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Advance your career within public service or nonprofit work with a professional master's degree in public policy and administration. Whether you have years of experience in policy advocacy, development, and implementation, or you're adding on to a bachelor's degree before you enter the field, the public policy and administration master's degree offers targeted training designed to enhance and complement your knowledge.

Gain a mastery of public policy and administration knowledge with this focused master's degree. Students gain a fuller understanding of public policy analysis, history, and applications, learning more about the administrative systems that exist behind public policy. Graduates go on to make a real difference, applying advanced policy skills in their communities.

Master's Degree in Public Policy and Administration Offers Specialized Skills

With a master's in social science in public policy and administration, you enjoy a professional level of training covering a range of topics related to the field. Augment your knowledge and skills in key public policy and administration areas:

  • Research and analytical strategies
  • Management and budgeting skills
  • Evaluation of policy options
  • Developing political strategies

Advance in your current career, or use your master's in public policy and administration to shift your skills to a new line of work. Careers in public service, nonprofit sectors, and research and advocacy groups are popular with the public policy and administration degree. Graduates of public policy and administration master's degree programs typically move towards careers with the following scopes:

  • Public policy advocacy
  • Policy development
  • Policy implementation

This social science degree offers the skills and training you need for a satisfying career of public service. Learn more about the degree itself, discover where you'll find top programs in the field, and take your first steps towards applying for a degree that can help shape your career.

How to Earn a Master's in Public Policy and Administration

As you begin to consider master's degrees in public policy and administration, research is crucial. Different schools offer vastly different options in terms of specialization, coursework, course delivery methods, and more. Take the time to research before you begin the application process, and you'll enjoy the confidence of applying to schools that best fit your goals as a student.

Step 1: Learn About Public Policy and Administration Master's Degree Types

Before you apply to master's degree programs, learn about the degree itself. The MPPA in public policy and administration is a relatively new degree, combining the policy training of a Master of Public Policy (MPP) with the leadership and management training of a Master of Public Administration (MPA). In forming this combined degree, some schools choose to make an additional distinction:

  • Master of Public Policy and Administration (MPPA): Known as a professional degree, the MPPA offers instruction combining public policy and public administration. Students approach the degree from a practical perspective, with many coming to the degree with years of career experience in public service.
  • Master of Arts in Public Policy and Administration (MA): Typically considered as the academic answer to the MPPA, the MA in public policy and administration typically focuses on research and theory behind public policy and administrations. Graduates often go on to PhD programs within public policy.

Use specializations within your public policy and administration degree to further focus your research. Choose among the following popular specializations:

  • Emergency management
  • Public policy
  • Public safety management

Master's degree programs in public policy and administration generally require two years of full-time study. MPPA and MA in public policy and administration degrees are considered academically equivalent, and some schools consider their MA to offer professional training rather than purely academic theory. Contact individual schools for more information before committing to a particular program.

Step 2: Consider Coursework in a Master's of Public Policy and Administration Program

Because no two MPPA or MA in public policy and administration programs are exactly alike, it helps to consider different potential coursework and requirements in the degree. Courses generally combine public administration and public policy, with an emphasis on research, theory, or professional development. Take a look at sample coursework within a master's degree in public policy and administration:

  • Public budgeting and finance: Public finance and budget formulation, analysis, and implementation
  • Inter-governmental relations: Policies, practices, and problems relating to the financing and management of projects between different levels of government
  • Ethics in public policy and administration: Covering topics like privacy, lawfulness, government responsibility, and more
  • Leadership and managerial effectiveness: Development of core skills needed for successful leadership in public organizations

The courses described above are just a sampling of potential coursework you might complete while earning your master's in public policy and administration. Start considering the mix of courses you'd like to complete in your MA or MPPA degree. Some students might prefer a business or administrative requirement, while others opt for public policy, law, and theory. Once you've developed a list of potential schools, apply your preferences as you consider each one.

Step 3: Think About Campus-Based and Online Master's Degrees

Because the master's degree in public policy administration does not typically require hands-on research, online master's degrees in the field are common. Whether you earn a master's degree online or study on-campus, the course delivery method you choose says a lot about you as a student. Think about the benefits you'll find in each type of degree:

  • Online public policy and administration master's degree: Earn a master's degree online and enjoy the convenience of accessing your studies from anywhere in the world. This degree type appeals to busy students and those who wish to keep full-time jobs while completing their MPPA or MA in public policy and administration.
  • On-campus public policy and administration master's degree: Choose the traditional campus-based public policy and administration degree if you enjoy hands-on learning, working in groups, and face-to-face interaction with professors and peers.
  • Hybrid public policy and administration master's degree: Consider a hybrid degree program, and combine both online and campus-based education into one master's degree. Students of hybrid degree programs enjoy the benefits of both degree types.

