Masters in Public Policy

What Do You Learn in a Masters in Public Policy?

A Master of Public Policy is a program that typically teaches practical and applied aspects of the policy making process. It may also includes implementation of new policy. The program aims to provide individuals with the instruction they need to develop leadership skills for government positions. This may include programs in government at all levels, as well as in advocacy groups and in both non-profit and private sector companies.

Those who complete this degree path may be eligible for a wide range of jobs, including those in local, state, and federal government. Some may work as city managers or take on political positions in the field. Others could work for the State Department or run for office. They may work in leadership positions within large corporations as well. There may be a wide range of opportunities available in this field that do not include just government positions.

Masters in Public Policy Programs

Featured Online Programs

Top 25 Schools Graduating Students with a Masters in Public Policy

The following is a list of the top 25 schools offering Master’s degrees in Public Policy based on the number of graduating students for the 2019-2020 school year, according to NCES.

College / UniversityGraduatesAcceptance Rate
University of Chicago3376.00%
Harvard University2285.00%
Georgetown University17714.00%
University of California-Berkeley12616.00%
The University of Texas at Austin11732.00%
Carnegie Mellon University11115.00%
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor10523.00%
Princeton University966.00%
University of Southern California9611.00%
Liberty University9251.00%
George Washington University8641.00%
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities8157.00%
University of Virginia-Main Campus7524.00%
University of Maryland-College Park7244.00%
George Mason University6987.00%
Duke University678.00%
University of California-Los Angeles5812.00%
Brown University557.00%
American University5436.00%
Brandeis University5130.00%
University of California-San Diego4431.00%
University of Wisconsin-Madison4354.00%
Temple University3460.00%
Teachers College at Columbia University33N/A
University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus3357.00%

Public Policy Courses May Include

1st course Advanced Policy Analysis

Advanced Policy Analysis

This course often focuses on intense policy issues. In many cases, the course may do an analysis of public policy for a specific client. This is done as a group or class project.

2nd course Economics of Public Policy Analysis

Economics of Public Policy Analysis

In this course, the application of microeconomic behaviors with government agencies, producers, and consumers are often looked at. The course may also look at the effects of resource allocation, income distribution, and the effectiveness in achieving policy goals.

3rd Course Law and Public Policy

Law and Public Policy

This course often looks at a number of factors regarding public policy. These could include how it is affected by legal ramifications and administrative regulations. Cases may be looked at to help understand the relationships between those who make the laws, and those who will implement and enforce them.

4th Course Decision Analysis, Modeling, and Quantitative Methods

Decision Analysis, Modeling, and Quantitative Methods

The use of quantitative methods in decision making are typically explored in this course. Items such as cost-benefit analysis and econometric analysis of policy are explored. How to design and interpret surveys and the creation of specific policy models may also be topics.

5th Course Public Management and Policy Implementation

Public Management and Policy Implementation

This is often an introduction to public management the implementation of policies. Students may look at and study managing the performance of a program, how to manage people, and how to manage a crisis. The course typically uses cases studies and academic writings as tools and shows students how to interpret and gather data regarding the starting and managing of policies.

6th Course The Politics of Public Policy

The Politics of Public Policy

This course may look at and analyzes the political influences behind the implementation and creation of public policy. Tools such as case studies, empirical works, and theoretical works may all be part of the curriculum for this program.

  • Some of the nation’s most affordable tuition rates, from a private, nonprofit, NEASC accredited university
  • Qualified students with 2.5 GPA and up may receive up to $20K in grants & scholarships
  • Multiple term start dates throughout the year. 24/7 online classroom access

6 Most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about a Master of Public Policy

There are plenty of potential questions people have about a master’s degree in public policy. Here are a few of the most commonly asked.

This type of degree is generally a two-year program in which students receive instruction on policy analysis and program evaluation. The program often focuses on teaching individuals more in-depth content on topics related to creating, changing, and implementing public policy in a range of environments, often including private and non-profit, government at all levels, and advocacy groups.

