Think Tanks

Think Tanks are public policy research institutes that seek to shape global, regional and national policy.

Each think tank focuses on a specific purpose or field but all aim to improve their respective areas, produce their own new research and influence both government and public opinion. They are often associated with particular positions on the political spectrum (e.g. left-wing, right-wing).

It's unusual to have a career exclusively in think tanks and the think tank sector as a whole employs relatively few people. The main entry point is via internships, which usually involve a combination of administrative and research work. Aim to get an internship during/ soon after your studies, and use this internship to network extensively.

Typical roles open to graduates are analyst or researcher roles, and PhD-qualified candidates are often preferred both for their research skills and for their particular research specialism, especially if this is aligned to the focus and values of the think tank. 

Skills required

  • Interest in current affairs, especially in the think tank’s specific field
  • Research skills, often including training in specific research methodologies (surveys, interviews etc.)
  • Strong influencing, networking and communication skills
  • Analytical and problem-solving skills

Find out more

  • Specialist sector websites such as W4MP can give you an idea of who is hiring, the kinds of positions available and what skills are required
  • Check the staff web pages of individual Think Tanks; staff profiles give an insight into the experience and qualifications that have got current staff to where they are now. For example, this staff page from the New Local Government Network
  • Similarly, use LinkedIn to look up Think Tank employees to see the experience they have gathered to get to their current roles
  • Lists of Think Tanks from The University of Oxford and On Think Tanks that can be used to make speculative applications (try to connect with the values / philosophical standpoint of particular think tanks)
  • Further information about Think Tank research careers from the 80,000 hours website


  • Social Market Foundation (SMF): non-partisan think tank, market economics and social justice (paid internships)
  • Legatum Institute: international think tank and educational charity focused on promoting prosperity (paid internships)
  • Centre for Social Justice: an independent think-tank, established to put social justice at the heart of British politics
  • Policy Exchange: British centre-right think tank
  • IPPR: Progressive left-wing think tank (paid internships)
  • Adam Smith institute: free market libertarian think tank and lobbying group (unpaid internships)
  • Civitas: The Institute for the Study of Civil Society, an independent Think Tank (some paid internships)
  • The Foreign Policy Centre: explores the impact of globalisation on foreign and domestic policy
  • Fabian Society: non-Marxist evolutionary socialism, Britain’s oldest political think-tank 


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