What Can I Do with a Masters in Public Policy?

Find a good-paying job? Yep. Explore different career options? Certainly.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020


Kaitlyn Feeney

Two students sitting in a public policy classroom, listening to a lecture while smiling.

How can I make a difference? I bet you’ve asked yourself that question more than once. You may have thought it after watching a news report on something happening in your community or country. Maybe it’s an issue that directly affects you or your friends or family. Maybe it’s only a small problem now but growing, or maybe it’s a national or global issue that you want to help address.

One way of helping to make a difference and to shape that narrative is by working in public policy. And, to achieve that goal, a Masters in Public Policy can help you to build the foundational expertise and establish the necessary connections to achieve a fulfilling career.

What is Public Policy?

There’s no single, concise definition of what is “public policy.” Scholars vary broadly on what they define as public policy. However, the Center for Civic Education offers this definition: “public policy is simply what government (any public official who influences or determines public policy, including school officials, city council members, county supervisors, etc.) does or does not do about a problem that comes before them for consideration and possible action.”

So, are you passionate about stricter gun laws? Do you believe in low-cost or no-cost healthcare or education? Do you oppose or support abortion laws in your state? These are all examples of public policy, and the process of public policy has the fundamentals for application as large as the response to the COVID-19 pandemic to as local as the improvement of your local schools.

Policy issues span nearly every industry and field, including economic, political, educational, environmental, health, and technological issues. The analysis and development of new policies often involve professionals working behind the scenes, at many different types of organizations.

What are some careers in Public Policy?

You can find public policy degree graduates working in the government, nonprofit, and private sectors. Graduates of masters and bachelor's degree programs in public policy and public policy analysis work in closely aligned career areas, like policy analyst or policy advising, and in related fields, including community relations management, communications and marketing specialists, and program analysis.

And it’s a growing industry with lots of in-demand career options. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts careers in public policy and public policy-adjacent, like public relations specialist and market research analyst, will continue growing over the next decade by as much as 18 percent, adding tens of thousands of jobs in these areas.

Zippia The Career Expert identifies dozens of career paths for public policy analysis degree graduates. Some of these long-term career options include: External Relations Director, Publications Manager, Education Program Manager, Legislative Director, and Special Projects Manager.

Source: Zippia.com Zippia Logo


Why should I get a Masters in Public Policy?

The Masters in Public Policy is one of the more flexible graduate degrees that you can earn. With a Master's in Public Policy, focusing on multiple disciplines no longer feels like a burden – there’s opportunity to explore many specialty areas while building a diverse skills foundation.

Earning a Master's in Public Policy offers an excellent opportunity for diversifying your skill sets and making you more marketable to employers from many different industries and careers. According to the 2017-18 Annual Data Report from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA), 49 percent of graduates from public policy degree programs and similar public service programs work in government jobs. Some 23 percent work for nonprofits and 17 percent for private sector organizations.

The graph below shows the NASPAA Data Center’s insight on salary three years after completion of education. The data comes from NASPAA’s 2015-18 Alumni Survey.

Graph showing salary potentials for public policy graduates

According to a recent article by Katie Schenk at Prodigy Finance, “Employment opportunities are almost endless for those with a master's in public policy; there’s a long list of employers to work for and sectors to work in.”

That same article cites the salary potential for graduates of Masters in Public Policy and Masters of Public Administration programs. Some top positions and their mean annual salaries include: Human Resources Manager ($113,300), Public Relations and Fundraising Manager ($114,800), and Political Scientist ($117,570).

According to PayScale, the average salary after completion of a Masters in Public Policy is roughly $70,360, although many professionals working in public policy exceed this average by great amounts. For example, the salaries for public relations managers can range up to $195,000, and the salary potential for human resource managers can reach $140,000.

What skills will a Masters in Public Policy provide me with?

Masters in Public Policy students learn imperative, foundational skills to thrive in the workplace and explore the resources and opportunities necessary to put these skills into practice. Of course, the learning content and the quality of your MPP degree varies depending on the school you attend. Here at the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire, our Master in Public Policy program offers a combination of analytical skills development and experiential training, thus giving our students the necessary discipline to find real solutions to societal issues.

Leadership + Analysis = Change

While enrolled in the Master in Public Policy program at the Carsey School, graduate Justin Klingler ‘19G spent nine weeks interning with the Community Development Finance Authority, which allowed him to directly connect classroom lessons to real-world application. During that internship, he investigated barriers to energy-saving capital improvement projects.

"I saw negotiation tactics that I studied in class play out at meetings, researched stakeholders involved with a particular policy and researched various policies at the state and local level designed to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy,” described Klingler.

Steve Ressler, founder of the GovLoop.com government networking online community, posted that he has hired Masters in Public Policy graduates while working at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and at GovLoop.com. Skills he typically looks for in new hires, and skills that he finds most MPP graduates possess, include:

  • Broad understanding of government and how it works.
  • Passion for serving in the public sector.
  • Critical thinking, reading, writing, and presentation skills, and the capacity to learn.
  • Technology know-how ranging from data analytics to social media management.

So, are you ready to start creating real change in the world? Earning a Masters in Public Policy will supply you with the imperative skill sets and versatile career options you need to succeed in the real world. Embrace this flexible and career-ready degree – which offers pathways to multiple different industries and jobs – while also increasing your salary potential and marketability. Plus, there has never been a more critical time for skilled critical thinkers working for local and national government agencies and nonprofits than now. The future looks bright for the world of public policy graduates – will you embrace it?