Are you someone who is constantly looking for solutions or ways to make positive changes? Do you keep up to date on trends in education? If so, then a career as an Education Policy Analyst may be the right fit for you. A career that is designed for those who are passionate about analyzing information to find ways to bring about positive change will offer challenges and rewards.

What is an Education Policy Analyst?

Many people are not familiar with Education Policy Analysts. However, these individuals are highly influential in the realm of education. Their job holds a great amount of weight. For instance, the policies that they develop will lead to changes in education that will impact the next generation. While often overlooked by the general public, it is Education Policy Analysts who make the biggest decisions about education.

Education Policy Analysts review a wide variety of education policies and problems plaguing education, such as teacher compensation, the cost of higher education, curriculum development, and technology. They spend their days analyzing policies and potential problems while looking for solutions. Ultimately, they are looking for ways to make improvements that will better the education system, thus bettering the lives of students.

According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS){target="blank"}, “policy analysts work to influence political and social decisions. Although their tasks vary, most policy analysts work in one or more of four areas: collecting information, analyzing potential policies and making recommendations, evaluating the outcomes of existing policies, and sharing information with the public and government officials.”

Education Policy Analysts can work in many different realms. For instance, they can work with an individual school board or school district. They can also work for state education agencies or the national government. Additionally, they can work as lobbyists or work in advocacy groups, consulting firms, or think tanks.

Ultimately, no matter where they work or in what area they work, Education Policy Analysts will focus their days on analyzing information, identifying possible solutions, and sharing this information with leaders. Finally, Education Policy Analysts do not simply review and write policies; they also help schools or those they are working with find ways to implement the policies.

What is it like being an Education Policy Analyst?

Being an education policy analyst is challenging but fulfilling. These individuals spend their days deep in research. They work with highly influential people to bring about change, so they are expected to demonstrate a tremendous amount of knowledge. To give you a better idea, here are some of the regular job responsibilities:

  • Research topics in education and review education policies
  • Assess policies at the level where they are employed (i.e., assess school district policies to present findings to the school board)
  • Elicit information from students, teachers, the community, and more using various means (including polls, interviews, data)
  • Use statistics to evaluate data
  • Conduct and interpret qualitative and quantitative research
  • Write analytical reports, editorials, briefs, and other written forms of communication to be shared with the public
  • Condense complicated information into language that is understandable to a large audience
  • Present findings to government leaders and educational leaders
  • Stay up to date on education news, trends, and policies
  • Prepare for future trends in education
  • Manage projects independently
  • Identify means for implementation of policies

The various job responsibilities of Education Policy Analysts will vary depending on where you work and in what capacity. For instance, if the education policy analyst is employed by a local school board, then he will analyze issues on the local level, such as teacher-to-student ratio. However, if the education policy analyst is employed on the state level, he will analyze issues on the state level, such as standardized statewide testing.

Since the realm of education covers such a large amount of territory, there are many different types of ways an Educational Policy Analyst may be employed. Outside of educational settings, they may be employed by nonprofit organizations or research-based advocacy groups. The Room 241 Blog explains, “some Education Policy Analysts decipher the potential impact of bills under consideration by Congress. Others help nonprofits develop grant proposals and negotiate contracts with government agencies. Private sector businesses marketing products to students or educational institutions frequently hire education policy analysts."

What skills are needed to become an Education Policy Analyst?

Primarily, Education Policy Analysts must be strong researchers, analysts, and writers. The bulk of their work involves these three skills. Additionally, the BLS suggests, “policy analysts must be able to do independent research, which requires reading and digesting complex information. They communicate effectively through speaking and writing. They must work well in groups but also be self-starters able to work alone on a project. And they need patience to study one subject for a long time.”

Here are some other desirable skills for Education Policy Analysts: - Brainstorming and problem-solving skills - Knowledge and expertise in the field of education and policy - The ability to use statistics and statistics software - Strong communication skills
- Interpersonal skills - Detail-oriented

What degree do you need to succeed as an Education Policy Analyst?

The Education Policy Analyst education requirements are unique. While there is not a specific degree or license that is required to be an Education Policy Analyst, it is advisable to move beyond a bachelor’s degree to earn an advanced degree in public policy, political science, or education.

Additionally, while you are not required to hold an advanced degree, most policy analysts have at least a master’s degree, but many also hold a doctorate.

As you consider this career, you must understand that you will be expected to deal with those at the top. Therefore, you will be expected to be an expert in your field. In order to be considered an expert, you need to hold an advanced degree.

