The Best Online Master’s in Public Policy Programs

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Public Policy graduate students study public administration, policy analysis, and public policy’s political context. This degree leads to opportunities in political campaigns, legislative offices, federal government agencies, and local governments. Public policy graduates also work for nonprofit organizations as program managers or project managers, and many pursue careers in the private sector as government relations managers, policy analysts, or community relations managers.

During a public policy master’s degree online program, graduate students complete advanced coursework in policy analysis, law and public policy, and public management. Students learn about policy development, the implementation of new public policies, and how to determine a policy’s effectiveness. They also gain management skills, strengthen their research and analytical abilities, and build a professional portfolio. Many programs incorporate a capstone project or internship to build professional experience. Online programs offer convenience and accessibility by helping professionals advance their careers through graduate training in public policy.

This page ranks the best online master’s in public policy programs, explores career paths and salary opportunities for public policy professionals, discusses how to choose the right master’s program in public policy, and lists professional associations related to public policy.

Online Master’s in Public Policy Program Ranking Guidelines

We selected the programs based on the quality of the program, the types of courses offered, the faculty, rankings, awards, and reputation, including the school’s reputation for effectively providing online degree programs.

The Best Online Master’s in Public Policy Degree Programs

1
Northwestern University
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4

University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus 

Pittsburgh, PA

About this school

The University of Pittsburgh is a public research school located in western Pennsylvania. Established in 1787 as Pittsburgh Academy, Pitt maintains an urban campus where it provides high-quality education and conducts cutting-edge research in the arts and sciences. Among its many programs of study is a master of public policy and management suitable for working professionals interested in expanding their knowledge of the field.

Pitt offers this 30-credit course of study with training and instruction to advance the careers of degree-seekers working in the public and nonprofit sectors. Most learners can complete this fully online master's in public policy in just 20 months with minimal professional disruption. Enrollees can engage with course material through flexible asynchronous learning modules that facilitate easy access anytime, anywhere.

Learners receive training from the same established faculty that Pitt's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs uses for its on-campus programming. Core course topics include microeconomics, public affairs administration, program evaluation, and policy management. Each enrolled degree-seeker also receives a devoted faculty advisor and full-time enrollment counselor available for assistance by phone, email, or video conference.

Successful applicants must demonstrate increasing levels of leadership and competence in program management, budget and finance, human resource management, and policy formulation or implementation. They must also provide copies of all academic transcripts, a current resume, two letters of recommendation, and a personal statement outlining broad personal and professional goals.

Accreditation

The University of Pittsburgh is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

5

University of Missouri-Columbia 

Columbia, MO

About this school

As a public land-grant institution located in Columbia, the University of Missouri champions the values of respect, responsibility, discovery, and excellence. Established in 1839 as the first institution of public higher education west of the Mississippi River, Mizzou boasts more than 300 distinct programs of study in 21 different schools and colleges, including a master of public affairs available online.

Administered by the Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs, this course of study involves 33 credits achievable in two years or less. Learners can satisfy credit requirements in collaborative governance, public policy strategy, and economic analysis by enrolling in nine-week course sessions delivered completely online. Degree-seekers can access materials and complete assignments through synchronous and asynchronous learning methods that blend self-paced education with collaborative experiences.

All distance learners enjoy reduced, in-state tuition rates, regardless of their location. Graduates of Mizzou's online master's in public policy typically go on to obtain work in public administration, government relations, social services, and other related fields. Potential course topics include public budgeting, group dynamics, grant writing, and organizational leadership.

Degree-seekers interested in this program must satisfy course prerequisites in microeconomics and statistical reasoning before admission. A successful application must include relevant academic transcripts indicating a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA and evidence of at least three years of professional experience in public affairs or a related discipline. Each applicant must also provide a statement of interest, a resume or CV, and three letters of recommendation.

Accreditation

The University of Missouri is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Its public affairs programs maintain programmatic accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA).

