Career Center

Public Policy

Careers in public policy often involve using research findings to inform laws and regulations. Professionals in this field analyze current research and talk to experts in order to present oral and written reports to policy makers. Policy research is performed not only in government, but also at private corporations, nonprofits, and think tanks. Think tanks, also known as policy institutes or research institutes, are organizations that perform research and advocacy on particular topics. Many think tanks are also nonprofits, while others are funded by governments or advocacy groups. See this video for a more detailed introduction to public policy from American Association for the Advancement of Science, AAAS.

Explore The Variety of Career Paths With These Example Roles

Look up these titles or fields on Indeed or LinkedIn to learn more about what projects they work on and what skills are needed. This information is also useful when writing your application documents and preparing for interviews.

  • Public Policy Officer 
  • Policy Analyst 
  • Policy Advisor 
  • Science and Technology Fellow
  • Science Policy Analyst
  • Environmental Planner
  • Research Associate
  • Researcher
  • Advocate
  • Consultant
  • Specialist
  • Lobbyist
  • Program Examiner
  • Program Analyst
  • Program Manager
  • Democracy Fellow

Compare Different Organizations with Public Policy Roles

* = in the Raleigh-Durham area; # = history of sponsoring visas from myvisajobs.com

Search LinkedIn or Google Finance for these employers, and look for the section on related companies to help you identify others.

U.S. Government

  • Department of Energy, Advanced Manufacturing Office
  • White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
  • Agency for International Development (USAID)
  • USDA Office of the Chief Scientist
  • National Institutes of Health
  • Government Accountability Office

Advocacy

  • American Institute of Biological Sciences
  • 314 Action
  • PolicyLink
  • MDC Durham*

Think Tanks

  • Institute for Women’s Policy Research
  • Brookings Institution #
  • RAND Corporation #
  • RTI International *
  • Keck Institute for Space Studies
  • Center for Excellence in Higher Education
  • Americans for the Arts

Biotech & Healthcare

  • Hewlett-Packard #
  • Shire #
  • Novo Nordisk #

Research Companies

  • Abt Associates #
  • SciMetrika *#

Technology

  • Amazon #
  • Google #
  • IBM #
  • Cisco *#
  • Oracle #
  • SAIC

National Labs

  • Sandia National Labs #
  • Savannah River National Lab

Seek Out These Additional Public Policy and Career Resources

PhDs at Work podcast episode on Science and Democracy 

Articles and podcasts on science policy and careers 

Current news on the happenings in Washington, DC

Profile series about the experiences of students who have moved into policy and government positions 

Videos on PhDs’ experiences moving into research policy and government administration

Getting into Government guide 

Information about the skills required and employment trends 

Policy professionals’ career stories, sample resumes/CVs, and panel discussion on Versatile PhD 

Idealist Guide to Nonprofit Careers for Sector Switchers 

Guide to Internships and Fellowships in Government 

Guide to International Jobs in Government 

Twitter accounts: @googlepubpolicy, @CaulfieldTim, @kejames, @kevinmd, @halletecco, @AGUSciPolicy, @whitehouseostp

Meet Public Policy Professionals to Talk About Opportunities and Their Careers

Contact the Diplomat in Residence for our area to learn about careers in government, internships, and fellowships 

Subscribe to the Duke Policy and Politics Network to connect with alums and find opportunities 

Join a professional association

Contact Duke alumni and other professionals in public policy for informational interviews

The Graduate School Alumni Profiles

  • Abbie Langston - Literature PhD graduate, Senior Associate at PolicyLink, a national research and action institute dedicated to advancing economic and social equity.
  • Chris Simmons - Associate Vice President for Duke's Office of Government Relations
  • Vyeth Iyengar - Psychology PhD graduate, works in aging services for the Department of Health and Human Services 

LinkedIn Groups 

Build These Specific Skill Sets and Highlight Them When Applying

We summarized the skills professionals mentioned in LinkedIn profiles and job postings. Particular jobs may not require all of these skill sets, so find out from online resources and professionals you meet which of these skills sets are most relevant.

