Every person is affected by the society that they live in. From government decisions to local budget allocations, public policy includes the decisions that affect everyday life. Therefore, many people who desire to work in public policy have the desire to make the world a better place and impact change. There are many different types of public policy jobs. If you have an interest in politics, policies, and providing solutions to problems, then a career in public policy could be a great consideration!
We’ll cover what exactly public policy entails, the benefits of pursuing a career in the field, and some of the public policy jobs that exist.
What is Public Policy?
Public policy can be defined as, “the system of laws, regulatory measures, courses of action and funding priorities concerning a given topic promulgated by a governmental entity or its representatives.” In a society with laws, both individuals and groups play a role in constructing public policy.
At the core of public policy sits law. Legislation can set the tone for everything ranging from how non-profits receive grant money to major considerations like how to deal with domestic violence, for example. This is why advocacy is such a large part of public policy because groups of individuals with a similar goal often come together to shape laws that then affect people within the society.
Why Pursue a Career in Public Policy?
Entering the field of public policy is one way to make a difference in the world. There are a variety of public policy jobs to choose from. It’s a field that mixes analysis, data, and decision-making. If you have a knack for problem-solving, then public policy offers means to do so in an environment that affects lives.
Because of the implications of public policy, the work doesn’t happen in a silo. There will be plenty of opportunity to develop interpersonal relationships and network.
Furthermore, you’ll need to hone your communication and presentation skills to persuade both the public and those in power to agree with your stance on whatever issue is at hand.
The challenging careers bring with them a lot of reward. The mixture of the emotional and rational thinking that’s involved sets the stage for an interesting and constantly evolving career path.
Skills Gained in Public Policy Degrees
While some schools offer specific public policy degrees, others mix sociology, political science, communication, law, and the like to create curricula that support a job in public policy.
Regardless of the means you take to enter the field, there are five main skills that you can bet on mastering during your education and experience in public policy.
You’ll learn how to effectively communicate verbally and written to convey your ideas and stance. Public policy graduates build relationships with politicians, government officials, the public, and peers, so there’s a need for tactful communication skills.
Naturally, when it comes to lawmaking, decisions are necessary. Students learn how to analyze data and information to gain insights into how to make the best decisions for those affected by choices.
Many people are wary of politics and the ethical aspect of how the world of government works. As a student studying public policy, you’ll learn how to ethically lead and take social responsibility seriously.
Public policy deals with budgets and can leverage statistics and data to better inform policies. As such, it’s necessary to understand how to analyze the effects of laws and policies on both communities and individuals.
Students learn how to plan and execute programs. This includes resource allocation, employee training, leading teams, and more.
Public Policy Career Paths
There’s no doubt that public policy is broad. There are many aspects of life that public policy touches upon, from dealing with the industry of energy to healthcare and education. This is why many students choose a concentration, if possible, while studying to then work in a position that is specific to the area of specialization.
Here are some of the main areas of concentration in public policy:
- Public administration
- Policy analysis
- Energy and environmental policy
- National security
- Health policy
Public Policy Jobs
Depending on your goals and skills, you can choose from a range of entry-level public policy jobs or high-level public policy jobs. Let’s take a look at some of the opportunities available.
Public Policy Officer
Public policy officers are responsible for reviewing, creating, and executing policies and strategies for whatever area that they’ve been assigned to. Some of their job duties include: working with a team to discover key policy areas, providing updates, briefing partners or organizations about the status quo and/or plan, as well as pulling together information.
Public policy has its own fair share of challenges. Policy advisors work to resolve issues by working on the periphery of policy making. They oversee the operational and functional side of things and can inform analysts on issues that may arise. They help to provide feedback on how a policy is working in any given area to see if it is meeting goals. An advisor may write reports, communicate with stakeholders, and analyze information regarding the sector that they work in.
Policy analysts often work with policy advisors to makes sure that existing policies are effective. They discuss goals with stakeholders to see that plans are moving in the right directions. To become a policy analyst, one must first obtain a bachelor’s degree in the field, but a master’s degree is preferable. Furthermore, some policy analysts may earn law degrees because they often deal with the legal aspects of policies.
Environmental planners provide support and implement policies that relate to an organization’s environmental impact. Some of their job duties include: maintaining control methods, developing detailed reports, and collecting data. A large part of the role is project management, including budgeting and resource allocation.
With most organizations, a research associate will be a key part of the research department. They plan, conduct, and assess research and data to provide stakeholders with information on how policies are performing. The role of an associate is entry-level and can lead to becoming a policy analyst.
Advocates communicate on behalf of someone in need. They may give advice on legal matters, guide witnesses, speak on behalf of clients, or create reports. Their knowledge of the law is what provides them with the ability to do so and offer value to those who need assistance. For example, advocates may aid those going through divorces, negotiations with healthcare providers, or even criminals facing charges, to name a few services.
Public Policy Specialist
Public policy specialists work in foundations and organizations to assist with duties. They may be responsible for drafting letters, participating in advocacy events, monitoring relevant briefings, and the like.
Lobbyists have the goal of influencing government decisions. They do so through petitions. There are lobbying firms, but they can also work for legislators or may be created by constituents. Because of the nature of the job, it’s a great position for people who are outgoing and like to collaborate with others and network. Strong communication skills are required because lobbyists have the main job of sharing government policies and gaining support.
Public policies jobs are as diverse as the policies they support. There’s a wide array of opportunities for students who wish to major in public policy or a related field. From entry-level public policy roles to director positions within multinational corporations, the earning potential for those in public policy varies based on role. Regardless of the position you attain, you’ll be making an impact within the community that you serve.