Education Policy Analyst: Career and Salary Information
Education policy in the 21st century ignites passions and attracts controversy because so much is at stake — the future of our children, our country and the world at large. Education policy analysts try to answer the most pressing questions facing our education system. When they succeed, more kids get a chance to fulfill their potential, and the future gets a little bit brighter for everyone.
If you’re a big-picture thinker with a strong interest in education, consider pursuing a career as an education policy analyst. People in this profession tackle major challenges such as improving learning outcomes for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and making college affordable to families from across the economic spectrum.
This guide is a concise overview of the job responsibilities, required education and likely salary of an education policy analyst. Read all the way through or use these links to jump to a specific destination:
At-a-glance: education policy analysts
To become an education policy analyst, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree and in most cases a master’s degree. Most employers look to hire education policy analysts with an advanced degree (master’s or doctorate) in a field related to education or public policy.
Salaries for education policy analysts vary by location, employer and education level. Here’s a range of income estimates for education policy analysts:
|Median salary||$99,730 (BLS)|
Education policy analyst job description
Education raises complex public policy challenges. What should be taught to K-12 students in America’s public schools? How do the rising costs of postsecondary school education affect the nation’s youth? As an education policy analyst, you’ll identify, brainstorm and research the key issues. After that, you’ll provide a well-reasoned recommendation for the best policy solution, clearly spelling out the benefits and drawbacks.
You will look at education systems, processes, relationships and structures to determine whether legislative and institutional guidelines are serving the nation’s youth effectively. You’ll review government policies to identify opportunities for innovation. You may also help school administrators and educators understand their legal and regulatory environment.
Who makes a good education policy analyst?
Someone who is:
- Skilled at identifying problems and brainstorming potential solutions
- Creative and always generating ideas
- Attentive to details
- Highly curious and a lifelong learner
- Capable of absorbing lots of information quickly
- Excellent at written and oral communication, as well as presentation
- Comfortable working independently and collaboratively with other team members
- Careful about documentation and note-taking
- Qualified with an education or public policy-related degree
Interested in becoming an education policy analyst?
This video will give you a good overview of careers in public policy.
In-depth: education policy analysts
Let’s take a more detailed look at what education policy analysts do, where they work, how much they earn, and more.
- What education policy analysts do
- Where education policy analysts work
- Educational and certification requirements
- Income estimates
- Pros and cons of being an education policy analyst
What education policy analysts do
Education policy analysts research the efficacy of educational policies, examining how local, state and federal laws affect educational opportunities and learning outcomes from prekindergarten through graduate school. They give important decision-makers summaries of the costs and benefits of various policies and laws related to education. They may also recommend policies they think will do the most good for schools and society.
If you work as an education policy analyst, your day-to-day responsibilities may include:
- Researching topics in education affecting the U.S. school system or from comparable international educational systems
- Evaluating how education policies affect the public — students, parents, teachers and society
- Collecting and analyzing information, including data from surveys of students/parents/teachers, standardized test results and broad economic measures
- Using qualitative and quantitative sources and methodologies to develop and test theories
- Reporting your findings, publishing analytical research and essays, and giving presentations to important stakeholders
- Monitoring events, policy decisions, trends and other issues with implications for the education landscape
- Forecasting political, economic and social trends
- Conducting cost/benefit analyses and making recommendations to legislators and other important decision-makers
Education policy analysts may work on education policy at the local level. For example, an education policy analyst may help a school board deal with a growing population of young families moving into their school district. The analyst will look at the school and class size, test scores, learning outcomes, teacher-to-student ratios and other data. These facts help the analyst weigh the necessity of hiring more teachers or building/expanding schools. With the analyst’s report in hand, the school board can lobby for more local or state funding.
Education policy analysts also tackle nationwide challenges like the relentless rise in college costs. In this case, the analyst studies the problem, gathers evidence and examines mechanisms pushing tuition rates higher. The analyst will recommend solutions to lawmakers, the media and the public.
Educational policy analysts also explore:
- Public school funding
- K-12 academic standards
- High school graduation rates
- Class size and its effect on learning outcomes
- K-12 curriculum choices
- Teacher training and compensation
- Efficacy of standardized testing
- Adult education and job training
Depending on your employer, you may work on a mix of these topics, or you may focus heavily on one or two special subjects, becoming the foremost expert in a particular area.
Where education policy analysts work
Education policy analysts work for a wide range of employers, including:
- Government agencies
- School boards and/or school districts
- Legislative or executive offices of state or federal government
- Think tanks
- Non-profit foundations
- Political or activist organizations
- Political candidates’ campaigns
- Lobbying firms serving a wide variety of clients
- Corporate clients’ marketing and/or public affairs departments
Some education policy analysts decipher the potential impact of bills under consideration by Congress. Others help non-profits develop grant proposals and negotiate contracts with government agencies. You could be hired by school districts or government agencies to identify strengths and weaknesses of specific programs and recommend changes.
