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Policy officer

Policy officers are an integral part of both public and private sector organisations and not-for-profit and charity groups.
Keep up to date with social, political and economic developments, and be able to provide relevant advice to senior managers, stakeholders and decision makers

The responsibilities of a policy officer  include researching and advising on core organisational issues, carrying out developmental work and liaising with internal and external contacts to further to objectives of the organisation and its stakeholders. Depending on the role, you may also be involved in campaigning and lobbying:

What the job involves

Policy Officers usually work across a range of functions in either the public, private or charity sector such as:

  • 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 TD's or MPs. You could be working on policy across a range of issues and sectors
  • Policy groups, consultancies 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 be able to:

  • Undertake or commission research and gather and analyse data and information
  • Develop expertise in a particular area, or draw on the expertise of others
  • Keep up to date with social, political and economic developments, and be able to provide relevant advice to senior managers, stakeholders and decision makers
  • Write briefings, reports, speeches and deliver oral briefings and presentations
  • Carry out consultations with internal and external stakeholders - including colleagues, customers, or members of the public and work with a wide range of people and organisations, including senior managers, public office officials and members of the public.

Your working hours are likely to be a standard working week. In some roles, you may need to work longer or more irregular hours, or evenings and weekends. For example, to attend meetings or events, or if necessary to meet deadlines in a high profile or fast-moving policy area. Most organisations in the public and charity sector allow some degree of flexible working, including part-time roles, flexible hours, or job sharing. The precise nature of arrangements will depend on your employer and role.

Skills you'll need to have:

  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills, to ability to absorb complex information and present it to different audiences in a clear and accessible way
  • Be able to work and build relationships with a wide range of people holding different views
  • The ability to understand diverse perspectives and to be able to successfully influence and negotiate
  • Knowledge of the media and how the news cycle works and good press and media relationships
  • Very strong organisational skills, to track priorities, work to deadlines and manage projects. You will also 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 and a commitment to learning and improvement.

For governmental roles, you'll need to demonstrate commitment to developing and delivering policy for the benefit of citizens. For roles within not-for-profit groups, charities and consultancies, this will mean evidencing your commitment and passion for advancing the objectives of that organisation toward readily identifiable goals.

Qualifications

An undergraduate degree is usually required, but degree level and subject requirements will vary.

A degree in one of the following may help:

  • Public administration and social policy
  • Economics
  • Anthropology
  • Philosophy
  • Politics and internal relations
  • Psychology
  • Sociology.

For some roles, an analytical subject or previous training in research methodologies may be an advantage.  Some positions will require a formal postgraduate  qualification, to Masters or even PhD level in a subject such as governmental policy, policy research or social research. Where this is not a requirement, it can still sometimes provide an advantage in the selection process. This is most often seen for roles in consultancies or governmental agencies, where there is considerable  emphasis on policy research.

Typical employers

  • National governments
  • State agencies and governmental bodies
  • Consultancies in specialised areas
  • Think-Tanks and advocacy groups
  • Public and Private Sector representative organisations and associations
  • Multinational companies and related representative bodies

Further information

Simon Nix, Administrative Officer, Department of Finance