Guide to Public Policy Degree and Related Programs

Public policy looks at governmental systems and how laws and procedures are established and enforced. You can find several schools offering public policy and related programs like political science and public administration below. In addition, you will find links to contact the schools for free information on tuition, curriculum and various other questions.

Walden University - The Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration at Walden University features a curriculum that offers the student two learning tracks. The course-based model is a structured online format, while the mixed-model option is more flexible and includes Knowledge Area Modules. For those students interested in a masters program, the university offers specializations in health care, law & public policy, and policy analysis.
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Northwestern University - Students in the Northwestern University MA in Public Policy and Administration have several specialization options, including Health Services Policy, Public Policy, Public Safety and Security, and Urban Policy and Administration. The program is designed for early and midcareer managers and executives that work for local, state, and federal agencies.
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Arizona State University - The BA in Political Science degree at Arizona State graduates individuals empowered to interact effectively in the government, business, and the global village. Graduates find jobs in law, politics, education, journalism, communications, and public service. Others go on to attend top tier graduate schools, such as Columbia, Duke, Harvard, University of Chicago, and UCLA.
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Kaplan University - The BS in Political Science and Master of Public Administration degree from Kaplan University feature a curriculum that instructs how government and society are intertwined at the local, regional, national, and global level. Courses include public administration and management, ethics and leadership, budgeting, and the administration of public funds.
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New England College - The New England College MAPP program presents an online curriculum that strives to provide insight into the foundations of public policy discussions. Courses focus on how citizens and governments interact. This degree program is a worthwhile choice for anyone passionate about creating change in the local, state, or national theater.
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Ashford University - The BA in Social Science at Ashford University provides the student a broad review of history, culture, psychology, and sociology. Courses examine the society we call home, including its individuals, families, communities, governments, and cultures. Ashford allows students to transfer up to 99 credits toward their Bachelors' degree. Ashford also has degrees for students who want to specialize in Political Science and get a Bachelors or Masters degree in Education and Public Policy.
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Capella University - The MPA program at Capella University has been designed around standards to provide the student a dynamic public affairs education. Courses teach the value of networks, ethics, communication, and innovation in the public sector. For those interested in healthcare policy, Kapan offers a MPH degree complete with several specializations. Service to others is the hallmark mission of the MS Social Services program.
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Western International University - The MPA program at Western International University requires undergraduate prerequisites including accounting, organization behavior, and ethics. The program additionally requires core and major requirements, these include Public Finance: Government Accounting and Control and Procurement and Contract Administration.
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University of Phoenix - The MPA degree program at the University of Phoenix is designed to teach the skills required to achieve policy proficiency at the local and state level. Courses examine public administration, human capital development, law, and data analysis. Most importantly, the curriculum is integrated around technology's place in the new governmental environment.
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South University - The Master of Public Administration in Public Policy degree program at South University seeks working professionals who currently have a bachelor's degree. Courses review foundations of public administration, public and non-profit organizational behavior, budgeting, accounting, research, and data analysis.
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Public Policy Degree is a website dedicated to promoting the study of public policy. To that end, we maintain the most comprehensive list of accredited public policy degree programs in the US.

Frequently Asked Questions About Public Policy Degrees

1) What Types of Public Policy Degrees Exist and What are They Called?

Whether working in the public, private, or non-profit sectors, public policy professionals are often required to have a degree. Below are just some of the types of public policy degrees from associate’s to doctoral.

  1. Associate of Applied Science in Public Policy (A.A.S. in P.P.)
    Gain knowledge of the basic skills used in public policy and governance in this two year degree.
  2. Bachelor of Science in Public Policy (B.S. in P.P.)
    A four year degree, it requires more intense study of public policy and administration.
  3. Advanced Start Bachelor of Science in Public Administration and Policy
    If you already have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in another area, you can get this public policy degree in as little as two years.
  4. Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.)
    This is one of the most common of the graduate degrees in public policy and is offered in many specialties.
  5. Master of Public Policy (M.P.P.)
    While the above degree is centered more on administration of policy, this one focuses more on the writing and designing of policy itself.
  6. Master of Public Affairs (M.P.Aff.)
    Making information and more accessible to the public is what is learned with this degree.
  7. Master of Urban and Regional Planning (M.U.R.P.)
    Government officials at the state and local level are often asked to carry this degree or a similar one.
  8. Doctorate in Public Administration (Ph.D. in P.A.)
    Earn the title of “Dr.” with this intensive degree and a new perspective on administration.
  9. Doctorate in Public Policy (Ph.D. in P.P.)
    Similar to the above, the holder of this degree can find a position teaching, researching, or managing in the public policy arena.

Since there are dozens of specialties in each area of public policy or administration, the degrees can be specialized towards that. For example, Walden University offers several different concentrations in their Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) area. They include health, homeland security, interdisciplinary, and law policy studies. If looking for undergraduate degrees, the University of Phoenix offers a Bachelor of Science in Business in either Administration or Public Administration. If unsure which is right for you, contact the human resources of the employer you would like to work for and ask about their educational requirements.

2) Where Can I Find Public Policy Degree Rankings?

Before looking to rank a school, make sure it is accredited. One of the easiest ways to do so is to click on the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs. It is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and can tell visitors if a school is accredited, who it is accredited by, and for how long. It can also be used to search for schools by state as well as for internships and similar programs.

Once a school has been established as accredited, narrowing the choices down to one can still be difficult. If looking to a source that ranks schools, whether by public policy or other factors, remember that whoever is ranking is using the criteria that are important to them. Ultimately, it is up to the student to decide how important things like teacher to student ratio or acceptance rates are.

One of the best ways to choose a school is to think of who you would like to work for, contact them, and see which schools they have a good rapport with. You can also contact the schools directly to see how well they are at placing students with a public policy degree.

