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Master’s Degree Programs in Public Policy Overview

Majors Overview November 19, 2015

The observation of how public servants study political systems, economies, and societies for the purpose of achieving policy changes through advocacy is public policy. Those with an interest in this field should look into Master of Arts (M.A.) in Public Policy or Master of Public Policy (M.P.P.) degree programs.

Information on Master’s Degree Programs in Public Policy

Schools offer different types of degree choices to students seeking to enroll in a master’s degree program in public policy. Enrollees can complete the Master of Arts (M.A.) program within a year; the program is compatible with the needs of students who wish to augment the core coursework by gaining public policy skills. Program graduates can seek analytical and management careers in the nonprofit, government, and other businesses.

The completion of a research or capstone project is typically a requirement in the MPP program that students can complete within two years. Students can typically choose from concentrations in areas such as government policy, international trade and finance, or social and urban policy. Schools offer both programs in wholly online formats.

Master’s Programs in Public Policy

While students take two years to complete the professional degree of MPP, they can complete the nonprofessional degree of MA within a year. In certain instances, schools may integrate MPP programs with Juris Doctor (J.D.) programs to suit the requirements of students keen on learning about how the law relates to public policy. Program coursework in both MPP and MA programs focuses on topic areas in ethics, economics, political science, leadership, and sociology. The program prepares students to work at every level of policy making and/or government.

There are also other more specific focus areas such as U.S. law and justice, financial management, microeconomics, political institutions, and local policy processes. Students are allowed concentration choices whereby they can focus on democratic institutions, international trade, or education policy. In all programs, there is the integration of quantitative analysis, basic training in statistics, and research methods. In many programs, students enjoy interaction with professionals in the field, either through composing a long policy paper or working in collaboration with such professionals.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a bachelor’s degree and a general academic background in mathematics and economics. Applicants with related work experience may enjoy better prospects.


MPP program coursework combines economics and analytical training in mathematics with theories on how political systems and societies relate to each other. The focus of MA coursework is on a smaller choice of the same topic areas. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Political economy
•Policy-making processes
•Organizational decisions
•Microeconomic analysis
•Ethical decision-making
•Environmental Policy
•Societies and the law
•Social psychology
•Social Policy
•Political institutions

Career Choices

Graduates may seek careers in the private and public sectors, or jobs with nonprofit organizations. They may choose from possible job positions such as:

•Issue Advocate
•Policy analyst
•Health agency manager
•Environmental program evaluator
•Legislative office staff analyst

Continuing Education Choices

Program graduates who seek continuing education may choose to enroll in the terminal Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program in Public Policy that could lead to careers in public policy research. JD degree holders may enroll in advanced law degree programs, including the Master of Laws (LL.M.). In LL.M. programs, coursework related to public policy may be offered.

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