What Does a Policy Analyst Do?


Have you ever considered becoming a policy analyst? You may have come across a policy analyst quoted on a major news network, or perhaps quoted in a current events article. If these folks sounded interesting to you, you may have wondered about becoming a policy analyst yourself.

What does a policy analyst do exactly, and how do you become a policy analyst? Let’s take a look at how you start down the path towards becoming a policy analyst and the critical aspects of the role.

Becoming a Policy Analyst

Policy analysts typically use their research and data collection skills to help influence government action. They usually research fairly broad social issues, such as crime, wealth gaps, and healthcare, to recommend a solid course of legislative action. Policy analysts can work in either the public or private sector.

What does a policy analyst do as a career? Policy analysts are also policy coordinators, management and policy analysts, social scientists, or program analysts. It’s important to note that not all policy analyst jobs have an exact match in the job description or title.

Receiving the Right Education

Choosing the right educational track can improve your chances of landing targeted entry-level policy analyst jobs. Although there is no one specific path to becoming a policy analyst, studying political science can be a good start.

Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science

Political science isn’t the only degree option. Economics, education, business administration, and even philosophy can help pursue a career as a policy analyst. However, political science is a popular and obvious choice for students interested in a policy analyst career.

A political science degree will help develop the research, analytical, and communication skills you’ll need as a policy analyst. And while you’re unlikely to get a policy analyst job outright without an advanced degree, it can qualify you for entry-level jobs in the field.

The right combination of education and experience can help you get on a faster track towards obtaining your career goals.

Master’s Degree in Political Science

For students who wish to get ahead, completing a master’s degree in political science is a natural complement to a B.A. in political sciences. A master’s or Ph.D. in political science makes students more competitive for pegged policy analyst roles.

An advanced degree is also a good option for individuals currently working as analysts. After working in the field for several years and gaining some experience, it can be beneficial to go back to school and supplement your experience with a degree.

What Does a Policy Analyst Do?


Policy analysts try to influence public policy. They do this mainly through extensive research and exhaustive data collection. Policy analysts try to look at the data to determine what’s working and what’s not and forecast what might be most effective.

Policy analysts usually end up with a sub-concentration. It’s also not usual for analysts to supplement their training with a degree in their specialty field. For example, a policy analyst working extensively in healthcare might get a degree in healthcare.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most policy analysts have an advanced degree, usually a law degree or a Ph.D. Most policy analysts work within a think tank or for a government agency.

A policy analyst’s area of expertise is up to them and will depend a lot on their background and training. All policy analysts need to have excellent research and analytical skills and be able to work both independently and with a group. They will also need to present and explain the data they’re working on.

Political Analyst Key Responsibilities

What does a policy analyst do within their role? The key responsibilities are research and data collection, but there’s more to being an analyst than that. Policy analysts often work in many different areas to influence political and social policies and decisions.



Research is possibly the most essential skill of a policy analyst. Policy analysts usually choose their research topic based on relevant current events, but not always.

If an analyst works for a think tank, their research may cover areas that the particular organization promotes or is passionate about. If an analyst works for the government, much of their research may focus on the agency’s mission, such as healthcare or environmental policy.

Public-sector analysts also research current and proposed policies and also take up projects from special interest groups.

Collection of Data

Collecting data is closely tied to research. A policy analyst may either generate original data or compile existing data. They may use surveys to gather new data or use existing data and statistics to shed new light on an issue.

Whatever their preferred method, a policy analyst uses statistical data to find hidden patterns in existing social and political issues.

Influencing public policy

Policy analysts can use the statistical data they collect to influence public policy. Once they’ve identified a trend and have data to back their claims, they can help pinpoint the source of the problem and work on a solution to resolve it.

Due to the complex nature of social and political issues, influencing public policy is never a straightforward task. Policy analysts sometimes take the initiative to research and resolve a particular issue, but other times a government body or agency might commission the project.

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Monitoring political events


Policy analysts also need to have a good handle on the current social and political landscape. Current events and news media coverage can often expose areas that policy analysts can look to for further research. Staying current on political events also helps policy analysts identify and monitor key areas that may be available for a funded project.

Raising public awareness

A good policy analyst is usually on the cutting edge of their particular field. They can often “sound the alarm” and use their collected data to inform the public of the facts surrounding a current or impending issue.

An interest group or organization might also consult a policy analyst during a particular campaign and seek their help when coming up with solutions.

Policy analysts may also try to forecast political and social trends. They can compare current and longitudinal data to evaluate the effectiveness of a given policy. Policy analysts can also evaluate the effectiveness of proposed policies based on trends in the data analysis. They can use focus groups to try and predict the outcomes of a proposed policy.

Policy Analysts’ Job & Salary Outlook


The Bureau of Labor does not have a separate job category for policy analysts. This can make it difficult to pin down salary information for policy analyst jobs. People working as policy analysts could have actual job titles of a lawyer, economists, political scientists, and others.

According to the BLS, policy analysts who work for the federal government usually work at the GS-15 level. These levels are generally experienced positions. A lower-level government analyst might work at the GS-7 level.

Policy analysts working in the private sector may make more or less than public sector jobs.

According to Glassdoor, policy analysts make just under $78,000 per year.

Much of a policy analyst’s salary is commensurate with experience. For more information on policy analyst jobs and tips for gaining relevant experience, see the Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management located in Washington, DC.

Final Thoughts

What does a policy analyst do? Policy analysts play a vital role in our society. They research and collect essential data that can be used to forecast trends in politics and society. Policy analysts also work to influence government responses to societal issues actively.

For students and young careerists looking to make a difference globally, becoming a policy analyst is a good choice.

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