Your schedule, learning style, and preferences help decide the type of public policy and administration degree you earn. Explore different master's degree programs and consider the benefits of each course delivery method. For more information about online education, check out WorldWideLearn.com's guide to online degree programs.

Step 4: Create A List of Public Policy and Administration Degrees

You've considered the basics of your public policy and administration degree. Next, think about programs offered by individual schools. Create a long list of potential programs within public policy and administration. Use these resources to begin your search:

  • U.S. News and World Report maintains a listing of top public affairs graduate schools. See their rankings for top public policy analysis schools and top public management administration schools.
  • Use WorldWideLearn.com's directories for listings of online and campus-based public policy and administration degrees. You can contact schools through WorldWideLearn.com to learn more.

Begin to consider your list of potential public policy and administration schools. You should start to narrow schools down using some of your own preferences. Elements like degree type, availability of online programs, and other details can help you narrow down your list. Before you can begin to find your strongest programs, however, you need to consider accreditation.

Step 5: Determine MPPA Master's Degree School Accreditation

Confirm the quality of each MPPA or MA in public policy and administration program by ensuring that each school holds current accreditation. The accreditation process involves a third-party agency examining each school's finances, academic record, tenure practices, and more, determining the quality of each. Ensuring your school is accredited gives you the freedom to:

  • Pursue federal loans and grants
  • Earn recognition of your degree from hiring managers and other schools
  • Enjoy the confidence of a quality education

To check the accreditation status of every school on your list, simply search for each school using the U.S. Department of Education's searchable database. Learn more about the accreditation process with WorldWideLearn.com's accreditation answers page.

Step 6: Narrow Down Your List of Master's Degree Programs

Once you've confirmed that each school on your list holds current accreditation, it's time to narrow your options down. Take your list of public policy and administration programs that fit your basic requirements in terms of major, specialization, and degree format. Then use the following categories to narrow down your options.

  • Application: Every degree program includes its own application requirements. Be prepared to provide undergraduate transcripts, graduate test scores, recommendation letters, a professional resume, and more. The most selective MPPA programs generally have the strictest admission requirements.
  • Rankings: School rankings, like those published by U.S. News and World Report, are a helpful way to begin your public policy and administration program search. However, keep in mind that rankings aren't the final word on quality. Think about college rankings along with elements like cost and location.
  • Region: Consider each school's location like you're searching for a job in the area--someday, you may be. Look for nonprofit work, research organizations, public works departments, and more. The best regions will have plenty of chances for work if you choose to work while you're in school or stay in the region after graduation.
  • Cost: Think about tuition and other fees for your master's degree, along with financial aid such as grants, loans, and scholarships. One public policy and administration programs may offer a stipend for teachers, while another could waive out-of-state tuition for all students. Consider the cost of each program along with the salary you hope to earn after graduation.
  • Faculty: Read faculty biographies on school Web sites and learn more about the research interests of professors in each program. Go for a well-rounded approach, choosing strong departments instead of applying based on the strength of one faculty member.
  • Perks: Finally, think about the little extras offered by each public policy and administration department. You may be encouraged to volunteer or complete internships in the community, or complete interesting research related to local public policy.

Your master's in public policy and administration should be personalized to your needs. This step of the process takes time, but once you've thought about multiple elements of each school, you'll have learned much more about your degree, plus you will have expanded your knowledge about each school on your shortened list.

Step 7: Apply for Public Policy and Administration Master's Degree Programs

By this step, you should be fully prepared to apply to your top public policy and administration master's degree programs. Whether you hope to earn a master's degree online or pursue your MA or MPPA on a traditional campus, you must to apply to each master's degree program. Begin the process keeping the following in mind:

  • Personalization: Make a lasting statement by personalizing each application. Focusing each application letter can help impress department chairs and improve your application's chances of success.
  • Deadlines: Don't miss important deadlines once you've gone to the trouble of researching individual public policy and administration programs. Stay organized and keep track of the deadlines for applications, transcripts, and test scores.

    The process of learning more about public policy and administration programs is a time-consuming one, but it's essential to your overall success as a student. Learn about MA and MPPA programs beforehand, and you'll save big on application fees when you apply to only the strongest schools on your list.


    • Accreditation Search U.S. Department of Education
    • Master of Arts in Public Policy and Administration Northwestern University School of Continuing Studies
    • Master of Public Policy and Administration California Lutheran University
    • Rankings: Public Programs U.S. News and World Report
    • The Department of Public Policy and Administration California State University, Sacramento

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