6

Liberty University 

Lynchburg, VA

About this school

Located in Lynchburg, Virginia, near the banks of the James River, Liberty University offers over 600 programs to more than 100,000 learners every year. Founded in 1971 as a private evangelical institution, Liberty promotes high-quality educational experiences from a distinctly Christian point of view. For the degree-seeker interested in a career in public administration, government, or politics, Liberty grants a master of arts in public policy.

Liberty's fully online course of study requires 36 credits that many learners can complete in as little as 12-18 months. This highly customizable online master's in public policy offers several specializations in international affairs, campaigns and elections, Middle East affairs, policy studies, public administration, and leadership. All program courses are delivered in 8-week course modules through asynchronous learning formats.

Liberty's flexible virtual classrooms allow each learner to access course materials at a time and place convenient for them. The school also boasts a broad and generous transfer policy. Learners can bring in up to 50% of required credits, significantly reducing their completion time. Typical course offerings include economics and public policy, political philosophy, state and local leadership, and fundamentals of public administration.

An eligible applicant must hold a relevant bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution with a 3.0 minimum cumulative GPA. They must also pay a non-refundable application fee and provide official copies of all academic transcripts. Demonstration of English language proficiency may also be required.

Accreditation

Liberty University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

7

Oregon State University 

Corvallis, OR

About this school

Initially founded in 1868 as a public land-grant institution, Oregon State University now stands as the largest higher education outlet in the Beaver State, administering more than 200 programs of study in 12 different schools and colleges. Located in Corvallis, Oregon, OSU promotes social, economic, cultural, and environmental progress in the state and throughout the world. Its School of Public Policy offers an online master of public policy for early and mid-career professionals.

OSU's 46-credit program develops all the knowledge and skills necessary for policy and management administration in the public and nonprofit sectors. The online programs share the same mission, faculty, and learning objectives as their on-campus counterparts with the added bonus of convenience and flexibility. Learners can access all course content through a blend of synchronous and asynchronous learning tools.

Instruction in this online master's in public policy covers core fundamentals of the field to offer degree-seekers four established concentration options: energy policy, environmental policy, rural policy, and social policy. Each learner can choose from these specializations as they work to develop a plan of study that facilitates their professional goals. Other course topics include econometrics, public policy analysis, applied research methods, and free electives.

Each application should demonstrate either five years of relevant professional experience, a recent graduate degree from an accredited program, or the submission of current GRE scores. A candidate must also provide transcripts indicating a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA at the undergraduate level, three letters of recommendation, and a brief personal statement outlining both personal and professional goals.

Accreditation

Oregon State University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). Programs within its School of Public Policy hold programmatic accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA).

8

Eastern Illinois University 

Charleston, IL

About this school

Eastern Illinois University is a public state institution located in Charleston, Illinois. First established in 1895 as a two-year school for teachers, EIU now offers over 80 graduate and undergraduate programs of study. Committed to free and rigorous intellectual inquiry, EIU advances its mission of providing superior, accessible educational experiences across all of its programs, including a master of arts in political science with an option in public administration and public policy.

This fully online program requires 32 credits allocated across core courses, research methods, free electives, and a final capstone project. Learners pursuing this master's in public policy online can receive broad training in political science with a specific focus on its applications in public administration contexts. Graduates often find work in all levels of public service, nonprofit management, lobbying, and policy analysis.

Online degree-seekers enjoy the same learning objectives and mentoring opportunities available to on-campus students. The program delivers all instruction through flexible, interactive learning tools designed to expedite education without sacrificing quality or rigor. Course subjects include civic leadership, international affairs, and urban policy planning. The program concludes with an original capstone project that demonstrates a comprehensive understanding of political science, public policy, and their practical interconnections.

Each interested applicant must hold a relevant undergraduate degree from an accredited institution. They must also submit official transcripts indicating a 2.75 minimum cumulative GPA, the names of two references, and a professional statement of purpose.

Accreditation

Eastern Illinois University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

9

Regent University 

Virginia Beach, VA

About this school

A private religious school located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Regent University provides graduate and undergraduate higher education with a Christian worldview. Established in 1977 by evangelical leaders, Regent values excellence, integrity, and innovation in its programming. The university's Robertson School of Government offers a master of arts in government with a concentration in law and public policy for learners interested in further developing their skills and knowledge in the field.

Regent's 33-credit course of study provides basic training in politics and governance with a special focus on policymaking and public administration. Most learners can complete this fully online program in 18-24 months, taking full advantage of the convenient, 8-week course session schedule. Regent delivers all course instruction through a blend of synchronous and asynchronous learning technologies and emphasizes interactive, accommodating experiences where learners can access content anytime they choose.

Degree-seekers can engage with many topics in political science and public policy. Core courses like economic policy and constitutional law examine the fundamentals of the field, while electives like media law and human rights let learners explore possible areas of interest that align with their professional goals. The program concludes with a focused thesis project that synthesizes gained skills and knowledge through critical analysis and original research.

Competitive applications for this online master's in public policy should include evidence of a relevant, accredited bachelor's degree and a professional resume. Each applicant must also complete a short questionnaire and submit a copy of their government-issued ID. Prospective learners may also submit GRE scores to strengthen their applications.

Accreditation

Regent University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The programs in its Robertson School of Government hold programmatic accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA).

10

Norwich University 

Northfield, VT

About this school

Located in Northfield, Vermont, Norwich University is a private higher education institution and the oldest private military college in the United States. Founded in 1819 and hailed as the birthplace of ROTC, Norwich promotes an atmosphere of excellence through quality educational experiences in science, humanities, and the liberal arts. Its online master of public administration is an ideal option for learners interested in pursuing careers in nonprofit management and public service.

Norwich's program requires 36 credits and offers nine concentrations in subject areas like criminal justice and public safety; international development; public administration leadership and crisis management; procurement and government contract management; fiscal management; and municipal governance. Courses in these and other subject areas are delivered in 11-week sessions through flexible and accommodating learning tools.

Most learners can complete this online master's in public policy in 18-24 months, depending on enrollment status and outside commitments. Core courses provide instruction in the fundamentals of the field, like organizational leadership, finance, planning, and policy development. The course of study concludes with a capstone project where each learner can choose between an original research paper that solves a practical or theoretical problem in the field, or a scholarly paper suitable for academic publication.

Each degree-seeker must possess an accredited bachelor's degree in a pertinent field for admission. They must also provide a current resume, official academic transcripts, a letter of intent, and at least one letter of recommendation from a professional or academic contact. A transfer student can bring in up to 12 credits and must complete appropriate paperwork before admission.

Accreditation

Norwich University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

11

Valdosta State University 

Valdosta, GA

About this school

Established in 1906 as a teachers college, Valdosta State University provides comprehensive education focused on human, environmental, and financial sustainability. A public university located in the southern Georgia city for which it takes its name, VSU administers nearly 100 different programs to over 11,000 learners every year. Among these programs is a master of public administration designed to cultivate knowledge and skills in the discipline.

As a non-thesis program, VSU's 36-credit course caters to working professionals in the field looking to complete educational requirements quickly and efficiently. Depending on their career goals, each learner can choose a specialized area of interest -- public sector management or public policy -- that focuses their study, complimenting general instruction with increased expertise.

VSU delivers all coursework for its master's degree in public policy entirely online through innovative learning technologies. These tools easily accommodate busy lives and work schedules with minimal interruption. In addition to coursework, each enrolled degree-seeker can complete 300 hours of internship and practicum work during the program. Graduates of the program often go on to find work as municipal administrators, policy analysts, and nonprofit directors.

Each applicant must hold relevant undergraduate credentials with a 2.5 minimum cumulative GPA. They must also submit recent GRE scores, a current resume, and provide three recommendations from professional or academic references familiar with their work and readiness for graduate-level study.

Accreditation

Valdosta State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Its public administration programs maintain programmatic accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA).

12

Park University 

Parkville, MO

About this school

Park University is a private, nonprofit liberal arts school located in the greater Kansas City metropolitan area of Parkville, Missouri. The school first opened its doors in 1875 as an outlet for technical and vocational training. Today, Park boasts broad degree offerings centered on academic excellence, inclusivity, and social responsibility. Park features a master of public administration for learners interested in developing their leadership skills in public service.

Launched in 1982 as Park's first graduate degree, this 36-credit program provides general instruction in public affairs, qualitative research methods, leadership development, and professional ethics. The program also offers several areas of specialization, including criminal justice administration, disaster and emergency management, global governance, management information systems, and public and project management.

The school delivers all course content completely online via accelerated, 8-week course modules throughout the calendar year. These options let learners work at their own pace and strike a balance between education and outside personal or professional commitments. Following coursework, a learner with less than two years of professional experience can complete an internship designed to facilitate career development.

Each applicant to this online master's in public policy must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a 2.75 minimum cumulative GPA. They must also provide official academic transcripts verifying their education, a current resume, and a statement of professional experience.

Accreditation

Park University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Its public administration program possesses programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).

13

University of Nebraska at Omaha 

Omaha, NE

About this school

A public research institution located in the Cornhusker State's easternmost plains, the University of Nebraska Omaha cultivates a learning environment characterized by excellence, engagement, inclusion, and discovery. Initially founded in 1908 as a small, non-sectarian college by Presbyterian ministers, UNO now acts as Nebraska's premier metropolitan university. Its School of Administration offers a master of public administration with a concentration in public policy.

Most learners can complete this 39-credit program in two years or less, going on to obtain work as policy advisors, urban planners, and nonprofit directors. UNO's curriculum develops basic skills and knowledge in public administration and organizational leadership. The public policy concentration offers granular, expert-level training in policy development and implementation. This includes analysis, evaluation, strategic planning, and foundational research methods.

The school delivers all course material completely online through asynchronous learning tools. By using these flexible technologies, degree-seekers can access courses and complete assignments anytime they choose without career interruption. Each learner can also complete an internship experience and a final capstone project designed to join acquired skills and knowledge in practical contexts.

Each interested candidate to UNO's online master's in public policy should provide official academic transcripts verifying reception of an accredited bachelor's degree. Their application should also contain recent GRE scores, a resume, a statement of purpose, and two letters of recommendation.

Accreditation

The University of Nebraska Omaha is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Its School of Administration programs hold programmatic accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA).

14

SUNY Empire State College 

Saratoga Springs, NY

About this school

One of 13 schools comprising the State University of New York public system of higher education, SUNY Empire State College has provided high-quality educational services with broad access since its inception in 1971. Located in Saratoga Springs, the school supports its mission with many professional and academic degrees, including a master of arts in social and public policy.

ESC's 36-credit program entails four core courses, four electives, and four research-based modules that conclude with a final capstone project. Many learners can complete the program in two years or less, going on to work in policy administration at state, local, and federal levels of government. Transfer learners can finish even quicker, as ESC accepts up to nine credits from outside institutions.

ESC delivers all instruction for this online master's in public policy through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning technologies. These accommodating and flexible tools allow learners to access material at a time and place convenient for their busy schedules. Topics in the course of study include policy process and implementation, research methods, social perspectives, administrative analyses, and professional ethics.

Each applicant must hold an accredited bachelor's degree in a relevant field. They must also provide a current resume and two letters of recommendation. International applicants must also submit TOEFL scores demonstrating their proficiency in the English language.

Accreditation

SUNY Empire State College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

15

University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth 

Dartmouth, MA

About this school

Located in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, less than 50 miles south of the greater Boston metropolitan area, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth provides educational programming in science, the humanities, and the liberal arts. Founded in 1895 as one of five campuses administered by the larger University of Massachusetts system, UMass Dartmouth supports nearly 10,000 learners through more than 100 different programs of study. For degree-seekers interested in careers in nonprofits and other organizations, the school offers a fully online master of public policy.

