Policy analysts work by trying to change, adjust, or implement new public policies, regulations, and laws. They often work either directly in government or for non-government organizations which extensively lobby for policy adjustments. Even some for-profit companies use policy analysts to help steer regulation and political action in favorable ways.
While some policy analysts are specialists within defined areas (such as energy policy and how it affects the energy industry), other analysts focus on the general political functions which take place daily in government and advise legislators and government executives. The analyst will suggest possible areas where an adjustment to regulation or existing law may be helpful to his/her employer, and then devise various strategies to enact that change.
Policy analysts who work with government are expected to have a strong understanding of how political factions work and interact with one another, and their analysis is expected to incorporate compromise and multiple paths to achieve a policy goal. Analysts who work for non-government organizations in lobbying will seek out politicians who may be amenable to the organization's philosophy and ideals; the analyst and the organization will then work to persuade action on whatever changes in government policy the group or industry would like to see and offer similar advice on paths to achieve that goal.
To work as a policy analyst, one should have a strong background in formal political education (such as a political science or public policy degree) or a specific special interest area which crosses over into politics. Most policy analysts work with the government at junior levels to acquire experience and develop a strong network of contacts before being considered for this role. Policy analysts are likely to work long and fairly irregular hours, and office work, field work, and frequent travel may all be expected.
Policy Analyst Tasks
Gather, analyze, integrate, and report on quantitative and qualitative data.
Formulate policy reports that synthesize information, benefit constituents, and display evidence.
Review, evaluate, and monitor policies and legislation to determine their benefits, flaws, and impacts.
Liaise with stakeholders to understand and document needs, concerns, and viewpoints.