Political commentators are a different breed of news correspondents than political reporters. Instead of reporting on the news, these analysts interpret the political landscape, offering their opinions on everything from politicians to public policies – sometimes to a polarizing effect. Those working in cable TV often earn much more than the “average” broadcast news analyst.
In 2012, half of all broadcast news analysts earned at least $55,380 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10 percent brought home more than $170,400, while bottom 10 percent earned less than $27,450. Those working for cable networks, on the other hand, averaged closer to $102,260 a year.
If you’re lucky enough to rise in the ranks of political commentators, salaries can reach seven to eight figures. For example, Rachel Maddow, a liberal political commentator for MSNBC, and Charlie Rose, a political correspondent for CBS, both earn $2 million a year. Joe Scarborough, a conservative political commentator for MSNBC, earns $3.5 million, while Chris Matthews, a liberal political commentator for MSNBC, earns $4.5 million. Laura Ingraham, a conservative political commentator on XM Radio, earns $7 million a year. Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, all conservative political commentators, earn $20 million or more a year.
Employers typically seek candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree in journalism or communications. But with political commentators, a degree in political science, economics or law may be preferred. Internships at news organizations can also prove beneficial, as they provide not only practical experience but also a deeper understanding of the political, social and economical environment.
The BLS expects employment for broadcast news analysts to grow by as much as 10 percent through 2020. While better than the 8 percent decline in employment for reporters and correspondents, it’s still slower than the average growth rate for all U.S. occupations, an estimated 14 percent. News organizations are more interested in hiring analysts to interpret and provide commentary on politics and other news stories than reporters who offer the unbiased facts of current events.
- Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images