Politics & Think Tanks

Politics & Think Tanks

Whilst possession of a degree in Politics is not a prerequisite for working within a political or near-political environment, a genuine interest in and understanding of the sector are. Regardless of subject discipline, candidates will need to be able to demonstrate commitment through their work experience profile and any research based activities that they have undertaken, academic or otherwise. Strong communication, influencing and networking skills are vital, as is an interest in current affairs.

VIDEO: Careers advice from a political science graduate

VIDEO: Public Sector

Getting in

Some of the opportunities available to graduates are:

  • Politician’s Assistant/parliamentary or constituency assistants, personal assistants (PAs), executive officers - politicians’ assistants provide administrative support to elected politicians. They help with secretarial tasks, research and publicity and carry out whatever behind-the-scenes work is needed to help politicians represent their constituents.  Contact headquarters and regional party headquarters to explore about opportunities.
  • Researcher for an MP/political party - researchers work on multiple projects such as drafting responses for policy based casework, compiling briefings, conducting research for speeches/local newspaper articles/online political blogs, submitting press releases to raise/maintain an MPs profile locally.
  • Researcher for a think tank -  think tanks engage in research and advocacy in areas like social policy, political strategy, the economy, the environment, science and technology, industrial or business policies and many more. Think tank researchers publish and publicise top quality research intended to inform and influence public policy debate.
  • Public Affairs Consultant/Practitioner – sometimes referred to as lobbyists, Public Affairs Consultants use their understanding of the political system to offer political and public policy advice to clients including private sector companies, trade associations, charities, not-for-profit organisations and overseas governments.  Outside of consultanties, Public Affairs practitioners can work for charities, pressure groups, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), trade associations or in-house for a company where they act as a resource of expert advice on the impact of legislative and public policy change.
  • Civil Service (more in Careers A-Z – Civil Service & Local Government)
    • Fast Stream:The Civil Service Fast Stream is an accelerated development programme which prepares graduates for careers at the highest levels of the Civil Service.  There are a number of Fast Streams eg Corporate streams eg Central Departments, Diplomatic Service, HR, Finance, European etc); the Analytical Stream including Government Social Research Service stream.
      • The role of Government Social Research Officer may be of particular interest to Politics graduates – they provide research for the analysis required to develop, implement, review and evaluate new and existing government policies. Their research evidence helps inform the policy decisions of ministers.
    • Civil Service main stream (eg entry level research officer) – jobs advertised throughout the year
  • European Institutions – eg European Commission, European Parliament, Council of the European Union
  • Public Sector Management (more in Careers A-Z – Civil Service & Local Government)
    • Local Government eg National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP) Opportunities within local authorities (eg in environment; housing; economic development; neighbourhood renewal) often involve a crossover with policy and information work.
    • NHS Graduate Management Training schemes.
  • Political Journalism - Political journalists report on, analyse, interpret and discuss political events, legislative issues and news from parliament, devolved governments, the EU and international political developments.
  • Security Services – MI5, MI6, GCHQ
  • International development – working for an NGO or development organisation eg Oxfam, Save the Children, Christian Aid. International development workers work with developing countries to establish sustainable solutions to problems.  Projects might include education, sanitation, health, agriculture etc

Relevant work experience

Relevant work experience is essential and it is unlikely that a graduate will find paid employment within this sector without it. Such experience takes many forms:

  • Volunteering: Write to AMs, MPs and MEPs, preferably someone you have a connection with to explore shadowing and volunteering opportunities. Offer your services during the vacation, or even during a gap year. Similarly target your local party, or even party HQ, its policy or research departments and affiliated groups e.g. the Fabian Society.  Volunteering with a non-governmental organisation (NGO) is also useful experience.
  • Internships: A huge variety of formal internships is available within consultancies and think tanks, from a couple of months to full year placements. These are highly competitive and will find you performing complex analytical tasks and professional-level research. Whilst they will certainly boost your CV, they are often unpaid or offer only expenses. Most organisations will have details of internships and graduate schemes on the careers pages of their websites.
  • Administrative Work: Many graduates who aspire to fast stream or strategy roles take a year or so to work within admin or clerical roles within the Public Sector. This is not only excellent from a work experience perspective but also assists in the all-round understanding of the sector, its ways of working etc. and can prove invaluable during fast track recruitment processes.
  • Open Days/Insight Placements: Many Government departments offer open days, check their individual websites for details.  Placements/visits are occasionally available within the National Assembly for Wales. Check the file in the Careers & Employability Centre and staff at Work Tasters for latest initiatives.
  • The Traineeships Scheme (EU): Either paid or unpaid, a work placement (stage) within one of the European Union institutions provides first-hand experience of the workings and interaction of the EU institutions. Two intakes of six months duration a year, but you must already be in possession of a degree to apply.

Top tips whilst at University

  • Develop your interest in politics and current affairs by reading the local and national press eg BBC Politics pages, Guardian Politics, and watching/listening to political and current affairs broadcasts eg Question Time, Prime Ministers Questions
  • Join the student Politics Society to demonstrate your interest
  • Consider getting involved in writing about political news for the student newspaper
  • Look out for interesting guest speakers within your school and attend talks, debates, political seminars etc to start making contacts.  Networking is a crucial skill in politics.
  • If you are interested in party politics, get involved with a political party, for example as a political party agent
  • Get involved in student politics and/or holding office in the Students’ Union
  • Take part in campaign work for a charity or pressure group

Related links

Use the links below to start your research into the reality of careers, postgraduate options and job opportunities. Check out our top picks .


Professional Bodies:

Employers and Vacancy Sources: