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Career Definition of a Policy Analyst
Policy analysts are professional researchers. They are also professional problem-solvers. Their job is to investigate specific issues. They gather data related to the issue and then analyze it. Then, using that data, they develop potential ways to address the issue. As part of their work they may put together a budget of expected costs for the solution or a cost-benefit analysis that shows why one solution may be more cost-effective than another solution. Once they have compiled all the relevant information and reached conclusions about their recommendations to address the issue they present their findings.
In addition to working for companies and research groups, policy analysts may also be employed by the government. Policy analysts who work for the government may assess potential policies and provide information about the effects of implementing specific policies. They may also assess potential vendors who can provide services that are needed and determine who should be contracted to perform those services.
|Educational Requirements||Master's degree|
|Job Skills||Computer skills, analytical skills, written and oral communication skills, attention to detail, mathematical skills, research skills, problem-solving skills|
|Median Salary (2017)*||$55,533|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)**||2% (political scientists)|
Sources: *PayScale; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Policy analysts are usually required to have a master's degree in a relevant field. Since they may work in a number of different fields there is no one clear degree field that all policy analysts should pursue. Some employers may prefer applicants who have a degree in economics while other employers may seek applicants who have studied public health. Aspiring policy analysts may want to consider which policy areas they are most interested in working in, such as healthcare, education and environmental law, and pursue studies in those fields.
Policy analysts must be able to gather large amounts of relevant data so they must have good research skills. They need strong analytical skills to effectively review this data and form conclusions. It's common for policy analysts to conduct research online and use analytical software so computer skills are also important in this career field. They may work with budgets and numeric data so mathematical skills are an asset. Problem-solving skills are important because their work involves developing recommendations and policy analysts also need communication skills to present their findings effectively.
Career Outlook and Salary
PayScale indicates that as of 2017, policy analysts earned a median annual income of $55,533. Policy analysts are not listed separately by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). They are grouped with political scientists. According to the BLS, from 2016 to 2026, political scientists will experience a job growth rate of 2%. This is noticeably lower than the national average job growth rate for all occupations during the same time period, which is projected to be 7%.
There are a number of different careers that involve using analytical skills and developing recommendations to address issues. Those considering a career as a policy analyst may be interested in using the links here to learn more about what legislative analysts, business analysts, mathematicians, legislative assistants and legislators do.