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How do I Choose the Best School of Public Policy?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2018
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There are a number of considerations to take into account when choosing a school of public policy, from the types of programs it offers to the location. Students often find it helpful to generate a list of points to think about when evaluating schools so that they can narrow down their options and apply to a short list of the best schools for their needs. Listings of schools that offer public policy degrees are often available at the websites of professional organizations and through published college directories.

One key thing to think about is the type of career one wants to have. People interested in research have different educational needs than people who work for think tanks, people who assist legislators, and people who work for government agencies. It's also important to think about areas of interest within the public policy field. Different schools have different focuses and someone interested in a field like immigration would want to attend a school of public policy where immigration issues are well covered.

It is possible to obtain master's or doctoral degrees in public policy. Master's degrees take less time and prepare people for careers in many areas of the public policy sector. Doctoral degrees are primarily of interest to people who want to work in public policy research. Students should select a school of public policy with the appropriate degree track for their needs.

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While examining potential schools, students should look at faculty in addition to the content of the program. Students with particular interests should seek out schools staffed with faculty members who are leaders in those fields of interest. School reputation is another thing to consider, as some degrees are worth more when it comes to applying for jobs and negotiating compensation.

A student attending a school of public policy may also want to think about costs, financial aid options, and location. Cost can become prohibitive for some graduate students, especially when a school is located in an area with high costs of living. It can be helpful to see if students in the program are willing to discuss the cost of living, school costs, and their general level of happiness in the program. There are bulletin boards and forums where people exchange information of this nature. A school of public policy can also make arrangements to have an existing student call a prospective student to talk about the program and schools always welcome visitors who want to take tours and meet current students.

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