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Education for Public Service Careers

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Education for Public Service Careers

_DSC3760Public service careers span a wide range of organizations and jobs in the new public sector, including frontline positions in government, senior positions in nonprofit management, and faculty positions in universities. Today's schools of public administration and public policy offer a range of degree programs to prepare you for launching and sustaining a desirable career in the field. The schools also offer mid-career and executive education programs designed specifically for the ongoing education needs of the working professional.

MPA/MPP: Professional Master's Degrees for Public Service

_DSC3480The two most common of these for public service careers are the Master of Public Administration (MPA) and the Master of Public Policy (MPP). These are terminal degrees, meaning that the persons who earn them most likely will not seek additional education beyond the degree nor will their careers require additional education. Earning an MPA/MPP opens doors to a wide variety of career options. The MPA/MPP most often require four semesters of course work and a summer internship (full-time attendance), although there are some three semester programs and some longer programs (especially those that permit part-time attendance).

Numerous policymakers and leaders in the United States and internationally have earned these degrees to help launch their successful careers. There are over 300 degree programs in the United States and many more operating internationally. Many schools offer full-time and part-time degree programs and degree requirements may vary depending on professional experience. Please note that some graduate schools have decided to use different names for degree programs with the same curriculum as the MPA/MPP. Examples of these include, “Master of Government Service,” “Master of Public Service,” “Master of Public Affairs,” “Master of Science in Public Policy and Management,” and “Master of Government Administration.”

For more information on curriculum, program structure, admissions, and financial aid options, please visit our affiliated site PublicServiceCareers.org.

Unique Features of the MPA/MPP

In comparison with other professional graduate degrees such in as business and law, MPA/MPP degree programs are noteworthy for the following features:

  • A broad-based training in subjects such economics, policy analysis, management (including financial management) and professional communications.
  • A low student/teacher ratio in most classes, allowing for considerable individual contact with the faculty
  • Opportunities for substantial internships during the school year and in the summer between the first and second year of most full-time programs.

Above all, MPA/MPP program graduates are uniquely prepared for working in the new public sector that spans governments, nonprofit organizations/NGOs, and private companies together developing and implementing public policy.

Career Options

Most people choose this field because they are committed to public service and enjoy working on issues or problems that affect some sector of the public. Although MPA/MPP programs were created with the goal of providing professional training for government officials, graduates today hold a wide variety of careers, with students finding employment at all levels of government, and the non-profit and private sectors, both in the United States and in many other countries as well.

For more information on career opportunities, please visit our affiliated site PublicServiceCareers.org.

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Ph.D. Programs

The Ph.D. focuses on training persons to conduct sophisticated research. Persons earning the Ph.D. might seek employment in universities, consulting firms and think tanks, or perhaps other job opportunities in public service that require such skills. A Ph.D. is a terminal degree but one that often leads to a very different career track than would an MPA/MPP. Most Ph.D. programs in public administration/public policy do not require prospective students to first earn a Master’s degree.

  • The first and second years of the degree program are devoted to courses in the key research skills emphasized by the program (usually research methods, theory, and applications to specific content areas).
  • Most Ph.D. programs then require students to take comprehensive examinations in one or more testing fields. Only those students who successfully pass their “comps” can continue in the program.
  • The remainder of the Ph.D. program is devoted to developing a proposal, conducting the necessary research, and writing a dissertation. The dissertation must be presented and defended publicly. It may take a total of four to six years from start to finish to earn the degree.

Compared with a professional Master’s degree (MPA/MPP), the students in a Ph.D. program generally will experience much closer contact with the faculty, smaller class sizes, and much more analytical material. Many of the students intend to seek academic careers upon graduation, but there are considerable job opportunities in government, consulting firms, advocacy organizations and think tanks for Ph.D. program graduates.

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The Bachelor's Degree

The number of stand-alone Bachelor’s degrees in public administration/public policy has been increasing over the past two decades, as has the number of minors in the field available to undergraduates. 

One of the major advantages in an undergraduate program is the opportunity to take a sequence of courses related to a specific issue such as health care or the environment. Professional Master’s degrees (MPA/MPP) inevitably focus much more on developing crucial analytical and managerial skills, and Ph.D. programs must place an emphasis on research methods and theory.

