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Career Paths and Job Titles

Careers in policy span academia, industry, government, and non-profits. Options in academia can include teaching or conducting research that informs policy. Industry careers might involve working for consulting firms and businesses. Government and non-profit careers could include doing research for think tanks, advocating and writing legislation on Capitol Hill, and informing policy and operations in the military or other governmental departments.

Some job titles include Legislative Assistant, Research Professor, Science & Technology Policy Fellow, Chief Policy Advisor, Policy Officer, Policy Analyst, and Research Staff.

MIT alumni in policy careers have worked in the U.S. House of Representatives, in think tanks such as Brookings and RAND Corporation, and at research institutions like the National Science Foundation (NSF), the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI).  

What to study if you’re interested in a career in Policy

Many alumni enter careers in policy directly from undergraduate school with a vast range of majors including Political Science, Mechanical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, and Latin American and Latino Studies. Pick the course that you are most excited about, even if it’s a STEM course, as this will likely align with the areas of policy work that you are most interested in.

If you’re interested in getting an advanced degree, consider degrees such as the Master’s of Public Administration (MPA) or Master’s of Public Policy (MPP) or PhD programs that focus on your specific interests within policy. There are Master’s and PhD programs such as MIT’s Technology and Policy Program (TPP), the Department of Economics’ Data, Economics, and Development Policy (DEDP), the IDSS Social and Engineering Systems, and DUSP’s Environmental Policy and Planning (EPP), which combine policy and science to tackle social challenges. Check out this listing of graduate programs with public affairs specialties from U.S. News & World Report to explore programs with a policy focus.  

Job and internship search tips for roles in the government

Federal, state, and local governments recruit throughout the year, with summer internships posted in the winter. Some student hiring programs, such as the Pathways program, have recruitment cycles more aligned with the academic calendar. There are often fellowships and scholarships available for students interested in working in government, so inquire with agencies and departments that interest you about what may be available.

Applications should be made through formal portals like USAJOBS, and often require resumes in a government-specific format. Additional search sites include Go Government and Public Service Careers.  

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Featured Resources

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