Designed to provide career advancement in state, federal, and municipal governments, UMass Dartmouth's program requires 12 courses and offers three distinct areas of concentration in educational policy, environmental policy, and public management. The course of study provides further instruction in administrative law, policy analysis, and organizational behavior through expert faculty and seasoned practitioners in the field.

UMass Dartmouth delivers all course material completely online through a combination of innovative modules that blend self-directed education with interactive structure. These tools let learners pursue their education at their own pace, while also providing some space for peer network and collaboration on relevant projects.

Learners interested in pursuing this master's in public policy online must possess pertinent undergraduate credentials and provide copies of all academic transcripts. Each candidate must also submit a brief statement of purpose, two letters of recommendation, and current GRE scores.

Accreditation

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

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End of list, bravo!

What is a Master’s in Public Policy Degree?

Online master’s in public policy degrees cover a variety of political contexts, such as economic analysis, ethical leadership, organizational dynamics, political philosophy, governance, international law, and foreign policy. Core classes include presidential leadership, legislative leadership, public policy analysis, project management, public managerial economics, human capital assets, and financial management.

Specializations in public policy vary from campaigns and elections, international affairs, public works and sustainability, crisis management, and policy analysis and analytics. Some students may choose to focus on speech writing or campaign tactics, while others may prefer an emphasis on media and political communications or statesmanship and governance.

Most online public policy master’s programs include a final capstone project, such as a thesis or practicum. Students who opt for an internship or practicum will gain hands–on experience in institutional settings. For the final project, students construct a policy analysis or find solutions to an existing policy or administrative issue.

Online Master’s in Public Policy Programs

During an online master’s program, graduate students in public policy complete core classes, choose a concentration, and take elective courses. Master’s students attend classes either at a set time or on their own schedule. The online coursework may incorporate discussion boards, homework, quizzes, tests, and papers, depending on the program.

After completing the curriculum, online public policy students write a master’s thesis, conduct research for a final project, or arrange an internship in their local area. In these ways, online programs in public policy mirror on–campus programs, simply transferring the material into a virtual classroom format. At many institutions, online students complete the same curriculum as on–campus students, and they often earn identical degrees.

In some ways, online programs differ from on–campus programs. Online students benefit from flexibility when arranging coursework around their work responsibilities. The format appeals to driven and organized students who thrive in a self–directed environment. Unlike on–campus programs, students in an online program enroll from anywhere in the country without relocating. Programs may require on–campus residencies as part of the degree. Online students might attend an orientation on campus or spend one or more weekends in residency during the program.

The Advantages of a Master’s Degree in Public Policy

A master’s degree in public policy prepares graduates for advanced and management–level positions in government, the nonprofit sector, and the private sector. During a master’s degree, graduate students study policy analysis, public management, and project management — valuable skills for many career paths. A master’s degree also provides specialized training within a concentration area.

While graduates with a bachelor’s degree qualify for entry–level positions in politics, communications, public administration, and other fields, a master’s degree leads to career opportunities with greater responsibility. With a master’s degree, graduates work as government relations managers, nonprofit program managers, and budget managers. In these roles, professionals apply their graduate–level training to improve their organization.

Professionals with a master’s degree increase their earning potential, as the following table demonstrates. A public policy master’s degree online also prepares graduates for doctoral study in the field, which opens additional opportunities in academia and research.

Average Salary by Degree Level

Degree Level Average Salary
Bachelor’s in Public Policy $62,000
Master’s in Public Policy $67,000

Source: PayScale

What Can You Do With a Master’s Degree in Public Policy?

Whether you want to work in public administration, social services, government relationships, public health management, or a nonprofit setting, earning a master’s in public policy online helps you achieve your career goals. Graduates find work as political scientists, campaign managers, foreign affair specialists, policy advisors, or city managers.

