What Can You Do With a Masters in Public Policy? [2021 Guide]

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If you’re considering getting a graduate degree in public policy, people might ask you, “What can you do with a masters in public policy?” Even if you’ve always been interested in law, government, and public service, you may not be sure how to answer those queries.

Masters in Public Policy

A public policy graduate degree can provide versatile preparation for work in a variety of settings. These work settings include government agencies, non-governmental organizations, nonprofits, and private companies.

Whether you want to influence the laws that are made, carry out regulations as an organizational leader, or have a hand in governing, a master’s degree in public policy may provide the educational background you’ll need.

What Can You Do with a Masters in Public Policy?

urban planners in a meeting

Every community grapples with tough issues. People who work in public policy strive to find solutions to challenging issues by developing and implementing laws and regulations.

Often they do this as policy analysts who conduct research on the effects of policies or run campaigns to shift public opinion. Because public policy affects so many different aspects of life, this degree could prepare you for managerial roles in a variety of industries.

Leaders who understand how to operate within legal boundaries and stay apprised of policy changes are valuable to their organizations. Fields to consider include healthcare, community improvement, emergency management, and environmental protection.

Organizations that are committed to advocacy or public service need professionals who can speak on their behalf to communicate with government leaders, donors, or the general public. Your background could help you become a strong public relations, fundraising, or marketing manager.

Other public relations careers to consider include working as a press secretary or a campaign manager. Those jobs may allow you to work directly with politicians. Legislative aides also support politicians.

You may become a government leader yourself. For example, you may become a legislator, a county manager, or a mayor. Such opportunities include both elected and hired positions.

Top 5 Things You Can Do with a Masters Degree in Public Policy

policy analysts conference

Public policy master programs prepare students to assume leadership roles in advocacy, policymaking, and management. Some of the careers you may qualify for are experiencing tremendous job growth or pay impressive average annual salaries.

1. Policy Analyst

People who study policies are called policy analysts. As an analyst, you’d gather data in order to analyze the effects of various policies.

You might also make recommendations about what changes to make to the law or educate the public on the importance of various initiatives. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, policy analysts often work for think tanks and federal agencies. Policy analysts and other political scientists earn an average of $122,220 per year.

2. Public Relations Manager

Public Relations Manager working on his laptop

Public policy professionals are adept at delivering information and conveying messages. For that reason, a career in public relations could be a great fit.

You might handle communications on behalf of an advocacy group, a nonprofit, or a politician. PR representatives for politicians are often called press secretaries. Public relations management positions are growing at a 9% rate (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Civic, grantmaking, and educational groups commonly employ PR managers.

3. Medical and Health Services Manager

Medical and Health Services Managers meeting

Healthcare and public health are common fields for policy professionals. You may be passionate about improving access to care or promoting factual health education. Working as a health services manager may give you those opportunities.

Plus, your knowledge of health law and policy could be helpful in your leadership role. Demand for health services managers is high. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these jobs are experiencing a 32% growth rate.

4. Urban and Regional Planner

urban planners in a meeting

When governments make decisions about transportation, construction, or land use, they have to consider factors like community needs, legal requirements, future growth, and environmental impact.

Your MPP degree can help provide the framework for analyzing communities and making informed choices about how to structure an area or provide access to services. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that these jobs are experiencing an 11% growth rate. Most planners earn between $45,850 and $116,280 annually.

5. Budget Analyst

One important consideration for policymakers is how funding should be allocated. With limited resources and numerous demands, leaders aren’t always sure of the best approach.

Your knowledge of research and statistics can help organizations or politicians decide how to handle such decisions. Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that analysts who work for the federal government earn an average of $83,070 annually. Those in local government make an average salary of $72,880.

Public Policy Master’s Careers & Salaries

Public Policy Master’s Careers & Salaries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, policy analysts and other political scientists earn an average annual salary of $122,220. That’s just one of the many career options you could pursue. Other job possibilities include the following:

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Marketing Managers $136,850
Political Scientists $122,220
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers $116,180
Top Executives $104,690
Medical and Health Services Managers $100,980
Budget Analysts $76,540
Emergency Management Directors $74,590
Urban and Regional Planners $74,350
Environmental Scientists and Specialists $71,360
Social and Community Service Managers $67,150

The specialization that you choose may influence your career choice. For example, you might be more likely to become an environmental specialist if you select environmental policy as your degree concentration.

Is Financial Aid Available?

public policy financial aid

Yes, many graduate students benefit from financial assistance. Most government funding comes in the form of grants and loans. You may qualify for both state and federal programs. Your eligibility may partly depend on your income level. You can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to learn more.

Some graduate students win scholarships and fellowships from private sources. Your college may award this type of funding to select students. Professional organizations and charitable groups distribute these gifts as well. Employers sometimes help employees further their education. You can ask your company’s HR department about that possibility.

What Is Public Policy?

policy analysts conference

Public policy is the study and practical application of the ways that laws and rules make a difference in society.

Professionals in the field of public policy work to improve communities. Their efforts may address problems related to education, safety, healthcare, poverty, crime, and education. Most often, public policy professionals try to make societal improvements through laws, regulations, and practices.

To develop policies that will be the most effective, policy analysts conduct research and analyze data. They also conduct advocacy efforts and try to sway the viewpoints of both legislators and members of the public.

What Is a Masters in Public Policy Good For?

political scientists in a meeting

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some of the top-paying jobs in policy analysis are with the federal government. Earning one of those positions, though, may require meeting stringent qualifications. Experience and education can help.

In many federal departments, a masters degree is even a requirement for assistant analyst roles. Not only can an MPP help you become a federal policy analyst, but it could also prepare you for employment in local government, NGOs, or nonprofits.

Potential job titles include PR manager, emergency director, marketing coordinator, environmental specialist, or urban planner.

What Do You Learn in Public Policy?

public policy student

Public policy masters degree students take classes related to government systems, economics, and program coordination. Course titles may include public policy theory and organizational leadership.

Most programs emphasize research and statistical analysis. You might take classes like quantitative analysis and research methods for public policy. You’ll likely draw on those skills for the thesis or capstone requirement at the end of your studies.

You may be able to select a specialization track and take related classes. Concentration examples include criminal justice, environmental policy, global public health, or climate change.

How Much Money Can You Make with a Master’s in Public Policy?

political scientists in international conference

A public policy degree may lead to management jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, management positions pay an average of $105,660 annually. Most public relations managers, for example, earn between $64,790 and $208,000 each year.

Some public policy graduates become government leaders. Mayors and city managers are classified as top executives. The average salary for that job category is $104,690.

Policy analysts are often considered political scientists. The federal government’s political science jobs pay an average annual salary of $126,060. Some political scientists earn more than $164,210.

Is a Public Policy Masters Worth It?

top executives in meeting

Yes, a public policy master’s degree 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 civic-minded field.

Common Master of Public Policy careers include policy analyst, urban planner, budget analyst, public relations director, and health services manager.

As an expert in public policy, you may provide insights that help shape government policies. Through research and advocacy, you may raise public awareness, influence decisions, and contribute to solutions that can help make life better for citizens and communities.

Getting Your Masters in Public Policy Online

Public Policy Online

Is public policy a good degree to pursue at the master’s level?

Even if you’re already involved with policy planning and analysis to some degree, getting a master’s in public policy can help you take your career to the next level.

In a public policy graduate program, you may learn advanced leadership and analytical skills that can help you make a lasting difference in the public arena.

A number of accredited colleges offer quality public policy programs that are designed for working professionals. If a flexible format is what you desire, then you may consider exploring online MPP programs.

Jordan Meeks
WRITTEN BY
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.