For students who want to make a difference, public policy offers great options. | Photo credit: Getty Images/iStockPhoto
PPublic policy is quickly becoming a buzzword at liberal arts colleges. This means working on broad-based policy formulation that promotes social good and working closely with government to analyze, plan and implement relevant policies in areas such as health, politics, climate, social issues, human rights, poverty and energy.
Typically, a public policy professional will specialize in one policy area during their career and then in a sub-area within it, such as water science in the environment, child nutrition in health and conflict in South Asia in foreign policy.
An interdisciplinary field, Public Policy spans multiple areas in Economics, Law, Sociology, Politics, History and Geography, primarily with Data Analytics, giving professionals an added edge.
A public policy professional may work with government departments, “think tanks” or NGOs. “Think tanks” are organizations that “think”, that is, they research, analyze and identify policy solutions to problems and advise government and business accordingly. For example, NITI Aayog is the Indian government think tank that led the research to develop the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP). Other prominent Indian think tanks include the Center for Civil Society, the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and Development Alternatives.
Three of the main areas of public policy work, funding and research are:
Environment: Given the global push for climate action and recognition of it as the world’s most urgent need, this field offers many opportunities for funding, research and employment across the globe. Environmental policies focus on ensuring that the relationship between humans and the natural environment is mutually beneficial. Some of the main issues are water and food scarcity, climate change, demographic paradox, waste management, ecosystem management and management of natural resources, wildlife and endangered species. For example, India banned the use, manufacture, import, export, storage, distribution and sale of single-use plastic in 2022 to fight pollution. Last month, the government introduced a carbon credit trading market in India. In 2021, SEBI introduced the Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Report (BRSR) for companies to share quantitative and standardized information on ESG (environmental, social and governance) metrics to enable comparability between companies, sectors and time. The COP27 delegation includes representatives from public policy think tanks like the Energy, Environment and Water Council, and the environment and sustainability practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers in India to determine policy measures to address climate change.
Education: This focuses on the principles and policies around the education system. It is a set of guidelines and rules aimed at improving the quality of education. In 2021, the NEP was hailed for its focus on early childhood education, gender inclusion, employability skills, and merit-based teacher recruitment and promotion.
Health: Health policies are designed to achieve certain societal goals. At the national level, policies relate to access to care, its coverage and its cost. An example is “Medicaid” in the United States, which provides health care for low-income people, uninsured pregnant women, the temporarily unemployed, and people with disabilities. Likewise, in 2020 Scotland became the first country in the world to make menstrual products such as tampons and sanitary napkins free for those who need them.
Compensation varies depending on the level of education and expertise one builds in international relations and public policy. This is an area with great options. Starting salaries are in the range of ₹3-12 lakhs per year with peaks ranging from Rs 60 lakhs per year.
Build a career
A highly academic field, public policy professionals typically study economics, sociology or political science at the undergraduate level, followed by a master’s degree in public policy from leading universities such as the National University of Singapore, Oxbridge , Harvard and New York University, among others. others. While a postgraduate degree is a minimum requirement for a career in specialist think tanks, a Ph.D. is highly recommended.
So if the idea of studying and formulating policies for positive social change excites you, this is the ideal route.
(with contributions by Kritika Malhotra)
The author is the founder and CEO of Inomi Learning, a Gurugram-based career and academic counseling company. firstname.lastname@example.org
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