The Wide World Of Public Policy

Clearly defining the public policy profession has been described as “elusive” because the career field covers so many different focuses and paths. ( provides a basic description: “A course of action adopted and pursued by a government.” However, careers in public policy cover a wide range of specialized administrative jobs at all levels, from local to federal government.

Public Policy Education Programs
There are a wide variety of college and university programs developed to prepare college graduates for careers in public policy. While these programs often have different titles — Public Administration, Urban Administration and Policy Management to name a few — they are all designed to teach the fundamentals of developing and managing policy in the public sector. Most programs have a core group of courses and more advanced courses that are devoted to examining specific areas of public policy.

While there are many undergraduate programs within the realm of the social sciences that prepare student to pursue a career in public policy, there are very few undergraduate programs leading to a bachelor’s degree in public policy. The few existing undergraduate programs concentrate on public policy career options during the third and fourth years of college. Most of the wide variety of public policy degree programs are conducted at the graduate level, with concentrations in public service, urban and local policy, economic policy, law and public policy, and global policy. A master’s degree is considered the entry level standard within the public policy profession.

Careers in Public Policy
Another definition perspective for public policy is: creating, researching and amending legislation and programs that affect the public. The concentrations described for a master’s degree form a broad umbrella for describing the work involved in each area:

Law and Public Policy is centered on how law affects the public and on the creation of policy within the framework of local, state or federal constitutions. Careerists in this area work extensively with lawyers and other legal professionals in developing public policies.

Local and Urban Policy focuses on the issues facing city, metro and other local government entities. The concerns these professionals deal with include city and county management, land use planning, managing urban growth, transportation, zoning policies and other uniquely urban issues.

Economic Policy is devoted to developing and implementing economic policies at various levels of government. Much of this work centers around developing strong relationships and the interaction between public and private sector decision makers.

Global Policy recognizes the increasing globalization of countries and centers its work on how the governments and policies of other countries affects the United States and conversely, how US government policies affect other countries.

Terrorism/Peace Legislation and Policy looks at developing policies designed to defeat terrorist activities and at the same time, looks at strategies for improving peaceful relationships with other countries.

Non-Government Policy centers around interaction by non-government organizations (NGOs) to shape and develop policies between non-profit and public interest groups and governments at the local, state and federal level.

Academia and Public Policy
Another area for public policy professionals to work is in academia. Academics approach the world of public policy from a different perspective than professionals working in the field of public policy. Nevertheless, their contributions to the discipline have increased knowledge and improved public policy practices. Even though most of academia’s focus is based on theory and research as opposed the the profession’s reliance on real world experience, each approach learns from the other. Academics base much of their teaching on case studies and analysis from public policy development, practice and outcomes. Public policy practitioners can improve policy development from the lessons found by the academic community.

Ryan Ayers is a writer who creates informative articles in relation to education and technology. In this article, he discusses the broad industry and applications of a career in public policy. He aims to encourage policy education through pursuing a master of art in public policy.

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