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What Does a Policy Analyst Do?

Policy analyst may work for non-profits, media outlets or government agencies.
Many policy analysts hold a graduate degree, such as a J.D. or Ph.D.
A foreign policy analyst might observe the maneuvering of foreign diplomats who are assigned to the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2014
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A policy analyst is involved in the evaluation and formulation of policy. People in this field work at nonprofit organizations, government agencies, news outlets, and many other types of entities. The specific nature of the job depends on the needs of the employer. Skilled analysts can be in very high demand, especially if their skills lie in an area of policy that is of current social and political interest. Compensation packages are based on educational level and experience and can be very high for people with advanced degrees and special sets of skills.

Some policy analysts are involved in the work of developing new policy for government agencies and other organizations. They examine existing policy and are involved in research designed to identify the things that need to be addressed with new ones. These individuals are also involved in formulating the best approach to addressing these issues. This work can include compiling statistics, reading reports and synthesizing the information into a meaningful document, and helping with the actual drafting of policy language.

Others focus on analyzing existing policy. This can be done to look for areas that need improvement, to help people benefit from policy, and to learn more about the political and social landscape in a community. This type of analysis includes examining not only existing policy, but reports showing how it affects people, along with critiques of the policy from other analysts and organizations.

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Working as a policy analyst requires a sharp eye for detail and an analytical mind that is capable of pursuing multiple lines of inquiry. Thinking about the potential applications and repercussions of policy can become extremely challenging. People who are able to think creatively while also applying their minds to complex analytical tasks can succeed in policy analysis careers. Being good at this job also requires an intimate knowledge of the legal and political systems in the nation where the analyst works, along with an understanding of social attitudes that can influence policy.

This type of work usually requires an advanced degree. Analysts tend to come from educational backgrounds in fields like political science, the law, and statistics. Most select an area of interest such as immigration policy, public health policy, or defense policy and pursue research in this area while they attend graduate school. They also gain training and experience by interning under practicing analysts in government agencies, nonprofits, and other settings.

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Discuss this Article

lonelygod
Post 3

It mentions that policy analysts come from different educational backgrounds, as there are varying areas where this job is needed. After someone has completed a general degree, in say, political science, is there a graduate program one would pursue to become a policy analyst? Or is it more of a job that just requires experience and in depth knowledge of one field?

manykitties2
Post 2

How are policy analysts employed? Are they usually contractual workers hired for a specific project or do government agencies and non-profit organizations keep them on as salaried workers?

letshearit
Post 1

Policy analysts take different approaches to deciding whom their policies benefit. One way is to look at the individuals the policy will be aimed at and find viable solutions for that group with the resources they have available.

Another method is to look at the stakeholders involved and consider all of the politics involved with dealing with a larger, overseeing group. Taking into consideration their needs, solutions can be found.

The last method deals with large-scale policy changes which take into consideration all of the systems affected and the multitude of influences surrounding a problem.

In all of these cases, policy analysts must deal with both solid statistical data as well as with the people involved. This can indeed be a big task.

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