You do not necessarily need to have an advanced degree in education policy, but that degree does exist. In addition to a Master’s of Education in Education Policy, many other graduate programs are applicable to education policy. For example, graduate programs in educational leadership and curriculum instruction provide knowledge that can easily transfer to the field of education policy.

Additionally, PhD programs in education can also open doors for a career as an Education Policy Analyst. For example, the University of Virginia offers a PhD of Gifted Education. The school website explains, “the primary purpose of the PhD program is to prepare highly qualified scholar-researchers who will be able to take a variety of positions in higher education settings (both public and private). Graduates will be well prepared for employment as research scholars, policy analysts, and faculty members in higher education programs where the emphasis is on the production of scholarship, rather than application to practice.”

What are the requirements to become an Education Policy Analyst?

You must hold a college degree in a related field, such as education or public policy. Again, while you are not required to hold an advanced degree, it is highly advisable. In addition to holding an advanced degree, you need to have experience in education. You must be able to show a clear understanding of the classroom and the field of education.

Additionally, as you will discover when you research earning graduate degrees in education, you will be expected to have classroom experience. For example, most school administrators have spent a few years in the classroom as an educator before they move into school leadership positions.

However, as the Room 241 Blog explains, “classroom teaching experience is valuable but not essential. It’s far more crucial to have knowledge of quantitative analysis techniques and an understanding of the historical context of current educational policy.”

How long does it take to become an Education Policy Analyst? What are the steps?

You will not become an Education Policy Analyst overnight. It takes years to build up the knowledge base you need to be considered an expert in your field. After the initial four years of college, you should anticipate spending some years working as an educator. At some point, you will need to pursue a master’s degree and possibly a doctorate. If your plan is to become an Education Policy Analyst, you should focus on earning a degree in the field of education.

As you continue moving towards education policy, it may be wise to gain experience working in school leadership. Those who earn an advanced degree in educational leadership tend to move into school leadership positions. After you have spent some time working as a school leader, it may be easier to move into an Education Policy Analyst position.

In addition, advisors suggest keying into what you are passionate about in education and make this topic the focus of your research. As an Education Policy Analyst, the bulk of your time will be spent on research. This will help you move into your specialization, and it will make you more employable.

If you are just at the start of your journey, you should consider looking for internships in education, participating in think-tanks at the collegiate level, or volunteering. What are think tanks exactly? They are where policy makers gather to think and find solutions.

Plus, subscribe to education journals and stay up-to-date on the latest trends. Even if you do not have a PhD, you can show you are knowledgeable.

Finally, network – and network some more. Those who plan to inform school and community leaders need to build connections.

Education Policy Analyst salary potential

The salary of Education Policy Analysts varies widely as they may work in a number of different settings. For example, the BLS explains, “analysts’ earnings depend on factors such as worker qualifications and the organization’s size and budget.

Earnings also depend on how the organization gets its money. Think tanks may be funded by endowments, individual and corporate contributions, contracts with public or private organizations, and grants from government agencies, universities, or foundations.”

According to Glassdoor, the average base pay for Education Policy Analysts is $65,000 a year. However, PayScale reports the average median salary for Education Policy Analysts is $55,790. As with most careers, those with more experience should anticipate earning a higher than median salary.

While it will take time to earn the title of Education Policy Analyst, it will be well worth it. If you are passionate about education and feel a strong desire to bring positive changes to the field, then this career could bring you great fulfillment. The best way to prepare for this career and to make you desirable as a job candidate it to gain as much knowledge as possible about education policy and current trends.

Works cited Blanchard, S. (2007, Spring). Policy analysts: Shaping society through research and problem-solving. Retrieved June 21, 2018, from https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2007/spring/art03.pdf

Education Policy Analyst Salary. (n.d.). Retrieved June 21, 2018, from https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Education_Policy_Analyst/Salary

Education Policy: Career Exploration and Job Searching. Retrieved June 21, 2018, from https://www.tc.columbia.edu/education-policy-and-social-analysis/announcements/epol-students-career-guide-handbook/EPOL_career_guide_handbook.pdf

Jobs in Education Policy: Career and Salary Information. (2017, November 14). Retrieved June 21, 2018, from https://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/teaching-careers/education-policy-analyst/

Ph.D. in Education - Gifted Education. (2017, August 30). Retrieved June 21, 2018, from https://curry.virginia.edu/academics/phd-education-gifted-education

Salary: Education Policy Analyst. (n.d.). Retrieved June 21, 2018, from https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/education-policy-analyst-salary-SRCH_KO0,24.htm

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