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Public Policy Career Paths

Public Policy Career Paths
Public Policy Career Paths

The best public policy is made when you are listening to people who are going to be impacted.” – Elizabeth Dole

Public Policy can be best defined as the laws and regulations concerning economic, social and political issues, in turn, formed by a governmental entity and developed at the local, state, and federal levels. It is the means by which a government establishes equity, increases self-reliance and addresses the needs of the citizens through actions defined by the constitution.

Policy making is an elaborate process and involves several steps. For example, due to the policy changes in healthcare in the United States, medical care and health insurance are now accessible to a wider net of the population. Following a series of debates, and analysis, the federal government arrived at the conclusion that this would be in the best interest of citizens. Subsequently, it began crafting bills, insurance mandates, and legislation pieces to establish an overarching healthcare system. Through this legal and political process, they created a new public policy.

Public Policy Career Alternatives

Public policy as a field is gaining a lot of traction around the world. Private and non-profit organisations increasingly require greater engagement with government regulators to fulfill their respective organizational goals that are, in turn, linked with the public they are serving. Whether your focus is on your local community or the society at large, a career in Public Policy is apt for those who want to improve public service efficiency by putting technical knowledge to use. Here are some of the in-demand opportunities that you can explore :

1.Policy Analyst – Policy analysts raise public awareness on social issues like crime prevention, healthcare accessibility, and environmental protection to propose solutions to influence government action. They gather and analyse information to assist in the planning, development, interpretation and review of government or industrial policies. If you are skilled at data analysis and enjoy investigating issues, you can consider carving your niche as a Policy Analyst, as it primarily requires collecting statistical data and survey reports, to identify critical matters and formulate resolutions. Communication and persuasion skills, including the ability to respond to feedback are crucial as this job entails presenting your ideas to legislative members. You can hone your policy analysis skills by joining programs designed by premier institutions like the University of California, Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, etc. Those of you with a graduate degree under your belt may opt for certificate courses in policy analysis, provided by esteemed colleges like School of Professional Studies normally extending over 20 weeks. You must exploit the various resources including webinar series, network mentorship programs etc. offered by these schools to unlock the potential of career development avenues.
While about half of these professionals work for the government, they also can be employed at organizations in the health care, transportation, agriculture fields. Such fields are associated with having a vested interest in government policies. Some Policy Analysts are hired as consultants by Federal agencies, State and local governments. In the private sector, analysts work collaboratively with business units to reconcile business priorities with public policy. They communicate potential government activities back to business clients and manage external advocacy efforts and outreach programs. Policy analysts can also be employed by think tanks, such as The Brookings Institution, special interest groups, or research organizations.

2. Public Relations Specialist – Public relations professionals are responsible for creating, planning, and executing public relations strategies in order to maintain or enhance the perception of the government. On this job, you will be explaining policies, managing campaigns and collaborating with political entities in the course of party organisation and elections. Hence, you must be keenly aware of current events, industry trends and their respective influences, both geo-political and economical. As a Public Relations Specialist, you might focus on a particular area of public policy, such as international trade agreements or exchange rates, security and terrorism, equitable wages and working conditions. Securing public policy jobs in organisations like the United Nations is one of the most effective ways to contribute to government projects. If you are starting afresh, internships at renowned organisations including United Nations and Kaiser Permanente, can give you a strong head start in government relations and public affairs.

The need for government bodies to maintain a favorable public perception will continue to drive the demand for public relations specialists. This is a lucrative career with a median annual wage of $59,300 and projected employment growth of 9% from 2016 to 2026. Some industries with the highest level of employment for this occupation include advertising, business, labour organisations and educational institutions.

3. Public Policy Administration – Public administration envelops the formulation and particularly the implementation of public policy on an executive level. A high degree of administrative skills and understanding of managerial issues as well as legal procedures will help you make strong recommendations. You can develop these skills by enrolling yourself into public policy and administration programs at institutions like Northwestern University, London School of Economics and Political Science, etc. You can also opt for online programs offered by several universities like the American University which prepare you to combine administrative theory with practice. Addressing public policy issues through government, nonprofit and private sector jobs requires strong analytics, communication, leadership, and problem-solving capabilities. Leadership skills are important for a Public Administrator as you will be leading and managing large teams on policy execution. Therefore, if you’re an individual who enjoys communicating with people, wishes to achieve a supervisory role, and have the ability to manage groups of people, this could be an excellent prospect for you.

4. Lobbyist – Lobbyists are involved in presenting the interests of organizations from large corporations to small civic groups, to legislators. They provide a myriad of services comprising monitoring, consulting and procurement lobbying. For instance, lobbyists monitor specific legislation and budget items involving particular issues or industries. Procurement lobbying, on the other hand, requires securing contracts for the purchase of goods and services by the state. As a lobbyist, you interact with legislators and their staff to explain the effects of a particular bill or law to your clients. Therefore, you must be aware of the bills appearing before legislative committees and, in some cases, attend committee meetings and hearings as well. You need to research how a proposed legislation, if passed, would affect the organization or group you represent. It requires solid research and communication skills to influence legislators’ decision on a pending legislation. Building rapport through frequent communication will help you gain credibility among policy makers. As lobbyist Dave Wenhold puts it, “Lobbying is about developing relationships.” Note that some lobbyists set up meetings for their clients with legislators, in which case they first write background papers to prepare the clients for these meetings. Since your clients may range from private businesses and nonprofit organizations to local and State governments, you must be well informed about their specific needs, products, and practices. As a lobbyist, you may also work at law firms or lobbying firms like Cassidy & Associates and Squire Patton Boggs that handle government affairs and can gain lobbying experience at National Education Association.

A major in political science, journalism, law, communications, public relations, or economics should stand future lobbyists in good stead. If you’re a student interested in lobbying, you should consider volunteering on political campaigns or interning with government agencies.

Other job opportunities include Government Affairs Director, Non-profit Executive Director, Policy Consultant, Federal Intelligence Analyst, Policy Reporter etc. Oral communication skills for conducting large presentations and effective writing skills for drafting concise reports are essential for these roles.

Maximise Job Search through Networking and Skill Enhancement

As a Public Policy concentrator, you can enrol into Public Policy, Economics, Statistics, and Political Science programs to develop your analytical skills and substantive knowledge. These courses will enable you to think critically, collaborate on teams, and express yourself clearly and concisely in written and oral presentations. Try to be highly involved in campus life and hone your skills through leadership positions in student assemblies. You should utilise your career center resources like the Summer Public Service Internship Program (PSIP), to secure summer internships and build connections.

A degree in public policy opens opportunities in non-profit organisations, consulting firms, international organizations like the World Bank, United Nations, and the government. Application of quantitative analysis, economics, finance, and management skills is necessary for serving public interest, therefore, you must be adept at defining problems, constructing alternative solutions, and projecting policy outcomes to the stakeholders. You can find employment in managerial positions within public sector organisations, such as the NHS authorities and trusts, the criminal justice system, local or central government and the Civil Service. Opportunities also occur in the social welfare sector, political research organisations and higher education institutions. Impactful resume experiences for an individual seeking a future in public policy include specialized moot court competitions, legislative internships, and conferences. Connect with the SMART VMock Platform to strengthen the impact of your resume, job search and interview preparation in the field of public policy.

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