High School Home :: What Is Congress? > House Members
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives are elected by their constituents to represent their districts in Congress. Elections are held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November of even-numbered years. Representatives, the title given to Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, are elected to serve a two year term. There is no limit to the number of terms a Representative can serve.
The 435 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives are apportioned, or divided proportionally, among the 50 states based on each state's population of taxpaying citizens. Each state is then divided into districts based on the number of Representatives apportioned to it. Districts are reapportioned every 10 years, 3 years after the last census. For more information on apportionment, visit the Office of the Clerk Web site.
Some states have too few citizens to be divided into districts and, instead, are represented by a Member-at-Large. Currently, there are seven states represented by a Member-at-Large: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming. California, with 53 Representatives in Congress, has the largest representation.
Becoming a Representative
The United States Constitution outlines the only requirements for candidates to the U.S. House of Representatives. To be eligible, a candidate must be at least 25 years old, have lived in the United States for at least seven years, and live in the state they would represent. Being elected to Congress, however, is a bit more complicated than meeting criteria.
Many Representatives begin their political careers in their local or state governments. In order to be elected, it is important for candidates to make themselves well known within their communities. Proving themselves at a smaller, local level builds trust within the constituency and increases the candidate's chances of being elected.
Not all Members of the U.S. House of Representatives began their careers in local politics. In fact, Representatives have diverse career tracks. Before being elected to Congress, some Members served in the military, taught in schools, practiced medicine, or owned their own businesses. For more information on Members and their backgrounds, visit the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774 to Present.
Although the United States Constitution does not outline specific duties for Representatives, the role has developed to include responsibilities both in Washington, D.C. and at home.
Representatives spend their weeks in Washington, D.C. acting as the ambassador for local industries and advocates on behalf of the economic needs and political interests of residents and communities within their districts. They spend their time debating and voting on the House floor, overseeing government agency spending, and serving on committees. On weekends and during district work periods, Representatives return home to work more closely with their constituents.
Representatives serve their districts by determining how potential legislation would affect them and then voting accordingly. Representatives also help their districts by obtaining federal benefits and grants and by seeking funding for local projects and programs.
In addition to their legislative work, Representatives are responsible for operating their district and Washington, D.C. offices. This involves managing the office’s budget and overseeing office staff. The office staff ranges from experienced senior staff with years of experience to college aged interns hired to work during the summer months.