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The study of public policy is multi-faceted, requiring strong skills in math, interpersonal communications, and writing, among other areas. Choosing the best public policy class typically involves considering a number of factors. A strong course taught by an experienced professor likely will become a driving mantra for you as you consider all the options.
A good public policy class typically will have a strong professor, whom you should research prior to taking the class. Good professors in the field have spent time working in the policy arena, and were or still are high-ranking officials in local or regional governments. They may even have been elected to office. Find out if your potential professor has written many publications in his or her field of study and if he or she is considered by elected officials to be a good source of expertise. If he or she is a regular contributor to a publication or broadcast, this is a good indication that he or she is well-versed in this area.
The study of public policy involves more math than you might expect. Well-formed policies are written to solve problems that are statistically calculated, such as the poverty rate or the number of people without health insurance; policies are measured on how well they improve these statistics. The standard public policy class will expect you to have at least a decent background in math and to be able to apply the outcomes of mathematical concepts, such as multiple regressions, to understand the effect of a policy.
It is imperative in the policy world to be a strong, concise writer. A good public policy class will have a heavy focus on writing policy memos, a commonly circulated document among elected officials at all levels. This document generally must pack a vast amount of information into just a few pages, with the understanding that the intended audience has a limited amount of time to devote to any one subject. A good professor provides many opportunities to craft such memos and will give you extensive feedback as you work through the process.
Perhaps the most important issue to consider when choosing the best public policy class is how well the class will prepare you for future employment, either through the skills you will learn or the opportunities it may open up. If the class has a focus on a real-life significant legislative issue, it would offer a great opportunity for you to get timely experience on that issue, and perhaps make your skills more marketable. In addition, the class may require you to interact with elected officials or high-ranking bureaucrats; you can use this opportunity to give them a chance to get to know you and be impressed by you. Lastly, if you did choose a class with a well-connected professor and you do good work in the class, the professor might recommend you to his colleagues in the policy world.
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