Many students spend 2 to 4 years completing a public policy master’s degree. They may be able to complete it within 18 months if they have extensive prerequisites or enroll in an accelerated program. Public policy master’s degree programs may be longer for those who take part time courses.

Completing a master’s degree in public policy may open the door for individuals to gain additional education and advanced coursework in the field. This may allow an individual to conduct research programs, work in policy management and development, serve in various government positions, or work in leadership positions in the private sector.

A master’s degree in public health may be worth it if individuals find it to be a benefit or requirement for the type of work they wish to do. There may be opportunities for different jobs or positions with this degree, depending on the student’s current positions and long-term goals.

Public policy and public administration degrees are often different. The biggest difference is typically that a public administration degree aims to prepare students to work in the management part of organizations and agencies. By contrast, a public policy degree often focuses more on analyzing policy and creating, developing, or implementing changes to policy.

Public policy may be a good option for those who wish to help in the creation of and implementation of public policy at various government and non-government levels. Those who are interested in serving a group or community may find this type of work rewarding.

Find Funding

Individuals who plan to obtain their Master’s degree in public policy may need to secure funding to pay for it. NCES data shows that, in the 2018-2019 school year, the average Master’s degree program was $19,314 for students but could go much higher with out of state programs. To pay for these costs, students may wish to consider several options. These funding options may not always be available. At the Master’s degree level, there is some limited access to funding overall – the traditional loans may not always apply. Here is a look at some of the options available to help cover the cost of a public policy master’s degree.


Perhaps one of the options many students seek out is the use of scholarships. These are not loans. Students typically do not repay these funds. They may be available from a range of different resources and organizations, including schools, associations, private organizations, and others. Students may wish to check out the available scholarships for public policy master’s degrees to get started.

Federal Loans

Federal loans are another option for paying for higher education at the graduate school level. Loans may be available to help cover the cost of some or all of your Master’s degree in public policy.

There are three types of loans available at this level:

  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans: These are available to graduate schools and professional students. Unlike direct subsidized loans, which are made available to undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need, direct unsubsidized loans do not have a need based requirement. More students may be eligible for them.
  • Direct PLUS Loans: These are made available to professional or graduate level students. They are designed to pay for educational expenses that are typically not paid for through other loans. Eligibility for these loans is not based on financial need. However, some require a credit check to be performed, and borrowers may not qualify without meeting other requirements in some cases.
  • Direct Consolidation Loans: These loans enable a student to combine all of their undergraduate and graduate level federal debt into one new loan. This consolidation loan is typically provided after a student completes their education.

Private Student Loans

Private student loans are another option for paying for Master’s degrees for some students. If you are enrolled in a public policy program and need additional funding sources, private lenders may be able to help. However, there are many differences in these loans from federal student loans. Some key things to keep in mind include:

  • These loans typically have higher interest rates as well as both fixed and adjustable rates.
  • Many require creditworthiness, meaning you may need to have a credit score that meets the institution’s goals and requirements.
  • It may not be possible to consolidate these loans later.
  • It may not be possible to take advantage of flexible repayment periods.
  • Postponement of loan payments isn’t always available.

While still a good option for many, private student loans for a master’s degree in public policy should be carefully considered before a purchase is made.

Is operations research analyst a good career?

One of the career path options for some completing a public policy degree is an operations research analyst. A person working in this field may work to develop and interpret data about asset management and make policy decisions within a company or organization. They typically work to help make decisions related to products, services, or support. Some work to develop logistics networks and functions while also reviewing, analyzing, and implementing policy within that organization.

According to O*NET, those working in this field typically need to have analytical and scientific software skills, enterprise resource planning ERP software skills, good mathematics and critical thinking skills, as well as decision-making skills. They may need to be active listeners and be able to make sound judgments.

They typically interact with computers and analyze data, but they may also be responsible for decision making and problem solving within the organization. Some spend a lot of time researching.

