Is Public Policy a Good Major? [2021 Guide]

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Is public policy a good major? This degree may lead to a career in policy analysis, organizational management, or municipal government.

Is Public Policy a Good Major

You may be interested in the field of public policy if you are passionate about finding long-lasting solutions to major societal issues, such as crime, poverty, healthcare equity, education, and the environment.

A degree in public policy can help equip you to make a difference and prepare you for a meaningful and influential career in public service.

Is Public Policy a Good Major?

Policy analysts in a meeting

Yes, public policy is a good major for many undergraduate students. With an average salary range from $61,000 to $136,000 (Bureau of Labor Statistics), majoring in public policy can help you launch a career in this public service field.

Common public policy careers include marketing manager, policy analyst, community services manager, legislative aide, and public relations director.

As a public policy graduate, you may have developed skills that can apply to the government, nonprofit, and business sectors. You may be able to consider a wide variety of jobs and work in an area that matches your interests.

To get ready for various public policy responsibilities, you’ll take classes in college about leadership, change management, and economics.

You may study the history of policy development as well as modern policy practices. Doing so can help you learn to advocate for future policy changes. Other courses may address ethics, statistics, and public policy research practices.

Your school may also offer the opportunity to specialize in a particular area of public policy. For example, some colleges have programs that focus on criminal justice policy or environmental policy. You can even earn a masters in public policy part time.

Public Policy Major Curriculum

Policy Analyst studying online

While each school sets its own curriculum, many programs include similar classes. The course list below can help give you an idea of the types of classes you might take for your degree in public policy.

  • Change Management for Leaders
  • Communications, Mass Media, and Crisis Management
  • Ethics for Public Policy Leaders
  • Issues and Advocacy in Policymaking
  • Local, State, and Federal Law
  • Managing Public Servants
  • Policy Evaluation
  • Public Policy Economics
  • Research in Public Policy
  • Statistics and Data Analysis for Policy Decisions

Your bachelor’s degree program in public policy will likely include a total of 120 credit hours, including general education, major-specific, and elective classes. Your coursework may include a capstone course or an internship experience.

Top 5 Things You Can Do with a Public Policy Degree

Public policy is a varied field that offers job opportunities in government, non-governmental organizations, community groups, and private businesses. Public policy degrees may take you to a leadership or management position in nearly any sector that ignites your passion.

1. Policy Analyst

Policy Analysts meeting

If you want to make a difference regarding what public policies are in place, then a job as a policy analyst may be in your future. Policy analysts evaluate both current and proposed policies.

This is often a research-heavy job. Your knowledge of statistics and data analysis can help you learn how policies affect people and organizations. Legislators may contemplate your findings as they consider new laws.

Policy analysts are expected to hold a masters degree, so a bachelors in a public policy could be a strategic foundation.

2. Public Relations Manager

Public Relations Managers meeting

Public relations professionals are in charge of delivering messages to audiences outside of their organizations. This may include speaking to government officials and the general public.

Your knowledge of law and policy can help you fulfill this responsibility clearly, legally, and ethically. PR positions are in nearly every organization, both public and private. You could start as a specialist and may eventually become a manager.

3. Marketing Manager

Marketing Managers meeting

Public policy and marketing may have more in common than you’d think. For one thing, marketing practices can help sell people on new policies and initiatives. Your skills may influence both lawmakers and the general public.

Also, many government agencies, NGOs, and nonprofits need professionals who can play a more traditional marketing role. Your background in public policy may make you a good fit for an organization’s culture and mission.

4. City Manager

City Managers in office

Some public policy graduates take top leadership roles in local government. As a city manager, you might oversee municipal staff, weigh in on policy decisions, and carry out laws made by the city’s governing body.

While city management is usually a hired position, you may also lead in an elected capacity. For example, with your background in public policy, you might make a good candidate for mayor.

5. Social and Community Service Manager

Nonprofits and NGOs need leaders who understand business, public service, and regulatory compliance. Government agencies need such leaders too.

As a community service manager, you might apply for grants, head up staff, lead programs, and share your organization’s vision with donors or the general community. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for social and community service managers are growing at a 17% rate.

Public Policy Careers

Public Policy Careers

A public policy major could help prepare you for a job in government, a nonprofit organization, or the private sector.

A number of public policy graduates want to be policy analysts who influence legislation. They may have influence at the local, state, or federal level. Consulting firms and think tanks as well as government agencies employ policy analysts. Policy analysts are a type of political scientist, and this position generally requires a masters degree.

In community and nonprofit agencies, you may carry out a variety of leadership roles. Your knowledge of the ways that policies influence practices can help you do those jobs skillfully. Plus, you may be effective as a go-between who works with both agency leadership and government officials.

Similarly, businesses in the private sector often appreciate the role that public policy majors can play in their organizations. They may rely on you to help ensure regulatory compliance or communicate with government leaders.

Government agencies also need a variety of business specialists to keep their organizations running smoothly. A public policy degree may make you an ideal candidate for their needs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a background in public policy may help you pursue the following career paths.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Marketing Managers $136,850
Political Scientists $122,220
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers $116,180
Top Executives $104,690
Budget Analysts $76,540
Business Operations Specialists $70,530
Social and Community Service Managers $67,150
Market Research Analysts $63,790
Public Relations Specialists $61,150
Paralegals and Legal Assistants $51,740

Whether you’re working for a private company, a nonprofit group, or a government agency, positions that you could pursue include a marketing or public relations specialist. You may eventually become a manager as well.

