There is no single road map used to break into politics, because so much is dependent on circumstance, and a certain type of personality may get elected one year and be hopeless in another. There are common factors, however, that contribute to most successful political careers. Most politicians begin with a degree in certain fields, including law, business, economics or political science. After college, options become more open — an individual could enter law or business school and become a professional, or go the more traditional route by volunteering or interning with a politician, interest group or campaign. By making connections, learning the environment and proving his or her competence and skill, a person can build a base from which to run a successful political campaign.
There have been politicians without college degrees, or with degrees in a variety of non-political subjects, such as art, English or biology, but they are rare. To successfully break into politics almost requires at least a bachelor's degree, and it is helpful to obtain this degree in a relevant subject, such as political science, law or economics, although more liberal-art oriented degrees such as philosophy or history can also be effective. In obtaining this degree, an individual should take advantage of the advice of professors, who often have connections or are directly involved in the political world.
During or immediately after college, or if an individual has no college degree, it is of utmost importance that he or she make a name for himself or herself, to prove competence, skill and passion. There are many opportunities to break into politics before actually running for office, including volunteering for local governments, interest groups or political campaigns. It is not necessary, but can be extremely beneficial to affiliate with a major political party. Independent candidates do run successful campaigns, but political parties provide a solid voter base and also offer the opportunity to meet other people of like mind and interest.
In addition to making connections through the political world, an individual can break into politics by pursuing higher education in relevant fields. Many politicians are former lawyers, professors or business owners. Attending business or law school, or obtaining a doctorate can help an individual become involved at a higher level, and also become more knowledgeable of his or her field.
In most cases, it is prudent to begin a political career at the local level. Most politicians begin by running for local city councils, school boards or state congresses.
By working from the local level up, almost anyone who is intelligent, skilled and driven can break into politics. It is a fickle profession, however, and occasionally a person with no background in local politics can launch onto the state or even national scene. Certain unpredictable factors often contribute to surprise successes or shocking defeats. In seeking to break into politics, it is wise to remain honest and consistent, to keep a clean record and to work diligently to realize well-outlined goals.