Some of the most popular public policy topics in the US today include the economy, education, health care, immigration, and energy and the environment.
Public policy related to the economy includes topics like job creation, social security, and unemployment benefits. Education public policy addresses things like early childhood education, K-12 education, and public university tuition costs. Public policy around health care encompasses the Affordable Care Act and health care reform, among other issues. Immigration public policy examines border security, legal immigration, and earned citizenship. Public policy addressing energy and the environment involves policy around climate change and securing energy security.
Public policy informational resources exist in abundance. There are websites recording and examining everything from the public debt to immigration data and statistics to the US Census. Here is a brief and by no means exhaustive list of some well-known public policy journals and professional organizations:
Public policy process is a six stage cycle. It begins with problem identification, when dissatisfaction is expressed with a particular policy. The problem is defined by individuals, parties, the mass media, and other organizations. Next comes agenda setting – in order for the problem to be considered, it must proceed through various levels of government. Once this issue has made it on to an agenda, a policy addressing the problem is formulated and adopted. A budget is then determined, and the policy is put into action, or implemented. After it has been in existence for a time, the policy is evaluated for its effectiveness.
Those considering a career in policy may choose to pursue a law degree, and focus on classes on public policy law. Law and public policy are closely connected: law is a major aspect of public policy, because public policies are often developed and implemented by legislation. Other aspiring public policy professionals may pursue a master of public policy. However, many public policy positions require only a bachelor’s degree.
Research is a key component of public policy. Information gathering is required to determine whether there’s a need for a particular policy, and whether current policies are effectively addressing the problems they’re supposed to solve. Public policy research can take many forms, from case studies to focus groups to surveys to statistical analyses to interviews. A thorough understanding of public policy initiatives requires thorough research, and organizations from think tanks to consulting firms are charged with this process.