People often ask me, “How can I get into policy analysis?” My standard answer is that you can’t: it’s not a career path that lends itself to indirect qualifications, and in any case, you need to have a specific skill set that goes beyond just knowing how to write about the economy. However, if you’re really, really determined, then you can do a lot to make yourself more employable, including taking advantage of opportunities that arise outside of your formal education.
This blog post will discuss three such opportunities: government economic research jobs, which can lead to high-quality full-time employment; public policy jobs, which can lead to part-time, freelance, or even full-time employment; and non-profit or social enterprise jobs, which can lead to employment in areas that are highly beneficial to society.
This is, in many ways, the best of all possible worlds when it comes to getting a job in policy analysis. First, you have the opportunity to gain crucial experience by doing actual policy analysis for a range of government agencies. Second, you get to exercise your curiosity while engaging with some of the most intelligent and dedicated people in the field. Third, you’re essentially getting three degrees in one: social science, economics, and statistics.
One of the most in-demand skills in the job market today is just that: ability to write. If you can write well, you can probably get a job in a hurry. And since policy analysis is, in part, about writing, you’re already well positioned for this opportunity.
Beyond basic writing skills, though, you need to have specific qualifications and training to become a successful policy analyst. First, you need to have a solid foundation in economics. In the blog post “What is Economics?”, which gets to the heart of what an economics major is, the authors write:
“Economics is the study of how individuals, businesses, and governments use scarce resources to produce desired outcomes. Economics is a bit like Engineering, in that it studies how things work and how they can be improved upon. Economists are problem solvers who love to figure things out and then share their findings with others. They want to make the world a better place. They just use tools to do it.”
The ability to analyze issues from different perspectives, identify patterns and weaknesses, and propose solutions are all essential skills for a successful policy analyst. In addition, you need to have highly developed communication skills – both written and verbal – as well as specialized knowledge of a variety of policy areas.
Doing your own thing is always the best way to go. You’re not going to get paid (unless you’re an intern, which we’ll get to in a moment), but you’re bound to learn a lot, meet interesting people, and establish valuable contacts. And what’s more, you get to say that you did something to contribute to society. In other words, you’re helping others while also helping yourself.
As a result of your efforts, you may have established yourself as an expert in a particular field – be it economics, social science, or even public policy itself. If so, then why not put that expertise to the test and see if you can make a difference? You can easily find volunteer opportunities in your area that contribute to solving some of the world’s greatest challenges, from climate change to poverty.
An internship, especially with a leading consulting firm, can help you land your first full-time job in the field. Simply put, an internship is a chance to gain experience in the workplace – often in a formal capacity – and to establish yourself as a skilled practitioner in your chosen career field. To succeed as an intern, you need to be dedicated, hardworking, and – of course – willing to learn.
Consultantships with leading organizations like the World Bank or International Labour Organization (ILO) are great opportunities to gain experience and establish yourself as a policy expert. With these opportunities, you get to write policy papers, analyze data, and engage with world-class researchers, among other things. You might even end up presenting your findings at global conferences.
Internships aren’t just about getting experience. They can also be a great way to launch your career; if you want to become a policy analyst, then participating in an internship may be the perfect way to do it. The downside is that you need to be able to work for free – at least in the early stages of your career. Once you’re established, you can negotiate a decent salary.
In conclusion, if you’re looking for a career in economic policy analysis, volunteering may be the way to go. It can give you experience, establish your skills, and put you in an incredible position to land a job that you really want. It’s also worth noting that, as a policy analyst, you can contribute to solving social problems and make the world a better place. It just takes a little bit of ingenuity and the willingness to seek out opportunities outside of your everyday job search.