How to Work as a Public Policy Analyst
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Public policy analysts work on issues that affect various aspects of society. Pursuing this career path first requires the proper educational foundation. Identify your strongest employment skills and pair them with the policies that interest you the most. Once you do this, you may find there are a variety of career options in this field of work.
Building a Foundation
An undergraduate degree is essential to your success as a public policy analyst. Political science, which focuses on the workings of the government and its relationship with society as a whole, is a common major in the field. Other undergraduate degrees to consider are philosophy, economics, public administration or public policy. It is common practice, in the public policy field, to have a graduate degree. While there are many graduate programs in public policy or public administration available, obtaining a master's in economics, business administration, public health or a law degree can strengthen your career opportunities. To further expand your employment opportunities, you may choose to obtain a PhD. in public policy or public administration. At this level, your studies focus on research and you can become an expert on a particular policy issue.
Consider Your Strengths
Due to the great variation in public policy careers, consider your individual skill set when focusing your career goals. If your ideal work day is sitting at a computer, collecting information and creating databases, you may want to focus your policy career on research. If you are happier in an interactive environment working with others on specific issues, you may want to pursue a management based analyst position, where you can work with a team to implement various policies. If you are a fan of sales, or have a gift for persuasion, you may prefer a position in which you are in contact with government officials or the public, working to influence their support for a particular issue.
Passion for Policy
Public Policy analysts are usually specialized in one area of study or focus. Your specialty can be as broad as the environment or as specific as urban policy issues in a particular city. However, upon starting your career, do not make your specialty too specific to keep your options open for job opportunities. Once you secure employment in a specialty, be prepared to stay with that specialty for the majority of your career. Becoming an expert in a subject is key to job longevity in the public policy field, so choose something that you are passionate about.
Finding an Employer
Any of the entities involved in the law making process can be viable options for your career in public policy. Analysts work as researchers with universities and various government agencies. You can also find employment with lobbying firms or nonprofit organizations as a policy writer. A political campaign may want to hire you as an adviser to the candidate on various voter issues. If you prefer to work independently, and you have expertise in a particular issue, you may choose to work as a consultant. Agencies and organizations may contract with you to work on one particular project.
Erika Winston is a Washington, D.C.-based writer, with more than 15 years of writing experience. Her articles have appeared in such magazines as Imara, Corporate Colors E-zine and Enterprise Virginia. She holds a Juris Doctor degree from Regent University and a Masters in public policy from New England College.