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What Are the Different Types of Public Policy Jobs?

By Erin Oxendine
Updated May 23, 2024
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A career in the public policy field focuses on public policy issues and public administration. Jobs in public policy advocate social and economic special interests that might otherwise get overlooked. The majority of the high-profile public policy jobs are government positions located in a nation's capital while other jobs are at the local level, for example, withcounty and state government and city agencies.

One of the different types of public policy jobs is a lobbyist who primarily works for the capital of the jurisdiction or state he or she resides in. A lobbyist’s job is to try to promote a particular group’s views or opinions in the hope of convincing the legislature or public to agree with the group’s views. Most lobbyists work near a nation's capital or for large corporations and interest groups. Lobbyists have their positions strictly regulated to ensure the lobbyist is following all rules and regulations.

Public policy analysts are another subset of public policy jobs for anyone interested in this career. A public policy analyst may work for a specific company or organization and addresses the needs that are relevant to that field. The analyst conducts research, prepares reports and presents information to the public on behalf of the organization. For example, a public policy analyst may research low-income communities and prepare a report on how issues such as financial and poor economical development affect the community.

Public administration is a different type of public policy job. In this position, a public service manager supervises civil servants and other staff as well as oversees business issues. One task a public administrator performs is handling jurisdictional and local elections. The elections have to be monitored to make sure the voting process is fair. The public administrator also works with the media to make sure the public gets necessary election information.

An individual who wishes to pursue a career in this field should obtain an advanced degree in public policy. Upon graduation, students often intern for government or federal agencies as strategic public researchers or get another type of legislature internship. Some of the non-profit public policy jobs require an understanding of certain health and safety regulations. There are also foreign service policy jobs for people with backgrounds in foreign languages and policies. For those who prefer to be in the classroom type setting, there are teaching opportunities available for someone with a public policy degree as well as a teaching certificate.

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Discussion Comments

By lonelygod — On Jul 01, 2011

It seems that working in foreign service public policy would be a great way to utilize your language skills while traveling. I have been looking for jobs that would suit my educational background while providing the opportunity for me to make positive changes and travel.

There are actually degrees that specialize in helping you to work in foreign service and they seem fairly competitive to get into. I would imagine you would have to have exceptional language skills and local work before pursuing something in another country.

By wander — On Jul 01, 2011

@turkay1 - I think if you work for something like a grassroots organization or in the media that your job may be considered to be in the realm of public policy if you play a big enough roll in actually creating policies that are developed and used. On that note, if you were providing a detailed analysis of a situation, such as environmental degradation, and than use that to help craft the public policies of a state for something like waste reduction, then you certainly could be considered a public policy analyst.

I think an academic background in public policy is important, but that those who are approaching it from different backgrounds it is possible to make a difference too.

By candyquilt — On Jun 30, 2011

If I work for a grassroots organization or the media, isn't that considered to be public policy work as well? Both of them have an impact on public policy whether it is direct or indirect.

Policy makers have to get their information from somewhere. I think that any organization which informs policy makers about issues relating to the public can be considered doing public policy work. What do you think?

By turquoise — On Jun 30, 2011

Many people who are interested in public policy prefer to work with policymakers. If you don't like lobbying, you could start out working for a Congressman at their office and seeing where that takes you.

Granted, working on Capitol Hill is not very easy. Everyone always talks about the long working hours there. But it can be very satisfying for someone who wants to know how policymakers work and make decisions on a day to day basis, as well as how the lobbying system works. This is one of the popular entry level public policy jobs and many public administrators start out on Capitol Hill.

I've also heard of public policy graduates who find that they dislike bureaucracy after they start working for government and decide to concentrate on more small scale work at the city or county level. Some even go into social work because they want to interact with people and improve their lives on an individual basis, instead of the larger, systematic vision that public policy has.

In any career field, you can only find out what you like doing and what you don't like by trying different types of jobs. I guess the same is true for public policy.

By ddljohn — On Jun 29, 2011

I have a masters in Public Policy and I think that this is one of those fields where there are a lot of different options. Of course, working for a government agency or for a lobbying organization is the most common. But you're not restricted to this kind of work.

I have many friends from school who are now working with NGOs and International Organization. Some have become teachers, others are working for contractors that the government is working with. Some work as civil employees in the Military and some are now in Afghanistan as part of the reconstruction teams there.

All of us have the same education, but have made different career paths for ourselves depending on our interests. I think that a public policy graduate can not only work for government but also for organizations and businesses who work for or with government in different projects. In that sense, the options are limitless.

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