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What Is a Career Politician?

M.C. Huguelet
Updated May 23, 2024
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The expression career politician refers to political figures who have no significant professional experience outside of the political arena. On the whole, this expression has a derogatory connotation and is used to suggest that a particular politician lacks real-world experience. In 21st century US politics, the term is commonly associated with the conservative viewpoint, and is often deployed by conservative politicians to illustrate their opposition to so-called big government as well as their sympathy for the public. Some politicians, journalists, and thinkers question whether a career politician is automatically less qualified to serve her constituents than an individual with outside professional experience.

Essentially, a career politician is an individual who has never worked outside the political arena, or who has worked in politics for a period significantly greater than that spent working in an outside field. This term usually has a negative connotation, and therefore is not generally used to describe oneself. Rather, it is most often used as an insult by those who oppose a particular politician, such as competing politicians.

As an expression, career politician enjoys particularly widespread use in early 21st century American politics, where it may be leveled at a political figure by his literal and ideological opponents during debates and campaign speeches, in newspaper articles and on political talk shows, and so on. Often, the term is used by those with a conservative political stance. These individuals may disparage a particular politician as having made a career of politics in an attempt to demonstrate that they themselves oppose government involvement in everyday life, and in certain cases even to suggest that the politician in question may be susceptible to corruption. Labeling particular figures career politicians can also be a tactic used to suggest that those figures are out of touch with the needs of the general public.

A number of journalists, politicians, and thinkers question the assumptions associated with the term. These individuals hold that a figure whose career has been dominated by politics is not automatically less capable of serving her constituents than one who has outside experience, just as a politician with outside experience is not necessarily more capable of serving than a career politician. Instead of summarily dismissing those who have devoted a significant part of their careers to politics, such individuals argue, it is important to assess each potential candidate based on her skills, platform, and existing political record.

In reflecting upon this, consider a parallel with one's personal career: what to do if you hate your job. Just as someone may feel trapped in a job they dislike, a career politician might find themselves entrenched in the political field due to years of commitment. But remember, dissatisfaction should not mean complacency. It can spur a search for alternative paths and inspire a re-evaluation of values and goals, whether in an office job or in politics. Similarly, labeling someone a career politician shouldn't discredit their potential to change, adapt and serve in different, possibly more effective ways.


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M.C. Huguelet
By M.C. Huguelet
Cate Huguelet, a Chicago-based freelance writer with a passion for storytelling, crafts engaging content for a wide range of publications, including Historical Index. With degrees in Writing and English, she brings a unique perspective and a commitment to clean, precise copy that resonates with readers. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a valuable asset to any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By anon996333 — On Aug 13, 2016

There should never be such a thing as a "career politician".

By Rundocuri — On Dec 19, 2014

@raynbow- I think that anyone who wants to be a good politician and possibly stay in the field for life should start right in his or her own community. There is not better way to l earn the ropes of the field than start in an area that you know.

It is also a great way to get to know people and find out about their needs and concerns for their lives and of the community. It also helps an aspiring politician learn what voters expect from the people who represent them.

Once a person feels comfortable with the thought of representing his or her constituents, running for a local position will be easy. A position as a school board member, a city council person, or a county commissioner can easily lead a motivated person into a rewarding life in politics. It's very important though that he or she always remember that the voters are what is most important, not the power, money, or prestige of the position.

By Raynbow — On Dec 18, 2014

I have a friend who loves politics, and though the career field has a negative reputation, he wants to go into it and be one of the good ones! What is the best way for him to get his foot in the door once he graduates from college?

M.C. Huguelet
M.C. Huguelet
Cate Huguelet, a Chicago-based freelance writer with a passion for storytelling, crafts engaging content for a wide...
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