Social Policy Analyst: Job Description, Salary and Outlook

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a social policy analyst. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about career options, degrees and job duties to find out if this is the career for you.

Social issues are of critical importance not just on a community level but on a global level. Social policy analysts ensure that the policies intended to counter hunger, poverty, disease and many other terrible things, are running efficiently and as intended. They study these social problems by collecting data, and then propose plans to fix them.

Essential Information

Social policy analysts specialize in researching social issues and finding solutions to problems, such as hunger, crime, discrimination, poverty, disease, violence, and unemployment. Some social policy analysts work for government agencies, while others work for consulting firms or think tanks. Economists, urban planners, political scientists, lawyers, and sociologists often work as social policy analysts. All off these positions require the minimum of a bachelor's degree; some positions may require an advanced degree.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in a field such as economics, law, or sociology; advanced degree required in some cases
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* -2% for political scientists
-1% for sociologists
6% for economists
6% for urban planners
6% for lawyers
Average Salary for Government Workers (2016)** G-7 pay grade: $35,009 to $45,512
G-15 pay grade $102,646 to $133,444
Average Salary for Non-government Workers (2015)* $103,210 for political scientists
$82,100 for sociologists
$109,230 for economists
$70,680 for urban planners
$136,260 for lawyers

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **U.S. Office of Personnel Management

Job Description

The primary function of a social policy analyst is to study social problems and develop policies to solve them. These professionals are involved in one or more of four general stages of policy analysis. First, social policy analysts gather data, using either existing information or generating new data through research. Next, social policy analysts uncover problem origins or study how well current policies are working and recommend changes. After identifying solutions, social policy analysts examine the results of a new policy, determining whether or not the solution worked and at what cost. Finally, analysts communicate their findings and promote their solutions through newsletters, speeches, reports, or books.


The earnings for social policy analysts who work for the federal government depend upon the pay grade the analyst has attained. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in 2007 that analysts who have less experience and hold master's degrees are typically paid at the G-7 pay grade. According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the annual salary range for this grade was from $35,009 to $45,512 as of 2016 ( Experienced government social policy analysts with expertise in a special field were paid within the G-15 grade level. In 2016, this ranged from $102,646 to $133,444 annually, based on data from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

In the private sector, salaries depend on a social policy analyst's research specialty. Analysts specializing in economics, for example, could earn similar pay to that of an economist. The BLS reported that the average annual salary for economists was $109,230 in May 2015 ( In the same year, professionals specializing in urban and regional planning earned a mean salary of $70,680 annually. Political scientists, lawyers, and sociologists earned average incomes of $103,210, $136,260, and $82,100, respectively, for the same time period.


The BLS estimates of expected employment for professionals involved in social policy analysis suggest that, between 2014 and 2024, employment of these professionals varies between declines and increases. The highest expected growth for the stated decade is 6% for economists, urban planners and lawyers, followed by a 1% decrease for sociologists and a 2% decrease for sociologists.

Social policy analysts need to understand the logistics behind social policy and the ramifications of enacting these policies on the population. There are a number of potential career paths associated with this field, including those in law, economics, sociology, political science and urban and regional planning.

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