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Kennedy School Review

Topic / Education, Training and Labor

Ten Careers Every Policy Student Wishes Existed


  1. Freelance Social Changer: Hey World Changers, how about sparking social change movements in your spare time? Start out transforming education in Newark and then when you get bored or just irritated with the hard work that it takes—usually sometime around three or four days later—move on to founding health clinics in New Orleans!
  2. Save-Africa-Without-Ever-Having-to-Know-that-There-Are-In-Fact-56-Different Countries-in-Africa Coordinator: It’s a lot easier to feel like you are solving a continent’s problems if you do not have to care about the fact that continents typically have many countries that contain a variety of cultures and languages. Learning how to be effective only hinders your ability to evoke ethos. Who cares that Egypt and Zimbabwe are completely different, the New York Times says they both need saving! After all, Saving Africa just sounds much more fun than improving sanitation in Bamako, Mali.
  3. Sustainable Food Tester: Eat like the 1%, but pat yourself on the back for eating locally grown couscous!
  4. Useful Consultant: Most policy students wish to develop useful strategies to improve low-performing programs. Unfortunately today’s consultants offer PowerPoint-friendly ideas that most people could have figured out on their own or have already dismissed as impractical.
  5. Being David Gergen: Five presidential administrations, face time on CNN, and a pretty sweet gig at Harvard? A man like this only comes along once in a generation.
  6. Nonpolitical Politician: How many times does a policy student say “I love policy, I just hate politics”? That is the equivalent of saying “I love marriage, I just hate monogamy.” Neither one worked out very well for Newt Gingrich.
  7. Memo Writing Consultant: After two years and countless classes with at least one day devoted to a lecture on memo writing, this is the only tangible skill that every student has. Too bad in the age of computers, PowerPoint, and Wikileaks it is largely irrelevant.
  8. Superintendent of all Schools in America: All domestic policy students have some sort of opinion on the nation’s education system. Wouldn’t it be a lot simpler if they could just close the achievement gap by themselves?
  9. Underground Course Materials Seller: Course Materials Offices are monopolistic enterprises that are somehow also market failures. Not only does printing materials waste thousands of trees, it is double pay to a school that already steals every ounce of your wealth.
  10. A job that pays enough to cover student loan debt: It’s hard to change the world on a five-figure income.

This article was originally published in the 2012 edition of the Kennedy School Review.


Chris Gustafson is a 2012 Master in Public Policy candidate at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where he is focusing on health care policy and sarcasm.

Photo source here.