Public policy analysts review the efficacy of existing policies and determine if new ones are needed. Research, investigation, quantitative and qualitative analysis helps these individuals make decisions that shape our nation and impact the world.
Policy analysts work in numerous public sector agencies and organizations, as well as at private sector think tanks, consulting firms and other business groups. While not members of the legislative branch, public policy analysts must thoroughly understand our nation’s current laws and regulations.
These analysts fulfill three main job functions: Create policies, improve upon existing policies and determine if policies bring about their intended effect. Some analysts focus primarily on administrative matters, while others delve into more substantive issues. The input of researchers and the knowledge shared by subject matter experts both play integral roles in the public policy arena.
The evaluation of data gathered through independent surveys and focus groups allows analysts to identify the root causes of the issues facing our nation. Focus group feedback is invaluable as participants often reveal their true impressions of publicly enacted policy decisions. This honest data is also useful when examining the efficacy of current policies. Another key consideration is cost. Cost-benefit studies are routinely performed during policy creation and are also used to evaluate the efficiency of previously devised decisions.
As time passes and circumstances change, policies may become ineffective or irrelevant. A sound policy can begin to work against the problem it was enacted to address. Analysts must be aware of these unintentional outcomes.
In addition to making policy-related decisions, analysts update members of Congress, write relevant books, briefs and papers, give speeches, advise government officials, serve as subject-matter experts on television news shows and, when called upon, testify before Congress.
Where do Public Policy Analysts Work?
These analysts work in many federal and state agencies. Their expertise is also relevant to academia and within various private sector organizations.
Some of the most policy-heavy government initiatives include education, healthcare, social security, immigration, homeland security, election reform, insurance, national defense and environmental protection.
Healthcare Policy: At present, healthcare is one of the most researched and controversial policy-related topics. When making healthcare decisions, analysts and experts examine current laws, review potential social and financial consequences and consider how their decisions will affect the care people receive. Many of these analysts worked in the medical field prior to assuming this role.
Education Policy: Education-related policies have far reaching impact. Those who work in this field understand our historical education system, know how to evaluate the usefulness of current policies, can comprehend the relevance of financial restraints and appreciate the social affect of the policies they design. Education policy analysts typically work for the government or are employed by a public education organization.
Immigration Policy: Few policy-related matters carry more emotion than immigration. The policy analysts who work in this field endeavor to strike the perfect balance between safety and our long-standing American ideals.
Individuals who set public policy must be proficient in the areas of research and statistical analysis. This proficiency allows them to predict the future impact of their ideas. Analysts must also be business savvy, as business acumen sheds light on how policy ideas will affect the economy, wages, consumer behavior, the job market and the stock market.
Policy analysts also have a working knowledge of the interplay between our government’s executive and legislative branches. Additionally, their ideas must account for the nation’s social and political climate. Policy decisions are not made in a vacuum and their impact is broad.
Analysts are often called upon to explain the technical aspects of their plans. Strong communication and interpersonal skills help them garner necessary support. Interpersonal skills can also help gauge the public’s acceptance of the policies being proposed.
While pursuing Masters level degrees, such as a Masters in Public Administration (MPA), public policy analysts acquire the critical thinking skills and expertise necessary to present effective policies and programs. Now is an exciting time to pursue this challenging and rewarding career.
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