Graduate School of Political Management: Is It Worth It?

by The Campaign Workshop

diploma in campaign management

Graduate School of Political Management or School of Life? Do you need grad school to run a political campaign? 

Is Graduate School of Political Management worth it? In a word: Maybe. It depends on what your goals are, like just about everything else in life. There are ever increasing opportunities to get master’s degrees in non-traditional ways and, depending on what you want to do with this degree, it may make sense to devote the time and resources to school. Campaign management is a real profession, don’t let the ripped jeans and hoodies fool you. Campaign managers are hard working, organized, multi-tasking, savvy professionals (at least the good ones are) and those are skills honed with experience and learning. If you are interested in a career in research, data, political theory and history, then by all means, go to campaign management school. But, in my opinion, if you want campaign management for your career, you can get the experience you need to become a successful campaign manager by actually working on campaigns.

In my day (as I’m no longer a campaign person and over the age of 30, I feel it important to preface all of this with “in my day”) the most successful folks in campaign management positions were in my lowly job only a few years before me. They dug in, moved to wherever the action was and primary by primary, election by election, worked their way from field organizer to regional field director, all the way to campaign manager. I have yet to see a curriculum that can match the baptism by fire that takes place on the ground. If you work it right, you could become a Campaign Manager in nearly the same number of years it would take to get your degree.

Additionally, the contacts you make on the ground are critical to getting the next job.  Most people I know looking to hire competent managers will look at your resume and want to see lots of previously-held positions on campaigns—not degrees. For better or worse, the dominant preference I have observed is the apprentice-model of learning by doing. The more experience you have and the more contacts you make who can vouch for your talents, the better.

TL/DR: If you want to go to graduate school of political management you should, but it’s not necessary for getting a campaign manager job.