Ah, election season. There's nothing like a good battle between the Democrats and the Republicans (and Ralph Nader and Ron Paul) to whet the appetite of a political junkie. But if you're looking for something less temporal—the kind of work that will let you feed your addiction year-round—you don't have to become a legislator. Consider one of these (mostly) nonpolitical jobs where you may find a way to keep the spirit of the election alive every day.
Librarian: Not just any librarian—a special librarian. Special librarians work for companies, government agencies, nonprofits, universities, or museums, rather than for the general public. There are plenty of opportunities for people to focus on specialties. Janice Lachance, chief executive of the Special Libraries Association, says "it's absolutely a perfect fit" for people who are politically inclined, as leaders at nongovernmental organizations, think tanks, or government agencies rely on well-sourced, "top level information." Librarians can follow specific passions for policy or politics into jobs at places like AARP, which employs 13 association members. Most have a master's in library or information science, but the jobs pay: A 2008 association survey found the average salary of its members was $71,812.
Lobbyist: The word is practically an obscenity during election cycles, but the job and qualifications of a "lobbyist" are largely a mystery to Americans. While many think of lobbyists as Washington fat cats with standing reservations at the Capital Grille and closets full of suede loafers—that's only half the story. Lobbyists advocate for issues and petition government on behalf of organizations—farm bureaus and oil companies alike. They need to understand policy, and they need to know the ins and outs of politics. Most are college grads, and many have advanced degrees in law, communications, education, public relations, or journalism, according to the American League of Lobbyists. How to get in? A congressional staff position is one of the best ways to learn the legislative process.
Tour guide: Believe it or not, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports this occupation is growing much faster than average. It's a good pick for retirees and students, but full-timers and part-timers alike make political history or current events come alive as tour guides. "Politics is a sport in DC," says Adam Plescia, 35, who works as a tour guide in Washington while also writing his dissertation. Plescia stays up on political news and events with a regular diet of the Washington Post, New York Times, New Yorker, and NPR. The tours aren't, however, for sharing his political opinions. Instead, he gets to quiz and to teach. He takes visitors to the front of the Treasury building and asks, "Who's the secretary of the Treasury?" The good news: "More people know now," Plescia says. "Before the [financial] crisis, the majority of the people on the tour wouldn't know his name."
Radio announcer: Two words: Rush Limbaugh. The longtime radio announcer has made a major mark on the American conservative political scene through his top-rated radio show. This is a highly competitive industry with a median hourly wage of less than $12, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There may, however, be better opportunities for hosts or disk jockeys with specialized knowledge of subjects like politics. But if, like Limbaugh, you prove successful in smaller markets, you can test your mettle and opinionating on a much larger audience.
Pollster: This is a good fit for political junkies with a love of statistics, as well as a solid understanding of the larger political picture. Tom Jensen, communications director at Public Policy Polling, says polling firms look for people who are especially knowledgeable about politics, particularly those who understand the way voters think about elections. "It's a great job for someone who's very knowledgeable about politics but can also detach themselves from the process enough to keep a perspective about things and not get too swept up in the emotions of an election," Jensen says. Advanced degrees are pretty common.
Translator/interpreter: This probably isn't a great path if you have strong opinions, but it's got plenty of growth potential if you merely have a serious interest in being part of the political process. The Labor Department expects job opportunities to grow by 24 percent between 2006 and 2016. Thanks to globalization and increased security threats, there's been a greater need for translators (who work with written words) and interpreters (who work with spoken words), according to the American Translators Association. While many translators work for themselves, those who are employed by the government make an average of nearly $60,000 a year, the association reports.
Reporter: Some journalists today still labor under a kind of Woodward and Bernstein nostalgia, but many just love politics. Reporters at small-town newspapers continue to uncover local political transgressions, and major metro papers vie with bloggers for a piece of the national political pie. Beat reporters may also work long and hard enough to earn the right to state their pithy opinions as columnists, in blogs, or as TV pundits. In one example, New York Times columnist David Brooks started out working the cops beat for City News Service in Chicago and held various roles at the Wall Street Journal, even spending five months as its movie critic.