Is a Public Policy Degree Worth It? [2022 Guide]

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Is a public policy degree worth it? If you want to make a difference in the world, earning a public policy degree may be an important first step toward your goals.

Is a Public Policy Degree Worth It

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Plus, it can help make you eligible for job opportunities in growing sectors and earn a dependable salary in exchange for your efforts.

Is a Public Policy Degree Worth It?

Market Research Analyst working on her laptop in her office

Yes, a public policy degree is worth it for many students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting 5% job growth in life, physical, and social science occupations over the next 10 years.

Common public policy careers in this field include social and community service manager, market research analyst, public relations specialist, urban and regional planner, and emergency management director. Public policy specialists get things done in the world.

Your studies can help you learn how to analyze problems and develop effective solutions that can be carried out by government agencies or private groups. The policies that you create may contribute to improvements in many people’s daily lives.

Studying public policy can help open the door to government jobs at the federal, state, or local levels. Your training might qualify you to develop growth plans for your city, strategize disaster responses, or administer support programs for families in need. Public service is closely linked to politics.

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Studies in public policy may equip you to participate in campaigns, analyze proposed laws, lobby for new legislation, or even run for office yourself. Not all public policy career paths lead to government jobs. The nonprofit sector may benefit from your insight as well. So, too, might private businesses.

In some cases, you might serve as a liaison between these organizations and government regulators. In others, you might be responsible for evaluating the impact of your programs or suggesting ways to increase your level of social responsibility.

With an advanced degree in public policy, you can pursue work as a sociologist or a political scientist, and you might be better qualified for various management roles as well. For example, earning a PhD in Public Policy online could help open a number of doors for you in this exciting and important career field.

How to Decide Whether a Public Policy Degree is Right for You

Politicians attending a conference

Public policy may be a smart way to earn a good living while also making a positive contribution to your community. Here’s how to figure out if you might click with a career in public policy.

1. You consider yourself a change-maker.

One reason to go into public policy is that you want the world to be better than it currently is. Studies in public policy can help you learn how to identify areas of weakness and come up with solutions that can make a difference.

You might be especially passionate about a particular hot-button issue. Whether it’s the environment, poverty, social justice, national security, education, or healthcare, you may be able to use your public policy know-how to effect change in that area.

2. You’re good with numbers and statistics.

Public policy professional analyzing data in his office

Public policy professionals spend a lot of time working with data. Identifying needs, considering proposed solutions, and evaluating the effectiveness of policies requires gathering data and performing statistical analyses of it.

To prepare you to do these tasks in the workforce, you may take college courses about research, data analysis, and computer modeling. Good number sense can help you do well in those classes.

3. You know how to balance conviction and compromise.

It’s good to know what you believe in and be willing to work for it. Passion often leads to determination, and determined people can change the world.

Even still, collaboration with others is essential for success in public policy, so you’ll sometimes need to make compromises. The willingness to be a flexible team player may take you far in this line of work.

4. Government work is of interest to you.

Politician speaking during a conference

Many public policy graduates go on to work in government jobs or get involved with politics. If you have your sights sets on a career in government service, then this is a degree that can help you get there.

Even if you’re not aiming for government employment, it’s still helpful to have some interest in government affairs. Public policy graduates who work in the nonprofit and private sectors often need to communicate frequently with public agencies and stay in-the-know about legislative changes.

5 Things You Can Do with a Public Policy Degree

The field of public policy is connected to the government, nonprofit, and business sectors, and each one offers a wide variety of interesting job opportunities.

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After graduation, you’ll have the choice of many different directions to go with your career. Some potential options are listed below.

1. Emergency Management Director

Emergency Management Director meeting with his staff

When a disaster strikes, having clear policies to follow may mean the difference between calm and chaos. As an emergency management director, you may make plans for governments or organizations to use during natural disasters, medical emergencies, chemical spills, or terrorist attacks.

If you have your sights set on being a director, you’ll likely have to work your way up from entry-level roles. Training and experience are considered essential in this field.

2. Market Research Analyst

Market Research Analyst working on her computer

Your statistical skills may make you a great candidate for a career as a market research analyst.

