How to Become a Policy Analyst
Written by: Hilbert College • Jan 10, 2024
How to Become a Policy Analyst ¶
One way that governments address social problems and create better living conditions for their citizens is by passing policies and legislation. However, even a seemingly simple or straightforward public policy can have widespread and sometimes unintended effects, for good or for ill. As such, every policy must be carefully analyzed and evaluated, both before and after implementation, to ensure that it stands up as a reasonable response to a recognized problem.
This, in essence, is the work of policy analysts. Those who work in this field conduct research to identify the best solutions to public problems and to assess the efficacy of the solutions proposed, passed and implemented. When considering how to become a policy analyst, a number of important steps are required, including pursuing education in public administration.
What Does a Policy Analyst Do? ¶
The role of the policy analyst is to investigate both current and proposed public policies, researching wide-ranging effects to propose the most effective solutions to different problems. Policy analysts are required to not only think deeply about the political and legal implications of different policies, but also weigh ethical and practical considerations.
After conducting rigorous research to assess new and proposed policies, analysts present their findings and recommendations to policymakers, including legislators and agency officials.
Where Do Policy Analysts Work? ¶
Policy analysts may find employment with many different types of organizations. Common examples are government agencies, lobbying groups, nonprofits and think tanks. Policy analysts typically focus on a specific topic or subject matter, such as defense, labor relations, environmental policy, energy policy or health care.
What’s the Policy Analyst Job Description? ¶
While the exact duties and responsibilities vary from one position to the next, the typical policy analyst job description often includes the following:
- Investigating the effects of specific public policies
- Conducting research to understand different perspectives on a particular problem or issue
- Collecting and analyzing data from public polling, focus groups and statistical research
- Writing reports and policy proposals and presenting them to decision-makers
- Advocating for specific policies before public audiences
Steps to Become a Policy Analyst ¶
The steps for how to become a policy analyst can help aspiring professionals cultivate the right portfolio of skills. These steps encompass education as well as on-the-job experience.
1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree ¶
To become a policy analyst, having at least an undergraduate degree in a relevant field, such as political science, public administration or statistics, is mandatory. Earning a degree provides the foundational knowledge needed for success in policy analysis.
2. Gain Professional Experience ¶
While some skills can be developed in the classroom, others are formed through workplace experience. Aspiring policy analysts may find meaningful entry-level work via internships or associate-level positions working for a lobbying group or a government agency. Extracurricular activities, such as debate club and student government, can also be formative.
3. Seek an Advanced Degree ¶
Although policy analysts aren’t always required to have an advanced degree, postgraduate education can lead to more prestigious roles and more competitive salaries. Additionally, a Master of Public Administration (MPA) or a related degree can help students formulate important skills, such as leadership, persuasion and crisis management.
4. Hone Essential Skills ¶
Through a combination of academic and on-the-job training, aspiring policy analysts may focus on building the right set of competencies. Several skills are essential for success in policy analysis, including the following:
- Analytic thinking
- Written and oral communication
- Basic aptitude with statistics
Policy Analyst Salary and Job Outlook ¶
The median annual policy analyst salary was approximately $64,000 as of November 2023, according to Payscale. Many factors can affect the salary, including education level, years of experience and geographic location.
While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t track policy analysts as a distinct occupation, it predicts that positions for the umbrella category of political scientists will grow by 7% between 2022 and 2032. This is faster than the average growth rate for the labor market as a whole.
Learn More About How to Become a Policy Analyst ¶
Policy analysts play an essential role in shaping and evaluating laws and public programming, ensuring moral, legal and political success. One of the best ways to prepare for a thriving career in this field is by obtaining an advanced education. Consider Hilbert College Global’s online MPA degree, which provides the skills needed for a successful career analyzing policy.
The program offers a robust curriculum covering core topics such as in analysis, finance, budgeting and research methods. It also offers a specialized MPA in Health Administration that focuses on issues of health care culture, ethics, law and management.
Find out how Hilbert’s MPA equips students for success across a range of policy-shaping positions.