The Best Online Bachelor’s in Public Policy Programs

by TBS Staff

Updated October 20, 2022

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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.

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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.

Our Methodology

Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%

Affordability - 15%

Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

The Best Online Bachelor’s in Public Policy Degree Programs

#1 The Best Online Bachelor’s in Public Policy Programs

Pennsylvania State University-World Campus

  • University Park, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online

Students looking for competitive online learning opportunities should consider Pennsylvania State University-World Campus. The school offers an online bachelor of science in health policy and administration among its 67 fully online bachelor's degrees. 

The rigorous curriculum enables flexible study. Enrollees can modify their coursework by working with their academic advisor. Students can choose electives and minors.

The school reports undergraduate tuition as $13,484. Learners can access numerous funding opportunities through the accredited institution.

Pennsylvania State University-World Campus at a Glance:

Online Enrollment: Data not available

Total Online Programs: 207

Online Bachelor's Programs: 67

Admission Rate: 76%

Transfer Credits Accepted: Data not available

Average Tuition
In-state
$13,484
Out-of-state
$13,484
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
76%
Students Enrolled
Not provided
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#2 The Best Online Bachelor’s in Public Policy Programs

Arizona State University-Downtown Phoenix

  • Phoenix, AZ
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Arizona State University-Downtown Phoenix, a public college, offers an online bachelor of science in public service and public policy. The program supports flexible study for students from all walks of life.

Throughout the program, enrollees complete 120 credits of coursework. Classes equip students with public policy-specific and broad knowledge and skills. Students can work with their academic advisor to customize their studies through modified courses, electives, minors, and concentrations.

Graduates greatly benefit from their education, gaining access to more job opportunities and a higher earning potential. According to the college, graduates earn a median salary of $42,200 six years after completing their degree. When preparing for the costs of education, applicants should know that the average cost of tuition and fees after aid is $13,764. Before applying, prospective students should connect with the public policy department to learn about admission requirements and application materials.

Arizona State University-Downtown Phoenix at a Glance:

Online Enrollment: 6,565

Total Online Programs: 1

Online Bachelor's Programs: Data not available

Admission Rate: 82%

Transfer Credits Accepted: Accepted

Average Tuition
In-state
$10,710
Out-of-state
$28,800
Retention Rate
85%
Admission Rate
82%
Students Enrolled
11,420
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
57% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#3 The Best Online Bachelor’s in Public Policy Programs

Wilmington University

  • New Castle, DE
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Students seeking advanced online study should consider one of Wilmington University's 68 online degrees. Undergraduates can choose from 26 online bachelor's programs, including a bachelor of science in law, policy, and political science. The program accommodates flexible study, allowing enrollees to learn at their own pace.

Throughout their coursework, students gain industry-relevant knowledge through general and advanced classes. By working with their academic advisor, degree-seekers can customize their studies through electives, minors, and concentration areas.

A bachelor's degree greatly increases one's earning potential. The college notes a median salary of $40,800 for graduates six years after finishing their studies. To learn more about admission requirements and financial aid opportunities, prospective applicants should contact the department.

Wilmington University at a Glance:

Online Enrollment: 10,989

Total Online Programs: 68

Online Bachelor's Programs: 26

Admission Rate: Data not available

Transfer Credits Accepted: Data not available

Average Tuition
In-state
$11,430
Out-of-state
$11,430
Retention Rate
60%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
14,730
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
75% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#4 The Best Online Bachelor’s in Public Policy Programs

Indian River State College

  • Fort Pierce, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Indian River State College, located in Fort Pierce, Florida, enables distance learning across 14 online programs. Undergraduate students can choose from 10 online bachelor's degrees. Learners looking for advanced, remote study relevant to the public policy field can enroll in the school's online bachelor's in public policy. The program provides flexibility through customizable study options and classes.

During the program, students complete foundational and advanced coursework relevant to the field. Degree-seekers also complete general education requirements, gaining additional knowledge. Enrollees can customize their degree by choosing electives, minors, and concentrations.

With a bachelor's degree, graduates increase their job opportunities and earning potential. According to the college, graduates earn a median salary of $27,900 six years after completing their degree. Undergraduate students eligible for financial aid can expect to pay $984 in tuition and fees, on average. Prospective enrollees can meet with the department directly to discuss admission requirements, application materials, and other relevant information.

Indian River State College at a Glance:

Online Enrollment: 7,541

Total Online Programs: 14

Online Bachelor's Programs: 10

Admission Rate: Data not available

Transfer Credits Accepted: Data not available

Average Tuition
In-state
$2,496
Out-of-state
$9,360
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
16,942
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
45% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#5 The Best Online Bachelor’s in Public Policy Programs

Utica College

  • Utica, NY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Utica College, a private not-for-profit college, offers premier educational opportunities across 55 bachelor's programs. The private school offers seven online bachelor's degrees from its main campus in Utica, New York. Distance learners can enroll in the bachelor's in public policy program to complete a college degree online.

The program balances rigor with flexibility. Students can collaborate with their academic advisor to find classes that complement their career interests. Degree candidates can also choose a minor and select electives as part of their curriculum.

Undergraduates pay around $21,560 in tuition. Enrollees can access scholarships, fellowships, and other funding opportunities.

Utica College at a Glance:

Online Enrollment: 3,018

Total Online Programs: 22

Online Bachelor's Programs: 7

Admission Rate: 87%

Transfer Credits Accepted: Data not available

Average Tuition
In-state
$21,560
Out-of-state
$21,560
Retention Rate
71%
Admission Rate
87%
Students Enrolled
4,947
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
61% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

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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.

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Online Bachelor’s in Public Policy Careers

Featured%20Online Colleges

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


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Featured Image Credit: Luis Alvarez | DigitalVision | Getty Images

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