Policy Adviser

Job Description:

A policy adviser is a civil servant who researches and analyses data and advises the government on various issues.

Job Category:
Professional Services

What you will do:

Policy advisers, like all civil servants, are apolitical, meaning they are not affiliated with a particular political party. Instead, they work to advise whoever is in government.

Typical duties include the following:

  • Undertaking research, gathering and analysing data
  • Preparing and writing briefings, reports, and speeches
  • Understanding and advising on relevant legislation and guidance
  • Giving oral briefings and presentations
  • Consulting colleagues, public officials, and members of the public to inform your ideas


You’ll need:

  • business management skills
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages confidently

As well as:

  • customer service skills
  • administration & organisational skills
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to work well with others (teamwork skills)
  • the ability to use your initiative (drive)
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a Policy Adviser, you typically don’t need specific subjects, but you should focus on building a strong educational background and relevant skills that can prepare you for a career in policy analysis and advising. Policy Advisers often work in government, non-profit organisations, or think tanks, and they play a crucial role in shaping public policies. Here are some subjects and skills that can be beneficial for pursuing this career:

  1. English: Strong written and verbal communication skills are essential for a Policy Adviser. You’ll need to write policy reports, briefs, and proposals, as well as communicate policy recommendations effectively.
  2. Mathematics: Policy analysis often involves working with data, statistics, and budgetary information. A good understanding of mathematics can be valuable when analysing policy options and their economic implications.
  3. Social Sciences: Subjects like History, Geography, Sociology, and Political Science can provide a foundation in understanding social and political issues, which are central to policy analysis.
  4. Economics: Economics can be particularly relevant for policy advisers, as it provides a framework for understanding economic policies, fiscal policies, and their impacts on society.
  5. Science: Depending on the policy area you specialize in, a background in a relevant science field, such as environmental science, can be valuable for positions related to science and technology policy.

Post School

You’ll need to meet certain nationality rules to apply. This will vary from country to country. For example in the UK you’ll need to be either:

  • a British or Irish national
  • another national with a right to live and work in the UK

You’ll usually need a second-class honours degree. The actual subject of your degree may or may not be important, but it might be an advantage if it is relevant to politics or government. Here are some examples:

  • Politics and international relations
  • Economics
  • Sociology
  • Philosophy
  • Anthropology

The Civil Service sometimes run graduate programmes that involve placements in various departments and result in a permanent position upon completion.

You’ll also need to pass a security checks and clearance from the DBS (Disclosure & Barring Service).

Working Hours and Environment:

Policy advisers usually work normal hours. It may sometimes be necessary to work evenings or weekends in order to meet important deadlines or attend meetings or events.

Career Path & Progression:

You can specialise in a certain area of policy as you research and learn more and gain experience. Possible areas of expertise include energy, agriculture, education, defence, and foreign affairs.

With experience, there are many opportunities for promotion and/or moving to different departments in the Civil Service.