Policy officers undertake research and gather objective evidence to support the policymaking process or to influence policy decisions

As a policy officer, you'll carry out research, undertake consultations, and gather and analyse data in order to help decision-makers develop and shape policy. Decision-makers can include government, think tanks and businesses.

You will also evaluate policy proposals, advising on issues such as the benefits, risks and potential implications. You may also need to assess the impact of policy decisions and communicate changes to the wider community.

As part of the process, you will liaise with a range of internal and external stakeholders, members of the public, customers, regulators and the media.

You may work across several policy areas or specialise in particular area, such as employment, the environment, healthcare, housing, international relations or trade. Depending on your role, you may also be involved in campaigning for change.

Although you may on occasion have responsibility for decision-making, the main focus of your role is to provide guidance and advice to decision-makers or to influence policy decisions.

Types of policy work

You'll usually work across a range of functions in either the public, private or charity sector:

  • local and central government - researching, developing and implementing public policies that affect everyone. This type of role could involve advising senior or elected officials such as MPs. You could be working on policy across a range of issues and sectors.
  • think tanks, unions and charities - researching, monitoring and aiming to influence policies in favour of a cause. These roles often involve communications, campaigning and public affairs.
  • public and private sector (internal policy roles) - you'll be developing and implementing the policies that an organisation needs in order to run effectively.


As a policy officer, you'll need to:

  • undertake or commission research on a range of topics
  • carry out consultations with internal and external stakeholders - including colleagues, customers or members of the public
  • gather and analyse data and other information
  • draft briefings, reports and speeches providing relevant evidence, analyses, conclusions and recommendations
  • deliver oral briefings and presentations
  • support or coordinate meetings, conferences or debates, sometimes including diary management
  • provide advice to senior managers, key stakeholders and decision-makers
  • keep up to date with social, political and economic developments, and brief others on these
  • develop expertise in a particular area of policy, or draw on the expertise of others
  • manage and track the delivery of political or organisational priorities, reporting on progress
  • write and monitor communications to ensure consistency and accuracy
  • manage and respond to information requests relating to policy
  • keep accurate records on policy decisions and the evidence used to inform them
  • develop expertise in a particular area or advise in a generalist capacity, depending on the nature of your role.


  • Starting salaries for policy assistant or officer roles range from around £23,000 to £30,000.
  • Senior policy advisors can earn between around £32,000 and £40,000.
  • Policy managers could earn a salary of £40,000 to £50,000 or more. Salaries for heads of policy can be in excess of £60,000.

Salaries vary between sectors and organisations. Starting salaries are typically lower in the charity sector than in central government or the private sector.

Salaries are also affected by your location (salaries for jobs in London, for example, are usually higher or you may get a London weighting payment), the area of policy you work in (e.g., social, public or operational) and the level of responsibility you have. Job titles vary so you need to check the level of experience employers are looking for.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

You're likely to work a standard working week, Monday to Friday. There may be occasions, however, when you need to work longer or more irregular hours to meet deadlines or to attend meetings or events.

Many organisations in the public and charity sector allow some degree of flexible working, including part-time roles, flexible hours or job sharing. There are also some opportunities for remote and hybrid working.

What to expect

  • Most roles are office based, but will require some travel for meetings, conferences and events. The extent will depend on the focus of your role.
  • You'll work with a range of people and organisations, including senior managers, public office officials, members of the public and other key internal and external stakeholders.
  • Policy evolves rapidly, so you'll need to feel comfortable adapting to what could be frequent changes to situations or priorities. This can be exciting and will give you lots of variety, but may also be frustrating and challenging at times. You may find that something you have been working on for months is no longer relevant, or that you need to change direction quickly and meet new deadlines.
  • Jobs are available in towns and cities across the UK.
  • You could have the opportunity to influence or help implement local, national and even international changes to improve the experiences and lives of others.


You'll usually need an undergraduate degree to become a policy officer, although degree level and subject requirements vary depending on the role.

A degree in one of the following subjects may be particularly useful:

  • anthropology
  • economics
  • philosophy
  • politics and international relations
  • psychology
  • public administration
  • social policy
  • sociology.

In some roles, specialist knowledge of the policy area you're working in through a degree in a relevant subject may be required or be an advantage. For other roles, an analytical subject or previous training in research methodologies may be an advantage.

It may be possible to get into the role without a degree if you have relevant equivalent experience and training. You could achieve this by starting in an entry-level position and working your way up to a policy role. A new Level 4 Policy Officer Apprenticeship has also been developed for people without an undergraduate degree. Apprenticeships combine paid work and on-the-job training with academic study.

