2021 Best Part Time MPP Programs (Online & Campus)

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A masters in public policy can open doors to exciting careers, and part time MPP programs are a strategic way for changemakers to study while working.

MPP Programs

Policy-focused fields can include social work, politics, economics, foreign policy, and international affairs.

An online masters program in public policy may allow you to advance your current career or qualify for new opportunities and higher pay.

Best Part Time MPP Programs Online

Public Relations and Fundraising Managers in a meeting

Getting an online masters in public policy can give you exposure to the broad sets of skills that policy analysts and policy advocates rely on.

MPP degree programs typically put policy analysis training front and center, but they may also train you in a range of research skills. MPP students are likely to explore core concepts in economics, sociology, and politics.

Some online programs will also feature options for students to select from concentrations in a subset of policy-related domains. These include political reform, immigration law, business and labor policies, foreign aid, environmental protections, or immigration reform.

Your public policy graduate program can help equip you to frame the right questions and quickly research and synthesize the pertinent qualitative and quantitative data.

In an online MPP program, you can also learn how to analyze and forecast key policy impacts, draft policy proposals, and communicate policy analysis. Regardless of which field you pursue down the road, your part time masters program should equip you with practical policy skills.

You’ll learn how to shape sound policies and how to make them understandable and compelling in legislative briefs, press releases, ballot initiatives, or other mediums. With these skills you’re likely to find jobs working for local or national government agencies, a legislative staff, a law firm, or a nonprofit or NGO.

The skills you may develop in an MPP degree program can also be put to work in the private domain, in public relations, in corporate policy work, in marketing survey research, and in political and business consulting.

Your learned skills may also help qualify you to work in a think tank, advocacy group, trade association, or lobbying group. In these instances, analysis, creative problem-solving skills, and the ability to spin a cause or position drive success.

After completing your MPP program, you may want to consider continuing your education in one of the part-time doctorate programs many universities offer.

Public Policy Careers & Salaries

Public Policy Careers & Salaries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, M.P.P. graduates who master policy analysis and research skills can apply their craft in a broad range of well-paid career pathways.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Political Scientists $122,220
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers $116,180
Economists $105,020
Medical and Health Services Managers $100,980
Sociologists $83,420
Urban and Regional Planners $74,350
Social and Community Service Managers $67,150
Market Research Analysts $63,790
Survey Researchers $59,170
Social Workers $50,470

A part-time MPP program may equip you with specialized policy development skills to apply in government careers, academic research, or even corporate public relations and marketing roles.

Public Policy Master’s Curriculum

political scientists in conference

Courses and concentrations will vary by school, but students in a part time public policy masters program will learn policy analysis skills and get exposure to legal, political, economic, and sociological principles relevant to effective public policy work.

  • Foundations of Public Policy Analysis: This foundational course will teach you core principles of public policy analysis.
  • Public Policy and Legal Research: You’ll explore the intersections between lawmaking and judicial agencies and public policy development, including the incorporation of court rulings, law codes, and administrative regulations as they apply to policy research, writing, and analysis.
  • Studies in Policy Implementation: This course is a look at public policy through the lens of approaches for managing, monitoring, and measuring implementation progress and outcomes across public agencies.
  • Quantitative Research Methods: This course will help equip you to both design and evaluate statistical research in developing new policies or analyzing existing policies or proposals.
  • Qualitative Research Methods: You’ll learn about a variety of qualitative methods for survey design and survey analysis. You’ll use these creative and reliable tools for measuring or forecasting competing policy impacts and outcomes or for anticipating implementation challenges.
  • Communication and Advocacy: Graduates will need specialized communication skills, whether for drafting policies, communicating policy analysis in diverse settings, or performing effective advocacy or public relations work.
  • Policy Analysis Modeling: You’ll learn a range of specialized methods for exacting public policy analysis and decisional modeling, such as cost-benefit analysis, public interest analysis, and implementation modeling.
  • Urban Planning and Politics: You’ll learn about the dynamics of urban planning, related administrative agencies, and applicable laws, ethics, regulations, and procedures.
  • Political and Economic Reform: You’ll learn about core dynamics and concepts unique to the world of high-profile political and macro-economic legislative policy work.
  • Globalism and Public Policy: You’ll explore public policy work in the foreign policy and international development contexts and learn how global political systems inform policy development and analysis.