Those working in this field may need graduate school education, generally at the Master’s degree, though some may need a Ph.D per the BLS. Extensive skills, especially technical skills, is a typical requirement in the field. They may have some on-the-job training, but this is typically not where they gather most of their skills in the field.

Masters in Public Policy , Oprations Research Analyst, important skills
  • Mathematics — Using mathematics to solve problems.
  • Complex Problem Solving — Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
  • Critical Thinking — Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.

2022 Median Salary for Operations Research Analysts

Below is the median salary data for those working as a research analyst for the year 2022, as reported by

New Jersey$102,450Missouri$79,340
New York$108,260Nebraska$98,390
North Dakota$88,710New Hampshire$93,310
Oklahoma$91,140New Mexico$92,700
Pennsylvania$79,260North Carolina$95,190
South Carolina$83,380Ohio$93,490
Utah$76,210Rhode Island$81,610
Virginia$121,460South DakotaN/A

Is chief executive a good career?

Per the BLS, a career as a chief executive often entails determining and creating policies for all aspects of the company. This may be done in private organizations as well as non-profit organizations or the public sector. These individuals may develop guidelines for the way organizations work or are managed. They also plan, direct, and coordinate activities alongside the company or organization management.

Those that work in this field may direct or coordinate the financial or budget activities of an organization, help maximize investments, and work to improve efficiencies. They typically work to create policies and objectives for the organization while also ensuring the organization’s operations are run well and meeting goals. They may also work to help prepare budgets or fund goals.

Per O*NET, their skills typically include accounting, database management, enterprise resource planning ERP, and human resource software products. They also need good decision-making and judgment skills. Good critical thinking, coordination, and speaking skills are also typically important here.

Those in the field typically direct financial operations, direct organizational operations, and services, prepare staff schedules, and analyze data. This type of career may require a graduate level degree, most often at the Master’s degree level. Some may need to pursue a Ph.D. as well. Extensive skill and knowledge in this occupation is often necessary, which may include up to 5 years in the industry. Some may also need some on-the-job training, which may include some support. Yet, most employers expect individuals with this degree to be able to get started without much help.

Masters in Public Policy , Chief Executive information, important skills
  • Judgment and Decision Making — Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
  • Complex Problem Solving — Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
  • Critical Thinking — Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.

2022 Median Salary for Chief Executives

Below is the median salary for those who work as chief executives in 2020 in each of the states, according to BLS information.

CaliforniaOver $275040Colorado$245980
ConnecticutOver $275690DelawareN/A
IdahoN/AHawaiiOver $298640
Indiana$244010IllinoisOver $244010
MontanaN/AMichiganOver $312710
New JerseyOver $414350Missouri$190270
New YorkOver $324370Nebraska$232210
North DakotaN/ANew Hampshire$187060
Oklahoma$146330New MexicoN/A
PennsylvaniaN/ANorth CarolinaOver $322120
South Carolina$238230Ohio$237100
Tennessee$216700OregonOver $291720
Utah$195920Rhode IslandOver $279920
VirginiaOver $292600South DakotaOver $334240
Wisconsin$240980TexasOver $314060
WashingtonOver $305760Vermont$207620
West Virginia$207110WyomingN/A

Sandy Baker


Sandy has extensive experience writing educational articles for topics ranging from online education to college degrees. She’s worked with several Ivy League colleges to create blogs, newsletters, sales material for recruiting as well as “how to manage” college lifestyle pieces. Additionally, she’s written for well-respected study abroad programs helping students to find international opportunities spanning the globe from South America to Africa and Asia.

Sandy’s experience also includes writing about financial aid, FAFSA, scholarship searches, and managing college loans and grants. This includes aiding both students and parents in managing the application and financial aid process from start to finish. Her writing in this area has been featured in The New York Times, Cleveland Magazine, and several blogs.

Sponsored Result

Study anywhere. Study any time.

Join the millions earning their degrees online!

32.6% of graduate students were enrolled exclusively in online courses in 2019*.