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MPA & MPP FAQ           

The Degrees

What is an MPA degree?
What is an MPP degree?
What's the difference between an MPA and an MPP?
Why an MPA instead of an MBA degree?
Why an MPA/MPP instead of another graduate degree?
Is there an honor society?

Admissions

What are the admissions criteria for an MPA or an MPP program?
Does my undergraduate degree need to be in political science?
Should I choose a NASPAA-accredited program?
Are MPA/MPP programs ranked?
Are there special requirements for non-U.S. students?
Can I go to school while working full-time?

The Curriculum

MPA Curriculum
MPP Curriculum

Career and Finances

Is a graduate degree a worthwhile investment?
How can I pay for my education?
What types of jobs do MPA/MPP graduates have?
Do MPAs/MPPs work in the international arena?
How can putting the letters "MPA" or "MPP" after my name help me?

The Degrees

What is an MPA degree?
The Masters of Public Administration (MPA) degree is the core professional degree for a management career in public service. The curriculum is designed to aid students in developing the skills and techniques used by leaders and managers to implement policies, projects, and programs that resolve important societal problems. Graduates of an MPA program work in all levels of government (federal, state, and local), in nonprofits, in international organizations, consulting firms, and in the private sector.

What is an MPP degree?
The Masters of Public Policy (MPP) degree emphasizes analyzing and evaluating information to solve policy problems.  As analysts, managers, and leaders, MPP graduates work with quantitative and qualitative data to develop, assess, and evaluate alternative approaches to current and emerging issues. Their careers are in variety of public service fields and in all levels of government (federal, state, and local), in nonprofits, international organizations, consulting firms, and in the private sector.

What's the difference between an MPA and an MPP?
MPA and MPP programs have blended and converged as complements to one another, with courses and specializations often overlapping. Some schools combine the degrees and name them differently. For example, schools may offer a master's degree in public management and policy. Others may offer a master's degree in public affairs (MPAff). Check individual programs as they are all different.

In general, MPA programs place more emphasis on management and implementation techniques, while MPP programs emphasize policy research and evaluation. For example, a course on analyzing policy methods would be more popular among MPP students, while a course in managerial economics may pertain more to MPA students. Be sure to check each school to find the program fit for you.

Several NASPAA member schools offer both degrees. See how they are differentiated by George Washington UniversityAmerican University, Arizona State University, and the University of Southern California.

Why an MPA instead of an MBA degree?
Both an MPA and an MBA degree offer advanced management courses as part of their core curriculum. An MPA degree, while still flexible enough to apply to the private sector (where many graduates work), is a degree focused for a career in public service. If you want a career in a government agency, a nonprofit, or in a philanthropic institution, an MPA degree is ideal.

Why an MPA/MPP instead of another graduate degree?
The Masters of Public Administration or Public Policy is a flexible professional degree for those interested in managing, leading, and most of all: serving the public. Deciding to pursue an MPA or MPP is a strategic way of ensuring you have a master's degree that is fulfilling and practical.

MPA/MPP graduates are found in a variety of fields and policy areas across all career sectors. And since the arena of public service is so vast, the degree will enable you to synthesize and transfer all of your education, volunteer work, and professional experience into a meaningful career.

Is there an honor society?
Yes! Pi Alpha Alpha is the National Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration. Both outstanding undergraduate and graduate students can become members, at more than 160 school chapters. To learn more, visit the Pi Alpha Alpha website.

Admissions

What are the admissions criteria for an MPA or an MPP program?
All programs require the following: an application and application fee (can sometimes be waived), evidence that you've finished a bachelor's degree (transcripts), and letters of recommendation. Most schools require standardized test scores, such as the GRE or the GMAT (for programs in business schools), a current resume, and a statement of purpose. Many also ask for an additional essay or writing sample.
In addition, some schools may prefer that you have demonstrated an ability to complete quantitative courses (i.e. statistics, economics) before you enter the program. For specific requirements, check with the schools you're interested in.


Does my undergraduate degree need to be in political science?
No! In fact, MPA and MPP students possess a wide variety of undergraduate majors, including economics, environmental affairs, languages, biology, sociology, religion, history, math, etc. Some schools prefer that you have taken some quantitative courses (i.e. statistics, economics) before you enter the program, while others may allow you to take quantitative courses while you pursue your MPA or MPP.

