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Professionals in the field of Public Policy have a hand in shaping policies that affect people in their everyday lives. Policymakers serve as advocates and spokespersons for the communities in which they serve. They create and enforce the policies meant to protect public health, safety, education, transportation and facilities.

Graduate programs in Public Policy combine economics and politics in order to give students a well-rounded background in policy development. Programs help students prepare for careers in government, politics, and public affairs at the public, private, and non-profit levels. Students must learn to effectively create, analyze, evaluate, and quantify public policy. Since there are many fields within public policy, students are often required to choose a related concentration. Students specialize in areas like urban policy, labor development, science and technology policy, educational policy, economics, and analysis. Different graduate programs will have strengths in different areas.

Degree Information

In most cases, students will work towards a master's degree in Public Policy. Rather than choosing a concentration, some students seek out joint degrees to get a better background in a specific area of Public Policy. Common joint degree programs exist with social work, urban planning, law, business administration, education and public health. Some graduate students already hold undergraduate degrees in related fields such as education or healthcare and are looking to couple their degree with a master's in public policy. Degrees on the doctoral level are less common and tend to attract individuals interested in research or in teaching at the university level.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • Does the program have an emphasis on a particular area?
  • Are there joint degree programs offered with other schools at the university?
  • Can I take classes at other schools or in other departments?
  • What kind of research do the faculty and students do?
  • How helpful is the program with job placement?
  • Are there any opportunities for internships or work in the community?
  • What sort of fieldwork assignments or placements are available?

Career Overview

Since the field is so broad, there are many job options. Many work for governmental agencies, businesses in the nonprofit and private sector, community organizations, politicians, and a number of other areas. Popular choices are policy analysis (which includes tracking and analyzing the implications of governmental policy) and creating and implementing health, environmental, educational, social welfare, employment and labor policies. Other graduates work in areas such as immigration, welfare, family services, transportation, criminal justice, and economics.

Career/Licensing Requirements

There are no specific licensing requirements for a career in Public Policy.

Salary Information

There is a wide range of salaries for graduates of Public Policy. Depending on the field of employment, salaries could be as low as $30,000 (such as for non-profit organizations) or as high as $80,000 (for consulting work). Work experience, type of degree, and location all play a role in salary calculation.

Related Links

Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management
The Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management has information on conferences, internships, educational programs, jobs, joint degrees, and awards.