The MPA/MPP: Professional Degrees for Public Service

Over the past 50 years, the Master of Public Administration (MPA) and the Master of Public Policy (MPP) have emerged as vital professional degrees in the public service field. Numerous policymakers and leaders in the United States and internationally have earned these degrees to help launch their successful careers. There are nearly 300 degree programs in the U.S. and many more operating internationally. No matter the specific areas of concern, students can find many choices to consider among these professional degrees. 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.” The information on this website about degree programs considers all of these degrees to be included in the MPA/MPP.

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.
  • Significant financial aid available for qualified applicants.
  • Flexibility to take courses from other schools and departments, and joint degree programs with other professional schools.
  • 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

Prospective students often focus on the types of jobs MPA/MPP graduates hold. Is there a typical career path? Graduates of these programs pursue a wide variety of careers. 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.

Graduates differ in the organization setting in which they work. Some graduates work for various levels of government, others work in non-profit organizations or in the private sector for consulting firms, for example. Some graduates focus on a specific issue areas, or others are generalists who work on a variety of issues. Some graduates work on issues domestically and others internationally. Some proportion of graduates move back and forth between the public, private and nonprofit sector, or between an international setting and a domestic one. They can do this because the MPA/MPP degree provides a set of analytical and management skills that are often transferable across sectors and across issue areas. Graduates also differ in the type of work they do. Some conduct research on public policy issues. Others help implement various programs. Still others work to advocate positions on certain issues or lobby for specific legislation.

For more detailed information about careers, please visit the “Why Public Service” and “Career Advice and Resources” areas of this website.


More information on the MPA/MPP: