How to Become a Policy Analyst and Land Your First Job

Brandi Glass
January 55 min read
Woman at laptop smiling

Becoming a policy analyst means taking on a riveting and fast-paced career in which you help shape the direction of businesses, non-profits and even the country’s laws. It requires an eye for detail and excellent analytical skills, but pays off in job satisfaction, impact and an attractive salary.

Policy analysis is a competitive industry, but with the right academic background and a carefully honed resume, it’s possible to be accepted into an entry-level position. Keep reading as we break down how to become a policy analyst, along with tips for job-hunting success.

What Does a Policy Analyst Do?

Policy analysts conduct research on the impact of public policy, whether that’s an existing or proposed policy. They then summarize their findings in reports and present them to key decision-makers.

When we hear “policy analysis,” we often think of analysts who advise the government on new laws and initiatives. However, policy analysts also work in think tanks, corporations and non-profit organizations. For example, a health policy analyst could be employed by a cigarette manufacturer, or a data privacy policy analyst could be hired by a social media firm.

How to Become a Policy Analyst

Policy analysts can come from many different professional backgrounds. Whether you’re pivoting careers or a recent graduate, however, there are certain steps that you’ll need to check off before you can achieve your first policy analysis role.

Decide on a Preferred Specialism

Policy analysts can work in a wide range of specialisms, including education, economy, health, international relations, environment, equality, law, trade, defense, urban planning, technology, science and much more.

You should identify the public policy topics that most interest you. You don’t need to have a well-defined specialism at this point of your career, but a general idea of the area you want to work in will help you build relevant experience and network more effectively.

Bear in mind that over the course of your career, your specialism might change. You could switch to an entirely different specialism or find yourself niching down to a more specific focus. Treat your preferred specialism as a guide while approaching new opportunities with an open mind.

Study for Your Degrees

A bachelor’s degree will be enough for many entry-level roles. However, some majors are more suited to policy analysis than others. For example, politics or economics lend themselves well to most specialisms. Law is, of course, an excellent option for legal policy analysis, while medicine lends itself to health policy analysis.

As you progress in your career as a policy analyst, postgraduate studies can help you stand out from other candidates and deepen your knowledge about your specialism. You could choose to study a postgraduate degree before starting your professional career, or you might prefer to hold off until you have a well-defined specialism and a topic you want to study.

Stay Informed About Public Policy

Even when applying for entry-level roles, employers will expect you to be knowledgeable about public policy. (This is another good reason to identify your preferred specialism early on; it will reduce the number of topics you need to stay informed about.)

In addition to following the news, make sure to read more in-depth analyses and reports about public policy in your specialism. It’s worth getting your information from a variety of sources, as you’ll end up with a more comprehensive understanding of the pros and cons of public policies.

Build Relevant Experience

You can start building relevant experience long before you’re ready for your first policy analysis role. Your options include:

  • Internships
  • Joining certain societies, such as the debate team
  • Volunteering in your preferred specialism, e.g. if you’re interested in equality issues, you could lead a fundraising campaign for a refuge
  • Participating in essay contests relating to your specialism
  • Attending conferences and other events specific to your specialism (plus, you can use these as a networking opportunity)

Apply for Work

Finally, it’s time to begin applying for policy analyst roles. If you’ve followed the four steps above, you’ll be well-positioned to land your first role. And with some job-hunting tips and tricks on your side, you’ll find it even easier. Job-Hunting Tips and Tricks for Policy Analysts

When job-hunting, a little effort can reap serious rewards. Use these tips to help you get more invites to interviews, and ultimately, more job offers: Network

Networking is an excellent way to make a positive impression on contacts in your industry while also learning more about the current trends. Connect with the right person, and they might recommend you for a role. Even if they don’t, they could allow you to informally pick their brain ahead of a job interview.

Do Your Research

For once, we’re not referring to public policy. Instead, we mean potential employers. Before sending in your resume, find out as much as possible about the company and team you would be working with. This will help you shape your application and determine your interview preparation.

Prepare Common Interview Questions

Some interview questions come up over and over again, which makes them easy to prepare for. Practice responses for these questions ahead of time so you can answer them with confidence. If possible, get feedback from a classmate.

Polish Your Resume and Cover Letter

Your resume and cover letter form a recruiter’s first impression of you, so it’s worth spending time on them. Don’t skip the cover letter: while some people argue that they are no longer required, hiring managers often read them when comparing shortlisted candidates. Make sure to create a new version for every role you apply for, too.

Get Invited to Job Interviews with a Strong Resume

A carefully crafted resume is essential to being invited to policy analyst interviews. It will help you catch a potential employer’s eye and stand out from the many other applications.

Your resume needs to be customized to the role and organization you’re applying to, as well as adapted to your background and preferred specialism. If you’re a recent graduate with limited experience, it’s particularly important that it allows your skill sets to shine.

On top of all this, it needs to be professionally laid out and machine-readable, so that your resume doesn’t get filtered out by an applicant tracking system.

Resume writing doesn’t have to be challenging, however. You just need the right tools and templates. We have dozens of policy analyst resume templates that will help you position yourself for job-hunting success. What’s more, our resume builder will give you helpful suggestions on resume structure and recruiter-approved phrasing based on your level of experience and education.

It takes just minutes to build a policy analyst resume that will attract recruiters’ attention, so get started now.