Masters in Public Policy & Public Administration Degree Programs
Masters in Public Administration and Policy (MPAP or MPA) programs are planned-out to help students gain a firm grasp of how to serve the public good through responsible management. Interested students could gain the tactical skills to drive changes and craft solutions to key concerns such as homelessness, homeland security, and health initiatives.
Masters in Public Administration and Policy: Overview
The degrees encompassed by Masters in Public Administration and Policy programs include the Masters in Public Administration (MPA), Masters in Public Policy (MPP), Masters in Government Policy and many other unique programs such as the Masters in Public Policy and Administration (MPPA).
What Could One Do With a Masters in Public Policy & Administration?
A masters degree in public administration and policy might prepare students to pursue careers in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors and all levels of government. The variety of public administration masters programs provides a dynamic opportunity for each student to select an analytical and/or administrative angle to leadership within local, national and international levels.
We outline a few different degrees to enable you to pick the perfect masters in public policy and administration for your professional goals. Compare course lists from individual schools to help you with your final decision.
What Is an MPA Degree?
An MPA degree, which is short for Masters in Public Administration, is a ‘terminal’ professional rather than academic degree. As such, it may appeal to students who want to build a base of new knowledge and understand how to apply these theories into real-world decisions. For instance, within sectors like public service management, healthcare, fundraising and the environment.
It may take a full-time student two-years to complete an MPA program, although there are accelerated and online MPA programs which may take between 12 and 18 months for some students. Credit requirements also range though on average, require about 36 credit hours. Some MPA programs exist that accept students who haven’t taken the GRE.
Several of the more comprehensive programs might also include a research seminar, internship and practicum in addition to a full range of core and elective classes. An internship experience may be required for students who have fewer than two years of professional work experience in a public or nonprofit setting.
MPA Course Plans
MPA degree programs are often quite broad with course plans that could meld MBA and Master of Public Policy (MPP) degrees. In other words, students could learn about an array of business management topics such as finance/budgeting and organizational dynamics.
Along with these, a focus on nonprofit organizations, policy analysis and government adds on themes that touch on the public sectors. Often as well, there is a discussion of ethics, accountability and global awareness.
Ultimately, courses aim to ready students to examine a problem, synthesize data, think critically about multiple facets of an issue, solve problems, and make decisions. Through this process, students may find they are prepared to communicate and interact with diverse groups and in diverse settings. Below is a sample of potential core MPA topics.
- Public Service
- Managerial Decision Making
- Human Resource Management
- Strategy and Statistical Analysis
- Financial Management and Control
- Economics in Public and Nonprofit Sectors
FUN FACT According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, political scientists often complete a master of public administration (MPA), master of public policy (MPP), or master of public affairs degree.
One might also enter a Masters in Public Administration with a specific interest, and to this end, many universities offer concentrations to tack onto the main (core) MPA coursework. Potential emphases could include healthcare, international affairs, human rights, urban policy, public sector, data analytics and beyond. See below for other possibilities to scout for.
- Nonprofit Management
- Public Policy Analysis
- Emergency Management
- Public Management
- City and Regional Planning
Through coursework and an area of emphasis, students could develop the ability to lead teams and projects. Also, to think strategically as they work to problem solve in their field of expertise.
What is an Executive MPA?
An Executive MPA (EMPA) might position mid-career professionals to advance their careers in public, nonprofit, and private sectors. Often, EMPA programs are available online so that at-work students need not sacrifice their career and life commitments.
Typically planned-out for the experienced public manager, EMPA course plans might cover broad questions of public affairs. With them, specific analytic, managerial, and communication skills for management and policy analysis. Students may be able to choose from three areas of study.
- Advanced Management and Finance Concentration
- Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management Concentration
- International Economic Policy and Management Concentration
Masters in Public Administration Admission Requirements
Admission requirements for Masters in Public Administration and Policy programs could vary greatly given that each university sets their own standards. Most programs do require applicants to have an undergraduate degree from an accredited university and might recommend candidates show an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0.
In some cases, applicants may need at least three years of professional work experience at the time of enrollment, and basic quantitative skills including a foundation in pre-calculus. Other times, students may not need to have prior experience in public administration or public policy. But, they should show analytical, quantitative, and verbal skills up to par with academia at this level.
In several grad schools with Masters in Public Administration and Policy programs, the GRE score is required for admission. However, GRE scores may be waived for students who have already completed a masters degree or who have at least five years’ management experience in a government or non-profit setting.
Other required materials for acceptance into some programs might include the completion of an online application, all official transcripts, a statement of purpose, a current resume, and several letters of recommendation.
What Is an MPP Degree?
An MPP degree – Masters in Public Policy – is a professional degree which may be heavily academic as well as practice-focused. A primary aim of an MPP program is to prepare students to pursue careers in policy analysis, politics, and public affairs within public, non-profit, or private sectors.
The MPP is normally a two-year degree for full-time students. Applicants might seek enrollment directly from their bachelors degree although some universities might prefer candidates with a few years of work experience under their belts.
Some schools might also look for students who show an enthusiasm to serve the public interest – perhaps through past community or volunteer work. Undergraduate-level economics, statistics or calculus courses might also be helpful.
MPP Course Plans
Some MPP course plans highlight the research that is required to make public policies rather than on implementation (which is usually the case with an MPA degree). As a result, students might be exposed to a wide range of analytical methods used to dissect complex problems. Also, to the appropriate practices used to form concrete solutions via informed policy decisions.