Specific courses and concentrations will vary, and some MPP degree programs will also include a dissertation, hands-on practicum, or internship.

Admissions Requirements

Public Policy student

Admissions requirements will vary by school and program, but they are likely to include:

  • BA degree from an accredited university
  • Satisfactory college GPA (usually 3.0 or 3.5)
  • Letters of reference
  • GRE or GMAT scores, if required

Some schools may require writing samples or evidence of certain core skills based on either prior coursework or employment. Some schools may give preference to applicants who have data analysis experience, strong written communication skills, or other skills that can be beneficial in public policy graduate programs.

Accreditation

MPP Programs Accreditation

If you apply for an online MPP, you may consider sticking with fully accredited universities and programs.

When you choose a regionally accredited school, you may be confident that you’re getting access to quality instruction and the appropriate academic resources. Your achievements and your degree will also be honored by other schools and prospective employers.

Organizations such as the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) can help you find accredited schools or learn more about the accreditation process.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

MPP Programs financial aid

Wondering how you’ll pay for your part time MPP program? You can certainly seek financial assistance to see if you qualify for various financial aid opportunities. Common forms of need-based financial assistance include federal or state aid in the form of student loans or grants.

Loan terms can vary significantly, and financial aid packages often include different types of aid. You may want to look over any financial aid packages and talk to financial aid officers if you have questions.

Merit-based and need-based scholarships may also help you pay for college. You may also be able to take advantage of need-based work study programs or employer-based tuition assistance programs. If you think you’ll be applying for need-based assistance, filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be a helpful first step.

What Can You Do with an MPP Degree?

economists in meeting

When you graduate from a part time masters program in public policy, your practical training may be attractive to a broad range of policy development agencies. You may apply these skills to a range of policy development, policy research, and market and opinion survey roles.

MPP graduates may earn attractive salaries as community service managers, survey researchers, economists, or political scientists. They may also pursue public relations roles.

If you have a background in economics, politics, law, sociology, or public health, you might also apply your public policy training toward advancing legislation or reform efforts in those areas.

If you have a passion for a certain area of social reform, you may become a change leader in developing policy solutions related to pressing issues. These issues could include climate change, criminal justice reform, or immigration reform.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Masters in Public Policy?

political scientists meeting

It will usually take about 1 to 2 years to get a masters degree when attending full time, so part time masters programs may take you about 3 or 4 years.

Online masters programs may also ask you to complete an internship, practicum, thesis, or other capstone project before granting you your degree. Whether you wish to continue working while you study or want to study full time in an accelerated program, you’re likely to find online MPP programs tailored to your preferences.

How long it takes you to complete your masters in public policy will depend on the program, the required credit hours, the capstone requirements, and your study schedule.

What Is an MPP Degree?

Urban and Regional Planners working

An MPP degree is a masters degree in public policy. MPP programs teach students effective policy analysis skills as a foundation for pursuing a career in public policy work or for going on to get an online doctorate in public policy, for example.

In most MPP degree programs, you’re likely to get exposure to principles of law and economics that directly intersect with public policy development. You may also learn about methods and concepts for doing reliable quantitative and qualitative research and analysis.

You may also learn methods for writing policy and for modeling policy impacts. Some programs may have a strong academic approach while others may put more emphasis on helping students acquire real-world job skills.

What Jobs Can You Get with an MPP?

political scientists in meeting

The skills you learn in a public policy graduate program may be applied in a wide range of organizations and open doors to lucrative career paths. Some public policy fields include social services, economic development, urban planning, tax policy, health care, small business development, and immigration.

If you already work in a public policy field, you may use your MPP degree to advance your position and salary or become a more effective leader. If you move into a new field, your MPP training should help equip you with skills that can help you learn a lot about policy factors and initiatives in a short time, wherever you land.

Graduates might work for legislators or federal and local agencies, work in foreign policy or for NGOs, or work in public relations. You may also conduct marketing or public opinion survey analysis or go into political or corporate consulting.

Is an MPP Degree Worth It?

political scientists working together

Yes, a masters in public policy is worth it for many students. With an average salary of $122,220 and 6% job growth for political scientists (Bureau of Labor Statistics), a degree in public policy can help you launch a career in this diverse field.

