Career Development

What Does a Policy Researcher Do?

Find out what a policy researcher does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a policy researcher.

Policy researchers are responsible for conducting research on a variety of topics related to public policy. They may work directly with government agencies or private organizations, and they commonly specialize in one area of policy research (e.g., health care, education, etc.).

Policy researchers typically spend most of their time researching and analyzing information related to the topic at hand. However, they also need to be able to effectively communicate this information to others in their organization. This might include writing reports, giving presentations, or otherwise communicating findings in a clear and concise way.

Policy Researcher Job Duties

Policy researchers typically have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Researching policy issues, such as gun control laws or climate change mitigation strategies
  • Gathering data on public opinion regarding current events or issues
  • Consulting with government agencies to develop and implement policies that are effective in addressing public concerns
  • Consulting with lawmakers to provide research support for drafting legislation or evaluating existing laws
  • Calculating costs associated with proposed policies or programs, such as increased spending required to implement new regulations or decreased tax revenue due to a tax cut proposal
  • Writing reports on research findings or presenting findings to government officials or the public at large
  • Conducting surveys or polls to gather information about public opinion on current events or issues
  • Identifying potential solutions to problems through research, analysis, and evaluation of data
  • Conducting research on topics such as crime rates or economic trends in order to identify possible solutions

Policy Researcher Salary & Outlook

Policy researcher salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the type of policy they are researching. They may also earn additional compensation in the form of bonuses.

  • Median Annual Salary: $70,500 ($33.89/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $184,000 ($88.46/hour)

The employment of policy researchers is expected to grow much faster than average over the next decade.

Demand for policy researchers is expected to increase as governments seek ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness, reduce costs, and serve their constituents more effectively. Policy researchers will be needed to evaluate the effectiveness of policies and programs and to determine whether changes are needed.

Related: Policy Researcher Interview Questions and Answers

Policy Researcher Job Requirements

A policy researcher typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: Most policy researchers have at least a master’s degree. Some of the most common fields of study for policy researchers are public policy, public administration, political science, economics and statistics. Some of the most relevant coursework for policy researchers includes research methods, research design, research ethics, research statistics, research design and research methods.

Training & Experience: Many policy researchers will receive on-the-job training from their new employer. This training may include learning the specific software and computer programs the company uses, as well as the organization’s policies and procedures.

Certifications & Licenses: While certifications are not usually a requirement for policy researcher roles, they can help you compete for positions.

Policy Researcher Skills

Policy researchers need the following skills in order to be successful:

Research skills: Research skills are the ability to find and interpret information. This is an important skill for policy researchers because they often need to find information about laws, regulations and other policies. You can use research skills to find information about the effects of policies, how policies are created and other information about policies.

Communication skills: Communication skills are necessary for interacting with clients, colleagues and other stakeholders. You may be required to present your research findings to a company or organization, so it’s important to be able to clearly explain your research and its implications. You may also need to communicate with other researchers to collaborate on projects or share data.

Critical thinking skills: Critical thinking skills are the ability to analyze information and make decisions based on the information you have. As a policy researcher, you may be asked to make recommendations based on the information you have. Critical thinking skills can help you make the best decision for the organization.

Problem-solving skills: Problem-solving skills are necessary for policy researchers to develop solutions to the challenges they find in their research. For example, if you’re researching a policy that’s already in place, you may find that it’s not as effective as it was intended to be. In this case, you may need to find ways to improve the policy to make it more effective.

Organization skills: Organization skills are important for policy researchers to have, as they help you keep track of the information you find and the sources you use. Organization skills also help you keep track of your research notes and other data you collect.

Policy Researcher Work Environment

Policy researchers work in a variety of settings, including think tanks, government agencies, colleges and universities, and private businesses. They may spend considerable time in libraries and archives, conducting research on a variety of topics. They may also travel to attend conferences and meetings, or to gather data. Policy researchers typically work a standard 40-hour week, although they may work longer hours to meet deadlines or to complete research projects.