Graduates of Bachelor’s programs find employment in all sectors at the entry level, and can gain vital experience that will serve them well when and if they decide to apply for additional education.

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APPAM Institutional Members

Many of APPAM's Instituional Members are organizations that offer Masters and Doctoral programs in the public administration/public policy fields. Below is a list of our Institutional Members that offer such programs.

Each quarter an APPAM Institutional Member program is featured in our Institutional Spotlight. The current featured organization is the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University.

Organization Degree Program
American University Both Masters and PhD Programs
Arizona State University Both Masters and PhD Programs
Austin W. Marxe School of Public and International Affairs Masters Program
Brandeis University Both Masters and PhD Programs
Brown University Both Masters and PhD Programs
Claremont Graduate University Both Masters and PhD Programs
Cleveland State University Both Masters and PhD Programs
College of William and Mary Masters Program
Cornell University- CIPA Masters Program
Cornell University-PAM Both Masters and PhD Programs
Duke University, Sanford School of Public Policy Both Masters and PhD Programs
George Mason University Both Masters and PhD Programs
George Washington University Both Masters and PhD Programs
Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy Masters Program
Georgia Institute of Technology Both Masters and PhD Programs
Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis Both Masters and PhD Programs
Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs Both Masters and PhD Programs
Johns Hopkins University Both Masters and PhD Programs
La Follette School Public Affairs - University of Wisconsin - Madison Masters Program
Maastricht University Both Masters and PhD Programs
National University of Singapore - Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy Both Masters and PhD Programs
New York University Both Masters and PhD Programs
Northeastern University Both Masters and PhD Programs
Northwestern University SESP Both Masters and PhD Programs
Pardee RAND Graduate School PhD Program
Pepperdine University Masters Program
Princeton University Both Masters and PhD Programs
Rutgers University - Camden Both Masters and PhD Programs
Rutgers University - New Brunswick Both Masters and PhD Programs
Rutgers University - Newark Both Masters and PhD Programs
Texas A&M University Masters Program
The Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, University of Washington Both Masters and PhD Programs
The Maxwell School at Syracuse University Both Masters and PhD Programs
The Ohio State University Both Masters and PhD Programs
The University of Georgia Both Masters and PhD Programs
University at Albany, Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy Both Masters and PhD Programs
University of Arizona Both Masters and PhD Programs
University of California - Los Angeles Both Masters and PhD Programs
University of California San Diego Masters Program
University of California, Berkeley Both Masters and PhD Programs
University of California, Riverside Masters Program
University of Central Florida Both Masters and PhD Programs
University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy Both Masters and PhD Programs
University of Colorado Denver Both Masters and PhD Programs
University of Denver Both Masters and PhD Programs
University of Houston Masters Program
University of Illinois Both Masters and PhD Programs
University of Kentucky Both Masters and PhD Programs
University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) Both Masters and PhD Programs
University of Maryland, College Park Both Masters and PhD Programs
University of Massachusetts at Amherst Masters Program
University of Massachusetts at Boston Both Masters and PhD Programs
University of Michigan Both Masters and PhD Programs
University of Minnesota, The Humphrey School Both Masters and PhD Programs
University of Missouri-Columbia Both Masters and PhD Programs
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Both Masters and PhD Programs
University of North Carolina, Charlotte Both Masters and PhD Programs
University of Oklahoma Masters Program
University of Oregon Both Masters and PhD Programs
University of Pennsylvania, School of Social Policy & Practice Both Masters and PhD Programs
University of Pennsylvania-Fels Institute of Government Masters Program
University of Pennsylvania-Graduate School of Education Both Masters and PhD Programs
University of Pittsburgh Both Masters and PhD Programs
University of Southern California, Sol Price School of Public Policy Both Masters and PhD Programs
University of Texas at Austin Both Masters and PhD Programs
University of Texas at Dallas Both Masters and PhD Programs
University of the Pacific Masters Program
University of Virginia, Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy Both Masters and PhD Programs
Vanderbilt University's Peabody College Masters Program
Victoria University of Wellington Both Masters and PhD Programs
Virginia Commonwealth University Both Masters and PhD Programs
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University Both Masters and PhD Programs

 

 
 
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