Public Policy Definition

Public policy can be defined as strategies that government uses in order to achieve results. Public policies typically address issues that are of concern to a large, not small, segment of society. It represents a set of laws and regulations that are fixed and are used by legislators for long stretches of time. The public, government officials, institutions and agencies all have input into creating and influencing public policy.

Although public policy deals with the government, not all jobs within the realm of public policy must be in government or law. Many are, of course. Others, however, involve working for companies, nonprofit agencies and institutions that deal with government officials. Others may involve working in the media or communications field, perhaps even in public relations (which is closely tied to public policy).

Education for Public Policy Jobs

The most common degree for those seeking public policy positions to obtain is a Master of Public Policy (MPP) degree. Of course, you must start by getting an undergraduate degree in public policy or a related field. These programs are not accredited by a particular agency (although the school that you choose should hold regional accreditation). the accreditation agency for MPP degree programs.  (They also accredited Master of Public Administration and Master of Public Affairs degree programs, which are closely related to MPP programs).

After obtaining your graduate degree, you shouldn’t limit yourself to working just within government unless you want to. There are many career options within a variety of disciplines in both the public and private sectors that are available to holders of an MPP degree.

Public Policy Issues

Just as there are many different types of jobs in public policy, there are also a plethora of public policy issues. Some of the main issues that public policy jobs may deal with include:

  • Health Care
  • Economics
  • Education
  • Environment
  • Minorities rights
  • Workforce development

Where Do Public Policy Degree Holders Work?

The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA), the accreditation agency for MPP degree programs, conducted research in 2015 and found that MPP graduates typically go to work in the following areas within six months of graduation:

  • Domestic nonprofit organization (23 percent of MPP graduates)
  • State/regional governments (15 percent)
  • Non-research/consulting businesses (12 percent)
  • National government (11 percent)
  • Research/consulting in the private sector (8 percent)
  • Local government (7 percent)
  • Government of another country (5 percent)
  • International nonprofit organization and pursuing higher degree (4 percent)
  • Military service (1 percent)

Public Sector Public Policy Jobs

Government job options in the public sector for those with a MPP degree exist at the federal (national), state and local levels. They may include (but are not limited to):

Political/Government Public Policy Jobs in the Public Sector (some of these may require passing a Civil Service or government exam):

  • Working for a local government official as a legislative aide, city manager
  • Working for a state legislator as a legislative aide
  • Working for a State Representative or Senator
  • Working as a Representative, Senator or elected official
  • Working as a Diplomat to a foreign country
  • Working in the White House
  • Working in legislative analysis
  • Working in campaign operations
  • Working in public relations and events
  • Working in communications
  • Working in public policy development

Examples of Political/Government Public Policy Jobs in the Public Sector include:

  • Political Analyst – CIA, Washington, D.C.
  • Research Associate – The Democratic Party, Washington, D.C.
  • Management and Program Analyst – Department of State, Arlington County, VA
  • Associate Commissioner-New York State Civil Service, Rensselaer, NY

Non-Political Public Policy Jobs in the Public Sector

These jobs may include working in agencies and think tanks, some of which may be nonprofit organizations:

  • Working in policy research as an assistant or associate
  • Working in advocacy on policy issues like policy management, development, communication
  • Working as a government relations advocate
  • Working as a community outreach manager
  • Working as an entrepreneur starting a non-profit organization
  • Working as a development manager
  • Working as a program manager
  • Working as an assistant professor
  • Working in program analysis
  • Working in legal analysis
  • Working in public relations and communications
  • Working for local, state, national, international government agencies

Examples of Non-Political Public Policy Jobs in the Public Sector include:

  • Public Policy and Research Fellow- Drake Institute of Research and Policy, Washington, D.C.
  • Director of Children’s Policy – Harlem Children’s Zone, New York, NY
  • Junior Researcher/Analyst – NYU Stern School of Business, New York, NY
  • Housing & Transit Justice Policy Advocate- Working Partnerships, USA, San Jose, CA

Private Sector Public Policy Jobs

Private sector jobs for MPP holders may include (but again, are not limited to):

  • Advocacy jobs
  • Government relations manager
  • Program analyst
  • Program manager
  • Marketing
  • Communications
  • Public relations
  • Consulting
  • Community relations manager

Examples of Public Policy Private Sector Jobs include:

  • Public Policy Manager – SoCalGas, Los Angeles, CA
  • Public Policy Manager- Snapchat, Los Angeles, CA
  • Program Manager, Public Policy – TikTok, Washington, D.C.
  • Host, Politics Podcast- NBC Universal, New York, NY
  • Public Policy & Government Relations Manager, Digital Campaigns – Google, Mountain View, CA

Salaries for Public Policy Jobs

Because there are so many different types of public policy jobs, pinning down an average salary is not easy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics quotes a variety of salaries for public policy jobs, including:

  • Political scientist: $117,570
  • Public relations manager: $131,570
  • Public relations specialist: $70,190
  • Climate change analyst: $71,130

When looking at public policy jobs recently advertised as vacancies, average salaries that were published for these available positions were:

  • Policy analyst: $62,521
  • Public policy manager: $69,920
  • Public policy researcher: $67,585
  • Government affairs director: $169,945

The Future of Public Policy Jobs in the United States

For those who get a MPP degree, the future looks bright in terms of job opportunities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor notes that most public policy positions are expected to see average growth between 2018 and 2028. Some, however, such as positions for Public Relations Managers and Climate Change Analysts, are expected to grow faster than average, at a rate of seven to ten percent. This growth rate is a great reason to pursue a MPP degree if you are interested in working in the vast, exciting discipline of public policy.