Market research analysts gather data about various demographics. In this job, your data analyses may be useful for developing ideas for new programs or planning marketing campaigns. This may be a good line of work to consider if you have strong math and analytical skills. Jobs for market research analysts are available in many different industries.

3. Public Relations Specialist

Public Relations Specialist talking to a client

Public relations specialists represent organizations and relay information. As a public policy graduate, you may find public relations opportunities with private organizations or the government. You might even work on the PR team of a political figure.

With experience, you might be able to move into a public relations management role. In the nonprofit sector, your PR skills might make you good at fundraising.

4. Social and Community Service Manager

Community Service Manager having a meeting with his team

Public policy plays an integral role in nonprofit organizations and social service agencies. Your studies in public policy can help you learn how to analyze the needs of a community and come up with ideas for meeting those needs. They can also help you understand how to obtain funding, operate according to government regulations and evaluate effectiveness.

There are many different managerial roles to consider. For example, you might oversee grant writing, legal compliance, program operations or community advocacy.

5. Urban and Regional Planner

City Planners meeting for a project

City planners are responsible for the layout and development of urban areas. Factors like transportation, sustainability, and historic preservation may factor into the decisions you make as a regional planner.

You’ll probably be employed by the federal government or a local municipality, or you might work as a consultant. You may enter the field as an assistant, but a master’s degree is often required for promotion to senior positions.

Public Policy Degree Alternatives

Public Policy Degree student studying on her laptop

In addition to exploring public policy degrees from a variety of different universities, you may also want to consider a few other majors that could lead to similar career paths.

  1. Master’s in Business Administration. If you are planning to use your public policy degree in a private company, you may want to think this degree instead. This degree often includes classes on public relations, human resources, and business law.
  2. Master’s in Political Science. A degree in political science can help you satisfy your desire to know more about law and government. This program can pontentially lead to careers in urban planning, broadcasting, or public administration.
  3. Master’s in Public Administration. Although similar to a public policy program, public administration degrees are specifically focused on preparation for government service. Though the lessons frequently apply to nonprofit settings as well.

Any of these degrees could lead to interesting careers or pave the way for graduate studies.

Public Policy Careers & Salaries

Public Policy Careers & Salaries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social and community service managers make around $69,600 each year, and jobs are projected to increase at a 17% rate.

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That’s just one of the many exciting career paths you could pursue with this degree.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers $118,430
Administrative Services Managers $98,890
Emergency Management Directors $76,250
Urban and Regional Planners $75,950
Social and Community Service Managers $69,600
Market Research Analysts $65,810
Public Relations Specialists $62,810
Survey Researchers $59,870
Paralegals and Legal Assistants $52,920
Reporters, Correspondents and Broadcast News Analysts $49,300

Continuing your education with a master’s degree may allow you to begin working as a political scientist, which, on average, leads to a six-figure salary.

What Can You Do With a Masters in Public Policy?

market research analyst working in his office

You may be considering a public policy degree because you want to effect change in your community or your country. If so, then you may appreciate the many influential opportunities that could be available to you after graduation.

One popular approach is to work in government. You might be involved with city planning, disaster mitigation, local governance, or community relations. If you’re interested in politics, you might get involved with campaigning, lobbying, or running for elected office.

Jobs are available in nonprofit organizations and businesses as well. Your department might be responsible for public relations, program management, or market research.

Getting Your Public Policy Degree Online

Public Policy Degree student studying in a cafe

Is public policy a good major? A public policy degree can prepare you to take on challenges and brainstorm solutions to the problems you see. You may be tasked with implementing current policies or creating new ones.

Training in this field may give you opportunities to work in business, government, or nonprofit settings. Taking classes in public administration, leadership, statistical analysis and government structures is about more than gearing up for a high-paying job.

With each course, you can be confident that your efforts are helping to prepare you to make a real difference in the world. To get started in this rewarding field, check out bachelor’s in public policy programs from accredited schools. Or, if you’re ready to pursue an advance degree, a number of accredited universities now offer online masters in public policy programs.

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Jordan Meeks
Jordan Meeks
Jordan is pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy and earned her Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management and her Bachelor's in Business Administration. Jordan's research focuses on adults returning to college and online degree programs.