In many aspects, politics is a game defined by the people one knows. Therefore, to become a political campaign manager, the best path may be the one that leads to the center of the action and offers access to necessary contacts. Aspiring campaign managers can find ways to offer services along campaign trails, most likely by beginning as a volunteer and climbing the ranks. To gain more of an edge, managers also may benefit from a college degree in political science, government, or a similar field.
The most direct way to become a political campaign manager may be by starting as a campaign volunteer or intern. Political campaigns of every creed and color are generally eager for volunteers. Often, all it takes is the effort to walk into a campaign office and express interest.
Before volunteering, hopeful campaign managers may think carefully over what party and ideals with which to affiliate. Parties naturally tend to hire staff with a history of supporting their causes. For instance, to work as a political campaign manager for a Republican candidate, it may not be wise to begin volunteering for Democratic causes. Volunteering during relatively calm political waters may be helpful as well. Campaigns may use volunteer services in the midst of caucus mania, but they're less likely to remember and observe individual merit during all the hype.
After securing a volunteer position, clarifying ambitions to the campaign staff may be the next step; explaining intentions to go beyond basic volunteer duties, such as handing out political swag, may help an ambitious volunteer stand out. Candidates can ask campaign leaders if they need volunteer coordinators as well. Though not often paid, volunteer coordinators generally get the advantage of taking on many of the same responsibilities of a paid staffer. These responsibilities can include actively recruiting and managing a team of volunteers as well as taking a lead position in the coordinating of special events, such as fundraisers.
Once a volunteer has gained experience and excelled in the position, he or she may find it easier to get hired on as paid staff, with a greater range of responsibilities. Staff members often find themselves in more direct contact with the leaders of a campaign and possibly the political candidates themselves. These types of connections can be very helpful for those wanting to become a political campaign manager in future election cycles.
Campaign managers tend to have as much pressure and responsibility as the actual candidates. In fact, many political candidates often have little contact with their paid and volunteer staffs, leaving those duties to the campaign manager. As a result, a manager should be prepared to work around the clock, helping the candidate fine-tune his or her next campaign speech, making sure the right message is conveyed through political ads, and overseeing all hiring and managing of campaign staff.
There generally are no specific education requirements to find work as a political campaign manager. A high school diploma or its equivalent may be expected, and a degree in political science may give an aspiring manager a competitive edge. Successful managers typically have strong communication skills, are comfortable addressing the media, and have strong writing, computer and Internet skills. There really is no rule as to what level of campaign to start working with, but it's generally easier to begin with a smaller, local campaign. An aspiring candidate may become a political campaign manager by helping a candidate run for city council. Successfully managing campaigns on city and regional levels can serve as a stepping stone toward managing campaigns on broader platforms.