Speech writers (also called speechwriters) are among the most highly-paid professionals in the field of writing and journalism — often as a result of their extensive experience and knowledge. Have you ever wondered what a presidential speech writer might earn on a yearly basis, or even how to become a presidential speech writer?
This may be one of the most elusive jobs in the country — but that does not mean that other lucrative and fascinating speech-writing jobs are not available to you.
Average Salary for Presidential Speech Writers
The average salary for presidential speech writers is entirely unclear — but even if everyone who had formerly held this position made their salaries public, the sample size would be rather small. There is only one President of the United States at any one time, after all, and even if the president chooses to engage multiple speech writers, the employment pool would still be very tiny indeed.
Despite that — discouraging, if being a presidential speech writer is your dream job — fact, we can glean data from other types of speech writers. Numerous politicians, from senators to mayors or aldermen, may engage speech writers from time to time. The same holds true for numerous other professionals, such as:
- The CEOs of companies, alongside other executive officers.
- Officers in non-profit organizations, for example to increase their fundraising potential.
- Important figures in public institutions such as universities, fire departments, or the postal service.
- Famous athletes.
- Celebrities such as models or musicians.
Even everyday people such may call on professional speech writers, such as for help with writing a graduation speech.
According to the salary-tracking website Salary.com:
- The median annual salary for speech writers is $137,000 across the United States.
- On the lower end of the salary scale, a professional speech writer may earn as much as $90,248.
- The top speech writers can earn more than $211,501 per year.
ZipRecruiter offers significantly different data, suggesting that the average annual salary for speech writers is $67,765. PayScale, meanwhile, reports that speech writers make an average of $84,859 annually.
Keep in mind that, while the data these websites collect is based on real salaries earned by real speech writers, participation in data collection is voluntary. Your true earnings potential depends on your experience, talent, education, and the niche within which you are writing speeches.
Considering that the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that writers and authors — across all industries, including, for instance, script writers, academic writers, and journalists — earn a median annual salary of $67,120. According to the BLS, the lowest 10 percent make no more than $35,880, while the top 10 percent earn an annual salary of $133,460 or more.
This indicates that speech writers typically have higher salaries than other types of writers, even at the lower end of the pay scale.
What Do Presidential Speech Writers Make Per Hour?
Of the most popular online platforms that collect information about salary ranges, only ZipRecruiter is able to offer estimates that pertain to hourly earnings. They report, based on an annual salary of $67,765, that speech writers earn an average of $33 per hour.
This refers to speech writers in general, and not to presidential speech writers. The more important the duties of the public figure for whom a speech writer creates an effective speech, the higher their hourly earnings are likely to be.
Salary Based on Experience
Becoming a presidential speech writer is likely to be the pinnacle of someone’s career. John McConnell, for instance, was a resident fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics in the John F. Kennedy School of Government before he became a presidential speech writer, as well as serving as Deputy Assistant to the President and Assistant to the Vice President while he was acting as a speech writer for President George W. Bush.
The role of presidential speech writer is not an entry-level position. It requires deep political engagement and experience as well as strong writing skills.
The same holds true for other political speech writers and speech writers serving business leaders or non-profit organizations. The salary estimates presented are high because they pertain to industry experts. Speech writers, additionally, have to be highly trusted.
Salary Based on Education
Presidential speech writers will likely hold a PhD in political sciences or related fields. At lower levels, speech writers may hold Bachelor’s degrees in a relevant field. Speech writers need to be experts in persuasive and charismatic writing as well as in the field of the person they are writing speeches for. As such, the salary ranges you see assume a high level of education by definition.
Top Paying States
Although travel may be required, presidential speech writers are based in Washington, DC, by definition.
Serving as a presidential speech writer is likely the crowning glory on anyone’s (long and impressive) career. Political speech writers serving lower-level politicians such as senators and congressmen may, however, aspire to one day write speeches for a presidential candidate or a President.
The same could be said for lower-level speech writers. Talented speech writers who have worked with local celebrities or entrepreneurs may reasonably seek to build on that valuable experience by expanding their work to craft efficient and beautiful speeches for nationally-recognized public figures.
It is important to note, however, that speech writing is an extremely niche profession. According to FederalPay.org, “speechwriter was the 1319th most popular job in the US government in 2014”.
Aspiring speech writers will find more opportunities outside of this narrow scope, but the role of speech writer remains an exclusive one — unless, of course, you are willing to write speeches for just about anyone as a freelancer.
What Exactly Does a Presidential Speech Writer Do?
A speech writer crafts rhetorically riveting and compelling speeches that allow the public figure who is delivering the speech to connect with their target audience on a deep level. A speech writer:
- Researches policy points and public opinion.
- Uses this knowledge to write speeches that persuade and connect.
- Fact-checks the speech multiple times to ensure accuracy at all times.
- Is an excellent student of human nature, or has an excellent understanding of psychology. A speech writer uses their knowledge of the person for whom they are writing a speech to write a speech that perfectly corresponds to that person’s personality, mannerism, speech patterns, and beliefs.
- Communicates with the public figure who will be delivering the speech, making revisions in accordance with their instructions at all stages of speech-writing.
These points remain relevant even for speech writers who are not writing presidential speeches, but are rather creating engaging speeches for other public figures.
How to Become a Presidential Speech Writer?
Becoming a presidential speech writer requires higher education in a field such as political science, diplomacy, communications, or journalism. To be able to reach this ambition, a person would first need to become politically engaged, and likely have a very deep passion for politics.
An aspiring presidential speech writer would initially write speeches for politicians at lower levels, such as senators and congressmen. They might follow their chosen candidate throughout their own career progression. Presidential speech writers are invited, rather than hired, though.
Those people who have the expectation of going online, heading to a job search website, being interviewed, and potentially being hired, will find that political speech writing is not the profession they are looking for.
Qualifications to Be a Presidential Speech Writer
Speech writers, in general, typically have Bachelor’s degrees, or higher, in fields such as journalism, communications, English, or political science. They may take courses in speech writing, public relations, rhetoric, research methods, and negotiation.
Skills to Be a Presidential Speech Writer
Presidential speech writers, as well as other political speech writers and speech writers in domains outside of politics, require:
- Outstanding writing skills.
- A deep understanding of psychology, particularly persuasion.
- An abundance of empathy, as speech writers must be able to “get into the head” of the person for whom they are writing speeches. This includes being able to mimic the linguistic patterns of the person whose speeches you are writing.
- Excellent research and fact-checking skills. Public figures depend on their speech writers to craft speeches that are factually accurate.
Can You Be a Presidential Speech Writer Without a Degree?
It is nearly impossible to become a presidential speech writer without possessing an advanced degree, as well as a keen interest in, and commitment to, a particular political party. Presidential speech writers help to craft some of the most important words spoken in history, after all.
The skills speech writers in general require depend on their niche. Writing speeches for a CEO in a tech field will, for example, require different skills than writing speeches for cancer-related charities.