Working In: Think Tanks

What does working at a think tank entail?


Working in a think tank, you will conduct research and develop policy recommendations to influence change. Think tanks develop papers and studies with specific policy recommendations. Unlike a purely academic research institute, a think tank usually produces research to advance particular policy objectives, rather than a neutral understanding of a study subject. Day-to-day work may include monitoring and analyzing legislative activity, report drafting, writing op-ed’s, and convening stakeholders. It is important to possess a strong understanding of the issue area, as well as a working knowledge of government programs, the public policy process, and the political landscape. Excellent writing, communication, and organizational skills and the ability to work on a deadline are necessary in this environment. Previous experience in a policymaking role and other experiences lending deep issue and political insights are also helpful.


Examples of think tanks

  • Center for American Progress
  • Heritage Foundation
  • American Enterprise Institute


Sample roles in a think tank

Policy Analyst

  • Collects and compiles information to inform government officials.
  • Analyzes the impact of policy decisions and makes recommendations.


  • Writes papers outlining new policy ideas or describing the impact of existing policies.
  • Assembles forums or other events designed to influence public opinion around a particular issues.

Communications Director/Press Secretary

  • Crafts the message of a non-profit or government organization.
  • Responds to media requests and issue press releases on your organization’s work.
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