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What degree do I need to be a Legislative Analyst?

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Federal, state and local governments often amend existing laws and develop new ones to address economic and societal changes. As such, business entities, education systems, government agencies and nonprofit organizations hire legislative analysts to monitor legal changes and interpret what they mean. These analysts carefully study how existing regulations may affect their respective business, school, or other organization and predict how potential outcomes of legislation under consideration will impact the business.

For example, an analyst working at a hospital, for example, will typically focus on monitoring changes in health care laws and policies. If the U.S. Senate passes legislation that gives physicians the unilateral power to remove life support systems from patients in specific health conditions, the legislative analyst studies this law and advises physicians on how to adhere to the law. If, before debating the bill, the Senate asks hospitals for their input, the analyst helps craft and communicate the views of the facility. Legislative analysts also work for various lawmaking institutions, such as state senates, where they provide analyses of bills presented to the body for debate.

This is one non-law firm profession where a law degree could be utilized, though it is not essential to enter this field. The majority of companies seeking individuals for this job require a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy, Political Science, Law or closely related field. A non-profit organization job posting stated that a minimum of 3 years work experience in policy advocacy positions, including at least two years of Capitol Hill experience either in an advocacy position for a non-profit advocacy organization, in Congress, or with a federal agency in their office of legislative/congressional affairs.

To thrive on the job, legislative analysts must possess excellent research, analytical, organizational and communication skills. Legislative analysts who gain vast experience and earn master’s degrees have the best chance of advancing their careers. For some companies, a master’s degree will be preferred, as well as experience in legislative engagements. In specified instances, a graduate degree can replace work experience. Regardless of the education preferences, it is worth stressing that exemplary written and verbal communication are paramount. Another asset to the profession is the experience or ability to write in a range of formats (from blogs to long-form reports). In conjunction with this skill is the competence to quickly and accurately translate dense technical information for a variety of audiences.

To begin your career, as stated, you’ll need a minimum of an undergraduate degree. There is a large selection of accredited colleges and universities offering Liberal Arts programs. One example is Swarthmore College, founded in 1864, and located near Philadelphia. Their 425 acre campus offers over 40 Liberal Arts majors, including Political Science and Public Policy. Once enrolled in college, there are many political science internships available.  In fact, students of political science are strongly encouraged to think about internships during their program. A huge benefit of a political science internship is that students have a wide array of options and can work as interns in various government departments according to their interests. The internship will let you view government and politics first-hand, apply classroom theories, find out about available career opportunities and allow you to network for jobs. Even if your career takes you into the private sector, the experience of a government-related internship could be advantageous.

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