Policy Analysts


Employment Prospects


Policy analysts are employed by think tanks; local, state, and federal government agencies; trade associations; political parties; colleges and universities; and corporations. Some also work as college professors or own consulting firms.

Nearly 22 percent of U.S. think tanks (approximately 400 institutions) are located in Washington, D.C., according to the 2019 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report, which is prepared by the Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania.

Visit https://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1018&context=think_tanks for a list of the top think tanks in the United States and the world, as well as the best by area of research.

Starting Out

There are many ways to break into this career. Some people become policy analysts directly after graduate school, but these positions are relatively rare. Most employers prefer to hire policy analysts who are experts in a particular area. Typical paths of entry include:

  • becoming well-known as a blogger, pundit, or public speaker and attracting the notice of a think tank or related organization
  • serving as a university professor, and working at a think tank or government agency part time
  • starting out in lower-level positions (such as program analyst) at government agencies
  • working as a journalist or writer and developing expertise on topics that are of interest to think tanks and government agencies
  • obtaining advisory, executive, or policy experience on a Congressional staff or at a government agency
  • working at a nonprofit organization that focuses on protecting the environment, reforming the tax system, strengthening (or weakening) gun laws, etc.

You can learn about job openings by visiting the Web sites of think tanks, associations, and related organizations. Your college’s career services counselor can provide job leads and help with your job search. The federal government is a major employer of policy analysts. You can access job listings with federal agencies by visiting https://www.usajobs.gov.

Advancement Prospects

Highly-skilled and-experienced policy analysts can advance to become research project managers and, eventually, to executive-level positions in their organizations. Those with a strong track record of publication and attracting clients or funding, or who become influential in the media or through public speaking events, might work for political campaigns or on Congressional staffs. Others run for elected office or open consulting firms.

Tips for Entry

Visit https://www.appam.org/career-education-resources/career-advice for tips on pursuing a career in public service.

Visit the following Web sites for job listings:

  • https://www.linkedin.com/jobs/policy-analyst-jobs
  • https://www.econ-jobs.com
  • https://www.usajobs.gov/Help/working-in-government/unique-hiring-paths/students
  • https://www.apsanet.org/eJobs
  • https://www.aeaweb.org/joe

Internships provide an excellent way to learn about careers, obtain experience, and build your network. Visit the following Web site to learn about internship opportunities:

  • https://www.apsanet.org/RESOURCES/For-Students/Internship-Resources