Public Policy Masters Programs & Schools

Masters in Public Policy programs are also known as MPP Degree programs. They are a graduate program focused on public problem solving. That means you could use data analysis to understand the effects of policy making. Or learn how local government can impact quality of life. MPP programs also cover how to improve public affairs. And change the way social policy affects people’s lives. Hoping to pursue a career path with real-world impact? Consider public policy programs. How to earn a masters in public policy

What’s The Difference Between a MPP and a MPA?

Masters in Public Policy programs have a lot in common with the MPA. Also known as the Master of Public Administration. For instance, coursework often overlaps. Some programs might even combine the two degrees. (That’s called a master of public policy and administration.) So how do you tell the two programs apart? Simply put, a Master’s in Public Policy focuses on quantitative research. For what? To understand the impact of decision making. Like on a certain population. Or in a given community. Meanwhile, an MPA program focuses on turning those findings into a plan of action. MPA programs also cover admin and leadership. That’s not so different from what you might find in business programs. For instance, you could study how to manage a team of people. Or use public management skills to achieve policy goals.

What To Expect In A MPP Program

Masters in public policy programs bring together many subjects. The goal is to offer a full picture of a complex field. Core courses may touch on everything from political science to health policy. You could learn how international development helps those in need. Or the role public health plays in community wellbeing. You could also hone analytical skills, so you can prepare to solve real problems. Some programs may even offer concentrations. Interested in nonprofit management? How about a particular policy issue? There may be a program that’s perfect for your goals.

Masters in Public Policy Program Formats

Able to study full time? You may be able to earn your degree in as little as two years. Have a more hectic schedule? You may want to look for part time or flexible options. Luckily, online learning could make your studies even more convenient. Generally, program formats fall into three categories.
  • Online Master of Public Policy: Studying online could help you balance school and work. And whatever else life throws at you! Online MPP programs deliver courses to your laptop or tablet. So, you can bring your studies with you.
  • Masters of Public Policy Schools: You could also earn your MPP in person at a school of public policy. This offers a unique chance. Not only could you learn about policy research. You could explore the needs of the community around you!
  • Hybrid Public Policy Masters Programs: These are blended or partially online programs. Hybrid MPP programs aim to split the difference between online and campus study. This way, you can pursue the graduate school experience. But, you keep some flexibility by taking many courses online!

Masters of Public Policy Thesis vs. Capstone

Most MPP programs require students to complete a final project. Like a thesis or capstone. In public policy, these two have a lot in common. Both tend to call for research. And both have a shared goal: wrap up your studies. So what’s the difference?
  • A thesis is a long research project. MPP students must research existing policy scholarship. Then, they write a paper for an academic audience. This may need to be delivered in person on campus. Even in programs that otherwise take place online.
  • A capstone is a project or portfolio. It shows your ability to apply the knowledge you learned in your master’s program. And it’s usually created for a professional audience. A capstone could be a great way to try the type of work you might do in your field. In public policy, this usually means addressing a problem or policy issue.

What Might I Learn in Public Policy Masters Programs?

Each MPP program could have a slightly different core curriculum. Courses also vary by your concentration. You could study topics like urban planning. Or economic development. You could also learn “soft” skills like leadership. Or negotiation. These kinds of pro skills can help across many settings. Like the nonprofit sector or local government. Or even think tanks.

Here are some courses you might take in your Master of Public Policy program:

  • Law and Policy: Policy analysis helps guide how laws are written and applied. As such, many MPP programs cover the basics of law making. But that’s not all. Expect to learn how legislators and policy analysts can work together. And how policy research can make a difference in law.
  • Economics: Most MPP programs cover this key topic. For instance, you’ll likely take macro and microeconomics. You could even study econometrics. Courses might discuss how to do economics research. Or how the economy influences policy directly and indirectly.
  • Decision Analysis & Modeling: These types of courses center on decision theory. This is the study of how and why people make decisions. It is used to examine potential decisions. And project what their potential impact might be.
  • Quantitative Analysis: This broad topic covers methods for analyzing data. For instance, cost benefit analysis. Or statistics, econometrics, and more.
  • Public Leadership, Agency Management & Policy: Most public policy programs focus on policy research. That’s a given. But many programs also examine the role of policy research in leadership. After all, public leaders may use policy research to guide decisions. So do leaders in government agencies or nonprofit orgs. This course covers the skills needed to do just that.
  • Research Methods & Tools: This type of course covers the basics of doing research. That includes how to build a survey. And deploy tech tools to collect data. Not to mention use statistics to analyze results.
  • Sociology & Psychology: Policy isn’t just about politics. It’s also about people That includes how laws and governance impact lives. So, many MPP programs study individuals and groups. You could use topics like sociology and psych to learn how policy affects real people.

Continuing Your Education After Earning a Master of Public Policy

Many choose to earn their MPP. And then focus on building their career. That’s the ultimate goal, right? That said, your master’s degree doesn’t have to be the end of your studies. First of all, policy pros never stop learning. The field is always changing. Secondly, there’s a way to keep enhancing your skills. You could earn a doctorate in public policy. These tend to be very research focused. Earning a doctorate could be perfect if:
  • You hope to teach at the college level. Or contribute research to the field.
  • You hope to pursue a leadership role. Or start a new program.
Also consider a grad certificate in public policy. Those programs tend to be shorter. And more focused. They may even offer the chance to tackle a particular subtopic. Like urban planning. Or law. Or politics. You may find them at the masters and post masters level.

What Could You Do With A Masters in Public Policy Degree?

Many public and political research roles need you to earn at least a master’s degree. Potential roles include:
  • Political Scientists – 2019 Median Pay per BLS: $122,220
  • Economists – 2019 Median Pay per BLS: $105,020
  • Survey Researchers – 2019 Median Pay per BLS: $59,170
  • Urban Planners – 2019 Median Pay per BLS: $74,350
The background you need for these roles may vary. Sure, you’ll need to have a grasp of public policy analysis. But some employers may ask for a certain kind of education. Like, urban planning training. Or courses in statistics.

Search for Masters in Public Policy Programs

Ready to take the first step toward your public policy degree? Just start your search for master of public policy programs right here. GradSchools.com brings together sponsored programs from accredited schools. We make it easy to find masters in public policy programs that interests you.
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