Populations are growing all over the world. Communities-from towns to cities to nations-are becoming ever more complex and heterogeneous. And the ways in which all these diverse groupings of people interact is both more intimate and, unfortunately, often more contentious than it ever was before. There are innumerable reasons for these shifts, and while there are people who spend entire careers trying to figure out the exact nature of these interactions and why they change the way they do, our focus here is on the policy makers-the public policy professionals who essentially "make the rules" that govern the ways in which these relationships play out on both personal and population-sized scales.
According to BusinessDictionary.com the definition of public policy is "Declared State objectives relating to the health, morals, and well being of the citizenry. In the interest of public policy, legislatures and courts seek to nullify any action, contract, or trust that goes counter to these objectives even if there is no statute that expressly declares it void."
Of course, few things are ever quite as simple as they seem, and this area of work is no different. For the nature of those decisions, and the ways in which they come to be, are the end result of a process that is far more complex and complicated than most people ever realize.
When you take the long view, however, this makes a great deal of sense: The rules by which we are all governed should be the result of hard work, deep thought and careful consideration not only of the decisions themselves, but also of their likely effects and ramifications after they are implemented.
To that end, there are a number of aspects of the field in which you can potentially work. And while the specifics of a career in public policy will be addressed further along in this article, the training for it is key to this one. And indeed, just as there are many different avenues you can travel in for a career in this line of work, so, too, are there myriad scholastic avenues you can take.
The basic courses taken by students with an eye on a career in public policy include, but are not limited to, urban policy, political science, economics, political theory, history and the like. For like other areas of study, public policy requires of its practitioners-and therefore of its students-an understanding of all the many varieties of its practice. This affords students the opportunity to not only make the most well-informed decision when the time comes to consider a career path, but also to have competency in the field in general in order to be the best possible practitioner of their field in particular.
Coursework, therefore might include analysis of the following topics:
In fact, this sampling is just a fraction of the many courses that various schools offer. What makes this short list important is the fact that it demonstrates the wide range of topics studied by students in public policy programs.
Working in the field of public policy offers professionals the potential opportunity to have a very real impact on society in general and their community in particular. And because public policy is such a broad topic, practitioners may find themselves working in any number of specific areas of the field. From running for and holding political office to advising those in power, and from teaching the next generation of policy makers to conducting research work for a think tank, there are enough aspects of this field to require the skills of people with a wide range of strengths.
Depending upon which specific aspect of the field you choose to pursue, competition and compensation will vary a great deal. Teaching basic politics courses in high schools will be far less competitive than working as a television political analyst, for example. But as long as you pursue the aspect of the field that interests you most, and that makes the best use of your particular skill set, then you should have no problem finding a satisfying career in the field of public policy.
Sound public policy is one of most basic requirements of a healthy society, and the professional practice of it is one of the most laudable careers a citizen can pursue. If you have an interest in making a real impact on your world, then this is the field to consider.