Some positions, such as roles in think tanks where there is an emphasis on policy research, may require a postgraduate research qualification (MRes or PhD) in a subject such as public policy, policy research or social research. Even when it is not a requirement, it may still be useful to have a relevant postgraduate qualification.

See social policy courses and search postgraduate courses in social policy and environmental policy.


You'll need to have:

  • an interest in policy and bringing about change
  • excellent written and verbal communication skills, to absorb complex information and present it to different audiences in a clear and accessible way
  • effective research and analysis skills (including quantitative and qualitative), needed to build an evidence base from which you will work
  • interpersonal skills, to work and build relationships with a range of people holding different views
  • strong problem-solving skills and sound judgement
  • the ability to understand diverse perspectives and to be able to successfully influence and negotiate
  • organisation skills, to track priorities, work to deadlines and manage projects
  • the ability to work alone, using your initiative, and also in a team
  • a keen eye for detail in order to keep accurate records
  • strong numeracy and good IT skills
  • a flexible and adaptable approach, in order to respond to shifting priorities and a rapidly evolving external environment
  • the ability and desire to acquire and maintain knowledge of a policy area or areas
  • the ability to make decisions autonomously or advise others on the most effective course of action
  • an understanding of confidentiality as you may be managing sensitive information
  • commitment and passion for developing and delivering policy to improve the lives and experiences of citizens or for advancing a particular cause.

Work experience

Policy work can be a competitive field, so it's a good idea to get some work experience through volunteering, internships and building a network of contacts in the sector. You could, for example, volunteer for a charity, political party or MP.

You may be able to get an internship or work experience placement at a local council. Use the GOV.UK - Find your local council to find contact details. The civil service also runs a Summer Internship Programme for students from diverse backgrounds in the final two years of their degree course. The scheme provides the opportunity to see what a career in the civil service is like.

Think tanks and policy institutes offer some internships, though these can be extremely competitive. You could try applying to the schemes run by the Institute for Government, Chatham House, UK Research and Innovation (doctoral students only) and the Adam Smith Institute.

Some charities offer internships, advertising directly on their websites or on websites like CharityJob.

Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.


Opportunities exist within public, private and third sector organisations such as:

  • central and local government
  • charities
  • NHS
  • non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
  • policy institutes
  • professional bodies and associations
  • think tanks
  • trade unions.

Fast-track graduate routes into central and local government and the NHS are available through the:

These schemes can all lead to jobs specialising in policy work.

Find out more about working in policy in the civil service.

Government departments and individual councils advertise policy officer roles and other entry-level positions (that you can work your way up from) directly. This is also true for other public sector organisations, including housing associations and the NHS.

Members of parliament employ parliamentary and constituency assistants, whose roles will involve some policy work.

Charities, NGOs and think tanks sometimes advertise positions. However, it can be competitive and you may need to apply speculatively as well.

You can also work in internal policy roles for a range of public and private sector organisations. In these jobs, you'll develop and implement the policies that the organisation needs in order to run effectively.

Look for vacancies at:

Policy officer jobs are also advertised in the national press, such as The Guardian Policy Jobs, and on LinkedIn.

To find charitable organisations to approach speculatively, see the Charity Commission directory - registered charities in the UK.

Professional development

There are no set qualifications or training routes for a career in policy. Your opportunities for continuing professional development (CPD) will vary depending on your role, the organisation you work for and whether you choose to specialise.

You may undertake specific training, in areas such as:

  • legislative or parliamentary processes, such as bill training
  • policy communications, including writing briefings and submissions, press releases or speeches
  • quantitative or qualitative research or analysis.

Most graduate schemes combine formal training with on-the-job learning. In addition to policy work, you're also likely to develop skills in people and project management, change management and financial/commercial awareness.

The Civil Service Policy Profession has a framework for professional development which sets out the skills those in policy roles are expected to develop, as well as a range of training and development opportunities.

Professional associations and policy think tanks offer training courses, events and conferences, which you could participate in as part of your ongoing development. Relevant organisations include:

There are also opportunities to study for a postgraduate qualification, such as a Masters or PhD, in social or public policy or a related area such as public administration. Search for postgraduate courses in social policy.

Career prospects

You may choose to continue working in your policy area, progressing to become a senior policy officer or adviser and developing subject expertise.

You could further develop your career by moving to a larger or more influential department or organisation. If you enjoy working on independent research projects, you could move to a large charity or think tank.

You could also progress to become a policy manager, with responsibility for a number of policy areas and leading a whole programme of work. From there you could move into senior management roles, such as deputy or head of policy. Typically, you'll have responsibility for several programmes of work, and have a role in the strategic direction and management of the organisation.

It's also possible to move into other related functions within your organisation or the wider sector, such as public affairs, communications, governance or compliance, for example.

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