Public policy educational programs teach students how to engage the community and promote social change by evaluating and creating public policy. Qualified public policy professionals are eligible for a broad range of divers careers in human resources, analysis, finance, and even local government. Students well-suited to this subject should have a focused interest in social studies and politics, as well as a willingness to hone their management and leadership skills. For some, the online certificate in public policy can be a timely supplement to a public policy degree, demonstrating a specialty or enhancement of skills for working professionals hoping to advance their careers. With online options that can be completed in as little as six months, some students choose a graduate certificate instead of a full master’s degree program. Others already holding a bachelor’s degree in public policy may simply complete this certificate before pursuing a master’s degree in a related subject.

Types of Public Policy Certificates

Pre-Master’s Certificate in Public Policy

While motivations vary from person to person, many students choose to pursue a pre-master’s certificate in public policy to enhance their skills to advance in their professional careers. Typical pre-master’s certificate curriculum comprises around 15 course credits of basic concepts in this field, including American policy and politics, public policy evaluation, and finance in public policy. Online certificate programs in public policy may also incorporate course work introducing graduate-level study practices as they relate to this subject. This certificate can be especially convenient and timely for students who do not need to complete a master’s degree in public policy but are interested in exploring advanced study of the field, and may benefit from adding the training obtained from a high-level certificate to their resume. Application to this program assumes a basic level of prior education, however background and experience may vary. While individual school policies vary, admissions criteria are generally minimal for this certificate program:

  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution or current enrollment in a degree-completion program (varies by school)
  • Minimum GPA requirement (varies by school)
  • Minimum GRE score (varies by school)
  • Application including statement of intent and/or application fees (as applicable, according to school)

Many pre-master’s certificates in public policy can be completed in six months or less. Course loads vary, however most accredited institutions require approximately 15 credits across several major core areas of public policy, in addition to related electives courses, to complete the certificate. The online graduate certificate in public policy may be the most convenient certificate option, allowing students to complete all assignments electronically and at their leisure. Online programs utilize advanced technology to provide a fully functional e-learning interface where students can interact with colleagues as well as explore Internet-specific academic resources. To accommodate students who are in the process of completing an undergraduate degree, some online degree-completion programs are available from the same schools offering a pre-master’s program.

What’s Next for Certificate Holders?

The pre-master’s certificate may be the terminal certificate available in this field, but for students embarking on this stage of their education, this may be just the beginning of a range of academic and professional opportunities. After completing a pre-master’s certificate, students may go on to pursue a master’s degree in public policy or even switch their major to a closely related field, such as public administration, city management, or non-profit management. Professionals already working in the field of public policy may find their job advancement opportunities are increased with this certificate. For social and community service managers, for instance, while a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for some jobs in this occupation, employers may show priority for more senior positions to those with course work and/or experience in specialty areas of public policy, such as analysis, management, or statistics, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).