Education and Training Requirements
Policy analysts need excellent communication skills, so be sure to take as many English, speech, and writing courses as possible. Classes such as social studies, government, philosophy, and history that help you to develop your critical-thinking and research skills will also be useful. Other recommended courses include statistics and other mathematics classes, computer science, and foreign languages.
A minimum of a master’s degree is required for most policy analyst positions. Many policy analysts have degrees in economics, public policy, public administration, or public affairs, but others have degrees in business, environmental science, education, philosophy, psychology, or public health. Some analysts have law or medical degrees. Check out the following Web links for lists of colleges that offer degrees in some of the aforementioned fields:
- Economics: https://www.aeaweb.org/resources/students
- Political science: https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-humanities-schools/political-science-rankings
- Public policy, affairs, or administration: https://www.naspaa.org/accreditation/roster-accredited-programs
Other Education or Training
Many professional associations—including the American Political Science Association, American Economic Association, Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management, International Public Policy Association, and the Society of Government Economists—provide continuing education classes, webinars, workshops, and seminars. Contact these organizations for more information.
Certificates in economics, political science, environmental science, and dozens of other areas that are of interest to policy analysts are offered by colleges and universities. Contact schools in your area to learn about available programs.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
There are no certification or licensing requirements for policy analysts.
Some government agencies may require background checks for analysts.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Several years of experience in lower-level policy analysis positions, as college professors, or working in one’s specialization (e.g., political science, economics, environmental science, health care, etc.) is required for most policy analysis positions.
Successful policy analysts must love reading, conducting research, and the pursuit of knowledge. Because much of their day is spent in extensive research and thought about a particular issue, policy analysts need patience and excellent analytical abilities. While policy analysts often work alone, they also must be able to work well as part of a team. Strong communication skills are essential because they prepare reports and other publications, as well as communicate their findings and opinions orally. Other important traits include the ability to interpret complex data and present it in understandable terms, organizational and time-management skills, and expertise using spreadsheets, database programs, and data analysis software.