The best way to get a public policy degree is to get into a program at a university that has a school of public policy. These schools typically offer several degree program options. A public policy degree often takes the form of a Master of Public Policy (MPP) graduate degree, but public policy degrees are also offered at the bachelor’s and doctoral levels. The hallmark of most graduate public policy programs is the wide variety of disciplines studied.
The most common public policy grade is the MPP. It is considered a professional or terminal degree, meaning that graduates of an MPP program typically do not earn their Ph.D., 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 government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and universities.
Core studies for an MPP student incorporate various disciplines in 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. These basic studies in social sciences and research techniques often train students to analyze the theories behind changes in public policy and to track the results of those changes.
Beyond core courses, MPP degree programs typically explore the field of public policy. These classes may include political economy, policy management, financial management, and policy analysis. Students will generally focus their studies on a particular social area affected by public policy, such as education, health care, the environment, or criminal justice.
In addition to the MPP, there are two other types of degrees in public policy schools: the bachelor’s and the doctorate. The Bachelor of Public Policy degree, beyond the core courses, generally allows a student to focus their studies more fully on a particular social issue. However, the bachelor’s degree is rarely considered a terminal degree, so most graduates enter a graduate-level program or enter the workforce at the entry level.
A doctorate in public policy generally focuses less on the practical work of public policy and more on applied theory and research. A program for a doctorate in public policy will often focus on policy analysis and research design. Typically, this intense focus on research prepares a student to conduct research and analysis for a university, think tank, or advocacy organization.