Private sector businesses marketing products to students or educational institutions frequently hire education policy analysts.
You’ll juggle a number of different titles. Education policy analysts can be program analysts, program specialists, policy coordinators or management analysts.
Educational and certification requirements
Most employers expect their education policy analysts to have an extensive educational background. You will probably need a master’s degree in public policy, child development or education to succeed in this career. Senior policy analysts frequently have PhDs.
Classroom teaching experience is valuable but not essential. It’s far more crucial to have knowledge of quantitative analysis techniques and an understanding of the historical context of current educational policy.
As you consider a career as an education policy analyst, think about the part of education policy you are most passionate about. The best way to position yourself as a great policy analyst is to specialize in a particular area so you can sell yourself as an expert in that niche. Then you can seek out an advanced degree in your area of focus.
Education policy analysts earn salaries commensurate with their experience level, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A policy analyst with less experience may be hired to work in a government agency for $50,000 to $60,000 a year. Experienced analysts, on the other hand, can easily earn $100,000 a year in a senior position and even more if they pursue outside consulting work.
The field is expected to see moderate growth through 2018. Education policy is at a crossroads. One of the great challenges for educational policymakers is figuring out how to cope with tight budgets without sacrificing educational excellence.
Pros and cons of being an education policy analyst
Let’s break down the positives and negatives of working as an education policy analyst:
- Broad impact because your work may affect the entire education system
- Varied and evolving intellectual challenges
- High pay relative to many positions in education
- High likelihood of earning health insurance and retirement benefits
- Opportunity to work in public service
- Education system bureaucracies can be difficult to change and frustrating to work with
- Much less opportunity to work directly with students compared to other jobs in education
- Most of the job involves reading and writing, which can be frustrating if you want more hands-on work
- Work can be politicized and highly controversial
Professional development for education policy analysts
You may follow many routes to becoming an education policy analyst. Maybe you’re a teacher, a government worker, journalist or an undergraduate student. Whatever your background, if you have enough passion and drive, you can build a career as an education policy analyst.
For starters, read as much as you can about education news and policy, including blogs and Twitter handles. The better informed you are about the education world, the more likely you are to find job openings and impress potential employers. You should also seek internships at public policy think tanks or elsewhere in the education sector to gain experience and build your resume.
Successful education policy analysts often join professional organizations like the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) for access to networking opportunities with other public policy professionals.
Benefits of continuing education
If you’re serious about becoming an education policy analyst, think about pursuing a master’s degree or doctorate. Once you have decided to get an advanced degree, start researching the specialization you want and the programs that best serve your professional goals.
What kinds of programs can help education policy analysts?
Concordia University-Portland offers online graduate degree programs in education that will prepare you to analyze education policy from the inside out. Check out the following programs that can provide a solid foundation for your career as an education policy analyst:
- MEd in Educational Leadership
- MEd in Curriculum and Instruction: Leadership
- EdD in Professional Leadership, Inquiry, and Transformation
- EdD in Instructional Leadership
- EdD in Transformational Leadership
As you browse these programs, consider whether you’d like to pursue a master’s degree (MEd) or a doctorate (EdD), and the area of education research you are most passionate about.
Jobs for education policy analysts beyond policy analysis
Education policy analysts may also work as teachers, librarians, instructional coordinators, assistant principals, principals, or as an educational administrator at a college or university.
Teacher: Education policy analysts can easily become teachers if they obtain a teaching credential and have a strong educational background in the subject they plan to teach.
Professor: Education policy analysts can become professors if they earn a doctorate in the area where they wish to research and teach.
Librarian: A master’s degree in library science (MLS) is generally required for employment, and some states also require librarians to pass a standardized test.
Instructional coordinator: Education policy analysts are well-positioned to become instructional coordinators. Instructional coordinators should complete a master’s degree related to curriculum and instruction and may be required to have a teaching or education administrator license.
Academic advisor: With a master’s degree in an education-related field, you can transition into being an academic advisor at either the K-12 or college/university level.
School principal: You will need a master’s degree in an education-related field to become a school principal. Most states also require public school principals to be licensed school administrators.
Education administrator: To become an education administrator, you will need years of experience and a master’s degree in an education-related field, such as education leadership.
Best of the web: our favorite education policy analyst blogs, websites and Twitter handles
The web makes it easy to connect with prominent education policy analysts. Here is a list of our favorite websites and Twitter handles, in no particular order.
Favorite education policy analyst websites and blogs
- National Education Policy Center
- American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF)
- Learning Policy Institute
- AIR Education Policy Center
- This Week in Education
- Education and Class
- Sherman Dorn’s Blog
- Schools Matter
- Inside Higher Ed Blogs
- EdWeek Blogs
- Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM)
- Public Policy Lab