAs are provided with comprehensive legislative assistant training to help them understand the expectations.
Legislative assistant requirements are similar in other parts of the world, though the educational requirements are often a bit less stringent. It is more common for parliamentarian LAs to have only undergraduate degrees, for instance. Most countries with parliamentary systems allow individual members of parliament to hire legislative assistants to help both with drafting laws, and with researching areas where laws may need to be drafted. Many cover multiple issues, as the majority of MPs have but one or two legislative assistants, if they have any.
The majority of lawmakers, whether in Congress or in Parliament, hire their LAs internally, through a private application and interviewing process. Most of the time, the jobs are not publicly posted anywhere but on the hiring representative or committee’s website. Finding available legislative assistant careers can sometimes be as challenging as actually landing them.
It is sometimes also possible to become a legislative assistant by working with an independent company or nonprofit group that is somehow involved in the lawmaking or lobbying process. The phrase “legislative assistant” is occasionally used for staff who help companies identify legislative issues. Getting this kind of job is usually a matter of demonstrating expertise in the organization’s primary issues, as well as bringing some specialized knowledge of the legislative process.