There are two principal routes to working on public policy issues: work for a non-profit organization that seeks to influence policy or get involved in the political system, working for politicians and other policy makers (and eventually, perhaps, running for office yourself).
Young people can have a surprising influence. For example, if you visit congressional and senate offices in Washington D.C., you will see very important positions being held by people under 30. Within a year or two of being hired, one can have very important responsibilities. State government offers many opportunities as well.
These jobs require an understanding of public policy issues and the ability to think critically and analytically about those issues. They also require good communication skills, both written and verbal. General courses that help students develop tools to think rigorously about social problems, their causes, and their potential solutions include Introduction to Sociology (SOC 101), Social Problems (SOC 102), Development of Social Theory (SOC 310), Social Inequality (SOC 340), as well as our numerous methodology courses.
Take courses on the specific issues you are interested in, too. For example, if you’re interested in the environment, you might take any one of our environmental sociology courses. Courses in crime or deviance are relevant for drug policy. Keep in mind that when you take a course in specific areas like the environment and crime & deviance, you will learn skills that you can apply to other areas as well.. Generally speaking, any course that emphasizes the relationship between social institutions and policy will help you develop skills that you can transferred to other policy issues, too.
Internships are a great way to move into the world of public policy. Some of our students participate in state legislative internships in Olympia. Internships are not only good work experiences: you will often develop contacts who can provide introductions to organizations and offices who are looking to hire.