Individuals interested in earning a graduate degree or pursuing a career in public policy are embarking on a lifelong educational journey. The field of public policy is a dynamic area of research and practice that often requires constant continuing education. There are many ways that public policy professionals might pursuing continuing educational opportunities, some of these might include; participating in public policy fellowships, or in a “think-tank” project working for a public policy forum or institute.
Looking to expand your experience in public policy? A fellowship might be a great way to do so. Public policy fellowships may be available for qualified graduate students, post-graduates, and even mid-career professionals. Sponsored by organizations ranging from Google to Georgetown Law, from the American Chemical Society to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, fellowships may exist in a wide range of settings and address a wide range of issues. Public policy advocates, writers, legislators, lawyers, researchers and lobbyists may all find public policy fellowships suited to their interests and skills.
What you’ll do: A fellowship is an opportunity for you to build knowledge and skills, and to provide support to your partner institution. The focus is on educational and professional development. Depending upon your host agency and your area of expertise, you might engage in urban planning in a developing nation, learn in-depth about civil rights issues, or study the intersection of public finance and public policy.
How to find them: Aside from the typical Google search, in-person networking is an excellent way to learn about lesser-known fellowship opportunities. Attending public policy conferences and connecting directly with professionals at public policy consulting firms or organizations can yield leads that have not been well-publicized.
Common application requirements: Almost all public policy fellowship applications will require a resume, transcripts from any higher education institution attended, references, and a personal statement. Beyond that, applications may include more detailed aspects such as a statement of purpose, fellowship goals, and other demographic information. If the fellowship is located abroad, the application might require proof of fluency in the local language.
Public policy forums are independent organizations, or “think tanks”, that employ public policy associates to research public policy programs, provide advocacy, and/or tackle public policy issues. Often, they promote finding effective solutions to problems and encourage productive discussion and dialogue across varied sectors. In addition, time-limited events (such as meetings or conferences) that focus on these issues may also be termed “public policy forums”. American public policy forums do not differ substantially from international public policy forums.
Like public policy forums, public policy institutes are independent think tanks that attempt to solve public policy problems. Also known as “public policy centers” or “public policy organizations”, they are often non-profit and sometimes non-partisan. In addition, smaller entities housed within public policy programs at universities are sometimes termed “institutes”.
Some of the better-known public policy institutes are:
Generally speaking, those employed at public policy centers hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree (or occasionally a Ph.D.) in subjects such as economics, political science, public policy or sociology. That said, public policy professionals working in a very specific area – say, women’s issues – may hold a degree in that area (in this case, women’s studies). Public policy professionals also often have a strong background in research, statistical analysis, and writing. Project management skills and entrepreneurship might also be required for certain positions.