Policy analysis is the evaluation and study of the formulation, adoption, and implementation of a principle or course of action intended to ameliorate economic, social, or other public issues. Policy analysis is concerned primarily with policy alternatives designed to produce novel solutions. The analysis helps public officials understand how social, economic, and political conditions change and how public policies must evolve in order to meet the changing needs of a changing society (Encyclopaedia Britannica).
Policy analysis is often perceived as existing only in the public sector for policies concerning citizens of a local community or on a larger scale in Federal politics. However, its application extends to the private sector as well. The types of policies will vary greatly between the public and private sectors. The public sector is renowned for rigid steps when it comes to assessing policies, whilst a company in the private sector may have some of its own guidelines on how to carry out policy analysis processes.
A typical program may include a range of subjects including economics, statistics, government, sociology, and ethics. Examples of the learning outcomes for a Bachelor of Arts in Policy Analysis are:
- To understand social policy as an interdisciplinary field and demonstrate the ability to synthesize key knowledge, theories, and research across different disciplines in the social sciences.
- To develop critical analysis, problem-solving and research skills in order to design and evaluate evidence-based interventions.
Due to the different types of majors in the discipline of policy analysis, the classes will vary. For example, a Social Policy Analysis major may not have the same courses as a Policy Analysis and Management (PAM) major.
Examples of Social Policy Analysis:
Approaches to Social Policy: Students will review the nature of different disciplines and their research programs.
Statistical Methods-Psychology: This is an introduction to quantitative and computer methods applicable to the analysis of experimental and correlational data.
Probability and Statistics: This class examines probability and the central concepts and methods of statistics including probability, distributions of random variables, expectation, sampling distributions, estimation, confidence intervals, and hypothesis testing.
Social Statistics: You examine the practical uses of statistics to answer the types of questions sociologists ask. You learn sample description, sampling and probability, sampling theory, and how to make inferences from samples to populations.
The classes in the PAM major provide the opportunity to develop these skills:
- Analytic skills to assist in creating solutions to public problems
- Proficiency in writing concisely and clearly
- The ability to work effectively in group settings
- Effective communication to express ideas in public settings
- The ability to consider the ethical implications of the analyst’s actions
Similar to the social analysis major, this curriculum also stresses the social sciences. In order to understand the impact of policy on individuals and society, it is essential to understand human behavior. Therefore, you can expect classes to involve:
- Policy Analysis Microeconomics (introductory and intermediate)
- Public sector economics
- Population and Public Policy
There are areas of concentration within a policy analysis program that will influence the classes. A short list of these is:
Health Policy: This will have classes covering issues such as health care reform, comparative health care systems, population health, pharmaceutical policy, and the economics of risky health behaviors.
Regulatory Policy: This will address issues such as consumer law and protection, risk management, information regulation, and government regulations of corporations. Examples of classes may include:
- Corporations, shareholders, and policy
- Regulating financial institutions
- Technology, policy and the law
- Consumer law and policy
Education Policy: People in this profession tackle major challenges such as improving learning outcomes for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and making college affordable to families from across the economic spectrum. Classes should involve policy analysis as well as educational studies.
In preparation for this area of employment, a bachelor’s degree in policy analysis is beneficial. In addition to the classes supporting your major, you will need to hone your communication skills. The jobs in the private sector generally entail a lot of research regarding the federal, state, and local regulations. These are the regulations and policies that directly affect the operation of the particular business.
Additionally, strong writing skills are a given, in light of the need to create papers and articles on your research results that clearly and concisely convey your findings. Therefore, you should include business-writing classes as part of your curriculum or enroll in an online journalism course.