Common public policy careers include political scientist, economist, sociologist, market research analyst, public relations manager, and social and community service manager. Public policy work can be rewarding for quixotic reformers and academic bookworms alike.

This field needs research-oriented thinkers who can enthusiastically probe a range of topics and data sets and construct effective, evidence-based frameworks for results-oriented policy design, analysis, and advocacy work.

Universities Offering Online Masters in Public Policy Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer part time degree programs.

American University

American University

The 36 credit Master of Public Administration and Policy program from American University is a well-respected and highly ranked program. It provides students with excellent analytical skills as well as a wealth of knowledge in the fields of politics, statistics, and economics. Students must complete and present capstones to graduate.

American University is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.

California University of Pennsylvania

California University of Pennsylvania

Students interested in public administration and policy can enroll in California University of Pennsylvania’s Master of Science in Legal Studies program. Its curriculum focuses on the intersection of public policy and law and teaches students to perfect their analytical, writing, and research skills. Part-time students usually finish in 2 years.

The California University of Pennsylvania is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

George Washington University

George Washington University

George Washington University’s international policy and practice masters program is an accelerated program that requires only 27 credits to complete.

Students will focus on what the school considers the three pillars of the field: strategic policy design, data analysis, and leadership. An optional short-term abroad course is available to interested students.

George Washington University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University

Students enrolled in Johns Hopkins University’s Master of Arts in Public Management program can choose one of three available concentrations: public administration and leadership, public financial management and budgeting, or public policy evaluation. With only 12 required courses, most students earn their degrees in 2 years or less.

Johns Hopkins University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Northwestern University

Northwestern University

The public policy and administration masters program from Northwestern University teaches students about public policy on a global scale.

Students learn by comparing US and international government policy decisions, collaborating with global clients, and discussing current issues such as monetary policies, world economics systems, international trade, and global resource allocation.

Northwestern University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Simmons University

Simmons University

Simmons University’s interdisciplinary Master of Public Policy program helps students improve their analytical skills and teaches them to conduct and understand data-driven research.

Core courses include social policy, policy analysis and theory, quantitative analysis, and economic policy. Students must also complete individual capstone projects to graduate.

Simmons is accredited by the Commission for Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

Tufts University

Tufts University

The Master of Public Policy program from Tufts University is described as a “mid-career” program.

It’s designed for professionals already working in fields dealing with environmental management, social welfare, affordable housing, sustainable communities, and neighborhood development. The part-time program utilizes a trimester format. Most students finish in 2 years.

Tufts University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

University of Chicago

University of Chicago

Part-time students in the University of Chicago’s public policy masters program can earn their degrees in just 4 quarters. Students will take evening classes and participate in a weekend session each quarter that deals with current topics in public policy. Course topics include economics, leadership and negotiations, and data analytics.

The University of Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.

University of Massachusetts – Amherst

University of Massachusetts - Amherst

There are two options for entering into the University of Massachusetts – Amherst’s Master of Public Policy program. Students with bachelor’s degrees can apply without submitting GRE scores and can usually complete the program in 1 year. However, juniors currently in college can also apply via the school’s 4+1 MPP option.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

University of Pittsburgh

University of Pittsburgh

The University of Pittsburgh’s public policy and management masters program is designed for professionals currently working in public policy-related careers.

It’s a supremely flexible part-time program that helps students improve their analytical tools, managerial and administration skills, and policy development skills. Students must have 5 years of professional experience to apply.

The University of Pittsburgh is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Getting Your MPP Degree Online

MPP Degree Online

If you’re motivated to be a changemaker, then you may consider getting an online MPP. This field offers diverse career options for idealists, pragmatists, and those with versatile communication skills and aptitudes for research and analytical thinking.

Accredited, part-time online masters programs make it possible to earn your graduate degree at your own pace according to your own schedule. Your part time MPP degree may open doors to exciting policy work in any number of rewarding work settings.

If you want to fight for a cause you’re committed to while landing a great job, you may consider enrolling in a part-time public policy masters program online.

Keith Nickolaus
WRITTEN BY
Keith Nickolaus
Keith has a Ph.D. and Master's in Comparative Literature from the University of California - Berkeley and a Bachelor's in Literature from the University of California - Santa Cruz. A retired educator, Keith lives in Berkeley and researches and writes about trends in innovation, policy, and education leadership.