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Political researcher

Political researchers carry out research for members of the UK parliaments and national and regional assemblies, political parties and research institutions. They support and advise politicians by gathering and analysing information, and by writing policy papers and press releases. Some political researchers prepare agendas and take minutes at meetings.

Also known as:

  • Parliamentary assistant

Work activities

Political researchers find, analyse and summarise information for the people who need it. For example, they might help a Member of Parliament (MP) to prepare for a debate, or deal with a complicated issue in their constituency (the local area that the MP represents). They might be known as parliamentary assistants. Some political researchers could have responsibility for a specific policy area, using their findings to write policy papers and speeches. However, most researchers need to find and understand information about the key points on any given topic. They also research and write briefings (concise background information documents, often used to prepare a politician to deal with the media or attend a meeting). They might prepare press releases, write draft speeches and help to deal with questions from constituents. Some researchers might keep a politician’s website up to date. Many researchers also have some administrative and secretarial duties. Examples include organising meetings, writing and distributing agendas, taking notes at meetings and writing up the minutes (a report of what was said and agreed). They work very closely with their employer, listening carefully and asking the right questions to find out the information they need to research. To carry out their research, they might, for example:

  • Read newspapers and official publications.
  • Visit the house of commons library to look up information.
  • Use the parliamentary intranet.
  • Use computer databases or the internet.
  • Work with pressure groups and special interest groups.

Researchers might liaise with politicians other than their immediate employer, with other research assistants and administrative staff, or with visitors. They work closely with the staff in the MP’s constituency office, for example, caseworkers. They also analyse and review the existing information held by their employer. They might sometimes produce or analyse statistics and graphs. They might have other duties such as arranging tours of parliament for constituents. Some political researchers work for pressure groups, research institutions, charities, political consultancies or trade unions. The briefings and speeches that they write are used by senior officials in their organisation.

Personal qualities and skills

As a political researcher, you’ll need to be:

  • Interested in politics and current affairs.
  • Enthusiastic, resilient, confident and energetic.
  • Able to use your initiative.
  • Willing to take on a heavy workload, especially at election time.
  • Able to work independently and under pressure.

You should have:

  • Very good organisational skills, to prioritise tasks and meet deadlines, and to arrange meetings and prepare agendas.
  • A methodical, logical and analytical approach to research.
  • The skills to find and understand information, and to present it clearly and concisely to the people who need it.
  • The ability to pay attention to detail.
  • Very strong communication skills.
  • The ability to write reports, meeting minutes, briefing notes, speeches and articles.
  • Word-processing and IT skills.
  • Good interpersonal and teamworking skills.
  • The ability to liaise with a variety of people (including politicians, special interest groups and other research assistants).
  • A high level of commitment and perseverance.
  • The ability to deal sensitively with confidential issues.

Pay and opportunities 

According to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), parliamentary assistants (living outside London) start on £21,255 per year, while researchers start on £24,688. You could earn up to around £49,000 in the highest pay band if you live outside London and slightly more if you live in London. Pay may be different if you work for another kind of organisation.

You can expect to work long hours, particularly during busy periods and election time.

Relatively few people work in political research. The main party-political offices only take on a handful of new entrants annually. The independent research institutions are also fairly small organisations. Opportunities for paid and unpaid work experience posts (internships) are increasing.

Jobs are concentrated in London around Whitehall and Westminster, the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the National Assembly for Wales. Those who work for MPs are likely to work in restricted office space in Westminster. Researchers who work for pressure groups, research institutions and so on are also more likely to work in London than anywhere else.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised on specialist websites such as w4mp, on some job boards and in national newspapers. Internships are also advertised on the w4mp website.

Entry routes and training

Most political researchers are graduates, unless they have relevant skills in, for example, social research or news/political journalism, or a record of involvement with a political party. Many entrants have a degree in politics, economics or law. However, entry can also be possible for people with a degree in another subject, particularly if it involved information research, analysis and concise presentation, such as history or journalism, for example. Some entrants have relevant postgraduate qualifications, for example, in politics or social research.

You are unlikely to gain direct entry to a researcher or research assistant post unless you have done some kind of work experience or internship with a Member of Parliament in England or Scotland, the Northern Ireland Assembly or the National Assembly for Wales for a fixed time. This can give you valuable experience and the chance to make useful contacts but might not be a paid position (although travel and lunch expenses might be paid).

Political researchers usually receive some training on-the-job, for example, induction for new starters or IT training. They are expected to keep themselves up to date with current affairs and policy issues.

Other training courses available to researchers include:

  • Performing under pressure.
  • Minute-taking.
  • Effective writing skills.
  • House of commons library training.

Political researchers can progress to senior researcher posts or to research posts working for more senior/high-profile politicians. Some experienced political researchers go on to seek an elected political position. A few might set up their own political consultancy business.


The usual entry requirements for a relevant degree are:

  • Two to three A-levels.
  • GCSEs at grades 9-4 in two to three other subjects.
  • GCSE English at grades 9-4.

For many relevant degrees, you are likely to need GCSE Maths at grades 9-4. Alternatives to A-levels include Edexcel (BTEC) level 3 National qualifications the International Baccalaureate Diploma.  However, course requirements vary so check prospectuses carefully.

Adult opportunities

Age limits: It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.

Relevant skills can be gained in, for example, political activism or involvement in pressure groups. Voluntary work, for example, in trade unions, student politics or community groups, can be valuable.

Access courses If you don’t have the usual qualifications needed to enter your chosen degree or HND course, a college or university Access course could be the way in. These courses are designed for people who have not followed the usual routes into higher education. No formal qualifications are usually needed, but you should check this with individual colleges.

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