If you have completed a degree in an area such as politics, you may have already studied towards public policy in some way. For those who haven’t, however, public policy is the area of government in which regulations and policies are created and enforced, affecting members of the public. In a public policy degree program, you will learn about the administrative, legislative, and executive processes that are involved with public policy, as well as learn how to analyze and develop them, and complete appropriate research. Lastly, you will learn about important issues such as the social, political, and economic factors that matter in the world of public policy.
If you choose to pursue a Master of Public Policy (MPP), you could find yourself at the heart of policy making. We live in a time that is challenging both environmentally and economically, and holding an MPP degree means that you can have a tremendous positive impact not just on your community, but also the nation and even the world as a whole.
MPP Degree Courses
There are quite a number of schools that offer MPP degrees. Most of these are two years in length, although there are also some accelerated courses that only take between 12 and 18 months. In terms of the curriculum, there is usually a substantial overlap between the MPP and the MPA. This is because both degrees focus on understanding public administration, policies, and programs. As a result, it is also quite common for schools to offer an MPP/MPA dual degree, more on that later.
What Is Your Area of Interest?
During the program, you will study various topics, such as:
- Policy analysis
- Qualitative analysis and methods
- Management and politics
- Program evaluation
Most schools will also offer you the chance to take on a certain specialization. They may also require you to complete an internship, and some schools require the completion of a thesis. Assessment is generally done through written examinations, with a dissertation as the conclusion of the program. This is so that you can demonstrate you are proficient enough to complete independent research.
Generally speaking, universities require you to already hold a bachelor’s degree, although this doesn’t have to be in a specific field. However, if you have studied something like economics, politics, or business, you will find that there is a strong overlap between what you already know and what you will learn. Professional work experience is also beneficial in terms of being admitted to an MPP program.
Most schools offer a number of different specializations within the MPP degree program. These include:
- Environmental Policy – focuses on safeguarding the country’s economic prosperity, but also the well-being of its citizens. At the same time, it looks at how the quality and health of the natural world can be maintained and improved.
- Energy Policy – you learn about how the energy systems we have and will have, can impact society and policy. The focus is on energy security, economic wellbeing, energy access, and environmental protection.
- Health Policy – focuses on the organizations and history that are involved in various public health initiatives. You will learn how to properly evaluate the economic, moral, operational, and social issues that impact policy, and you will be able to develop the necessary statistical and quantitative skills to evaluate programs and analyze large sets of data.
- Urban Policy – focuses on how the policies that are set on the general public impact urban issues in particular. This has both a national and global perspective. It includes specific areas such as community safety, crime, sustainable housing development, urban regeneration, and more. Additionally, it looks at how future and contemporary urban challenges can be addressed.
- Economic Policy – focuses on IPE (international political economy) and introduces key international economic methods, arguments, and concepts, and how these relate to the implementation of public policy. You will also focus strongly on economic stability and why this is an important social objective. You can often take further sub-specializations in this field, including poverty, economics of public enterprises, public service reform, uncertainty and risk, public finance, and more.
- Education Policy – focuses how politics and social situations impact education. It considers disparities between demographics, including gender, race, and economic background, and how these affect educational attainment and opportunities.
There are a number of other specializations that some schools offer. These include international development policy, strategic planning, human rights, public management, international institutions and regimes, comparative politics, and new security challenges. This breadth of different specializations demonstrates the importance of thinking about your personal career goals and comparing the different schools before you decide to enroll.
After graduation, you will have a number of key skills, including:
- Being able to think outside of the box when evaluating different situations
- Understanding and using qualitative and quantitative research methods
- Analytical skills
- Understanding public policy and its key issues
- Problem solving skills
There are two common joint or dual degrees of relevance to the MPP. They are:
- MPP/MPA, where you focus on public policy as well as public administration. Through this degree, you will not only learn to create, develop, and evaluate policy, you will also learn how to implement and monitor it as part of public administration.
- MPP/MBA (master of business administration), where you will focus on the business and financial management aspect of public policy. This degree is particularly relevant for those wanting to work where business and government meet.
Whichever school you end up choosing, and regardless of whether you want to complete a dual degree or not, it is vital that you choose an accredited program. Accreditation demonstrates that the program you have completed goes above and beyond the minimum standards expected of a program of its sorts. It means your degree will be recognized in the workplace and often even abroad.
The accrediting body for the MPP degree is the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA). Some schools have not only NASPAA accreditation for their programs, but also other accreditation, such as that of the Commission on Peer Review and Accreditation (COPRA). The more accreditation a program has, the better.
What sets NASPAA apart, however, is that it only accredits programs, and not schools as a whole. This is an important difference, as an accredited school may not actually offer accredited programs. Hence, if you see the NASPAA accreditation, you are guaranteed to have a high quality education.