How to Become a Political Strategist

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Whether you’re running for the statehouse or the White House, how do you win an election? This singular question may be the most direct of them all in the field of electoral politics, yet it’s also the hardest to solve. Many candidates over the years have tried and failed to secure office, despite consulting with famous political strategists, while others have mounted successful political campaigns on the first try.

Man and business woman sitting at desk, both dressed in business attire

There will never be a single strategy that’s guaranteed to work, but political strategists can play a key role in helping aspiring politicians achieve victory. In the process, they can propel their careers to new heights, earn new clients and raise their profile in a niche profession that can be difficult to break into.

If you aspire to become a successful political strategist, the Graduate School of Political Management at the George Washington University may be able to help. You can obtain a Master’s in Political Management by completing the coursework entirely online, enabling you to work and study at the same time and at your pace.

What is a political strategist?

As noted by Politico, the term “political strategist” has taken on many meanings over the years. Major news organizations like MSNBC, CNN and Fox News often use it as a catch-all term to briefly state the qualifications of on-air personalities who once worked in politics and offer opinions on current events. At their core, political strategists work as consultants, who may specialize in certain competencies such as polling research, fundraising, public relations or speechwriting. All of these tasks are designed to help an electoral candidate win at the voting booth or advance a piece of legislation.

While candidates are usually thought of as those most likely to utilize political strategists, they may also be sought out by businesses or organizations looking to advance legislation or promote a cause. Strategists offer their clients solutions. Since it’s a results-oriented profession, an ability to point to past successes makes political strategists more hireable.

How do you become a political strategist?

Just as there’s no one way to win an election, there are many pathways to political consulting as an occupation. Some individuals have attained these positions based on their connections to prominent individuals who can offer guidance.

For the most part, the journey starts with the basics learned from academic study. Political science, communications, journalism, English or business management are majors whose learning outcomes are in line with this career path. For example, one of the primary tasks of a political strategist is interacting with the media, be it electronic, digital or print. Political campaigns must send the right message and be centered around a specific cause, objective or mission. Because all of these majors involve interaction with the public, they can provide aspiring political strategists with the knowledge and practical skills to shape opinions.

Boldface word 'strategy' in dictionary

The online curriculum at GW offers a unique blend of three-credit courses that can help students develop or hone the communication capabilities that are indispensable to political campaigns, including Applied Political Communications, Fundamentals of Political Management and Maximizing Social Media. Each course enables students to become more persuasive in crafting messages ― through the written and spoken word ― that resonate with their target audiences.

How much does a political strategist earn in salary?

As with most other professions inside and outside of politics, political strategists’ salary levels tend to vary, largely in line with their experience and the results they achieve on the campaign trail. According to the most recent figures from ZipRecruiter, the average base pay for a political strategist is approximately $58,688 per year. Those who may be new to the profession typically make less. However, those who can point to a body of work in past successful political engagements can earn six-figure salaries, particularly in markets where they’re in high demand, such as Washington, D.C., New York City and San Francisco.

If political strategy is your passion, GSPM can help you turn it into a rewarding profession. Find out more about the online master’s program at GW and apply today.

Recommended Reading:
What’s It Like to Be a Local Politician?
How to Become a Campaign Advisor

Meet the make-believe strategists of TV
The Houston Chronicle, 2020. Qualifications for Political Strategists
Real Clear Politics, 2015. Digital Strategies Fuel 2016 Campaign Launch Decisions
ZipRecruiter, 2020. Political Strategist Salary