Brief description of the position:
Policy analysts work to influence political and social decisions in one or more of four areas: collecting information, analyzing potential policies and making recommendations, evaluating the outcomes of existing policies, and sharing information with government officials. Analysts might also address the cost of a policy by asking if a program’s cost is more than expected and if the benefits outweigh the expenses. The goal is to figure out a way to improve a policy or see if it should be expanded or scrapped. Workers who analyze policy could be labeled as political scientists, economists, sociologists, lawyers, urban and regional planners, or natural scientists depending on their research specialty. Analysts also write reports or speeches, as well as give oral briefings summarizing their findings. Sometimes, they are asked to testify before Congress, advise government officials, speak at conferences or appears as experts on television news programs. Government policy analysts work on broad or specialized issues depending on the agency and position. They react to proposed changes in law, regulations, and policies, as well as respond to inquiries by government officials and the public. Analysts can specialize in a particular area and provide guidance based upon individual expertise. For example, a transportation policy analyst would apply his or her experience with transportationâ€”aviation, surface, rail, and highwayâ€”to provide economic, financial, and policy assessment and guidance to transportations such as the Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Transit Administration and Federal Aviation Administration. Other tasks include providing expertise on a broad range of issues as well as analyzing and monitoring congressional budgets and regulatory issues, and policies integrating disciplines such as financial, accounting and legal.
Policy analysts earned a median annual wage of $50,901.*
*salaries vary widely depending on position, experience, and private or public sector
Secondary and Postsecondary Education
Most policy analysts have a graduate degree in law (J.D.), a Ph.D., or a master’s degree. The educational background depends on the employer, the subject and the analyst’s work experience. Common fields of study are economics, public policy and political science. Some analysts have a degree in education, business administration, philosophy or psychology. Many analysts have a degree related to a specific area; for example, a healthcare analyst with a medical degree. The choice is often to specialize in a field related to the degree and branch into other areas later.