There are two principle routes to working on public policy issues. The first is to work for a non-profit organization that seeks to influence policy. The second is to 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 thirty. 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.
You should also take courses on the specific issues you are interested in. 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 not only about those areas. Generally speaking, you will also develop skills that can be transferred to thinking about other policy issues through any other courses that emphasize the relationship between social institutions and policy.
Internships are a great way to move into the world of public policy. Some of our students participate in legislative internships in Olympia. These are not only good experiences. They also provide you with contacts who can provide introductions to others who may be looking to hire.