How to become a Parliamentarian

Parliamentarians are elected by the people (constituents) of a particular region (such as an electorate) to represent their interests. They make decisions in federal, state or territory parliaments and undertake activities in their local electorates.

Personal requirements of a Parliamentarian

  • Good oral and written communication skills
  • Enjoy talking to, working with and helping people
  • Able to apply sound judgment
  • Enjoy dealing with issues in current affairs and politics
  • Prepared to work long hours
  • Willing to travel and live away from home when required
  • Sound management skills

Education & Training for a Parliamentarian

There are no specific education requirements to become a parliamentarian, but it helps to have a broad educational background. Most parliamentarians have already established successful careers in other fields, such as law, business, agriculture, economics, industrial relations or community services, before standing for election. They may also have had previous experience as councillors, who perform many of the same tasks as parliamentarians at the local government council level. Parliamentary skills are usually developed on the job and through day-to-day contact with colleagues and party officials. Entry to this occupation may be improved if you have a degree in political science, law, business, economics or an area in the humanities, such as English or history. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Most universities in Australia offer degrees in these areas. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. See the separate entries for Economist, Lawyer, Public Servant - State Government and Trade Union Official for relevant education and training requirements.

Duties & Tasks of a Parliamentarian

Parliamentarians may perform the following tasks:

  • present issues for debate and discussion in parliament
  • propose and debate new legislation and changes to existing legislation
  • develop policy that best serves the interests of the public and the electorate
  • investigate matters of concern to the public or particular interest groups
  • present petitions on behalf of concerned interest groups
  • serve on parliamentary committees or enquiries
  • manage an office in their home electorate and in the house of parliament.

Working conditions for a Parliamentarian

Parliamentarians have a high level of personal contact with the public. Elected parliamentarians tend to spend most of their time working with constituents who are seeking assistance with issues such as pensions, taxation, immigration, education, health services, visas and other matters of public concern.

Employment Opportunities for a Parliamentarian

Most parliamentarians in Australia are members of political parties. To be elected to parliament as a member of a political party you must first be pre-selected by the party to represent them in your electorate. You can also stand for election as an independent candidate. Parliamentarians are generally well paid, but have no long-term employment security. The position of local government councillor is usually unpaid. Parliamentarians who gain extensive experience and develop a high profile in parliament and in the community can, if they are a member of a party in government, be promoted to ministerial positions. Ministers are responsible for managing a particular area of government such as defence or education. Experienced parliamentarians in opposition parties can become shadow ministers, who are responsible for developing their party’s policies and leading debate in a particular area of government. Familiarity with specialist areas such as economics, finance, tourism and industrial relations may be advantageous to parliamentarians who are seeking particular portfolios. Parliamentarians chosen to lead their party can become Prime Minister, Premier or Chief Minister if their party is elected to form government. Advancement to these levels of responsibility is dependent on talent, interpersonal skills, perseverance and years of experience.

Additional Information
Parliamentarians can be elected to the Federal Senate or House of Representatives, or, at state and territory level, to the State Legislative Assembly or the Legislative Council. Local government councils also have elected councillors.
Related careers