Government Relations Manager
Government relations managers act as a liaison between organizations and government agencies, including legislative bodies or regulatory agencies. They ensure their organization follows regulations, make recommendations on proposed legislative issues, and monitor pending and enacted legislation. Government relations managers also follow regulations and laws that shape their industry.
Salary based on experience:
  • Entry Level: $57,000
  • Mid-Career: $65,000
  • Experienced: $75,000
  • Late Career: $80,000
Policy Analyst
Policy analysts measure the effect of public policies, regulations, and laws. They also propose changes to public policy and implement new policies. Policy analysts work for government agencies, legislative bodies, and nonprofit organizations. They may also work for private companies to influence public policy.
Salary based on experience:
  • Entry Level: $52,000
  • Mid-Career: $61,000
  • Experienced: $67,000
  • Late Career: $79,000
Nonprofit Program Manager
Nonprofit program managers oversee an organization’s programs and projects. They manage the budget, staff members, and volunteers, ensuring that the program meets the nonprofit organization’s goals and mission statement. They also monitor programs to ensure they stay within budget and produce the desired outcome.
Salary based on experience:
  • Entry Level: $44,000
  • Mid-Career: $51,000
  • Experienced: $53,000
  • Late Career: $55,000
Budget Manager
Budget managers oversee an organization’s budget, monitor spending patterns, and look for ways to decrease costs. They also manage finances, provide payroll support, and ensure the organization pays required taxes. Budget managers work for private organizations, nonprofits, and government agencies.
Salary based on experience:
  • Entry Level: $60,000
  • Mid-Career: $72,000
  • Experienced: $75,000
  • Late Career: $79,000
Community Relations Manager
Community relations managers act as a liaison between their company and the communities they serve. They work directly with communities to represent a business or organization and use media relations to reach people. Community relations managers establish partnerships with organizations, issue statements to the media, and coordinate events to build a strong relationship with the community.
Salary based on experience:
  • Entry Level: $45,000
  • Mid-Career: $60,000
  • Experienced: $67,000
  • Late Career: $63,000

Choosing an Online Public Policy Graduate Degree Program

Choosing the right online public policy program may seem intimidating. With more options than ever before, prospective students need to take their time to find the best program for their career goals and interests. Students should research a program’s total cost, degree completion time, and any on–campus requirements before submitting an application.

Other factors can influence the decision process. For example, some programs offer part–time or accelerated public policy and analytics master’s online degrees. Students can also check the curriculum to learn about coursework requirements and research the best online colleges in each state before applying.

Program Cost
The cost of a public policy master’s degree varies depending on the institution, the required credits, and additional fees. Prospective students should research tuition rates and costs like technology fees or books. In general, in–state public institutions charge the lowest tuition rates, but public schools may offer in–state rates to fully online students.
Transfer Policies
Transfer policies vary depending on the institution. Some programs accept 6–12 transfer credits earned from an accredited graduate institution, while other programs do not accept transfer credits. Prospective students with transfer credits should check transfer policies for potential programs or contact a transfer advisor.
School Size and Type
Public and private institutions offer online public policy programs. The school size and type can affect the learning experience. Some students, for instance, prefer a smaller class size, while others prefer a larger cohort of fellow students. School type can also affect tuition costs.
Program Length
Some online programs offer an accelerated option to earn a public policy master’s degree in as little as one year, while other programs take if three years. Prospective students should choose a program length that fits their work requirements and timeline for career advancement.
On–Campus Requirements
While some online programs offer fully online coursework, others require on–campus residencies, such as an orientation or weekend program. Students considering local online programs may prefer the option to meet with faculty members or other students in person. Checking for on–campus requirements can help students narrow their potential programs.
Thesis, Fellowship, and Work Requirements
Public policy programs often incorporate a master’s thesis or internship requirement as part of the degree, which students may complete in the summer or after finishing their coursework. Prospective students can research capstone projects, thesis requirements, or internship options before applying to a program.

