Types of staff members
C-SPAN classifies staff members into five categories:
- Personal staff, who work for individual members of Congress
- Committee staff, who serve either the majority or minority on congressional committees
- Leadership staff, who work for the speaker, majority and minority leaders, and majority and minority whips in the House of Representatives, and the majority and minority leaders and assistant majority and minority leaders (whips) in the Senate
- Institutional staff, including majority or minority party floor staff and non-partisan staff such as the Capitol Police, Architect of the Capitol (facilities and maintenance employees), and legislative clerks.
- Support agency staff, non-partisan employees of the Congressional Research Service (CRS), Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and Government Accountability Office (GAO).
In the year 2000, there were approximately 11,692 personal staff, 2,492 committee staff, 274 leadership staff, 5,034 institutional staff, and 3,500 GAO employees, 747 CRS employees, and 232 CBO employees.
In 2000, every Representative hired 14 staff members, while the average Senator hired 34. In 2000, Representatives had a limit of 18 full-time and four part-time staffers; Senators had no limit on staff. Budgets for staff were determined by the population of the state; Senators from California, the most populous state, get more money for staff than Senators from Wyoming, the least populous state. Members can choose how to distribute staff between their Washington office and their district or state home office or offices.
The Congressional Management Foundation (CMF), a Washington-based research and management consulting firm, conducts surveys on congressional salaries. The table below gives average annual salaries in the year 2000. Also below is a list of annual House salaries and the number of staffers with particular titles in 2009 as calculated by Daniel Schuman of the Sunlight Foundation. The numbers are drawn from the House of Representative's Statement of Disbursements of the House, July 1, 2009 through September 30, 2009.
Quarterly earnings were multiplied by four to obtain annual salaries, so the data omits bonuses and does not account for staffers who did not work the entire quarter; staffers who carried different titles for the same job, or staffers changing jobs during the quarter. The chart also omits committee staff and a number of job titles that could not easily be classified or had less than 50 people.
|Title||Average House Annual Salary (2000)||Average Senate Annual Salary (2000)||Average House Annual Salary (2009)||House Staffers with Title (2009)||Description|
|Chief of staff||$97,619||$116,573||$120,051.55||399||"Runs the office and is the Member's top political advisor." An alternate title is Administrative assistant.|
|Deputy chief of staff||$84,346.63||291||An alternate title is Administrative assistant.|
|Legislative director||$61,075||$91,438||$72,137.79||306||"Plans legislative initiatives and strategies; supervises other legislative staff."|
|Senior legislative assistant||$57,133.94||101|
|Legislative assistant||$37,321||$48,276||$43,189.28||773||"Specializes in specific issues, monitoring bills and committee meetings in those areas; drafts floor statements and responses to constituent mail."|
|Legislative correspondent||$26,745||$25,226||$31,951.03||347||"Answers all constituent communications; drafts routine responses."|
|Executive/personal assistant||$41,068||$50,000||$51,339.82||136||"Right-hand to the Member; in many cases also the scheduler."|
|Office manager||$44,009||$57,330||"Supervises support staff; manages official accounts; buys/maintains equipment."|
|Scheduler||$41,344.56||140||An alternate title is Administrative assistant.|
|Computer systems/mail manager||$30,205||$39,612||"Maintains the computer network and correspondence management system."|
|State/district director||$61,152||$73,872||$84,346.63||291||"Heads home state office(s); political liaison to local community."|
|Deputy district director||$61,389.93||73|
|Projects/grants coordinator||$37,300||$44,000||"Seeks federal funding for District/State projects and institutions."|
|Constituent services representative||$38,872.48||145|
Not all offices have the same type of organization, and different titles may be used for substantially similar jobs. Common jobs are:
- Chief of staff - Highest-ranking and usually highest-paid legislative staffer in the office of a member of Congress, usually the chief operating officer of the office, reporting directly to the member. Oversees a dozen or more other employees. Some chiefs of staffs are charged with personnel decisions and policy initiatives. From time to time a chief of staff may be based out of a district office, but they are almost always found at the Capitol ("on the "Hill"). Chiefs of staffs are usually very experienced political staffers, often with years of prior work on the Hill, or are personal friends of Members. Some chiefs of staff were previously campaign managers.
- Deputy chief of staff - Reports to the chief of staff.
- Legislative director (LD), senior legislative assistant (SLA), or legislative coordinator (LC) is a person who oversees legislative staff, including all legislative assistants and correspondent. There is usually one in each office.
- Legislative correspondent (LC) - Responsible for drafting letters in response to constituents' comments and questions and also generally responsible for a few legislative issues. According to the Dirksen Congressional Center, most House offices have one or two, while Senators have three to five, depending on their state's population.
- Press secretary or communications director - Responsible for Member's relationship with media; is the liaison for the local and national press; issues press releases.
- Caseworkers or constituent services representatives - Responsible for helping constituents deal with problems relating to federal agencies. For example, caseworkers help individuals secure veterans' benefits, aid with Social Security and Medicare, and resolve immigration issues. Caseworkers may also provide mediation services to constituents and obtain government information and publications.
Each congressional committee has a staff, of varying sizes. Appropriations for committee staff are made in annual legislative appropriations bills. Majority and minority members hire their own staff except on two select committees in each house - the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct and Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in the House and the Select Committee on Ethics and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in the Senate. These committees have a single staff.
In 2000, House committees had an average of 68 staff and Senate committees an average of 46. Committee staff includes both staff directors, committee counsel, committee investigators, press secretaries, chief clerks and office managers, schedules, documents clerks, and assistants.
- C-SPAN's Capitol Questions, November 15, 2000.
- Daniel Schuman, "What's The Average Salary of House Staff?" (December 2, 2009). Sunlight Foundation.
- "Overview of 13 common staff positions" (PDF). U.S. House of Representatives Committee on House Administration. Retrieved 2014-02-27.
- "How to Communicate Effectively with Congress," Dirksen Congressional Center.