Communicate 

  • Communicate ideas to people outside your discipline, including lay audiences and people in power 
  • Present in front of audiences 
  • Write for quick and easy reading by non-expert decision-makers

Solve problems 

  • Think critically about how policies will be received by different groups 
  • Consider the broad–and narrow–reaching implications of creating particular policies 
  • Troubleshoot 
  • Be flexible 
  • Change topics regularly

Leadership and teamwork 

  • Manage committees
  • Tenacity 
  • Collaborate with various stakeholders 
  • Build and maintain relationships between diverse partners/stakeholders 
  • Outreach 
  • Humility 
  • Integrity

Research 

  • Read academic and government literature critically 
  • Stay up-to-date on research 
  • Learn information quickly 
  • Draw conclusions
  • Debate topics and negotiate 
  • Broad understanding of many research topics and applications of research 
  • Analyze policies and bills 
  • Engage with experts from various fields 
  • Gather and synthesize information 
  • Manage multiple projects 
  • Produce under tight deadlines

Support 

  • Perform background work for policy-makers
  • Build support for causes or policies 
  • Serve society
  • Manage up
  • Organize meetings and events
  • Budgeting

Gain Experience

You can gain experience in many ways that involve different amounts of time investment. Brush up on the principles of policy by reading the Practical Guide for Policy Analysis by Eugene Bardach 

Stay up-to-date on current policy news in your field through institutions and professional organizations

Attend events, take courses, gain research experience, and join a policy community with Duke Science and Society 

Gain experience in government and communication at the CASE Workshop 

Participate in outreach programs and volunteer opportunities

Become active with organizations 

Become involved with the policy side of professional organizations in your field, particularly if they plan visits to Capitol Hill

Contribute to university policies through committees in the Duke Graduate and Professional Student Council 

Develop a collaborative policy project with Emerging Leaders in Science and Society 

Join regional and state-level policy groups

Science Policy Action Network

Assist in political campaigns

Write science articles for different audiences in department newsletters, local newspapers, or industry websites; promote using Twitter or LinkedIn

Participate and lead committees in your department or program or with a professional society

Short-Term Internships and Fellowships

Opportunities to gain experience during graduate school.

Pathways internships in the federal government 

The National Academies host a 12-week policy fellowship, Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Fellowship Program 

Food and Drug Administration Office of Policy Internship 

Internships at think tanks

Institute for Women’s Policy Research

Internship program at a government agency or organization

Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities National Internship Program 

Research!America Science Policy Internship 

AAAS Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellowship 

Long-Term Fellowships

Opportunities to transition from graduate school to policy and government.

AAAS Science and Technology Fellowship

Presidential Management Fellowships  

Guide to Managing the PMF Process  

California Council on Science and Technology Policy Fellows 

Chicago Mayor’s Office Fellowship Program 

Health Policy Fellowship

Science, Technology, and Policy Program, U.S. Department of Energy

Bioethics Fellowship, NIH 

Mellon/ACLS Public Fellowship for humanities and social sciences PhDs 

TechCongress Congressional Innovation Fellow 

Research!America Science Policy Fellowship 

Postdoctoral Fellowship Program at the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago 

Hellman Fellowship in Science and Technology Policy 

Science, Technology, and Public Policy Fellowship from the Harvard Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs 

Fellowship databases and listings

Should You Pursue a Public Policy Degree?

Not all policy positions require a degree in public policy. Consider if the positions you want long-term require a public policy degree or if you could build skills and experiences in your current program to make you a more competitive candidate for entry-level positions.

Public Policy & Government Job Search Tools

Consider the common skills required by jobs and internships

Jobs and events hosted by the Duke Career Center

CareerConnections  

Talk to recruiters about their work and how you would fit in well with their organization

Government & Nonprofit Career Expo at Georgetown University (Duke students welcome)

Search for jobs in the U.S. government

Veteran opportunities with the U.S. Government, FedsHireVets

United Nations hiring programs

United Nations or other intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations, U.N. Job Finder  

Public affairs, policy, government affairs, and Capitol Hill jobs

Policy, advocacy, and government affairs, Policy Influence Professionals 

List of U.S. and non U.S. think tanks from the Harvard Kennedy School 

Idealist nonprofit job listings

Example corporate sector companies with policy divisions