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Home  > Article

So You Wanna Be a Spy? How About a Lobbyist?

By Laura Gordon

If you're interested in a career in Government, here are some common career paths you could pursue.

Political Consultant

These are the "point-men" of any political campaigns, individuals that advise on strategies, perform research, drum up support for their candidates, and can be involved in specialized tasks in polling, advertising, and fundraising. Consultants can also be in charge of gathering supporters for initiatives and referendums, coordinating relations with the media, and finding those skeletons hidden in the closets of the opposition. They often work toward campaign strategies to sway the "persuadable" group of voters.

Political consulting has recently become one of the fastest growing sectors of the government industry, and has proved essential in important campaigns. Individuals gain on the job familiarity with the campaign trail, typically serving as campaign managers, political party operatives, or press secretaries before becoming consultants. Intense competition can lead to financial setbacks, but prospects are good for consultants, even if their candidate's run at office doesn't succeed; individuals can turn their real-life experiences into anecdotes for TV shows such as The West Wing.

Though the most valuable education required for this job is usually gained during campaigns themselves, many consultants have graduate degrees. Additionally, new programs in political management are offered in universities, including Georgetown, the University of Florida, and Yale.

U.S. Representative

As members of the 435-member body of the House of Representatives in the United States Congress, these individuals represent constituents in specific districts mainly by being part of several committees and voting on bills. In contrast to the Senate, House representation is proportionate to state populations. Therefore, smaller states will have fewer Representatives than bigger ones. Because of its size, the House is organized by committees. Representatives will serve on at least one committee, and several subcommittees that range from agriculture, to taxation, to Hurricane Katrina response. Specific powers of the House include the ability to initiate revenue bills and the impeachment process.

Representatives split their time between voting on bills on the Hill (Washington D.C.,) and visiting and raising morale among their constituents in their home districts. Extensive staff often advise Representatives, who also turn to colleagues, interest groups, political parties, and support agencies for help in making important decisions.

House Representatives are up for election every two years, making it important to remain a visible figure among constituents, and also making it difficult to break into the Senate, which turns over every six years. Opportunities for advancement within the House include chairs of committees and subcommittees, and leadership positions such as Speaker of the House, Majority Leader, Minority Leader, Majority Whip, and Minority Whip.

No formal educational requirements exist for this position, but Representatives must be at least 25 and a resident of the state in which they are elected.

Intelligence Operative

Read: Clandestine Service Trainee, Operations Officer, Field officer, Staff Operations officer, Collection Management Officer, Officer of Central Intelligence Agency. Call it what you like, this job is better known to the world with the glamorous heading of spy. Yet working for the CIA is not all about high speed chases, high-tech spyware, sleek firearms, and shaken martinis. Real operatives spend most of their time trying to keep their cover and blend in with the crowd. Much time is spent doing research and gathering intelligence information to be analyzed and later distributed.

The CIA's Clandestine, or secret/covert, Service, runs two types of training programs. Trainees first go through an 18 month introduction to the field, where they do background research, obtain supplies, and convey information requests from policymakers to their respective officers. After the first program, trainees are then prepared for overseas assignments through the Clandestine Service Trainee Program. Skill acquisition includes training in secret communication, language skills, and how to detect and avoid unwanted attention.

Once trained, operatives often go on assignments undercover, participating in activities that may include interrogation, military training, and other political, economic, and sometimes propaganda-related initiatives.

According to the CIA website, participation in the Clandestine Service "demands an adventurous spirit, a forceful personality, superior intellectual ability and mental toughness, as well as personal integrity, courage and love of our country." If you still think you're cut out for a fast-paced job with unexpected turns, you'll want to have at least an undergraduate degree, with backgrounds in East Asian and Middle Eastern languages as helpful additions.


Whether directly or indirectly, lobbyists are committed to promoting and inspiring change and support for government-related issues and concerns. Also labeled as activists, lobbyists research and analyze legislation and proposals, attend legislative hearings, and drum up support for initiatives and platforms. Lobbyists can work at the "grassroots" level, finding other volunteers, signing petitions, protesting, and speaking out publicly on specific issues, or can speak directly with lawmakers. In fact, the term "lobbyist" originated because of the individual targeting of legislators in the lobbies of Congress and other such bureaucratic centers.

Any citizen can technically be a lobbyist in a manner of speaking: simply put, lobbyists work to encourage other citizens to support or oppose political issues. However, lobbyists often work for professional firms, and are hired out to clients with specific policy concerns. Controversial allegations of corruption have appeared in recent years due to collaboration with organizations that make campaign contributions, and the nature of private lobbying. However, recent legislature has been passed to ensure that lobbying's effectiveness is based on ideological influence instead of purchasing power.

Lobbyists should have a bachelor's degree, and most firms require a law degree. Previous legislative experience is almost always required.

Peace Corps Volunteer

The Peace Corps is probably one of the most difficult and rewarding experiences out there. The basic goal of the program, started by President John f. Kennedy in 1961, is to promote and foster global understanding. Volunteers are assigned to a country for three months of training and two years of service, all the while learning a foreign language, working in fields such as education, health, or environment, and immersing in another culture. Assignments are given based on past work and volunteer experience, as well as according to the needs of foreign countries. Regions of service include Africa, Inter-America and the Caribbean, the Pacific, Europe and the Mediterranean, and Central and East Asia.

The majority of workers in the Peace Corps are educators in English as a foreign language, in an effort to open doors to the fast-developing global economy. They work closely with locals to improve literacy and educational bureaucracy, and also engage in a secondary project of their own choosing. Stipends are doled out to volunteers based on the cost of basic necessities, with readjustment allowances given each month and after the completion of service.

The application process to the Peace Corps is lengthy and intense, with prerequisites including a bachelor's degree, and in some cases, a master's degree or three to five years of related work experience. Applicants should also be resourceful and flexible to accommodate complex situations. However, the Peace Corps is also rewarding in another way: it is very highly regarded in the industry, and can lead to advancement opportunities after service.

Public Health Professional

Public Health Professionals are sometimes doctors or med students who have chosen a divergent path, but regardless of background, all individuals in this sector are extremely committed to the betterment of public health programs and bureaucratic relations to ensure the quality of health services. Instead of dealing with direct patient healthcare, the public health division is concerned with the needs of entire communities. These professionals deal with important issues such as the delegation of funds to teen parenting, violence prevention, fluoridation, immunizations, and the facilitation of hospital, HMO, and nonprofit relationships.

Jobs in public health vary according to the municipal, state, and federal levels of organization, but all include communicating with the public and the media to inform citizens of diseases and concerns, preparing budgets, grants, and contracts, organizing training programs, assessing risk and acting accordingly, and collaborating and serving on advisory boards, coalitions, and commissions.

Most positions require a master's degree in public health or public administration, with others requiring a medical degree.

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