If you’re interested in public administration, government, campaigns, and elections, a master’s in public policy online may be the right degree for your career. With this degree, you’ll develop analytical, ethical, and decision-making skills as they apply to U.S. and foreign policy. With leadership and management courses, you’ll learn to advise public policy and lead programs within governmental and non-governmental agencies. In some lucrative public policy careers, your annual salary could exceed $100,000, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Choosing a Program
Online master’s of 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. Final projects have students construct a policy analysis or find solutions to an existing policy or administrative issue.
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Online Master’s in Public Policy Degree Program Ranking Guidelines
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 Master’s in Public Policy Programs
Lynchburg, Virginia, is home to Liberty University and their online master’s of public policy. Liberty’s program offers multiple specialty areas to prepare students for a range of policy-related careers: general public policy, campaign elections, international affairs, leadership, Middle East affairs, policy studies, and public administration. Core courses include speech composition and political communications, US governmental history and foreign policy, and state legislation and political philosophy.
The online public policy master’s is composed of a series of 12 eight-week long courses, totalling 36 credit hours. Students often complete the program between two and two and a half years. Liberty offers this program asynchronously, without any set log-in times or on-campus components. Liberty allows students to transfer up to 50% of the credits required for the program. Significantly, Liberty also gives credit for previous work and military experience through a program entitled Experience Plus.
Beyond general and area-specific coursework, participants are encouraged to complete an optional thesis, where students hone and showcase independent research and compositional skills. Liberty prepares program graduates for various jobs in public policy, including positions in local, state, and national government, as well as political research and advocacy.
Liberty University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SASC).
2University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth
North Dartmouth, Massachusetts
The University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth master’s in public policy online prepares students for careers in public policy, from state and federal government positions, to non-profit administration and advocacy, and trade and labor relations. This program offers three specializations: environmental policy, educational policy, and public management. Courses include the environmental consequences of globalization, organizational behavior in educational settings, and research methods for public policy.
Consisting of 36 credits, the online public policy master’s program focuses predominantly on coursework; however, this program also requires an internship for students with less than two years of relevant work experience in a field related to public policy. To find an internship position, students collaborate with their academic advisor and the school’s internship coordinator, often drawing from a list of pre-approved local and federal agencies or private institutions. Along with the internship, students enrol in a one-credit seminar to produce internship synopses relevant for each student’s professional portfolio. In the final year of the degree, students present their professional portfolio to the UMass Dartmouth faculty for approval, compiling coursework and internship dossiers into a concise presentation that they can then use in the professional job market.
UMass Dartmouth online formats its programs to accommodate students working full-time or engaged in active military duty. Beyond formal coursework, all students have access to online and in-person assistance, including one-on-one advising to stay on track throughout one’s degree program, as well as tutoring and writing support. UMass Dartmouth’s master’s in public policy online meets standards set by The Global Standard in Public Service Education, also known as NASPAA.
The University of Massachusetts is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC-CIHE).
Virginia Beach, Virginia
The master’s in government with a concentration in law and public policy at the Christian-affiliated Regent University in Virginia offers a solid legal basis for aspiring government collaborators. Participants learn about ethical law practices in order to make a positive impact on local, state, and national government. Coursework covers Christian foundations of government and public policy initiatives, and the creation, control, and distribution of media content, and healthcare policy and ethics.
Regent offers this 30-credit online master’s of public policy program in both hybrid and entirely online formats. Courses are eight weeks long, and the program can be completed in 18 months. The program offers opportunities for students to pursue accreditation in multiple specialist areas, including international relations, law and public policy, Mid-East politics, political theory, public administration, and terrorism and homeland defense. Students are encouraged to take an elective internship to advance their academic progress and gain real-world experience prior to entering the job market. Students also have the option to complete a thesis. Students on the thesis track participate in a thesis preparation course, in which they compose a project proposal, and then expand that proposal through independent research into a final thesis to be submitted to the faculty for approval.
Regent University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SASC).
4New England College
Henniker, New Hampshire
At New England College, located in Henniker, New Hampshire, students gain a particularly international view of government relations in their master’s in public policy program. This program prioritizes critical analysis skills to foster ethical leadership and decision making.
In this 100% online program, NEC offers the ten courses required for graduation in seven-week periods. Students are encouraged to participate in two courses per term in order to complete the 36-credit degree in less than two years. Course material includes a focus on social class, poverty, and race in America, environmental politics and policy, and America and the world. Following a course on practical research methods, a final capstone course requires students to use their independent research skills, drafting problem statements, conducting individual explorations, and producing a report that will demonstrate to potential employers each student’s personal strengths and competency in the field. The objective of this final hurdle is to demonstrate the knowledge base each student has acquired throughout the program, and showcase their active problem-solving acumen.
Students may transfer up to six credits of relevant coursework from other institutions. NEC grants transfer credits on a case-by-case basis. NEC does not accept work experience in place of course credit.
Graduates of the program go on to pursue master’s in public policy jobs, such as non-profit policy advising, communications director, and public policy program director.
New England College is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC-CIHE).
Online Master’s in Public Policy Careers
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 will help you achieve your career goals. Graduates find work as political scientists, campaign managers, foreign affair specialists, policy advisors, city managers, or jobs in government relations.
- Political Scientists / Policy Analysts: Political scientists study the systems, ideas, and trends surrounding policies and government. Researching the development and operation of political systems, they learn about historical structures and politics, international relations, comparative politics, and political theory. They may work as policy analysts to evaluate the effect of various public policies.
- Median Annual Salary: $114,290
- Projected Growth Rate: 2%
- Public Relations Managers: Public relations managers maintain and improve the public image their organization. Through interviews, press releases, events, and sponsorships, they work with advertising, promotions, and marketing managers to influence a specific audience. Public relations managers study social, economic, and political trends.
- Median Annual Salary: $107,320
- Projected Growth Rate: 10%
- Social and Community Service Managers: Social and community service managers work in a variety of public service settings, such as homeless shelters, childcare centers, and unemployment offices. Social service managers pioneer programs and work to improve life in their communities.
- Median Annual Salary: $64,680
- Projected Growth Rate: 16%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics