Everything You Need to Know About a Career in Public Policy

There are many things in life that we would like to change. For some of the more personal aspects, we can do this easily, like if you want to move to a different neighborhood or further your education. But sometimes some laws and regulations have power over certain industries and groups of people that may not be generating the best outcomes possible. It is the people that work in public policy that can influence these by analyzing data and developing solutions to promote positive change. This guide will cover everything you need to know about a career in public policy, the skills you need, the tasks you may be responsible for, and how to become a public policy professional.

What is Public Policy?

Generally speaking, public policy is the action that the government decides to take, or not take, in response to an issue or problem that affects all the people. It usually takes the form of a law or regulation that the citizens are required to follow and abide by. They are made on behalf of the public to improve on a situation and created to work towards a goal or solution and can also include funding streams. Public policy issues affect all aspects of our lives and there are hundreds of different public policies in place today. They can be organized by type, which is the level of governing in which the policy has been developed, such as local, state, or national. But they can also be organized by the topic that they fall under, which includes health, economic, and environmental policy, plus many more.

Working in Public Policy

There are multiple roles within public policy, but they are usually positions that influence change to benefit the community through introducing or amending laws and regulations. Public policy professionals do their research into specific issues and things that need to be addressed within the community so they can develop a solution and really make a difference. A career in public policy can have you working for the government, but there are also many other industries where public policy professionals are needed.


Public policy roles in the government tend to focus on transport, finances, the environment, and city planning, and you can serve either your local, state, or national federation to promote change and improvements.

Social Services

Working in the social services industry as a public policy professional means you will be addressing needs or issues within the community around housing, food, and health. This includes assessing the public to determine their needs and developing programs that will serve them in the best way.


There are thousands of policies regarding education. Working in education public policy may give you responsibility for reviewing current educational systems, making improvements to these, and developing curriculums all with consideration for both students and teachers.


There can often be backlash and debate when a new policy is developed or a change is made. Public policy is incredibly complicated and aims to meet the needs of everyone involved, but it can sometimes fall short for some people. A job in the communications side of public policy involves introducing and explaining new policies to the public and responding to any initial questions and queries that the community may have.

Skills Needed for a Role in Public Policy

Helping people, promoting change, and making improvements for the community are at the core of working in public policy. If you are passionate about influencing laws, regulations, and systems to initiate positive changes, public policy could be the right career path for you. But there are some other key skills to possess if you are to pursue a career in the field. As you will be required to meet and interact with people from a huge variety of industries and clearly convey information, communication skills are vital. You also must be able to carry out any necessary research, effectively gather and analyze data, and make strategic decisions by weighing up the outcomes. Your work can affect huge numbers of people, so you need a keen eye for detail and to always do your due diligence. Another vital skill is the ability to think critically, adequately analyze the data from a critical viewpoint, understand the impacts of the outcomes, and make informed decisions.

Becoming a Public Policy Professional

There are a few essential steps to take and things to consider when deciding upon following a career path in public policy.

  1. Career Path

There are so many different routes to take in public policy, so you need to decide which sector would be best suited to your passions and interests. Figure out which career path you want to take; are you focused on food, have a passion for health, or are incredibly concerned about the environment and its relationship with the community? Pick your passion and pursue the career path that lets it prevail.

  1. Education

Furthering your education is a key step to make to become a public policy professional. It can not only help land you an initial role within public policy but can also help you climb the career ladder and move into leadership roles in the future. Taking a master’s in public policy and leadership doesn’t require a bachelor’s in the same field, but it does open up a whole load of opportunities. Pepperdine University offers an online MPPL degree that will position you with the skills and knowledge to work across different sectors, give you the ability to make tough moral decisions, and be a leader in positive community change.

  1. Fellowships

A fellowship is an opportunity to expand your knowledge and resume by gaining valuable work experience within a specific field. You usually have to be completing a college course to receive a fellowship, but it is an effective way to get your foot in the door and gain practical experience.

  1. Network

The best way to find out about a career in public policy is to talk to someone already there. Network by joining professional organizations, attending training opportunities, development workshops, and any other seminars or conferences that could be useful. Knowing people in the field may also help land you a job.

Working in public policy can be very satisfying and rewarding. It is the career path to pursue if you are eager to see changes and improvements in people’s lives.