The 5 Best Online Bachelor's in Public Policy Programs

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Earning a public policy degree online allows you to understand the variables that affect governmental decision making, including political and economic factors. Public policy influences how society functions, and learning all you can about the field is essential. Your public policy degree prepares you to work as a policy analyst, political lobbyist, or public relations specialist. A 2015 National Association of Colleges and Employers survey reported that those who graduate with a bachelor’s degree in public policy earn an average annual salary of $47,089.

Online Bachelor’s in Public Policy Degree Program Ranking Guidelines

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We selected the degree programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.

The Best Online Bachelor’s in Public Policy Degree Programs

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Indian River State College 

Fort Pierce, FL Apply Now

About this school

Indian River State College is a community college that serves the counties of Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee, and St. Lucie. In addition to their main campus in Fort Pierce, Florida, Indian River offers numerous satellite campuses and facilities throughout these counties. IRSC offers 12 completely web-based bachelor’s and associate degrees online.

Among their fully online offerings, IRSC provides a bachelor of science degree in public administration with a concentration in public policy and leadership. This is a 60-credit hour program that can typically be completed in five semesters. Courses feature topics, such as public relations for public managers, ethics and conflict resolution, and program evaluation in public management. Degree requirements include a capstone course to be completed in the student’s final semester.

Scholarships are available to students through the Indian River State College Foundation. Scholarships can be applied to online programs and receive funding from individual departments within the school. IRSC also offers a transfer scholarship for students who have graduated, or are nearing graduating, with an associate degree at Indian River State and wish to continue to a bachelor’s degree within the college or at a different institution.

Graduation Rate

Utica College 

Utica, NY Apply Now

About this school

Located in Utica, New York, Utica College is a private university founded in the 1930s when Syracuse University started offering extension courses. Utica is now a completely independent institution that provides a selection of online programs. Utica College offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate online degrees and certificates in five areas: cybersecurity, healthcare, nursing, physical therapy, and economic crime and fraud. Within their online criminal justice bachelor’s program, Utica offers a specialization in public policy and leadership.

Utica College’s online bachelor’s in criminal justice with a specialization in public policy in leadership emphasizes policy concerning the criminal justice system. This 120-credit hour program prepares students for careers, such as correctional officers, victim advocates, and juvenile probation officers.

Courses within the public policy and leadership concentration cover topics like civil rights and social change, political ethics, and administrative issues in criminal justice. Core courses across all specializations within the major include courts theory and practice, criminal justice communications, and introduction to intelligence studies. Students complete a senior project where they conduct research on a policy issue and analyze implications of policy development or change.

Students who already hold an associate degree in public policy or a related field, or at least 57 credits from an accredited university, may enroll in the online bachelor of science criminal justice program.

Graduation Rate

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Choosing a Program

The public policy degree online curriculum mirrors that of a traditional classroom. Courses cover business, communication, and ethics in addition to public relations, public health, and fiscal management. Moreover, you can expect to strengthen your public speaking and research skills to communicate effectively and gather, analyze, and articulate data. Some public policy degree programs offer concentrations designed to fit your specific area of interest. Common specializations include disaster preparedness and healthcare administration.

The program and school you select will determine your degree requirements, and students should carefully evaluate each school under their purview. For example, some programs may be offered fully online and allow you to attend class at your convenience, while others may require you to attend campus occasionally. Certain programs also require internships, thesis papers, or capstone projects as part of the curriculum. Additionally, be aware of specific start dates for your program, as some schools only allow enrollment at certain times of the year. Regardless of the program you select, a public policy degree will prepare you to manage an organization’s strategies and develop plans in abidance with laws and regulations.

Online Bachelor’s in Public Policy Careers

Your public policy degree affords you the opportunity to select a career that touches lives in a meaningful way. Your degree equips you with the management skills necessary for key roles within several types of organizations, three of which we’ve covered below.

Urban and Regional Planner
These professionals help develop communities by carefully examining population shifts and establishing which facilities are necessary to accommodate them. The profession entails frequent collaboration with government officials and citizens to ensure consensus for the use of public land and resources. Earning a graduate degree in public policy can further hone your problem-solving skills and position you for senior planning roles.
  • Median Annual Salary: $70,020
  • Projected Growth Rate: 13%
Public Relations Specialist
An expert in public relations helps organizations maintain a positive image for the public and media through press releases, client coaching, and speech writing. A master's degree in public policy can help you further sharpen the writing capabilities required in this profession.
  • Median Annual Salary: $58,020
  • Projected Growth Rate: 9%
Social and Community Service Manager
These managers design, coordinate, and implement all aspects of programming, giving community residents access to needed services. In addition to carefully monitoring and assessing programming to ensure its quality, service managers collaborate with internal and external partners. An advanced public policy degree can further help you develop skills in strategic planning, people management, and fundraising.
  • Median Annual Salary: $38,040
  • Projected Growth Rate: 13%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics