So the school year is over, you have finally finished your Graduate Certificate in Policy Evaluation (see website), and immediately the thought hits you – “but what now?”
The shift from academics to the workforce can be daunting, particularly in the realm of public policy which offers a wide variety of career paths to choose from. If you are unsure of the path forward or are just starting to consider studying public policy – girl, we got you. Our guide to a career in public policy will cover exactly what public policy is, the types of roles you can pursue and the skills you need to succeed in this sector.
What is public policy?
Public policy is the development and implementation of laws, funding priorities, behaviors, and plans that a government entity can adopt to provide solutions, positive changes or outcomes for citizens to increase their quality of life within society. Those who work within public policy understand how to create effective policies and the processes required to implement them.
An example of public policy in action is the frameworks and policies put in place by the Australian Government during the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce the spread of the virus and protect the vulnerable.
What career paths are there in public policy?
A career in public policy can be extremely rewarding as it can have a significant, positive impact on communities. There are many types of roles in varying areas such as research, administration, planning, education and management, and you could work at a local, state or federal government level.
A policy analyst will analyze policies and their effects for a relevant government, organization or program. They can also offer strategic advice to help guide the design and implementation of policies including analyzing the anticipated impact of a policy, overseeing research that follows socio-economic and commercial trends and acting as a subject-matter expert.
Policy analysts will also evaluate existing policies and legislation to determine if there are inconsistencies, outdated information or any potential improvements to be made.
Policy managers are government-employed or work for larger companies to direct the creation of new policies or strategic plans. A policy manager will often be working on a more strategic level than a policy analyst by maintaining relationships with key stakeholders and providing communications on behalf of their workplace.
A policy manager is also responsible for leading the team who implements the policies – they will oversee the plan creation, implementation and research and analysis strategies and help ensure accountability from all team members.
Regulatory affairs manager
A regulatory affairs manager helps develop and manage regulatory processes required for the company they work for to operate, serving as a liaison between government officials and their company. They also develop strategies to ensure the company remains compliant, submit applications to applicable regulatory agencies, respond to regulatory requests and monitor regulatory affairs and the effect it will have on their workplace.
A regulatory affairs manager will maintain professional relationships with those in federal, state and local regulatory agencies.
A legislative assistant assists their assigned elected official with administrative tasks related to building legislation. This may include answering phones and managing diaries, writing press releases for lawmakers, conducting research or taking notes in meetings.
Legislative assistant roles can often be taken on while studying or in an internship capacity.
Those who study or have experience in public policy also have the potential to move into other roles such as a public relations manager, budget analyst, social science research assistant or even into teaching.
Key skills needed in public policy
Working in public policy requires a broad skill set. Some of the key skills required include;
Most roles within public policy require gathering and analyzing data to produce consumable reports for stakeholders. Research into economics, political science and statistics is required to help formulate and evaluate policies.
Working in public policy requires excellent interpersonal and written skills to enable communication with a wide variety of people from different industries and backgrounds. Reducing complex ideas into digestible content is also a key requirement to ensure stakeholders have a solid understanding of the why behind policy creation.
In all public policy roles, you will be required to think strategically to help provide advice on new or existing policies and the likely effect they will have on the community. Working in public policy can be an extremely rewarding experience as it sits at the heart of most government decisions. According to Labour Market Insights the need for workers in the public policy sector will experience a 5.7% percent growth until 2026, indicating plenty of career opportunities. If you are looking for a career that has a serious impact on the day-to-day life of all Australians, public policy may be for you!
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