How much money a public policy analyst earns offers no easy answer because of the wide variation in analyst earnings, as well as the limited information on earnings in this profession. Policy analysts inform the public policy debate in government by using their research and data analysis skills to study and compare public policy proposals. Government agencies, interest groups and research organizations known as think tanks are the major employers of policy analysts.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not classify policy analyst as a separate job category and consequently has only limited data on policy analyst earnings. Many public policy analysts hold degrees in social science fields, including political science and economics, and may be classified as political scientists or economists. The bureau reported that political scientists employed by research and development and social advocacy organizations earned salaries ranging from $77,160 to $77,410 per year in 2009.
Many public policy analysts begin their careers as research assistants, analyzing data, administering surveys and performing other tasks for senior level policy analysts. The bureau reported in 2009 that social science research assistants in consulting firms, political organizations and other research firms earned annual salaries ranging from $41,650 to $46,690.
Many federal agencies employ policy analysts. In a 2007 article about policy analysis in the BLS’ “Occupational Outlook Quarterly,” bureau economist Sadie Blanchard wrote that new policy analysts in the federal government earned starting salaries of $31,740 a year. Experienced analysts work at higher levels on the federal compensation schedule, earning between $93,000 and $145,000 a year, the bureau reported.
Think tanks, many of which have their headquarters in Washington, D.C., are significant employers of policy analysts. However, the BLS has no data on analyst earnings at these institutions. Think tanks vary in size and ideological perspective. They include conservative and libertarian organizations, such as the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, as well as progressive and liberal organizations such as the Center for American Progress and the Economic Policy Institute. Salaries earned by policy analysts at think tanks depend on several factors, including the analyst’s qualifications, the organization’s size and budget, and its sources of funding, the bureau reported. Think tanks receive funding from foundations, individual and corporate contributions, and endowments. Some analysts may seek grants and other funding to support their work at the think tanks that employ them.