Public Policy Graduate Programs in Pennsylvania
Public policy graduate programs aim to prepare students to guide government and nonprofit organizations through quantitative analysis and legal expertise. To support this goal, programs dedicate time to building skills like data analysis, statistics, and research techniques. Further, they might teach students to apply this knowledge to perform studies on the impact of political and legislative decisions on different communities, interests, and social groups. Courses may also discuss the ethical implications of those research findings, and examine how public administration, nonprofits, and legislators might put those findings into action.
Public policy graduate programs are interdisciplinary courses of study, sharing concepts with subjects as wide-ranging as economics, sociology, political science, business, finance, and law. However, programs tend to emphasize quantitative skills and analytics. So while some courses may, for example, cover essentials of how different political, social, and government systems work, they generally do that to facilitate more effective research and decision making in these areas.
Many programs also offer concentration options, enabling students to focus their expertise on a certain area of public policy analysis. This could include topics like health policy, terrorism, urban policy, economic development, and global affairs, just to name a few. Some programs may include these topics as elective courses rather than formal areas of focus. In those cases, students might opt to pursue advanced study of a certain area, or survey a broad range of social and political issues within public policy.
Public policy graduate program curricula seeks to provide a comprehensive understanding of political and legal systems, and their impacts. While the specifics may vary by school, program and concentration, here’s an example of the types of courses they might include.
The above is not an exhaustive list. As such, in your selected program, you might find some not represented above, or that vary from those descriptions. For more information about what, specifically, might be covered in your curriculum, reach out to your selected school.
Public policy, public administration, and political science can easily be confused. After all, the subjects share a great deal. For example, all three of them touch on the creation, interpretation and application of law to address social and economic issues. However, there may be a few key differences in how they go about that.
Because these areas are so closely related, some programs may overlap in terms of curriculum and course content. As such, it’s useful to remember what makes each one unique, and where each one might apply in the field.
Public policy graduate programs tend to be somewhat academic in nature across the board and research focused. The difference, as degrees advance, often involves the level of specificity in that research, and the amount to which it could be self-directed. Requirement and depth of study may also vary.
Three different basic types of public policy graduate programs may be offered.
Within each degree type, programs might have different goals and areas of focus. Often, whether a program asks for a thesis, dissertation, or capstone is a good way to distinguish between them. Capstone projects are often found in career-focused programs, whereas a thesis or dissertation might be characteristic of a more scholarly program. But what's the difference? A thesis or dissertation is written alone and takes the form of a research paper or essay that analyzes a hypothesis. Meanwhile, a capstone might be completed either alone or on a team, depending on the requirements in that program. A capstone also tends to reflect in some way the work one might do in the field. It could be a research paper or presentation, a portfolio piece, a case study, or something else.
Just like every community has different public policy needs, every student may have unique learning needs. Public policy graduate programs could be offered in a variety of unique formats. This could enable prospective students to find one that fits their lifestyle.
Public policy program formats fall into three basic categories.
Public policy applies in local, state and federal government, nonprofit organizations and even in corporate environments. As such, there may be many career paths for graduates of public policy programs to choose from. One popular option is to pursue a role as a public policy analyst. Analysts perform and dissect research to understand the effects of legislation and political decisions on the community as a whole and different segments within it. These findings could then be applied constructively, to build strategies that inform the creation and application of legislation going forward. Policy analysts might also evaluate the effectiveness of public programs, and make recommendations to improve said programs, or consult with corporations or agencies.
Many policy analysts hold a masters or doctorate in public policy or a closely related field, along with practical field and academic research experience. However, some entry-level employment may be available at the bachelor’s level, such as research assistance, or working with political campaigns or nonprofits.
Start searching for your potential public policy graduate programs right here! If you already know what type of program you’re looking for, use the menu to narrow down your options. Simply select your preferred program type, format, and even specialty, if applicable. Then review your custom list. If you’d like to learn more about a certain program, click on its name. Then read more, and get in touch. You could request information, schedule a visit, or even start your application!
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