Policy Researcher Trends

Here are three trends influencing how policy researchers work. Policy researchers will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Need for Data-Driven Policymaking

The need for data-driven policymaking is a trend that is quickly gaining popularity in government and business circles. This trend is driven by the increasing availability of data, which allows researchers to make more informed decisions about policymaking.

Policy researchers can take advantage of this trend by becoming experts in data analysis and collection. They can then use this expertise to help policymakers make better decisions based on hard facts rather than assumptions or opinions.

More Collaboration Between Academia and Government

There is a growing trend towards collaboration between academia and government in order to develop policies that are based on sound research. This trend is being driven by the realization that academic research often does not reflect the real-world needs of government agencies.

As a result, policy researchers will need to be able to work effectively with government officials in order to create policies that are both effective and based on sound research. This requires a strong understanding of both the research process and the needs of government agencies.

Greater Focus on Evidence-Based Policymaking

The trend towards evidence-based policymaking is having a major impact on the field of policy research. As governments around the world become increasingly interested in using evidence to inform their decisions, policy researchers will need to learn how to gather and analyze data in order to support their arguments.

This trend also means that policy researchers will need to be able to communicate their findings in a way that is easy for non-experts to understand. In order to be successful, they will need to be able to translate complex data into terms that are easy to understand and digest.

How to Become a Policy Researcher

A policy researcher career path can be rewarding in many ways. It offers the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives, to learn about new and interesting topics, and to work with smart and dedicated people. However, it is important to consider the potential downsides of this career before you start down the path.

One downside is that policy research jobs are often temporary or contract-based. This means that you may not have job security or benefits. Additionally, the hours can be long and unpredictable, so you need to be prepared to work odd hours when necessary. You also need to be able to handle a lot of reading and writing, which can be exhausting if you don’t enjoy it.

If you are willing to put in the hard work and are committed to making a difference, then a policy researcher career could be a great choice for you.

Advancement Prospects

Policy researchers typically advance by taking on more responsibility within their organization, such as heading up a research project or managing a team of researchers. They may also move into management roles or take on consulting work. As they gain more experience and knowledge, policy researchers can move into higher-level positions with more responsibility, such as director of research or chief economist.

Policy Researcher Job Description Example

As a Policy Researcher at [CompanyX], you will be responsible for conducting research on a variety of policy issues and writing reports that will be used to inform and shape [CompanyX]’s policy positions. The ideal candidate will have excellent research, writing, and analytical skills, as well as a keen interest in policy issues. He or she will be able to work independently and be comfortable working on tight deadlines. The Policy Researcher will report to the Director of Policy.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Understand and analyze policy issues at the local, state, and federal level
  • Research and write about policies related to a variety of issue areas
  • Monitor legislative and regulatory developments and provide updates to staff
  • Assist in the development of testimony, reports, and other advocacy materials
  • Help develop and implement campaign strategies
  • Serve as a liaison to government officials, coalition partners, and the media
  • Plan and coordinate events related to policy research and advocacy
  • Maintain knowledge of the latest research methods and tools
  • Stay up-to-date on relevant news and developments in the field
  • Collaborate with colleagues across the organization to ensure that policy research is integrated into all aspects of the work
  • Share findings and recommendations with internal and external audiences
  • Participate in professional development opportunities to keep skills sharp

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • Master’s degree in public policy, political science, economics, or related field
  • 5+ years of experience conducting policy research in a think tank, government agency, or similar organization
  • Excellent writing and communication skills
  • Strong analytical and critical thinking skills
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office suite and statistical software programs (e.g., STATA, SPSS)

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • PhD in public policy, political science, economics, or related field
  • 7+ years of experience conducting policy research in a think tank, government agency, or similar organization
  • Experience supervising research staff
  • Familiarity with qualitative research methods
  • Bilingualism


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