How to Become a Senator

Three Methods:Starting Out in PoliticsReaching the SenateBecoming a Senator without a Popular Election

Most senates are responsible for debating and voting in new laws for their country, and usually represent a specific region and its citizens. The position of senator is especially valued in the United States, but these instructions include general instructions for entering any law-making senate, especially one formed by popular election.

Method 1
Starting Out in Politics

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    Learn what a senator does. Find out what a senator has to do before you decide whether you want to become one. The job definitely requires patience and an interest in politics and law.[1]
    • The main duty of a senator is to vote on potential new laws called bills. These bills often require close attention and repeated changes before they can pass a vote.
    • Senators often form specialized committees to discuss specific issues. If you are interested in a subject such as trade or the environment, becoming a senator might come with the opportunity to examine better ways to construct laws that relate to that subject.
    • Senators represent a specific state or region, and must be prepared to defend that group's interests whenever a new law affects the voters who elected her or him.
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    Follow the news. Try to follow as much news as you can, especially about political events. Gather your news from a variety of newspapers, television stations, or websites, even ones you don't agree with, and think critically about each person's opinion.
    • If you have a friend who's also interested in politics but disagrees with you, this is a great opportunity for debate. Don't make it personal or hurt your friendship; consider it good practice understanding people in a different political position.
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    Form your political views. You probably already have opinions on certain issues, but try to investigate the details. Determine which ones you feel most strongly about, and what exactly you think should be done about them.
    • Keep sight of what you want to do when you're in the senate, not what you think you have to say to get there. You want to build a base of happy supporters, not lie to get votes then immediately lose your office in the next election.
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    Get involved in local politics. If you agree with the work of a particular political party, ask the local branch about volunteering or job opportunities. If you would rather remain independent, become familiar with the political process by volunteering at a polling station or joining your school's student government.
    • Many non-profit organizations want volunteers or temporary employees to spread word about a specific issue. Research an issue you care about, especially one that might be voted on in the next year, and contact organizations that you support to ask about opportunities.
    • If you can't spare the time for a full job, find out when your city council or political party branch holds meetings. These are often open to the public or party members and can teach you more about the political process with less time commitment.
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    Go to college. This isn't technically a requirement, but it's extremely difficult to get elected without a bachelor's degree or higher. In 2014, only one U.S. senator out of the entire 100 had no education past high school.[2]
    • Political science and law are the two most common subjects studied by future senators. In 2014, 57 out of 100 U.S. senators held degrees from law school.[3]
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    Pursue a career. Many future senators gain valuable connections and respect by first pursuing careers in law, business, nonprofit work, or the military. You don't need to follow the traditional paths, but try to find work that helps people in some way.

Method 2
Reaching the Senate

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    Meet the requirements. Any senate has certain requirements for its members, but you can often become eligible even if you aren't now. Senators in the United States and Australia are elected by popular vote, while senators in other English-speaking countries are mostly appointed by other politicians. Here are the requirements for the United States senate:[4]
    • You must be at least 30 years old when you begin your job. You can run for election when you're 29 as long as you have your 30th birthday before the term begins.
    • You must be a citizen of the United States for 9 years. If you were born in the United States, you are automatically a citizen. Otherwise, there are several ways to become a citizen.
    • You must "inhabit" the state you represent. You have to live at least part of the time in the state you represent, but you are allowed to spend most of your time outside of it. Most senators spend a lot of time traveling between their home state and Washington, D.C., the U.S. capital.
    • If you have many years to wait, you could try running for a different political office. Representatives do similar work, and only need to be 25 years old and a citizen for 7 years.[5] In some states, you can run for governor when you're as young as 18!
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    Get involved in political campaigns. Once you have some education and experience with local politics, try to get a job working on someone's election campaign. Make sure to find out about campaigns for non-national positions first, such as for the state legislature or city mayor.
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    Talk to as many people as possible. When you're considering running for election yourself, you'll need support from a wide variety of people. Start with your friends, family, and coworkers, but talk to local voters and organizations as well.
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    Fundraise. Get your supporters' contact information so you can ask for donations. You'll need money to get your message out.
    • Learn about campaign finance laws in your area. There may be a limit on how much each candidate can spend, or the government may give each candidate a certain amount of money if they agree to a limit.
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    Run for a smaller election first. Having experience in a different political office, or several of them, is an excellent way to get noticed, get experience, and build connections. Try running for city or county government, the board of a school district, or another position that suits your interests. Build up to the state legislature and other mid-level positions until you are ready for a senate campaign.
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    Enter the senate. In the United States, Australia, and many other countries, entering the senate means winning another election campaign. In others, such as Ireland or Canada, you need to be appointed or voted in by another politician or group of them. Either way, the preceding steps are the most successful way to gain the visibility and experience you need to end up in your country's senate.

Method 3
Becoming a Senator without a Popular Election

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    Receive an appointment to fill a vacant senate seat. When a senator dies or leaves office in the middle of a term, the empty position he or she leaves behind must be filled.
    • In some U.S. states, the governor appoints the temporary senator, who serves until the next general election.
    • In other U.S. states, the temporary appointment only lasts a few weeks or months until a special election is held, or the seat remains vacant until the election.[6]
    • Similar systems are usually in place for non-American senates, although some such as the Australian Senate fill vacated positions through a vote of both legislative houses.[7]
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    Get selected by state legislature (no longer possible in the United States). Originally, every U.S. state legislatures selected people to become national senators. States began reforming these laws in the 19th century, and in 1913 the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution declared every senate seat determined by popular vote.[8]
    • Some senates of other countries are partially or wholly selected using this system, including the Senate of Spain and the Federation Council of Russia.[9][10]
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    Receive a permanent appointment (not possible in the United States). In some countries, senators serve for many years, and the occasional vacancies are filled by appointment by another politician.
    • The Senate of Canada, for instance, is composed of members appointed by the Canadian prime minister, who serve until the age of 75.[11]


  • If you're a high school student in the United States and want to experience the senate firsthand, write your senator about the Congressional Page Program, which hires juniors and seniors to deliver messages to members of congress and assist them in other tasks.
  • Having a famous name may help in getting elected, but it's often better to "work your way up" if you want your other senators to respect and collaborate with you.

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Categories: Careers in Government