How do I Become a Public Policy Director?

Darlene Goodman

A diverse set of skills is required to become a public policy director, also sometimes called a government relations director. Many companies or non-governmental organizations hire a public policy director to petition people involved in government to adopt the organization’s position on a policy issue. This job usually requires that a candidate be experienced in, or at least knowledgeable about, public policy, legislation, and public relations.

The majority of public policy director positions require a master's degree.
The majority of public policy director positions require a master's degree.

The basic requirements for most public policy jobs involve education and experience. The majority of public policy director jobs require either a master’s degree or several years of experience in a related field, and many require both. There is usually some flexibility within this requirement, however, because fields related to public policy often vary.

A person seeking to become a public policy director may find better job opportunities if he or she has a master’s degree in either public policy itself or in a field related to government relations. Such a degree in public policy may give the candidate a higher level of expertise in the tasks involved in being a public policy director. Any graduate-level education may help candidates show they are able to research policy issues and present findings in a clear manner.

For the most part, to become a public policy director, a candidate should become well-versed in the hiring organization's concerns. This knowledge could come from experience, education, or in-depth research in the organization’s policy issues. For example, if the organization is a telecommunications company, candidates for a policy director’s job may wish to have at least a general knowledge of the telecommunications industry and laws affecting it.

Depending on the type of hiring organization, candidates who wish to become a public policy director may be required to have experience or knowledge about legislative advocacy. Much of a public policy director’s job may be to research legislation and draft reports on it. Legislative advocacy typically includes researching policy changes, commenting on proposed legislation, or meeting with lawmakers to discuss new policy initiatives.

A job candidate may also wish to gain experience or education in the fields of law and government. Due to their professional backgrounds, lawyers, legislative aids, and government employees may have a good chance of being hired as a public policy director. Experience in government may show potential employers that the candidate has the knowledge necessary to successfully communicate the organization’s position to lawmakers.

Public relations skills may be another type of experience helpful to someone who is hoping to become a public policy director. A public policy director is usually responsible for communicating an organization’s position to lawmakers. This communication often varies in focus, from educating about policy issues to crafting persuasive arguments in favor of a particular policy position.

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