Entering the Educational Research and Policy Job Market
The purpose of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was to increase performance and accountability in United States public education systems. Improvement in education depends on educational research. This new education policy is one of the thousands of educational system changes that happen on an annual basis. Furthermore, those in educational policy jobs are driving the decision making process.
Defining Educational Research
At the moment, the education research sector is booming in the United States. Educators and policy makers want to get the nation’s students back on track and into the top spots of international education rankings. This specialty is as valuable in think tanks as it is in administrative capacities. With so much need for improvement, the field is drawing more and more newcomers.
Careers and the Job Market
With a career in educational research and policy Professionals enjoy a diverse job market. Universities and school systems are the main employment hubs for those interested in educational research. However, jobseekers can find fulfilling posts in multiple sectors:
- Private, charter and public schools
- Non-profit agencies
- Government organizations
- Political think tanks
- Educational policymaking
- Universities and colleges
- Corporate environments
- Health care
- Public relations and/or Advertising
Some of these institutions use quantitative and qualitative experimental procedures to observe, test and interview others as well as analyze and evaluate data.
Benefits of Applying Education Policy and Research
Educational research improves school system and the quality of learning on macro and micro scales. The area of study applies to small changes in curriculum and far reaching federal laws like NCLB. Currently, the United States is having a hard time educating primary and secondary students on a competitive world scale. Compared to other nations, American graduates and students do not perform as well on math, science and reading evaluations.
It is up to educational researchers to dissect and understand the root causes of the problem and devise a creative yet effective solution. These individuals are responsible for implementing changes in a range of areas like:
- Teaching style
- Learning tools
- Classroom environment
- Methods of assessment
- Accountability measures
Defining Educational Policy
While the researchers provide the information and statistical knowledge, the educational policy professionals turn the reports and studies into action. The goal is to improve the quality of instruction and positively impact current trends or methods. Policy makers can be found in all levels of the education system.
Common Hiring Institutions
The exact expectations of policy makers will vary from institution to institution. The level of responsibility and reach depends on the size of the educational facility or system.
- Local and Regional Level: At this level, principals, presidents and other administrators are responsible for most of the institutions policies. These personnel will base their decisions on information from district and state leaders.
- State and District Level: True career opportunities are found at this level. Policy decisions have a broad reach and a high potential for maximum impact.
- Independent Firms: Independent agencies often have contracts with local, state and federal organizations. They offer great career opportunities and diverse experience.
Educational policymakers are closely linked with curriculum development and setting performance goals for students. They are responsible for researching and finding the most effective teaching and learning methods. These professionals must also develop means of evaluating both teacher and student performance. No matter what kind of employer an educational policymaker is working with, he or she will likely encounter these basic responsibilities.
Choosing an Educational Research and Policy Career Path
To excel in this profession, would-be researchers and policymakers should enjoy data management and administrative tools like charts, figures, graphs, legal documents and briefs. Naturally inquisitive individuals who enjoy the pursuit of an answer will greatly appreciate the many problem-solving situations that arise. Both experienced teachers and talented academics can excel in this field.
Educational Requirements and Programs
Many upper level educational institutions have degrees or programs in education policy and research. Most will be graduate-level courses of study and they can be found under many names including:
- Instruction and Curricula
- Educational Leadership and Improvement
- Testing and Assessment in Education
- Research and Policy in Education
A standard curriculum in this area of study would focus on policy development, analysis and reform. Coursework would study the intersections of local, state and federal educational guidelines. Classes may focus on the evolution of academic examinations and evaluation or the specifics of policymaking within school systems.
Advantages of Higher Education
Professionals who are seriously considering this career path will likely need higher-level degrees to qualify for research and policymaking posts. Analysts, curriculum experts and instructional coordinators typically have a doctorate or master’s degree in a relevant specialization. Upper-tiered programs often foster the analytic and professional skills necessary to succeed.
Educational research and policy jobs are critical to the ongoing function of Untied States school systems. These professionals ensure students continue to learn at competitive levels so scholars can go on to benefit the national and global economy with relevant and educated perspectives.