A Master of Public Policy (MPP) is a graduate degree that stresses the analysis and evaluation of information to solve complex public policy issues. MPP graduates often serve as analysts, managers and leaders in public sector positions, working with qualitative and quantitative data that effectively assesses, develops and evaluates different approaches to public policy questions.
Most MPP graduates work in the public sector, especially in federal, state and local government. Some also work in nonprofit organizations, international non governmental organizations, consulting companies, and occasionally in the private sector.
Earning an MPP degree may be a good fit for your career goals if you have these characteristics:
- You want to solve public policy problems. A typical online MPP program will confront you with many major public policy problems: how to deal with the Social Security trust fund that will go bankrupt in 30 years; how should urban education be transformed to be more effective; should homeowners continue to get the mortgage interest deduction, etc.
- You want and need to improve your technical communication abilities. A very important requirement of getting an MPP degree is learning how to communicate technical policy information into regular English so the layman can understand it. You will be reading complex, academic reports on public policy questions, and you need to be able to understand that information and put it into normal English.
- You enjoy analyzing and debating public policy and all that goes into it. An MPP degree requires you to be good with economics, statistics, research and politics.
If you think that a career in public policy sounds like you, be sure to consider these requirements for choosing a good online MPP degree program:
Requirement #1: Choose an MPP Specialty
Most MPP programs will eventually require you to select a specialty or concentration that you want to focus on for your career. Which one that you choose depends upon your interests, and you also should strongly consider selecting a concentration that will offer the most job opportunities for the area in which you live.
Of course, the specializations in MPP programs will vary widely, but most MPP programs will have some of these choices:
- K-12 policy: There are many important public policy issues surrounding the education of our youth that your skills are needed to address. From academic standards to curricula to how long the school day should be, your public policy skills can make a major difference in the education of our young people.
- Higher education policy: There also are many important public policy questions in higher education. Many of them surround matters of college education affordability and who should be paying for what. Also, how much is federal student aid causing tuitions to rise artificially?
- Quantitative methods in education policy: Learn statistical analysis, causal inference and data management and apply those advanced public policy skills to higher education problems.
Requirement #2: Accreditation
As you evaluate potential online MPP programs, it is important to select a program that has been accredited by a respected accreditation organization. If your MPP program has this accreditation, you can be certain that the education that you are paying for will give you the skills that will make you a highly desired employee in many organizations in the public sector.
Most employers also will verify the quality of your education to be sure that you have earned an MPP degree that has been fully accredited. This is especially important for earning an online graduate degree.
MPP programs that have been accredited by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) are educational programs that you know have met high quality standards.
Requirement #3: Program Length
NASPAA standards require that the MPP program can be completed in two or three years if you attend on a full time basis. The NASPAA does not want it to take too long for you to get through your program, as it is easy to forget what you have learned. Also, the program usually will need to be able to be completed in five years on a part time basis.
There are a few accelerated MPP programs available, but you will need to have plenty of time to meet the aggressive academic schedule to get your degree in less than two years.
Requirement #4: Prerequisites
All MPP programs will require you to have taken certain classes previously to be considered for admission. If you do not have these classes, you usually can take them at your graduate university before you commence the MPP program.
Duke University requires MPP candidates to have taken classes in microeconomics and statistics. The prerequisites required by your university could vary.
Requirement #5: Core Classes
Every online MPP degree will have a set of core public policy classes that must be completed. You will generally need to complete these classes before you move on to your concentration classes. These MPP core classes serve as a vital, basic foundation for all of your graduate studies, as well as for your public policy career.
For example, American University in Washington DC requires all MPP students to take each of these core classes. Each program will have a different set of core classes, but generally, most of the same material will be covered; most MPP programs that you will be considering are accredited by the NASPAA, so each of them must cover the same core material.
- Foundations of Policy Analysis
- Introduction to Public Policy Process
- Project Management
- Legal Issues in Public Policy
- Public Managerial Economics
- Budgeting and Financial Management
- Leadership in a Changing Workplace
- Quantitative Methods
- Foundations of Program Evaluation
- Managing Human Capital Assets
- Organizational Analysis
Requirement #6: Choose an Online MPP Program
Hopefully, you now have completed much of your research about online MPP programs. You should know the concentration and general career path you want in public policy. The next big step is to actually choose an online MPP program.
You will need to consider how the program meshes with your long range career goals, how much work experience you have in public policy, your prerequisites, and how long you want to take to finish your degree. When you consider all factors, you should be able to choose a good MPP program that suits you.
An excellent, NASPAA-accredited MPP program that we strongly recommend is offered by Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. This is a two year MPP program that will offer you excellent preparation for an exciting public policy career. Most graduates of this program eventually work as analysts, leaders and managers at many levels of government and nonprofit organizations – in the US and overseas.
Duke University’s graduates are known for their ability to change public policy around the world. Many graduates hold positions of high authority in many government agencies in many countries.
Some of the benefits of the Duke program include:
- Small online class sizes, with only 65 students enrolling each year, you will get to know everyone in your cohort.
- Individual career counseling is offered. Most graduates are employed within 90 days of starting their employment search, and 95% are working within one year.
- Professors are always accessible online to provide mentoring to you one on one.
- Graduates of the MPP program will join a large, active network of Duke alumni who hold many leadership roles around the globe. These graduates can be an excellent resource for you throughout your career.
Required classes in this MPP program are:
- American Grand Strategy
- Data Analysis, Statistics and Evaluation
- Ethical Analysis
- Microeconomic Analysis
- Policy Analysis
- National Security Decision Making
- Politics of US Foreign Policy
- Collective Action
- Land Use Principles and Policy
- Politics of US Foreign Policy
- Environmental Health
This two year program offers the following specializations; you will need to declare a specialization after you have completed your core classes:
- Environment and Energy
- Health Policy
- Development Policy
- Global Policy
- National Security
- Population Studies
- Social Policy
Real world experience is also critical to graduates of the Duke program. During your spring semester, you will work as a consultant to a public policy client that has real world problems in various policy areas.
You will need to define what the public policy problem is, frame a question about policy, do interviews out in the field, research the issue and draw conclusions. Then, you will prepare a report and provide recommendations to the public policy client.
Also, after your first year, you will need to complete an internship that allows you to test the analytical tools that you have learned. You also will be able to make networking connections for your upcoming master’s thesis project, and determine which specific area of public policy most interest you.
If you think that a public policy career is something that you want to pursue, earning an MPP degree will be a very important step to make you more attractive to potential employers. Follow each of the above requirements so that you are able to qualify for the MPP programs that you want.