The Open House Project from The Sunlight Foundation

What’s The Average Salary of House Staff?

December 2nd, 2009 by Daniel Schuman · 6 Comments

Ever wonder how much congressional staff earn? It’s possible to look up individual staff on Legistorm, but what I’m interested in is whether staff compensation match the roles that staffers play, particularly when compared to private sector employment.

Fortunately, with the help of Sunlight Lab’s team, I’ve been able to examine the staff compensation question by playing with data from the recently released House of Representative’s Statement of Disbursements of the House, July 1, 2009 through September 30, 2009.

These numbers aren’t perfect.* But, they represent a good first approximation of House staffer salaries.

Title Average Annual Salary No. of Staff with this title
CHIEF OF STAFF $120,051.55 399
DISTRICT DIRECTOR $84,346.63 291
DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF $84,121.66 85
LEGISLATIVE DIRECTOR $72,137.79 306
DEPUTY DISTRICT DIRECTOR $61,389.93 73
COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR $58,359.05 207
SENIOR LEGISLATIVE ASSISTANT $57,133.94 101
LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL $51,814.67 53
EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT $51,339.82 136
PRESS SECRETARY $50,524.05 164
DISTRICT REPRESENTATIVE $45,758.97 142
LEGISLATIVE ASSISTANT $43,189.28 773
SCHEDULER $41,344.56 140
CASEWORKER $40,898.49 307
FIELD REPRESENTATIVE $40,138.49 266
CONGRESSIONAL AIDE $39,906.24 123
CONSTITUENT SERVICES REPRESENT $38,872.48 145
LEGISLATIVE CORRESPONDENT $31,951.03 347
STAFF ASSISTANT $29,890.54 1072

Part of what struck me is how nearly all congressional staff pay is squeezed between $30-$60k annually. The people who are working on issues worth billions of dollars and overseeing all federal agencies earn less than entry level pay for an executive branch employee with a professional degree (or a master’s degree with one year’s experience).

It would be interesting to compare the pay for these positions against their private sector or executive branch equivalents, taking into account Washington D.C.’s higher-than-average cost of living. Keep in mind that most U.S. Representatives earn $174,000 annually.

* The numbers below represent educated guesses drawn from that data. My summary is error prone in many ways: I’ve multiplied quarterly earnings by 4 to obtain annual salaries, thereby omitting bonuses and including people who didn’t work the entire quarter; not everyone uses the same title to describe the same job; some people change jobs during the quarter; this does not include committee office staff; and I’ve omitted a number of job titles that I couldn’t easily classify or did not have at least 50 people with that title. Another possible problem is that I cannot disambiguate staff who live in the DC metropolitan area, and those who live elsewhere in the country.

This page turner is available in PDF format from the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer, and the underlying data on Members of Congress’s personal offices has been arduously pulled from that report and is available from Sunlight. (There still more information that needs to be scraped, such as from committees, non-legislative offices, etc.)

Tags: openhouseproject

6 responses so far ↓

  • Jadxia // Dec 2, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    Not forgetting the hundreds of unpaid interns who are hoping to land a paying job on the Hill.. and the fact that most of these folks work well over forty hours a week.

    Is it any wonder how tempting it is to be corrupt?

  • HC // Dec 5, 2009 at 12:12 am

    That’s not entirely right…it’s not uncommon for an executive branch employee with a professional degree to start at or slightly below the high end of that number, even in DC (professional series starts at GS-11).

    Also remember that there are a number of non-paid interns working up there at any given time as well, and a number of the lower paid staffers work there on the largess of their parents/etc. in the expectation of that experience leading on to bigger and better things. Also, the expertise differential between low-end Hill staffers and high-end ones is just as dramatic, if not more, than the pay differential.

  • Al Gearing // Dec 9, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Just for fun I multiplied out the above numbers, rounded to the given $1000, that is $120,051.55 was entered at $120,000, and came up with $240,000,000 a year for the staff salaries. Add in $174,000 x 435 = 75,980,000. For a grand total of $315,980,000 for our House of Representatives, I can’t but think that is the beginning of wasteful spending. My firm conviction is that we could live very nicely with only the Ten Commanments, and maybe a 200 or so derivatives to detail such things as rules for safe driving. Not the 1000 upon 1000’s of pages of laws that we have and more to come, that limit our liberties.
    Al Ge

  • D. W. Plezia // Jan 3, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    You say: “Part of what struck me is how nearly all congressional staff pay is squeezed between $30-$60k annually. The people who are working on issues worth billions of dollars and overseeing all federal agencies earn less than entry level pay for an executive branch employee with a professional degree (or a master’s degree with one year’s experience).”

    They may not be doing their jobs or what we think are supposed to be their jobs.

    After all, don’t the lobbiests prepare most of the legislation? These people may just be runners. Or relatives?

  • Dori Ullman // Jan 28, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    I don’t think the pay is inflated. However, the position of Staff Assistant isn’t making enough salary. They probably qualify for food stamps in DC. The problem, it seems to me, to be the numbers of different types of staff there are to give assistance to the Senators and Representatives to get the job done. Actually, they don’t get it done. But, still that’s too much support staff.

  • Anonymous // Feb 14, 2011 at 11:53 am

    I am a Field Representative for a Congressman in Texas and my salary is $37,000 a year and the staff assistants are getting arround $22,000 i get 600 dlls in deductions monthly I actually receive about $2400 a month do you guys think thats fair? our Chief of staff said we had budget cuts, I work from 7:30am till 6:30pm and on saturdays I have to be present at events I work about 45-55 hours a week

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