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Young consultants - salaries, routes into the industry, and internships

Our colleague Emma Petela, Deputy Chair, Public Affairs Board Executive Committee, is publishing a series of articles, based on the findings of a survey undertaken by the APPC earlier this year. You can read the first of these articles, here. As Vice Chairs of the Young Consultants Committee we are pleased to share some of the survey findings which look specifically at younger members of our industry.


The UK’s lobbying industry is staffed by a large number of young consultants. One of our primary motivations for getting involved in the Young Consultants Committee was a sense that it was important for the younger members of our industry to have a strong voice in helping to shape our industry and its representative body. Indeed, according to our survey, under-30s represent 42% of lobbyists. If you include the under-40s (arguably “young” by comparison with the UK’s political classes) then “young” lobbyists make up almost 80% of practitioners.


So, how well are these young consultants remunerated? You can see from the graph (right) that consultants aged 24 or under are typically taking home under £30,000 per annum, although a small percentage earn between £30-£40,000. In the next age group we looked at (25-29) around half say thay take home between £30-£40,000, with a small handful earning up to £60,000 p.a. For consultants aged between 30-39, we find a much wider spread of salary brackets, with the largest proportion (31%) saying they earn between £80-£100,000 each year. None of the under-40s are in our highest earner bracket (over £150,000 p.a.). It’s worth noting that we haven’t taken into consideration the location of consultants, which would have an impact on pay packets, with some expected “London weighting” for those in the capital. We did ask respondents for their pro rata salary in order to understand equivalent full-time pay, for those working part-time.  


As we would expect, most under-25s (64%) hold roles as account executives, with a small number in account manager roles. For consultants aged 25-29, 62% are account managers, whilst for the 30-39 age range there’s a much greater split in seniority, with consultants ranging from account managers right through to company owners.



There have been high-profile initiatives across many industries over recent years to eliminate unpaid internships. Indeed, the PRCA itself has won the support of many members after launching an initiative, in conjunction with PRWeek, to end the practice of unpaid internships, as part of its commitment to raising standards in all areas of the communications industry.


From the results of our survey, exploring consultants’ routes into the public affairs industry, it would appear that there is good news here - paid internships are on the increase. 43% of those aged 20-24 say that a paid internship was their route into the industry. Not a single respondent in this age group started out in an unpaid role. For 25-29 year-olds 29% started their lobbying career with a paid internship, and just over 10% started via an unpaid internship. But for the 30-39s, just 6% began as paid interns, compared to 15% who started as unpaid interns. Nobody aged 40 or over said that they joined the industry via a paid internship, reflecting perhaps the extent to which the job market – particularly at entry-level – has been transformed over recent years. As you can see from the purple bar in the above chart, the proportion of consultants joining the public affairs industry from Parliament or a policy job has remained relatively consistent over time.


Sign-posting by careers advice services

We find that the public affairs affairs industry is increasingly being sign-posted by careers advisers, but arguably still not enough. When we look at the age breakdown of people who responded to the question “To what extent did your university or college careers service promote public affairs as a career option?”, we find that 50% of consultants aged 20-24 say that public affairs was ‘promoted alongside other careers opportunities or was promoted “to a limited extent” (50% still said that the industry was not promoted at all). But compare that to those aged 30-39, almost 80% of whom say that the industry was not promoted at all by their university or college careers services.

The results suggest there is an upward - and welcome - trend at play here. The big caveat to this is that not a single respondent said that public affairs was “strongly promoted” by relevant careers services – rather, if the discipline was actively promoted, it was done so only alongside other careers opportunities. So, some progress, but more still needs to be done.



We hope that this offers some interesting insights into elements of young consultants’ experiences of our industry. The Public Affairs Board will be launching a fully-fledged Public Affairs Census in 2019 which will build on these results, which will hopefully provide a useful baseline for future findings.