One of the hallmarks of the MPP degree is its core coursework which may vary between schools but is generally planned-out to broaden student perspective and sharpen specific public service skills. Core and elective courses in the first year could be supplemented by a policy-oriented internship, and an applied thesis may cap the final part of the curriculum. See below for sample MPP course topics.
- Economics for Public Policy
- Finance and Budgeting
- Management and leadership
- Policy analysis
- Quantitative analysis
Through core courses, exercises and fieldwork, participants could master concepts and skills that draw on the social sciences but are adapted for action. On top of these components, many MPP degree programs ask students to major in a substantive policy area through a selected concentration. See below for some examples of areas in which in concentrate coursework.
- Business and Government Policy
- Democracy, Politics and Institutions
- International and Global Affairs
- Political and Economic Development
- Social and Urban Policy
- Environmental Policy
- Labor and Workforce Policy
Some schools might also help students to tailor design their program to target personal objectives.
MPA vs MPP Degree?
The MPA degree and MPP degree share a focus on issues that concern the public and ways to serve the community, but they are otherwise distinct from one another.
In a nutshell, an MPP degree relies upon evaluation and strategy with an emphasis on research and analysis. In contrast, the MPA degree could focus on administration and leadership with an emphasis on management. While MPP students seek to glean information, MPA students might set out to find ways to implement data by managing programs that are used in the public sector.
Furthermore, a Masters in Public Administration degree course plan usually involves classes in leadership and how to make strategic and informed decisions. Leadership skills are vital because public leaders may oversee large groups of people. This degree focus might also include studies in human resources, finance, management principles and information systems.
A Masters in Public Policy degree by comparison might stress the scrutiny and interpretation of data, therefore may not play up the administrative aspects like an MPA. Instead, courses could include research methods, statistics, cost-benefit analysis, and economics.
Finally, to earn an MPA, students are usually required to have professional experience, such as internships or other work experience before the degree is granted. Most MPP programs do not require candidates to have relevant professional experience to be accepted into their program.
Schools with Masters in Publicy Policy Degree Programs
A Masters in Public Policy and Administration is an interdisciplinary professional program. MPPA programs might suit those who are interested in both the analytical (MPP degree) and administrative (MPA degree) sides of the discipline. In tandem with courses in leadership, students might learn to think across diverse groups and boundaries to design and assess public policies and programs.
MPPA Course Plans
Core courses could help students refine their research and graduate writing skills. Students might also reasonably expect to take courses which put forth research methods, statistics and analytic tools for public policy. The topics below provide a general overview of a MPPA course plan.
- Public Organization Theory and Management
- Microeconomics for Public Policy and Administration
- Public Finance and Budgeting
- Scope and Theory of Public Policy
Students in MPPA degree programs might be expected to complete core courses plus a capstone project of thesis research. Elective courses that correspond to a declared emphasis might round a course plan out. These could delve into some of the areas that follow.
- Public Administration
- Public Policy
- Global Policy
- Global Health
- Data Analytics for Public Policy
Masters in Government
Masters in Government degree programs might suit participants who want to shape policy and are specifically drawn to serve in government. Many such programs are available through a university’s Political Science or Government Departments. Students might thus gain familiarity with topics such as international relations, comparative politics, political theory and American government.
Master of Arts in Government
A Master of Arts (MA) in Government could help students hone expertise in U.S. government, public policy, national security, constitutionalism or other areas.
Students may need to take several core courses, though the MA is often flexible which means participants might supplement compulsory topics with several electives. See below for some possible areas of study.
- Analysis of Political Data
- Leadership and Process in American Government
- Executive Branch Politics and Policy Making
- U.S. Foreign Policy
Apart from the finer points of American politics, students might be required to complete a practicum experience which could provide a taste of hands-on, real-world professional practice.
Master of Science in Government Analytics
For students who prefer statistical tools to debating the finer points of congressional politics and the American presidency, a MS in Government Analytics might hit the mark. A MS in Government Analytics curriculum could equip students with a broad set of foundational skills in statistical analysis through a central core.
- Statistics and Political Analysis
- Quantitative Methods
- Advanced Quantitative Methods
- Big Data Analytics: Tools and Techniques
Some universities might also offer the opportunity to cultivate skills in a specific analytical area. Program concentrations could include statistical analysis, geospatial analysis, political behavior and policy analysis and public management.
Could I Earn an MPP or MPA Degree Online?
Many universities offer a menu of course delivery systems so that busy students could earn a Masters in Public Administration and Policy at their own pace or in line with their schedule needs. Here is a rundown of the principal formats.
- On-Campus: Typically has students (cohort) meet at set times; in-person lectures, opportunity to meet and interact – choose your preferred location
- Online: Courses may be set up entirely online or with a brief on-campus meeting; coursework accessible 24/7 through web-based platform
- Hybrid: A blend of on-campus and online course components which could be a perfect way to interact and study independently
written by Rana Waxman
|State||Employment||Annual Mean Wage|
|District of Columbia||3,670||$123,070|
|Metro Area||Annual Mean Salary||Employment|
|New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA||$122,500||90|
|Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC||$118,430||30|
|Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX||$85,990||0|
Now you’re equipped with the information you need to start your search for a masters program in public administration. Don’t be shy, reaching out to more than one public administration and policy school may increase your chances of achieving your goal.
GradSchools.com offers 392 Masters in Public Policy Degree Programs
Purdue University Global
California State University, Northridge
Johns Hopkins University
Eastern Kentucky University Online
Georgia Southern University
West Virginia University
Georgia State University
Rochester Institute of Technology
University At Albany (S.U.N.Y.)
Northern Illinois University