Accreditation for Online Public Policy Master’s Degrees

Prospective students should always research accreditation status before applying to a master public policy online program. Accreditation ensures that colleges, universities, and programs follow the best practices for educating students. Colleges and universities undergo regional or national accreditation reviews, which measure their graduation requirements, faculty qualifications, and student learning outcomes. Regional accreditation remains the highest standard for institutions.

In addition, programmatic accrediting agencies review programs, such as a business school or social work program. In public policy, the National Association of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) offers programmatic accreditation. NASPAA sets benchmarks and standards for public policy departments, which programs must meet to qualify for accreditation.

Accreditation benefits graduate students in public policy. An accredited degree meets more licensure and certification requirements, and some employers prefer candidates with an accredited degree. Prospective students should look for regionally accredited institutions and programs with NASPAA accreditation.

How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online Master in Public Policy Degree Program?

Earning a public policy master’s degree online typically takes two years. During a master’s in public policy, graduate students meet the coursework requirements, which often range from 30–36 credits. Students may also choose a concentration area within the program. Many public policy programs incorporate an internship or project to gain hands–on experience. These program characteristics affect the length of time to complete an online master’s public policy degree.

Public policy students can affect the length of their program by choosing a full–time, part–time, or accelerated option. Some programs offer part–time options, which increase the degree completion time, for students balancing school with work or family obligations. Prospective students can also choose an accelerated program to earn their degree in less time. Students with transfer credits can shorten the program by applying graduate credits earned at other institutions.

Courses in an Online Master’s in Public Policy Program

Introduction to Public Policy
In introductory courses, graduate students learn about policy analysis, the economics of public policy, and the political context for public policy. The class may also cover public management skills, policy implementation, and negotiating in the public sector. The class prepares graduate students for advanced courses in public policy.
Advanced Policy Analysis
Graduate students train in policy analysis, with an emphasis on significant policy issues. Many courses incorporate a policy analysis project where students conduct an analysis on a specific topic. Students conduct research and create a detailed policy analysis as part of their training. Programs may connect students with real–world clients for their project.
Law and Public Policy
Graduate students study the laws and regulations that affect public policy, including court decisions, legislation, and administrative regulations. The course emphasizes legal research skills, the relationship between law–making agencies, and the connection between law and public policy. Students may conduct case studies as part of their training.
Public Management
In public management courses, students learn how to manage and implement programs. The course also covers managing people and responding to crises. Students learn to apply data and evidence to public management problems, including at the national, international, or local level.
Politics and Public Policy
Courses on politics and public policy examine the influence of politics on the development of new policies. Graduate students look at policy development, the acceptance of policies, and their implementation. The course uses case studies and interpretative works.

Public Policy Professional Associations

American Society for Public Administration
ASPA represents professionals working in public and nonprofit administration. The society offers networking events, provides professional development opportunities, and hosts local chapters and sections. ASPA also publishes research and runs a student and young professionals section with a job board for job seekers.
Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management
APPAM promotes excellence in public policy research, analysis, and education. The association hosts an annual research conference, publishes a peer–reviewed journal on public policy and management, and promotes student participation in the APPAM. Students benefit from the association’s career advice and job listings.
American Association for Budget and Program Analysis
Dating to the mid–1970s, AABPA represents federal, state, and local government managers and analysts. AABPA provides current resources on the field, hosts symposia with networking opportunities, and creates publications and resources for budget and program analysis professionals. The association also hosts a student research competition.
International City/Council Management Association
A professional organization for city and county managers, ICMA offers career resources, financial management tools, and information on building sustainable communities. The association provides educational tools, credentialing, and a job center to identify local government management opportunities. ICMA also publishes research.
Emerging Local Government Leaders
ELGL supports local government professionals through local events and an annual conference with networking opportunities. The organization also offers awards to recognize excellence in local government. Students receive a membership discount, which offers access to the ELGL job board, vendor directory, and webinar library.

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