Climbing That Ladder: Will Graduate School Help on Capitol Hill?

Too cool for graduate school? How graduate school affects Capitol Hill job prospects (CQ Roll Call File Photo).

Got ambition? Plenty of high-ranking Capitol Hill staffers once started answering the phones and answering mail (even before there was email ... back when dinosaurs roamed the earth). But take a look at any resume stack and graduate school comes up quite a bit. So just how helpful is that graduate degree on Capitol Hill? Hill Navigator discusses:

Can Hill Staffers Be Successful MBA Applicants?

From Capitol Hill to graduate school: Can Hill experience translate? (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Graduate school is a common career trajectory for Capitol Hill staff, many of whom are fresh out of college and sit, at least at this point of their lives, at the tip of their careers.  

Understanding the legislative process can pique an interest in law or public policy, but what about those for whom a master's in business administration is most appealing? How does Capitol Hill experience look on MBA applications? Hill Navigator spoke to two admissions officers at competitive business schools to find out.  

Student Loan Forgiveness for Staff on Chopping Block

The public service loan forgiveness program, which provides incentives for public service, may be facing cuts in this year's budget. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

One of the more generous benefits for congressional staffers might be on the chopping block in this year’s budget. The House and Senate budgets include cuts for education, employment and training, including the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. The program forgives all federally backed student loans for those working for 10 cumulative years in public service — including time spent on Capitol Hill.  

Both the House and Senate budgets would cut the subsidy that allows people to not pay interest while they’re in undergraduate studies and for six months after. The Student Loan Repayment Program , which authorizes the House and Senate and select federal agencies to pay back student loans, would not be affected. The budget conference committee started meetings this week to work out the differences between the chambers' two versions. It’s not clear how many current and former Hill staffers would be affected by discontinuing the forgiveness program, which was was started in 2007. Those eligible would begin receiving their full forgiveness in 2017. Any changes are not likely to affect those already enrolled, but would affect future graduates pursuing public service.  

Hill Staffer Student Loan Perk Comes With Caveats

Working on Capitol Hill may help shoulder some of that mounting student loan debt. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Have student loans and want a $10,000 raise? The Student Loan Repayment Program, offered through both the House and Senate, can shoulder the student loan burden for up to $10,000 per staff member per year.  

The funds come from a central account administered by the House Chief Administrative Officer and the secretary of the Senate — not from the participating office or committee budget. So a member of Congress looking to give staffers a financial boost without dipping deeper into their Members’ Representational Allowance can easily take advantage. But there are several limits, both from the program and the offices, that restrict the amount of repayment, as well as which staffers can take advantage of the program. Interns are not eligible, nor are part-time or temporary workers, even those who are paid. Only full-time staffers are eligible.  

Double Duty: Graduate School and Capitol Hill

Can a staffer juggle Capitol Hill and graduate school? Former Rep. Vernon J. Ehlers, R-Mich., pictured during his physics professor days at the University of California, Berkeley (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Hill staffers can do anything: pen legislation, autograph in lieu of a member of Congress, even run for office . But can they carry on the demanding, long-hours job while going to graduate school at night? Hill Navigator discusses.

Are You an Expert? Ways to Tell

Does your expertise translate on Capitol Hill? (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Among all the hard-working, necktie-to-the-grindstone staffers out there, you’ll notice common themes: All are smart; all are well-connected, and all claim to be “experts.” Sure, the expertise might be in constituent mail merges or flag requests, but such mundane knowledge is valuable. So how can you tell if you’re truly an “expert” in Capitol Hill parlance? Hill Navigator discusses.

Bigger and Better Things: Staffers Who Run for Office

Marc Korman, a former Hill staffer, campaigns for a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates outside the Bethesda Metro stop. Korman won his June primary and is expected to win the general election. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Think being a congressional staffer can lead to bigger and better things? What about public office? You’re in good company: 75 of the current House and Senate members previously served as congressional staff, according to CQ Roll Call Member Information and Research. Hill Navigator discusses what aspects of the job may serve you well.

Beginner’s Guide to Political Reporting Jobs

A scrum of reporters surround Ted Cruz following his 21-hour filibuster against the Affordable Care Act. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

So you want to be a reporter? You want to join the profession listed as among the worst jobs of 2014 , at a time when publishing industry is going through a “period of turmoil ”?  

For some of us, that answer is "yes." It's a reporter's life's for you.  

The Shelf Life of Recommendation Letters

Each of us has a short list tucked away someplace: the handful of people who say nice things about us and are willing to serve as recommendations. By their very nature, recommendations are favorably biased--we’re more likely to provide the names of the people who view us as successes, rather than failures, so this is a less a scientific examination and more of a praise-a-thon. But what if you want to use your member of Congress’ office on your short list, even if your internship was back in the days of Speaker Dennis Hastert? Hill Navigator discusses.

Notes on Staffers Left Behind: The PMF Saga

Public service isn't easy. Once upon a time it was lauded as a job with cushy benefits and easy hours, but talk to anyone who works on Capitol Hill or for a government agency, and you'll find their experience indicates the opposite. In every branch of government there are smart, motivated, hard-working, high-achieving staffers who could be doubling their salary in the private sector. And yet they choose to stay.*  

Programs including the Presidential Management Fellowship serve as a pathway for would-be staffers with graduate degrees to enter public service. The process is competitive (about 600 of 12,000 applicants win the opportunity), time-consuming (finalists can take up to a year to find placement) and expensive (travel expenses for the interviews are your own).