About the Degrees
- Do you want to change the world? Make a difference? Spend your career serving others?
- Do you have the talent to lead, manage, analyze, negotiate, transform the status quo?
- Interested in studying abroad?
But how do you choose among the hundreds of programs and graduate schools out there? How can you find the degree that will best prepare you for the career you seek? This article explains and distinguishes the two main professional degrees for public service.
- MPA (the master of public administration)
- MPP (the master of public policy)
- What are my career goals?
- What is the core set of professional skills I want to develop?
- What aspect of professional public service do I want to specialize in?
What Jobs do graduates with professional public service degrees take?
MPAs: A profile of a recent MPA graduating class shows that graduates took jobs as a city manager, in NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, Department of Finance and Administration of Australia, the Government Accountability Office (US), Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport/Japan, and at Booz Allen consulting.
MPPs: Typical jobs include a Principal Economic Analyst, Research Fellow, President of the Non-profit Foundation, Analyst in the Congressional Budget Office, Director of Standard & Poor’s Public Finance Ratings Office, Intelligence Analyst, Environmental Specialist and Director of Economic Development, Budget Analysis and Microeconomic Studies Division.
Degree Requirements: Guiding your professional skill development
In recent years, the MPA and MPP core have overlapped and blended at many schools, and look increasingly similar. The MPA core often emphasizes management courses, and explorations of public organizations and budgeting. The MPP often features economics and quantitative courses in the core, with building analytic capacity and processing information to inform efforts to solve policy problems as a hallmark of its core curricula. But exceptions abound, and the best advice is to look carefully at an individual degree program’s core curriculum on their website.
Then look carefully at the core courses to see if you would need to do anything to prepare for the degree program: do you have the mathematics background necessary for quantitative coursework, or do you need to beef up your math skills? Do you have any foreign language proficiency? With some degrees it is advantageous to develop some second language skills before entry, because, while a second language is required for graduation, there may not be a lot of time in your jam-packed schedule to start learning a language from scratch.
WHAT CORE SKILLS DO I WANT TO DEVELOP?
Here are some examples of the core courses required in different types of MPA/MPP degree programs:
MPA Emphasizing Management and Leadership
Public Affairs Colloquium; Public Budgeting; Public Administration and Democracy; Managing Public Organizations; Managerial Economics for Public Managers; Introduction to Statistics; Quantitative Analysis; MPA Workshop; Executive Leadership and Policy Politics
MPA Emphasizing Administration
Law, Ethics, and Professionalism in Public Administration; Communication Skills for Public Managers; Public Administration and Democracy; Public Personnel Administration; Public Financial Administration; Economic Foundations of Policy Analysis; Organizational Theory; Research Methods in Public Administration; Data Applications in Public Administration.
MPP Emphasizing Analysis
Mathematics for Public Policy; Public Management; The Political Environment; Quantitative Methods I; Quantitative Methods II; Benefit-Cost Methodology; Microeconomics of Public Policy; Law and Public Policy; Policy Research Seminar; Ethics and Public Policy. Ten week required summer internship.
MPP Emphasizing Analysis and Management
Microeconomic Analysis (2 courses), Political Analysis (1), Data Analysis and Evaluation (2), Ethical Analysis (1); Policy Analysis (2); Management and Leadership (2).
WHAT DO I WANT TO SPECIALIZE IN?
Here are the specializations offered in some typical public service degree programs:
MPA with IT, Finance, and Policy Specialties
International and National Security Policy; Environmental Policy and Administration; International and Development and Administration; Public and Nonprofit Management; State and Local Government Financial Analysis and Management; Social Policy (Aging, Education, Health, Welfare); Technology and Information Management.
MPA with Administrative Specialties
Human Services Administration; Higher Education Administration; Local Government Administration; Nonprofit Management; Public Budgeting and Finance Administration Public Management; Organization Theory; Public Personnel Administration; Public Policy Analysis; Health Policy and Administration.
MPP with Administrative Policy and International Policy Specialties
Specializations are series of courses in four areas. Examples: Human Resource Policy, International Policy, Regulatory Policy, and State and Local Policy.
MPP with Social and Global Policy Specialties
Specialties include social policy (education; child and family, crime, etc.) and global public policy (international development, global trade and finance, global environmental policy, human rights and democratization; security and humanitarian intervention)