Think Tanks (Research Institutes & Policy Institutes)

Policy institutes or research institutes are commonly referred to as “Think Tanks.”  These organizations work to solve complex problems by identifying policy issues, researching and evaluating ideas, and making recommendations that influence global, national, and regional public policy. Think Tanks can be partisan or non-partisan, though it’s important to note that most have an ideological orientation and are advocacy oriented. Think Tank researchers can influence public opinion and public policy, which is a different focus from traditional academic research at a university.

Some of the very first Think Tanks in the United States include the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, The Brookings Institution, and the Council on Foreign Relations. You are encouraged to do a search for those in your particular area of interest. With over 1,800 think tanks in the US (177 in Massachusetts alone!) and more than 6,500 worldwide, you are likely to find a number working in topic areas of importance to you.

Types of Opportunities

Think Tanks are looking for individuals who are skilled at producing, synthesizing, and communicating research. Strong research, written and verbal communication, and team work skills are important as well as an aptitude for influencing and a personal interest in the subject area being studied. Though a Master’s degree is often desired, there can be opportunities for junior analysts and researchers.  Higher level positions within an organization will require a PhD or experience as an academic in the field.

Finding Opportunities

As with any industry, networking should be a priority in your job or internship search.  Attend conferences or events hosted by Think Tanks. Consider working as a research assistant or interning with a research institute or policy institute. Most think tanks post internship and job opportunities directly on their website, so be sure to check there for postings and deadlines. Consider looking at profiles on various think tank websites to see how current employees have reached their particular positions. Look on LinkedIn and the Alumni Advisors Hub to find MIT alumni working in the field, with whom you could conduct an informational interview to learn more about careers in policy research.


Below are a few resources to get you started in your search. However, you are encouraged to do a general web search for Think Tanks within your area of interest.

Sample Local Think Tanks