How do I Earn a Master of Public Policy Degree?

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  • Written By: Darlene Goodman
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 10 January 2019
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To obtain a master of public policy degree, a student must typically complete a graduate-level degree program that specializes in public policy. This is often considered a professional degree and, as a result, these programs may have very particular admissions requirements. Also, a degree such as this is usually considered to be interdisciplinary, so students should be aware of the diverse course of study they would potentially undertake.

A university may offer a master of public policy degree through a special division of the school. This division may be called a school of public policy or of public affairs. Other colleges offer these degrees within the framework of a school of government. The admissions requirements for a master of public policy degree can vary, depending on the program and the university.

For entry to such a program, most universities, at minimum, require a bachelor’s degree and a good score on a standardized test such as the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Others may prefer or even require several years of professional experience in a public policy field. Many of these degree programs also favor students who have a strong background in statistics, economics, or mathematics.


Once accepted, a candidate for a master of public policy degree typically begins an interdisciplinary course of study. These degree programs may differ greatly in their focus and scope, depending on the university. Most of them do emphasize a few basic fields of study, including public policy analysis, quantitative research, and public policy management.

Public policy analysis usually involves courses in a variety of social sciences, often giving students a diverse background in the issues affected by public policy. Sociology, public affairs, microeconomics, and macroeconomics are just a few examples of these courses. This part of the course material may also include training in how to evaluate existing public policy programs.

Another major focus of a master of public policy degree is quantitative research. Many programs teach students skills in statistics and research so that they can better analyze existing policy issues. A PhD public policy program will usually include more in-depth quantitative research courses than a master’s program, but statistical analysis is still typically considered an important part of any master’s degree.

Courses in public management help teach the master of public policy student how to implement policy initiatives. These courses often include instruction in public administration, financial management, and resource allocation. This aspect of the program may also emphasize leadership training for students who may one day make high-level public policy decisions.



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