The study of public policy explores various ways to inspire and implement change in governmental and political systems at the local, national, and international level. The ideal candidate to pursue a degree in public policy has a passion for social and/or political causes, as well as a desire to enhance their analytical, problem-solving, management, administrative, and leadership skills. In addition to providing a comprehensive foundation in public policy concepts, high-level degrees in this subject also involve concentrated study in an area of specialty. A public policy master’s degree student may focus on environmental issues, global policy, or public administration, for example, and may also develop professional skills during a two-year online program. An online master’s in public policy provides a focused education through courses in public policy and public administration, and prepares graduates for potential careers in health services, emergency management, political science, foreign affairs, and community and social services.

Why a Master’s Degree?

Some entry-level jobs in public policy such as researcher or analyst assistant are available to undergraduate degree-holders, however graduates of a master’s degree program in public policy are eligible for higher-level careers in political science, sociology, and urban planning, just to name a few. A master’s degree is typically the minimum requirement for top jobs involving public policy. In fact, top political scientists have often completed a Master of Public Administration (MPA), Master of Public Policy (MPP), or Master of Public Affairs degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Pursuing an online master’s in public policy degree may deliver a graduate-level education and career training in as little as two years, from the comfort of the student’s home.

Getting Into a Master’s Degree Program

Master’s degree programs tend to require basic admissions criteria. While admissions policies vary by school, prerequisites are typically minimal:

  • Bachelor’s┬ádegree from an accredited institution
  • minimum GPA (varies by school)
  • minimum GRE score (varies by school)
  • Application including statement of intent and/or application fees (as applicable, according to school)

Inside a Master’s Degree Program

A master’s degree in public policy typically involves as many as 39 credits in core courses including public institutions and policy process, microeconomics, and statistical analysis, as well as concentration courses in the student’s specialty of choice. Concentrations often include a variety of options incorporating elective courses in environmental concerns, public administration and/or management, or education, for example. Curriculum at the master’s level may also involve additional courses in leadership training and/or required electives in related subjects or minor studies. Master’s degree candidates must also complete a capstone project or thesis in order to graduate from the program.

Online master’s in public policy programs are available from many different accredited institutions. The online curriculum for a public policy master’s degree involves added benefits beyond traditional course work, including fully online resources and Internet reference materials, multimedia learning programs, and even timely degree-completion options for students who need to complete their undergraduate degrees as criteria for admission. Special online learning modules deliver all assignments electronically and create an atmosphere for communication between peers and professors conducted entirely through email and chat. Since online master’s programs assume the same industry standards as on-campus degrees, candidates holding an online master’s in public policy may be eligible for a wide variety of careers in political science, local government, and social service, among others.

What’s Next for Public Policy Master’s Degree Holders?

Public policy master’s degree-holders should be able to demonstrate a mastery of high-level concepts in this field. Career opportunities are diverse for graduate-level professionals seeking employment relevant to their public policy experience. Many top jobs in political science, social service, and healthcare require a minimum of a master’s degree. The BLS reports that candidates holding a master’s degree in public policy with relevant experience may be eligible for a top job in political science, earning an average annual salary of $52,105 as of 2010. Master’s degree-holders in social and community service management earned a higher average salary of $65,625 in 2010, and are expected to experience job growth of 27% over the next eight years, also according to the BLS.

p>A master’s may be the minimum requirement for many top jobs in the field of public policy, but students aspiring to pursue higher education have options additional options. Candidates who hope to go into politics or international relations, or research political theory, may choose to pursue a Ph.D. in public policy or public administration. Depending on the employer, some candidates may benefit from additional independent research and/or work experience outside of the doctoral program. Students may also choose to pursue this terminal degree in public policy if they intend to teach this subject at a college or university.