Another idea could be to head up programs. Your responsibilities might include coming up with ideas, getting programs off the ground, overseeing everyday operations, and evaluating the effectiveness of initiatives. Program coordination falls under the category of business operations specialists.

Your leadership in various departments might eventually help you become one of the top leaders in your organization. In a nonprofit group, for example, you might be known as a community or social services manager.

Studying public policy could also help prepare you to be a government leader or to assist those who lead. For example, you could be a legislative aide, a city manager, or a mayor. Municipal leaders are categorized as top executives. Someday, you might even be elected as a legislator.

Wondering what you can do with a masters in public policy?” Some positions may require a masters degree or additional certification. Getting a master’s degree in public policy after finishing your bachelor’s program could be a good way to secure higher-paying management or political science roles.

How to Know If a Degree in Public Policy Is Right for Me

policy analysts working in office

Many public policy students are interested in law and government. While caring about political and legal matters is key to success in this field, it’s not the only quality that will contribute.

You may also be a good candidate for a public policy degree if you:

  • Can break down complex problems into simpler components
  • Enjoy working with data and statistics
  • Express yourself clearly through written and oral communication
  • Solve problems in creative ways
  • Value team collaboration

Being passionate about solving a particular societal issue may be another reason to choose a bachelor’s degree in public policy.

What Is Public Policy?

policy analysts conference

Public policy is a field that deals with laws, regulations, and actions that are intended to address issues or solve problems.

Some of the most common issues that public policy professionals address include healthcare, criminal justice, education, the environment, and the economy.

Students in public policy programs may learn how to design, influence, evaluate, or carry out government regulations. They may also study how to wield influence over how funding is distributed, and they can address ways to sway public opinion on critical issues.

Is Public Policy a Good Career?

Marketing Managers meeting

As a leader in public policy, you might influence what laws are created and what steps people take to carry them out. Your work may guide how funds are appropriated or ensure that organizations operate ethically and legally.

The ways that you communicate ideas and present information may sway people’s opinions and help them better understand the world in which they live. Some public policy career options include marketing, public relations, community service management, city government, and program coordination.

If you want to become a policy analyst, you may continue on to earn a masters degree in public policy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, policy analysts and other political scientists earn between $60,960 and $164,210 annually.

What Can You Do with a Public Policy Degree?

marketing team meeting

Some public policy graduates pursue management roles in business, government, or nonprofit work. Your interests could lead you into public relations, marketing, operations, or project management.

Management positions pay, on average, $105,660 each year (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Other graduates go on to earn their masters so they can specialize in public policy analysis. As an analyst, you may work for government departments, lobbying groups, labor unions, political parties, or think tanks.

Getting a master’s degree in public policy, political science, or public administration could grow your leadership potential and increase your chances of earning a management job.

What Is the Difference Between Public Policy vs. Political Science?

Business Operations Specialists meeting

Public policy is a branch of political science. The field of public policy deals with addressing societal problems by making laws and influencing public opinion.

Public policy majors may be passionate about finding effective solutions to issues like poverty and crime. Political science is a broader field. It includes studies on government systems and political institutions.

Political science students may be interested in developing answers to theoretical questions about issues of law and government, such as foreign relations and economic systems.

What Is the Difference Between Public Policy vs. Political Administration?

political scientists meeting

Public policy’s main focus is determining the best path toward solving community issues. Research and data analysis are important tools for creating the most effective policies.

If you want to be involved in shaping the rules that govern communities, then a public policy major may be a good fit for you. Political administration focuses on leadership skills for people who plan to work in the public sector.

If your main goal is to carry out the policies that others have created, then an administration degree can help prepare you for this career path.

Is a Public Policy Degree Worth It?

policy analyst working in his office

Yes, a public policy degree is worth it for many students. With an average salary range from $61,000 to $136,000 (Bureau of Labor Statistics), a degree in public policy can help you launch a career in this problem-solving field.

Common public policy careers include legal assistant, city manager, program director, fundraiser, and public relations specialist. In a public policy career, you may influence how communities solve some of their most critical problems.

Whether you work as a policy analyst, a marketing manager, or a program coordinator, your leadership may make a difference in educational, healthcare, or criminal justice practices.

Getting Your Degree in Public Policy Online

Public Policy Online

If you want to make a difference in the world around you, a public policy bachelors degree can help equip you to accomplish that goal.

This program may teach you to evaluate issues and come up with effective solutions. You may learn to influence legislation, lead programs, and communicate with government officials. Public policy majors may become policy analysts, city leaders, PR specialists, and more.

If you’re ready to get started in this field, you may want to check out online public policy degree programs. Through online study at an accredited university, you may earn a public policy degree in a flexible format that fits your busy lifestyle.

Jordan Meeks
WRITTEN BY
Jordan Meeks
Jordan is pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy and earned her Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management and her Bachelor's in Business Administration. Jordan's research focuses on adults returning to college and online degree programs.