While most students pursuing a master’s in organizational leadership – one of the highest-paying master’s degrees – are planning corporate careers, you’ve set your sights a little bit higher. As a politician, you would certainly lead an organization of sorts – a municipality, state or even the nation. Although less common among politicians than a degree in political science, law, economics or history, a master’s degree in organizational leadership can be a great precursor to a career in politics.
Leveraging Your Organizational Leadership Skills for a Career in Politics
Whether you hope to be a politician or stay out of the limelight in a behind-the-scenes role like political advisor, a degree in leadership can put you on the right path. The first thing to know is that there are no definitive educational or work experience backgrounds for politicians, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). You don’t need a degree in organizational leadership or in any other specific area to work in politics. You do, however, need skills in planning and organization, communication, collaboration and motivation. These are among the most important skills in organizational leadership roles, too, not to mention some of the primary skills you will work on cultivating as a graduate student in this subject.
Conferring and collaborating with colleagues, including those belonging to other political groups and holding very different views of the issues, are among the major tasks legislators must undertake, according to O*NET. Communicating with constituents, fellow legislators, politicians in other branches of service and their own staff is also critical to the work of creating policy and making change. Good legislators are able to understand the implications of the laws they write and pass to minimize problematic unintended consequences, which is where planning and organization come into play. Legislators and other politicians that get voted into office must be able to motivate voters to choose them.
For aspiring legislators at the national level, earning a master’s degree would put you in good company. In the 116th United States Congress, which served from January 2019 to January 2021, 100 percent of Senators and nearly 95 percent of House Members had at least a bachelor’s degree, according to the Congressional Research Service. More than two-thirds of the House of Representatives and three-quarters of the Senate reported a degree beyond the bachelor’s level. The Congressional Research Service also noted that business and public service were among the most common professions, other than politics and law, for members of the 116th United States Congress.
Besides your educational background, your experience matters, too. Many aspiring politicians and political advisors gain experience working in politics as interns or volunteers, according to the BLS.
Organizational Leadership Concentrations for Aspiring Politicians
If you want to use your organizational leadership degree to work in politics, you may want to choose a concentration track that fits your ambitions. A popular area of concentration for students interested in politics is public administration. The curriculum of a public administration concentration in an organizational leadership program might include specialized classes in public policy, local government planning, public finance and budgeting and ethics in public administration.
Some master’s degree programs in organizational leadership offer concentrations specific in government, military and public sector leadership. Classes in these concentrations might cover the cross-section of the leadership theories that are successful in private-sector businesses and the challenges unique to private-sector work. Students may also prepare for work in or with a government entity through coursework that emphasizes collaborative problem solving and the use of strategic management practices.
Even if you choose not to pursue an official concentration that would lead to a role in public administration or government agencies, you may have the option to take specific courses that are relevant to your political ambitions. For graduate students of an organizational leadership program, a class pertaining to issues in civil engagement might help you better understand voting patterns and the issue of non-voting. You would study political, social and personal factors that affect how and why individuals vote or choose not to vote.
Degree programs might also offer a course on non-profit and government leadership. Although there are differences in the challenges and practices of organizational leadership in government entities compared to non-profit charities and religious organizations, a course devoted to non-profit and government leadership would look beyond the practices of corporate leadership.
If you want to work in politics without serving as a politician yourself, a political staff leadership role at which you might excel is chief of staff in a politician’s office.
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