It’s no secret that the field of education is in a state of flux. States across the nation are re-evaluating how they approach education, and many are looking to career paths in education policy to help guide them. If you’re interested in making a difference in your community and helping to shape the future of education, a career path in education policy may be right for you. This article will explore what a career path in education policy entails, potential job roles within the field, the skills required for success, and more.
1. What is an Educational Policy?
Educational policy is the system of laws, rules, and guidelines that are established by policymakers to direct public education. Educational policies can vary widely depending on where you live or work; every state has its own set of standards for what students should learn at each grade level, how teachers should be trained, and more. In the United States, educational policy is typically defined on a federal level and then adapted by each state to fit its own needs.
2. What is a Career Path in Education Policy?
An educational policy career path is the series of jobs and responsibilities that make up an individual’s work history within education. Educational policy careers can vary widely depending on where you live or work, with some states requiring more state-level bureaucracy than others. Let’s take a look at a few different roles within education policy.
Government Relations Specialist
The first career path in education policy that many students explore is government relations specialist. Government relations specialists advocate for their organization, industry, or company with local governments and agencies. Government relations professionals are often called upon to solve problems for people looking to make changes at the local level.
Legislative directors are responsible for ensuring that their organization’s or company’s suggested laws and rules are properly passed through state legislatures. Legislative directors use research, data, polling, and more to determine which proposed laws would be best suited for each state, then implement those laws according to their employers’ or organizations’ goals.
State Department/Department of Education Staff Writer
State Department and Department of Education staff writers research different education-related issues, develop strategies for handling those problems, and compile information for policymakers so that they can make informed decisions on these issues. State Department and Department of Education staff writers work closely with other education policy experts in their state or federal levels to ensure that proposed laws and policies are ethically sound, practical, and fit for each legislative body.
Lobbyists use strategic communications to influence the public’s and elected officials’ views on specific proposed laws and policies. Lobbyists work with people on both sides of an issue to build support and improve the chances that a particular law or rule will pass through the legislative process.
Public speakers can be found at different locations along the spectrum of the education policy industry. Public speakers may work as advocates or opponents of proposed legislation. Public speakers can also be found working in academia, teaching students about public policy and its history.
If you’re interested in education policy but aren’t interested in directly influencing the current law or rulemaking process, becoming an educator in education policy is another career path for you. An educator’s job is to teach students about public policy and how it affects daily lives. There are many different types of educators, including professors, educational consultants, and more.
Researcher careers are often closely related to educators. However, while an educator focuses primarily on teaching students about public policy, a researcher focuses on finding new information and data through research methods, including surveys, polls, experiments, and more.
Political analysts work with elected officials by providing them with strategic advice that will help them make informed decisions about potential laws and policies. Political analysts research a topic then provide information to help policymakers decide how to vote on a particular proposed law or rule.
3. Types of Educational Policies
There are several types of educational policies you may encounter in your work as an education policy professional or analyst. Among these are:
These establish standards for how schools should be held accountable for student performance and often include a way to measure how well schools are performing.
These establish guidelines for what students should be learning in the classroom, typically at each grade level. Though curriculum policies vary by state, most states adopt content standards that outline specific skills or knowledge students should have within a particular subject area.
School Financing Policies
These establish funding guidelines for public schools and often establish different funding formulas based on the type of student a school serves.
4. Job Roles & Education Policy Careers
Individuals with a career path in education policy typically work within the following roles:
Educational Consultant/Consultant/Authority: These individuals create or manage educational policies and help schools, districts and policymakers understand how to implement policies.
Legislative Analyst: These individuals monitor proposed legislation and may be called upon to provide testimony during hearings related to education policy. Additionally, legislative analysts draft bills and amendments and work closely with legislators, lobbyists, and other constituents.
Researcher: These individuals gather information about education policies and serve as the “voice of the public” regarding education policy. Researchers may perform evaluations on specific practices, programs, or other initiatives related to education.
Teacher/Professor: Individuals in this role may work in K-12 or higher education. Individuals with these roles typically help devise curriculum standards, train teachers, and address concerns related to educational policy.
5. Skills Required for Success in an Education Policy Career
While educational policies are created primarily by lawmakers, there are many ways you can get involved. If you have the following skills, you may find success in an education policy career path:
Analytical Skills: To help craft and implement educational policies, you must have strong analytical abilities. Being able to conduct research and analyze data is critical when it comes to an understanding of how a proposed educational policy would impact your community.
Communication Skills: You will need to communicate your ideas and proposals in a way that policymakers and constituents understand. Additionally, you may find yourself acting as an “educational consultant” and making presentations to outside groups.
Good Judgment: When it comes to implementing policies, many potential outcomes could arise. You must identify which outcome is most likely and make decisions accordingly.
6. Minimum Education & Training Requirements for Educational Policy Careers
Most education policy careers require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. However, educational consultants or legislative analysts may need an advanced degree to be competitive applicants within their field.
Those interested in working as researchers may find opportunities with a master’s degree. While there are no formal education requirements for becoming a teacher, earning a teaching certification and teaching experience typically enhances your employment prospects.
Education policy careers typically require individuals to have a certain level of expertise in the field. For instance, educational consultants are usually required to have an advanced degree and several years of working experience in education.
7. Education Policy Job Market & Employment Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which tracks educational employment, there were 661,900 elementary and secondary school teachers in the United States in 2012.
During the same period, there were about 21,000 postsecondary education faculty members (e.g., professors).
The BLS projects that these areas will grow by 6% through 2022. However, because educational policies are primarily created at the state and local levels, employment opportunities are expected to vary by location.
8. Education Policy Salaries
According to the U.S . Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), elementary and secondary school teachers earned a median annual salary of $55,910 in May 2013. BLS data also shows that postsecondary education faculty members earned a median annual salary of $62,970 in 2012.
More specifically, the following states had the highest employment level for postsecondary education faculty members as of May 2013:
- 1. California – 17,580
- 2. New York – 9,380
- 3. Ohio – 5,620
- 4. Pennsylvania – 5,430
- 5. Florida – 4,540
9. Top Recruiting Companies for Educational Policy Professionals
Some of the top recruiting companies for an educational policy professional typically include:
American Institutes for Research – Headquartered in Washington, DC, and conducts research and evaluation on education and social policy issues
MGT of America – Based in the Washington D.C. area and is involved with K-12 educational market research
The National Center for Education Evaluation & Regional Assistance – Located in the Washington, DC area and offers states around the country technical assistance on everything from specific state education programs to developing performance-based accountability systems
The National Center for Educational Achievement – With its main offices in Minneapolis, MN; they provide development, research, policy analysis, and strategic planning services to schools across the United States
Education Northwest – Located in Portland, OR; this organization provides evaluation and assessment services to help state education agencies build vital literacy programs
Fordham Institute for Innovation in Education – Headquartered in Washington, DC, with research interests on policy, practice, and performance of STEM subjects
The educational policy is a field that requires in-depth knowledge of how students learn, the impact of different teaching methods on learning outcomes, and how to provide equitable access for all children. If you want to advocate for education reform or have your ideas about what needs changing in our current education system, this could be a perfect career path for you. Find out more by contacting us today!