Online public policy graduate programs apply scientific analysis to today's political, social, and economic issues. Courses are delivered via the internet to compatible devices like a laptop or tablet. This could make an advanced degree a possibility even if you’re already busy with making a difference in your community.
Online public policy graduate programs are interdisciplinary. Courses may touch on everything from economics to sociology to government. These topics are typically approached from a quantitative perspective. The aim is to better understand each of them through objective analysis so that students may be prepared to evaluate the impact of legislation and government decisions.
Online public policy graduate programs are designed for flexibility. This way, they hope to accommodate the busy lifestyle of policy analysts, political scientists, and the modern student. As an online student, you could access your courses from your own computer or tablet, provided it’s compatible and has a stable internet connection. What does that mean for you? As a dedicated professional, you could continue making a difference in your community every day. And you could do it without compromising on your education.
If you choose to study public policy online, you’ll have the freedom to apply to schools without having to worry about things like the commute. Instead, you could chose a program based on what you most need to learn. That could be a certain skill related to research or analysis, or a policy topic related to the needs of your community. And so will all your classmates—meaning you could study alongside people working in communities of all shapes and sizes. The resulting diversity of perspective (not to mention the networking opportunities) could bring an added value to your education.
Public policy is:
While each of those points are important, in the context of graduate study (and, most likely, your career after you finish), you’ll be most concerned with the third one. Online public policy graduate programs try and prepare students to become leaders and better understand their communities, public organizations, and government. They focus on building quantitative skills, and applying those skills to grasp how laws and law enforcement affect communities. The findings from this research then act as a basis for forming said principles and values, and making educated decisions.
In many cases, people pursue a specific area of expertise within public policy, and concentrate efforts toward that branch of research. That could be anything from economics, to urban policy, to international relations, or even global terrorism. Some programs might offer formal tracks of study that align with those specializations. Others might be designed more broadly and include discipline-specific electives. Programs vary, so contact schools for details.
Online public policy graduate programs could be offered at three different levels. Each type of public policy program may have it's own goals and requirements. Therefore, read program descriptions carefully and consider your interests and experience to find a great match for you. Below is a brief overivew to get you started.
The curriculum offered in each school of public policy—online or otherwise—may be unique. This could hinge on factors like the selected concentration (if any), the degree level, the objective of the program, etc. Generally, these programs aim to develop a basic understanding of the relationship between social systems and legal ones. They also incorporate the advanced quantitative skills one would need to study that relationship. Here’s an example of the types of courses an online public policy graduate program might offer.
Most public policy graduate programs culminate in some kind of final project. Given the nature of public policy, this is almost always research-oriented. Beyond that, though, you may have a variety of avenues. Different types of final projects may support different goals, or play to different strengths. They may also tell you a little bit about a program's focus and approach. Depending on the level of your program, you might have to do one of three types of projects.
While all three of these topics have elements in common, there are a few important differences.
Despite these differences, you may find that some online public policy programs either incorporate some public administration or political science coursework in their curriculum. Some may even blend several topics into one curriculum, such as in “public policy and administration programs.” For more information on how this applies to your selected online public policy graduate program, reach out to the school in question.
Careers in public policy center on helping leaders make educated decisions to guide their communities and the people they serve. Policy analysts could be found in local, state, and federal government, public agencies, and even in nonprofit organizations and lobby groups. In addition to policy research, policy analysts might be called to evaluate the efficacy of public programs, and make recommendations for improvement based on those findings.
Because policy analysts might work in so many different settings, the prerequisites might vary widely. Many of them hold a masters or doctorate in public policy or a similar field, often with a concentration on a certain issue or discipline like urban policy or economics. They also often hold prior research experience gained in academic or professional settings. That being said, entry level positions (like being a research assistant) might be open to those with relevant bachelor’s degrees, especially if the candidate holds relevant professional experience.
Ready to start searching for online public policy graduate programs? Filter your search results using the menu on this page by selecting your preferred program level. Then read more about the online public policy programs that match your criteria! To get in touch with one, click on the program name You could request more information, schedule an interview, or even start your application!
Sources: [i] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/political-scientists.htm#tab-4