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What Degree do I need to be a Policy Analyst?

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What is a Policy Analyst?

A policy analyst takes the lead in conducting and writing up specific policy analyses, from collecting and analyzing data and relevant academic research. This includes the study of other sources in developing written analyses and graphic presentations of findings. You will also write policy memos, briefs, and papers.

You also have to deal with some PR (public relations) work- for example, keeping on top of both academic research and congressional and media developments to identify opportunities for your organization to influence policy or public opinion. You will help senior members of the policy staff to conceive and plan new policy analyses. You will work with senior members of the team to help train and supervise assistants/ interns.

The ideas for many current laws and policies originated with policy analysts in think tanks and other private organizations. Policy analysts—also called researchers, scholars, and fellows—work to raise public awareness of social issues, such as crime prevention, access to healthcare, and protection of the environment. In addition to the solutions they propose, these policy analysts hope to influence government action.

Education

According to a report published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2007, most policy analysts have a graduate degree. The required educational background depends on the employer, the subject of study, and the analyst’s work experience. Common fields of study include economics, public policy, and political science. Others have a degree in education, business administration, philosophy, or psychology. Many analysts have a degree related to a specific area of expertise. A healthcare analyst may have a medical degree.

A bachelor’s degree may be sufficient for entry level positions in research for government agencies, political campaigns or non-profits. Those starting with a bachelor’s degree may substitute the advanced degree with experience. However, you require at least a baccalaureate degree to obtain an entry-level job. Undergraduate degree programs in political science may cover topics in data analysis and statistics, media and politics, modern political theory, and policy processes. Students may also study the American presidency, environmental policy, the judicial process, and political policy,

This is a summary of some of the current bachelor’s degrees related to policy analysis:

Bachelor of Arts in Policy Analysis and Management

Coursework focuses on analyzing problems in the public domain, ranging from the processes of making, implementing, and evaluating government policies to the ethical evaluation of contemporary social problems. Policy analysis is the use of evidence-based methods to study substantive public policy problems. Applied to the public sphere, the intent is to improve the quality of policy-making by critically examining the design and relevance of policies, their implementation and execution, and their impact on households, communities, and the society.

Bachelor of Science in Public Affairs

There are programs that provide the opportunity to select a concentration in Policy Analysis. You will study everything from finance, economics, emergency management, and public law. Other topics include negotiation, public affairs, information technology, and government relations. Some of the coursework includes math, such as statistical modeling.

Bachelor of Arts in Social Policy Analysis

This major teaches students to:

  1. 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.
  2. Develop critical analysis, problem-solving and research skills in order to design and evaluate evidence-based interventions for social problems.

Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy

A major in public policy studies aims to teach students how to make a difference in the complex policy issues of today. Rigorous coursework provides students skills in political and economic analysis, knowledge about how to lead people and organizations, and a strong ethical foundation for decision-making. As a liberal arts major, public policy studies provides students with the skills to read critically, think analytically, and write concisely.

By mastering the above skills, the objective is to:

  1. To think in terms of global problems and international relations.
  2. To analyze the policies surrounding new advances in science (i.e., genomics) and technology (i.e., intellectual property and the Internet).
  3. To engage in solving important social problems.

Who Employs Policy Analysts?

Policy analysts work in government offices, lobbying groups, and nonprofit organizations. Consultants for other organizations, including Federal agencies, State and local governments, and corporations hire policy analysts. In some government agencies, for example, entry-level program analysts assist with policy work. Still, other analysts have worked at nonprofit organizations, such as advocacy groups.

By reviewing prominent employment sites, such as Indeed, you will see numerous job postings for analysts. Not all refer to policy analysts specifically. Companies that refer to the position of policy analyst are impressive. For example, Google, Department of Defense, State Fish & Wildlife Departments, State Housing Authority, The Center for Disease Control (CDC), and many more.

How do I start?

Many college campuses have student organizations dedicated to particular public policy topics, and many offer open lectures and debates hosted by the public policy or political science department. Other analysts gain expertise by starting in lower level jobs related to policy. In some government agencies, for example, entry-level program analysts assist with policy work. Some analysts gain experience at nonprofit organizations, such as advocacy groups.

 

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