colorado state capitol buildingAre you exploring jobs outside of academia? For graduate students, there are many sectors offering opportunities for engaging work. For example, if you love research, you could explore roles in public policy. Here are some tips to help you find your fit in industry and explore different options.

Where to start

Public policy roles are thoroughly steeped in research and play a major role in effecting change. This field ranks highly in top careers considered by graduate students – including CU Boulder grad students – who are looking for options outside of academia.

Organizations that do this type of work can go by many names, like policy institutes, research institutes, think tanks and research organizations. Because these groups are in the business of influencing policy, many are politically affiliated and can be found in the Washington D.C. area. However, each state is home to at least a few organizations that are sometimes housed on college campuses, although they usually operate separately from the university.

Tips for exploring this field

Each organization has freedom in choosing titles, so there is no comprehensive term that will yield all policy openings. When searching for these roles as a new advanced-degree graduate, it may be helpful to use the following job titles:

  • “Research analyst”
  • “Policy or program analyst”
  • “Research associate”
  • “Research fellow”

With experience in the field, you will find the titles “research director,” “senior fellow” and “executive director of research” helpful in finding more advanced opportunities.

Additionally, the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) Fall Research Conference is a national interdisciplinary gathering for those in applied public policy research. It’s held in early November, and is built to be a major hub for policy job networking and interviewing. If you can’t make it to the conference, check out the association’s job bank or search for associations, policy institutes or think tanks in your field of interest to find more tailored job postings.

Connect with professionals in this field

Networking with public policy professionals can be helpful for learning more about this field and determining how your experience may apply to different opportunities.

Use LinkedIn’s alumni search tool to find CU alumni who are in public policy roles. Send a message to coordinate a short informational interview. Tell them you are researching their field or company, and looking for advice or information. While it may be tempting to do all communication by email, ask to set up a short in-person meeting or phone call if possible. This can make it easier to ask follow-up questions and build a professional relationship.

Broadening your exploration

As you explore and consider different jobs outside of academia, here are some free resources to use in your research:

  • IBIS World: This resource provides trusted industry research on thousands of industries worldwide.
  • Vault: Vault provides in-depth intelligence on what it’s like to work in an industry, company or profession – and how to position yourself.
  • CU Career Services: We’re here to help! If you would like to discuss your options with a graduate student career advisor, come see us in the C4C for an appointment.

While exploration may require a shift in focus from your field of expertise to a focus on your skills and interests, the effort and time you put into this decision about your future will be worth it.

“Exploring industry professions” is a new article series that shares insight and information for graduate students considering careers outside of academia. Learn more at our upcoming workshop on April 13, Finding Your Fit in Industry, or make an appointment with a career development advisor.