What Does a Chief of Staff to a Congressman Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

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Image by Ellen Lindner © The Balance 2019

The chief of staff acts as the bridge between the congressional members and the rest of the members’ employees. If you walked around Capitol Hill while Congress was in session, you would see countless congressional staffers dressed in business formal attire zipping through the halls and around the grounds.

All of these professionals, working to support members of Congress, do not work with the elected officials on a day-to-day basis. Instead, they work under chiefs of staff who are tasked with directing the work of people employed by members of Congress and various committees.

Chief of Staff to a Congressman Duties & Responsibilities

A congressional chief of staff has a variety of duties and responsibilities. They may also be called an administrative assistant, although their job duties carry much more responsibility than those of an administrative assistant that works as support staff in a standard office environment. Duties include the following:

  •  Directly supervise both full-time and part-time employees, including interviewing, hiring, training, assigning work, writing performance reviews and more
  • Set and oversee the administration of office goals, policies, and procedures
  • Manage the congress member's long-term legislative plan
  • Conduct staff meetings
  • Speak to local groups when the member is not available
  • Oversee the office budget
  • Act as the member's main liaison for constituents and various interest groups

Chief of Staff to a Congressman Salary

According to Glassdoor.com, the average salary for a congressional chief of staff was $148,035 in 2018. Each congressional member pays their chief of staff differently and some members may also have more than one chief of staff.

 According to Glassdoor.com, the salaries in 2018 ranged from a low of $145,000 to a high of $182,000.These salaries are significantly higher than those of their usual direct reports; however, those on the next rung down the ladder still make good wages.

Education, Training & Certification

Individuals who want to work as a congressional chief of staff must, at a minimum, fulfill the following requirements:

  • Education: Congressional chiefs of staff tend to have college degrees, preferably in political science.
  • Work experience: Before landing this position, individuals hold jobs in congressional offices, at federal agencies, in law firms, and in private businesses. Many have diverse employment experiences and significant experience on Capitol Hill can help them adapt to the work environment and responsibilities of the chief of staff position.

Chief of Staff to a Congressman Skills & Competencies

To perform well in the chief of staff position, individuals must possess certain soft skills in addition to education and work experience, such as the following:

  • Communication skills: People who are hired into chief of staff positions are skilled at networking because landing one of these jobs often involves having very powerful people respect your talent and professionalism.
  • Performance under pressure: Works well under pressure and has the ability to handle stress well
  • Work flexibility: Maintains a flexible schedule and meets the member's attendance requirements
  • Interpersonal skills: Maintains a good working relationship with the member, staff, and constituents

    Job Outlook

    The number of U.S. congressmen is fixed at 435, due to legislation called the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929. Congressional chief of staff jobs may become available based on attrition, non-performance, or other circumstances, but the number of available jobs will not exceed the number of representatives.

    Work Environment

    A congressional chief of staff's work is performed mainly in an office environment. Candidates should expect to work in a small station such as a cubicle, with moderate noise and no expectation of privacy.

    Work Schedule

    A chief of staff should expect to be flexible about their work hours, and be prepared to put in long hours, nights, and weekends.

    How to Get the Job

    NETWORK

    You won’t find these jobs posted publicly very often. These positions are often earned by building a good reputation and an extensive professional network.


    Members seek recommendations from their colleagues and their colleagues’ chiefs of staff. Politicians need people they can trust to look out for their best interests and to complete work with excellence.

    Comparing Similar Jobs

    • Congressional Office manager: $27,000-$37,000
    • Congressional Legislative director: $83,020

     Source: Glassdoor.com, 2019