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Research officers provide political party policy makers with relevant information required for the formulation, defence or opposition of policies.
They need to know how parliament operates and understand the British political system.

What does a political party research officer do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Primary responsibilities of the job include:

  • searching for and retrieving information from paper-based sources, the internet and online databases
  • outlining/writing speeches, articles, policy papers and party briefs
  • undertaking relevant political research and analysis
  • distributing information in a variety of formats
  • advising and liaising with MPs, related agencies and parliamentary advisers
  • supervising junior staff
  • undertaking a wide range of administrative tasks
  • answering enquiries
  • producing agendas
  • organising and attending meetings
  • writing reports or minutes

Some research officers move into related areas such as public relations, lobbying, advice or information work.

Typical employers of political party research officers

The political parties represented in parliament employ research officers, most of whom are based at party headquarters (usually in national capitals). Candidates with substantial prior experience may be able to gain employment on a freelance/self-employed basis.

Opportunities are advertised in party magazines, on websites such as Working for an MP, by careers services, in national newspapers and in relevant publications such as New Statesman. It is advisable to make speculative applications and some jobs are not widely advertised.

Qualifications and training required

Entry into the profession is almost always dependent on possessing a good honours degree. Preferred subjects include politics, government, public/social administration, sociology, law, history and economics. But typically graduates with any degree can enter this profession.

A postgraduate qualification may be beneficial, particularly for graduates without relevant first degrees. It is also normally essential to hold relevant pre-entry experience. This can be gained through paid or voluntary employment with the appropriate party.

Candidates must be able to demonstrate a genuine knowledge of how parliament operates and an understanding of the British political system. Potential employees should be capable of dealing confidently with people in important and influential positions.

Key skills for political party research officers

  • Commercial awareness
  • Knowledge and interest in politics and current affairs
  • Good research skills
  • IT skills
  • Information skills
  • Organisational skills
  • Numerical skills
  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills

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