3) Can I Transfer Public Policy Degree Credits?

Many students are concerned about whether their credits will transfer
from one school to another. Because transfer credits can significantly cut down on time and money spent, it is essential to find out as early as you can about which schools will accept which credits. If you already have college credits, see how many the school you wish to go to will accept before deciding which one you go to. If looking to start in one school and finish in another, contact the school to make sure that credits are transferrable.

One of the most common ways transfer credit is denied is between nationally and regionally accredited schools. Because they are accredited by different agencies doesn’t necessarily mean that they will transfer. For example, studies completed at a West coast school may not transfer to the East and vice versa.

Transfer credits are less complex if you already have a degree from an accredited institution. For example, if you already have a relevant bachelor’s degree, getting a master’s degree in some form of public policy can take as little as two years. Online schools are also fairly generous when accepting those with an undergraduate degree into their programs.

Other limits can also be applied to public policy degree transfer credits besides national vs. regional accreditation. In order for a course to transfer, it must often be passed at a C (3.0) grade level or better. Schools also limit the number of transfer credits usually to half the time it takes to get the degree. Also, many or all of the specialty courses are required to be taken at the school awarding the degree.

4) What Sorts of Careers are Common With a Public Policy Degree?

The public, private, and non-profit sectors are often looking to hire public policy professionals and below are just a few of the careers available.

  1. Policy Analyst
    Study policies in place or set to be in place in this career.
  2. Public Affairs Professional
    Careers start at the assistant level and go all the way up to director in the public affairs department of everything from small non-profits to international companies.
  3. Public Policy Researcher
    Use your knowledge of public policy to help those who research and implement public policy in this career.
  4. Social Worker
    Work directly with the public in this career to counsel the needs of applicants, refer them to the appropriate help, and monitor their progress.
  5. Clerk
    Whether for a city council or a Supreme Court Justice, they all need clerks familiar with public policy to support them.
  6. Public Policy Professor
    With a master’s degree or higher, this professor teaches others about public policy.
  7. Think Tank Associate
    Contemplate, develop, and recommend on a specific area of public policy by joining an institute that hires professionals to do just that.
  8. Public Works Director
    These directors are required to have a master’s degree or higher in public policy or related field.
  9. City Manager
    Manage the budget of an entire city in this public policy profession whether a small town or giant metropolis.
  10. Executive Director, NPO
    Take a leadership role in the non-profit sector in this leadership position.

And the above are just some of the positions available with a public policy degree. Choosing a specialty such as law, health, education, security, or other can also help to land a position in that specific agency.

5) How do I Get a Career in Public Policy?

A higher education is essential to becoming a public policy professional. Many jobs with local or state governments require a master’s degree in public policy, public administration, or related. However, there are some entry level positions that require only a bachelor’s degree.

In order to obtain a M.P.P or M.P.A., students need to be accepted into a respectable school, which involves applying for and filling out applications before being accepted. Once this has happened, students without a college degree can spend five to six years or more earning a master’s degree. With a qualifying bachelor’s degree, students can take as little as two years for a master’s or even 18 months, depending on the program.

Because public policy professionals work so often with the public at large, relevant experience is also key. Good ways to earn experience while studying include internships and even volunteer work. If looking for a position as an executive or legislative position, election is required. Administrators, managers, and other leadership position can require a graduate degree and loads of relevant experience.

Each agency and organization that hires public policy professionals has its own requirements and standards for hiring. However, just about all of them offer some form of internship or volunteering opportunities. State and local governments are also looking for volunteers. To find a volunteer opportunity in your area, visit Serve.gov to get matched with positions with agencies such as the Peace Corps, foreign service, and many others.

Careers in public policy also carry excellent benefits. In addition to health benefits for individuals and families, retirement is also a benefit enjoyed with a public policy degree. Along with a traditional retirement account, pensions can also be paid to those in public policy. Lower retirement age, sick pay, and other benefits are also offered. Although it is not necessary to be part of a union to go into public policy, many can be and enjoy the benefits of union membership as well.

6) Where Can I Find Public Policy Degree Scholarships and Grants?

Just as education is a vital part of a career in public policy, so is paying for one. Below, we have gathered a list of scholarships, grants, and other resources to help pay for one.

  1. FAFSA
    Whether studying for an associate’s to doctorate degree in public policy or anything in between, the Free Application for Student Aid is your first step to getting any kind of financial aid for education.
  2. Scholarship Matching Wizard
    The Department of Education provides this free resource to match students with scholarship opportunities. Simply create a new account to begin.
  3. Social Science Research Council
    This organization’s purpose is to help build leaders on an international level. Click on programs, fellowships, and grants to learn more about the types of funding they offer.
  4. International Public Management Association for Human Resources
    Public management and human resources are the focus of this organization. They offer awards, scholarships, and fellowships to both undergraduate and graduate students.
  5. Department of Health and Human Services
    If looking to go into public policy in the health field, visit the Grants part of the DHHS site. Scroll down to education and training funding to be connected to more resources.
  6. USA Jobs
    The federal government keeps this site with job listing available across the country. There is even a special section for students at all levels to apply.

And these are just some of the scholarships and grants available for those looking to get a public policy degree. Doing a local search can also be useful among schools, agencies, and even a current employer. Another good way to pay for school is at tax time. All qualifying tuition, books, and other school expenses can be written off and turned into big bucks as a refund check.

The best place to ask and have your scholarship and grant questions answered is the financial aid office of the school you are currently attending or applying to. Before enrolling in the school, they can tell you after you are accepted how much tuition will cost out of pocket and which scholarships and grants you qualify for. If already in school, check in each semester at your financial aid office to apply for new opportunities or even to report a change in your income.