A member of the Liberal Party he was elected to the House of Commons in 1892. Along with Joseph Chamberlain he moved to the Conservative Party and served under Arthur Balfour as Chancellor of the Exchequer (1903-06).
When Andrew Bonar Law retired in 1921 Chamberlain became leader of the Conservative Party. He resigned the post in 1921 and was replaced by Stanley Baldwin. Chamberlain served as foreign secretary under Baldwin between 1924 and 1929.
When Ramsay MacDonald formed his National Government in 1931 he appointed Chamberlain as First Lord of the Admiralty. However, Chamberlain decided not to stand in the 1931 General Election. Austin Chamberlain died in 1937.