How to Become a Policy Officer (With Skills and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 2 August 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A policy officer may work in the public or private sector to oversee the policies under which their workplace operates. If you're searching for a position that allows you to influence laws and regulations, you might consider a career as a policy officer. Knowing the skills, education and experience necessary to become a policy officer can help determine if this is the right career path for you. In this article, we outline what a policy officer's role entails, discuss how to become a policy officer, detail the skills they require and offer some tips for finding work.

What is a policy officer?

A policy officer may find employment in federal, state or local government or business policy management in the private sector. They conduct analysis and provide advice to management based on the analysis of issues that may impact the organisation they're working for. Their duties include maintaining constant communication with external and internal sources and creating and implementing effective policies to resolve issues. A policy officer has many responsibilities, some of which include:

  • conducting and coordinating research

  • gathering and analysing data

  • offering advice to management based on their findings

  • consulting with stakeholders

  • making presentations of their findings

  • monitoring communications

Related: What Is the Private Sector? (With Roles and Features)

How to become a policy officer

There are a number of ways you can learn how to become a policy officer and begin your approach to applying for work. Policy officers require certain qualifications and, typically, experience in a similar field. There are also several skills they develop to be effective in their work. Here are some steps you can follow to begin a career as a policy officer:

1. Obtain the relevant education

Before you can become a policy officer, you may require educational certification in a related field. Employers typically seek candidates who hold a bachelor's or master's degree. Most universities offer a variety of degrees that may suit your purpose. Such certifications may include the Bachelor of Policy Studies, the Bachelor of Public Policy or the Bachelor of Policy, Philosophy and Economics.

Related: How to List Company Policies (Plus Benefits of Using Them)

2. Find work experience in the field

The easiest way to gain work experience in the policy field is to search for internship opportunities. An internship can give you invaluable insight into the day-to-day operations of an experienced policy officer and is a great opportunity to learn from a mentor. An internship can also expose you to a wider range of roles in the policy field and can help you find a speciality that's the right choice for your career.

Related: What Are Company Policies (And What to Know About Them)

3. Consider joining an association

A significant part of building a career may stem from networking with other professionals in the same field the individual is pursuing. Becoming a member of a professional association can be an excellent opportunity for you to make lifelong connections with other professionals working in policy in both the public and private sectors. Associations can be of great benefit, as they offer guidance, training, education and exclusive opportunities to network with other members. For example, the Australian Social Policy Association is a non-profit association for policy researchers, practitioners and educators.

Related: 10 Essential Workplace Policies (And How to Write Them)

4. Pursue further studies

You may find that experienced professionals working in policy achieve advanced levels of education, such as master's degrees or doctorates. Pursuing a master's degree can provide you with advanced skills in policy and can give you enhanced insight into this specialised field. Pursuing a doctorate can help you if you aim to progress into a leadership role in policy. In addition, advancing your studies can build your research and analytical skills and help you grow your practical knowledge of policy.

Related: How to Become a Policy Analyst (With Salary Information)

Skills you require to be effective in policy

A policy officer requires a wide range of skills to be effective in the role. Many of these skills you can develop outside the role, while others you can only gain as a direct result of having experience working in the field. Here are the types of skills a policy officer may require:

  • Communication: A significant part of a policy officer's role is to be in constant communication with professionals from a wide range of different fields and industries. They also provide public presentations and hold meetings with stakeholders and management, so they require confidence in speaking to large groups.

  • Attention to detail: Policy officers working in the public sector handle laws and regulations. This may involve scrutinising many documents closely, so it's essential to maintain accurate attention to the minor details.

  • Critical thinking: Working as a policy officer may involve analysing many proposals and the potential outcomes based on their findings. It's helpful to be able to predict the impact of any laws or regulations they propose.

  • Research: A policy officer is responsible for gathering information and analysing data for generating reports from their findings and presenting them to stakeholders and management. This research can directly result in implementing updates to old policies or assisting in the creation of new ones.

  • Implementation: A policy officer's role is to help in the development and implementation phases of policymaking. Organisational and management skills allow a policy officer to understand how to develop policies that are effective and easy to perform.

Related: 10 Examples of Policy and Procedures in the Workplace

Tips for becoming a policy officer

While becoming a policy officer requires education and skills, you can work to improve your skills and build your understanding of the role. Give yourself a strong awareness of your suitability for the role you're searching for. Here are some tips that may help you on your way to achieving your policy officer career:

Research the field

Before you look for work, research the policy sector or area of policy you're interested in pursuing. Keeping up-to-date with current developments in laws and regulations concerning a particular industry or the public sector can build your knowledge of the way policy works. For example, if you're specifically interested in working in the public sector as a policy manager and taking on a role influencing legislation, research the role online to discover if it's the right option for you.

It can be a good idea to research the companies that require a policy officer, because there's typically a broad range, from private sector jobs like marketing and advertising to public sector positions like emergency services or the health sector. Different areas of policy have different approaches that you may be more interested in and come with different career advancement opportunities. For example, the public sector can come with great government benefits, whereas the private sector can come with more rapid career advancement.

Related: Writing a Policy Analyst Resume: A Step-by-Step Guide

Research the organisation you're applying to

Consider doing research on organisations you're interested in, whether that be sustainable energy developers or automotive manufacturers. Part of your research might be to explore the work culture in different sectors. For example, working for a non-profit organisation might have a more relaxed workplace culture than a government department. Look on the company website and social media pages to discover whether the culture of the business appears to be one in which you might enjoy working.

Make sure you choose a company that reflects your own moral views to avoid potential conflict later on. You can make a great first impression on a hiring manager if you can show you've researched the organisation, its policy team and its management culture.

Build your professional network

You can build your connections in the policy field to increase your chances of finding your ideal position. The possibilities of hearing about work through contacts could be significantly higher, and you have the potential to meet professionals who can act as mentors and offer invaluable guidance. Attend as many policy networking events as you can and keep in touch with your university colleagues and professors, who can become lifelong resources and friends.

Related: 6 Careers in Policy (With Skills and Tips for Policy Work)

Don't be afraid to ask for help

If you're a recent graduate or an intermediate policy professional, be comfortable contacting colleagues, mentors or other professionals in your network for advice and guidance. Use the direction of the professionals you know to help broaden your understanding of policy and help to develop your analytical skills. Asking for guidance can also be a great way of broadening your network and making solid connections with industry professionals.

Related: 8 Types of Health Policy Jobs (Plus Duties and Salaries)

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Explore more articles