Public policy programs can mean one of two things. First, public policy programs can refer to fields of education offered at graduate or undergraduate institutions in which a person takes classes on public policy to obtain a degree. Second, public policy programs can refer to laws and programs put into place by the government designed based on the public's views on a given situation.
Public policy programs in the academic setting can be undergraduate programs or master's degree programs. A school may offer a specific program in public policy that allows a student to take a series of courses in things such as public health, politics, statistics, economics, political theory, and other classes that are designed to help that student develop an understanding of how and why laws are made and social welfare programs are created and put into place. For example, the University of Albany School of Public Health offers a public policy program that allows students to obtain either a master's degree or a PhD.
Those students who attend one of these programs will then be qualified to work with government agencies to help institute social welfare programs and to affect social change. For example, a student who has graduated with a degree in public policy can work for an agency to review grants that businesses send in applying for government funding or aid. That student can also work with a politician to help create a program designed to achieve a given aim of government, such as the creation of health care for all. The student of the program will be equipped to analyze and understand the potential implications and results of different programs.
The programs that are created by students of public policy, as well as by politicians themselves, can also be considered public policy programs. For example, the 2009 Economic Recovery Act in the United States was an example of a public policy program that was based on the political policy that the government should create jobs for individuals and help bolster the economy. Other government systems, such as the welfare system, are based on the political and public belief — or policy — that the government should act as a safety net for the poorer members of society and that no one should go hungry or be unable to provide basic food and shelter for their family within the United States.