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How do I Earn a Public Policy Degree?

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  • Written By: Darlene Goodman
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 10 June 2018
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The best way to earn a public policy degree is to enter a program at a university that has a school for public policy. These schools typically offer several degree program options. A public policy degree most often takes the form of a Master’s of Public Policy (MPP) graduate degree, but there are public policy degrees offered at both the Bachelor’s and PhD levels as well. The hallmark of most graduate programs in public policy is the wide variety of disciplines that are studied.

The most common public policy degree is the MPP. It is considered a professional or terminal degree, meaning graduates of an MPP program do not usually go on to get their PhD, but instead enter the profession directly. MPP graduates typically become public policy analysts, public policy managers, or public policy directors. These jobs are most often found in governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations, and universities.

The core studies for an MPP student incorporate various disciplines across the social sciences, including — but not limited to — economics, law, and sociology. Students in a public policy degree program may also be required to study statistics, data analysis, and research design. Often, these core studies in social sciences and research techniques give students training to analyze the theories behind public policy changes, and to track the results of such changes.

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Beyond the core coursework, MPP degree programs usually explore the field of public policy. These classes may include political economy, policy management, financial management, and policy analysis. Students will typically focus their studies on a particular social area affected by public policies, such as education, health care, the environment, or criminal justice.

Besides the MPP, two other types of degrees exist at schools of public policy — the Bachelor’s degree and the PhD. The Bachelor’s degree in public policy, beyond the core courses, typically allows a student to focus his or her studies more fully on a particular social issue. The Bachelor’s degree, however, is rarely considered a terminal degree, so most graduates either go on to a graduate level program or enter the workforce at the entry level.

A PhD in public policy usually focuses less on the practical outworking of public policy and more on applied theories and research. A program for a PhD in public policy will often center on policy analysis and research design. Typically this intense focus on research prepares a student to perform research and analysis for a university, think tank, or advocacy organization.

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