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Master's Degree Programs in Public Policy

Master's degree programs in public policy can be found at many schools across the country. Read on for more information on what these programs teach and how to apply for admission.

Earning a Master's Degree in Public Policy

Master's degree programs in public policy feature multidisciplinary curricula that touch on topics in economics, mathematics, sociology, and more. These programs also commonly include practical learning experiences, such as internships or field experiences.

Public Policy Process

This course details the steps and methods of the policymaking process in the U.S. political system. Students have a chance to learn about the agencies, norms, politics, and institutions that play a role in shaping policy. Consideration is also given to policy implementation, agenda-setting, and policy adoption.

Microeconomics

In this course, students often explore resource allocation choices from the perspective of both consumers and producers. Common subjects taught include supply and demand, consumer behavior, competitive equilibrium, and marginal analysis. The course also focuses on the relationship between a market economy and public policy as it examines how these two institutions affect one another.

Ethics of Public Policy

As with any other legal enterprise, public policy adheres to a unique code of ethics, which students can learn more about in this course. This offering explores common ethical issues and dilemmas that arise during the formation of public policy and how professionals navigate these challenges. Using case studies and specific examples, candidates typically consider ethical issues from both an organizational and systemic level.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

This class takes a look at the theory and practice of welfare economics as they impact both the public and private sectors. Candidates study topics such as market failure, taxation, economic development, and public choice theory. Students learn the techniques and factors necessary to conduct cost-benefit analyses themselves.

Foundations of Nonprofit Organizations

Students who graduate from public policy programs can go on to work for nonprofit (NPO) and nongovernmental organizations (NGO), and this course provides a comprehensive examination of the development and operation of these agencies. Studying both local and global entities, students commonly explore governance, executive management, and other leadership challenges encountered by such organizations. Courses can include case studies and presentations from professionals working in local nonprofit organizations.

Public Management

This course concentrates on the organization and development of public programs. Common subjects include collaborative systems, organizational culture, and the intersection of policy analysis and public programs. Students also have the opportunity to study the challenges and obstacles faced by those running public programs in contemporary society.

Admissions Requirements for a Master's Degree Program in Public Policy

The first step in gaining admission into a public policy master's degree program involves acquiring a bachelor's degree, as all programs require that applicants have an undergraduate degree. Most programs do not require a specific major, nor do they look for work experience in a policy-making role.

In addition to transcripts, programs may require scores on a standardized test, such as the GRE or GMAT. Students who earned their bachelor's degree outside the United States may also need to sit for an English proficiency exam like the TOEFL. Other common application requirements include a resume, essay, and letters of recommendation.

Job Opportunities for Graduates with a Master's Degree in Public Policy

Political Scientist

Political scientists study and monitor the modern political climate, with day-to-day responsibilities such as researching political subjects, collecting data from public surveys, and forecasting future political developments. All of these skills, and more, are learned in a public policy program, which can provide candidates with an advanced understanding of the political system.

Survey Researchers

Survey researchers spend their time designing and conducting surveys to gauge public opinion on important matters, including government policy and political candidates. Individuals looking to enter this field should have a strong understanding of research methods, survey methodology, and statistics, topics that are common in public policy master's degree programs.

Market Research Analysts

Market research analysts analyze consumer behavior and attempt to make economic predictions by studying trends in the marketplace. Getting a master's degree in public policy equips a candidate with knowledge of mathematics, consumer behavior, and research methods, which can be used to seek employment in this field.

Job Title Median Salary (2018)* Job Growth (2018-2028)*
Political Scientist$117,570 5% (As fast as average)
Survey Researcher $57,700 1% (Little or no change)
Market Research Analyst$63,120 20% (Much faster than average)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Master's degree programs in public policy are offered across the country. These programs include comprehensive curricula that prepare graduates for policy roles with nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and private companies.