Education and Training Requirements
No one academic path leads directly to a lobbying career. Most lobbyists come to the profession from other disciplines and other jobs. Some have political experience; others have scientific, economic, or legal backgrounds. This previous experience can be extremely useful to environmental lobbyists, who must be able to assess the environmental and economic impact and to identify the legal strengths or weaknesses of various measures.
The best way to prepare for this field is by pursuing a well-rounded education. You should, of course, study civics and history to gain an understanding of our country’s political system. You also should take biology, ecology, environmental science, earth science, and chemistry in order to learn about the scientific issues behind environmental legislation.
In addition to understanding politics and science, lobbyists must have a number of very practical skills, including the ability to use computers, the ability to write and speak clearly, and the ability to understand basic business principles and practices. You should, therefore, take computer courses, speech classes, English, business, and mathematics.
While there are no specific requirements for environmental lobbyists, most have college degrees; a growing number also have advanced degrees, particularly in political science or law.
During your undergraduate studies, you should continue to take courses that will help you understand the complex issues behind legislation and gain the practical skills that will make you an effective lobbyist. You should take courses in environmental science, geography, and geology. You should also study political science and history, which will help you understand how our political system developed and help you prepare to function within that system. Finally, study economics, because lobbyists must be able to assess the probable economic impact of pending legislation.
Lobbyists must be able to do more than understand the issues—they must also be able to write and speak about them. They must be able to influence the way other people think about issues. Communications, public relations, and English are all helpful courses for the future environmental lobbyist.
If you choose to pursue an advanced degree, you will find that having special areas of expertise, such as ecology, economics, or law, coupled with broad undergraduate backgrounds, will help you find interesting positions.
Consider serving as an intern for environmental organizations. Some colleges and universities award academic credits for internship experiences. Internships can also help you gain hands-on experience, learn about the issues, and meet potential employers.
Political or government experience is also invaluable for would-be lobbyists. Try to land a staff position within a legislator’s office or pursue government internships. Several agencies in Washington, D.C., offer government internships.
The National Institute for Lobbying and Ethics offers a public policy certificate program for lobbyists and governmental affairs, grassroots, social media, public relations, and corporate/association professionals at all levels. Applicants must complete 24 credits of course work (12 classes), including the following required classes: Lobbying Ethics, House and Senate Procedures, Avoiding Conflicts of Interest, and Political Action Committee’s and Campaign Finance Rules and Regulations. Contact the institute for more information.
Other Education or Training
The American Society of Association Executives offers continuing education opportunities for association management professionals. Women in Government Relations offers continuing education opportunities at its conferences. Contact these organizations for more information.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
Lobbyists do not need a license or certification, but are required to register. The Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 (which was amended by the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007) requires all lobbyists working on the federal level to register with the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House. You may also be required to register with the states in which you lobby and possibly pay a small fee.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Three to five years of legislative experience dealing with environmental issues will be useful for aspiring lobbyists.
Environmental lobbyists must be tenacious, self-motivated individuals. You must have excellent communications skills, be able to work well in teams, and perform well under pressure. Lobbyists must be able to think quickly on their feet, be flexible, and have a keen strategic sense. Lobbyists also must understand the political process. Because lobbyists must be able to approach government officials and powerful legislators, they should be confident and outgoing. Most importantly, environmental lobbyists must be committed to protecting the environment.