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A congressional aide assists a member of the United States Congress with various tasks during the course of a legislative session. There are several types of congressional aides that perform specialized tasks in the day to day operations of a congressional office. Aides may work in close proximity to the elected representative, out of a local office in the his or her congressional district, or in the representative's Capitol Hill office in Washington, DC. A congressional aide may be assigned tasks as basic as filing paperwork and answering phones or as complex as developing policy initiatives and providing counsel to the representative.
One common path to becoming a congressional aide is to apply for an internship during college. Most congressional offices accept applications for internships or volunteer work from students at colleges and universities in the congressional district. While these positions do not usually include the position of aide, they can be an important step to acquiring such a position.
Congressional aides may perform such tasks as answering phone calls from the representative's constituents, answering their questions, and addressing their concerns A congressional aide may also read and sort mail from constituents as well as correspondence from other legislators, lobbyists, or consultants. More complex duties involve research and analysis, in which an aide must gather all the data pertinent to a particular issue, evaluate it, and create a memo or presentation outlining the results for the representative or for other staff members.
Aides may also have more specific duties. For example, an aide may work in press relations and be required to craft an overall message about particular legislative issues on behalf of the representative and to field queries from reporters about various issues. A congressional aide may also be tasked with compiling notes during committee meetings, writing briefs, or participating in legislative negotiations.
An aide might be in charge of the representative's schedule, including all appearances made by the representative, all important day to day deadlines, legislative sessions, appointments, press conferences, and phone calls. The scheduler will often need to change the schedule on the fly as one event may run longer than expected and require the day's remaining events to be pushed back. The scheduler may also schedule appointments and meetings for the representative's other staff.