Should I choose a NASPAA-accredited program?
NASPAA accreditation for MPA, MPP, and similar master's degree programs is very different from university-level accreditation.
In public affairs, accreditation is voluntary, unlike fields such as law, where graduation from an accredited program can be a prerequisite to taking a licensing exam.

There are currently 179 NASPAA-accredited master's programs.  Accreditation indicates that a program has met a set of rigorous standards, has been reviewed by a team of experts, and his been judged to be a high quality program. One benefit of graduating from an accredited program is that prospective employers are assured that you have been adequately prepared for the profession. You can read more about accreditation here.

However, an unaccredited program is not necessarily of lower quality. It simply means that the program has chosen not to participate in the peer-review process. You should research the quality of unaccredited programs yourself. Accreditation is one of many signs of quality that you can use when considering and selecting a master's program.

Are MPA/MPP programs ranked?
Yes, U.S. News and World Report ranks public affairs schools every 4 years, most recently in 2012. USN&WR ranks overall public affairs schools and in 9 specializations, such as public policy analysis and public management. Note that these rankings are based solely on schools' reputation among other schools' deans, and are neither endorsed nor validated by NASPAA.

Are there special requirements for international students?
Many U.S. schools request a demonstration of English proficiency for applicants from countries where English is not the primary language. See the
TOEFL website.

Can I earn an MPA/MPP degree while working full-time?
Absolutely. Many graduate programs in public service offer evening and night classes that allow students to work or intern during the day. Some schools also offer online courses. To see our list of accredited online programs,
click here.

The Curriculum

MPA Curriculum
Coursework for MPA candidates typically includes required core courses and a concentration or specialization. Core courses often include introduction to public administration, budgeting/finance, managerial economics, political and legal processes, quantitative methods, and ethics. 

Specializations offered by NASPAA programs include areas such as public management, nonprofit management, health care management, international development, urban affairs, human-resource management, state/local government administration, and financial management.

MPP Curriculum
Coursework for MPP candidates typically includes required core courses and a concentration or specialization. Core courses often include introduction to public policy, statistics and data analysis, public finance, micro/macro economics, policy analysis methods, quantitative methods, and ethics.

Specializations offered by NASPAA programs include analysis in a myriad of public policy areas, including: environmental, education, health, social, economic development, international, and urban policy.

Career and Finances

Is a graduate degree a worthwhile investment?
Deciding whether to pursue a graduate degree may be one of the most important decisions of your professional life. Research shows that graduates of masters program do, in general, earn more than those with only a bachelor's degree. As you compare short-term costs with long-term benefits, useful data to complement your research is helpful. See updated salary data for recent MPA/MPP graduates.

How can I pay for my education?
To supplement personal funds for education expenses, university financial aid offices provide assistance through scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study for eligible students. Each institution should provide students with preliminary information about financial aid. Students should follow-up their institutional applications with searches for other financial aid details, scholarships, and funding opportunities. See NASPAA's overview of financial aid.

What types of jobs do MPA/MPP graduates have?
Since the degree programs offer so many different specializations and class options, assembling a comprehensive list of jobs that graduates may have is impossible. Common starting jobs for graduates include policy analysts, program managers, grant writers, researchers, and budget analysts. As their experience grows, many graduates rise to upper-level positions in government, nonprofit, and even business organizations. See more on our updated salary page

Do MPAs/MPPs work in the international arena?
Yes. In fact, many MPA/MPP programs offer specializations that effectively prepare students for international service or to work for an international organization based in the United States.

How can putting the letters "MPA" or "MPP" after my name help me?
Putting the letters "MPA" or "MPP" after your name (e.g. Jane Gomez, MPA) will set you apart in the job market. Employers look for distinctive characteristics in applicants, and they will recognize the degree.  When an HR manager has 30 seconds to review a cover letter, this could make a big difference.  Simply adding those three letters instantly signals the skills and knowledge you have gained.
Use the designation on online profiles such as LinkedIn, in your email 'signature', resumes, and professional letters. Current students can benefit too - use "MPA Candidate", "MPP Class of 2015", or similar.


 

Page updated July 2012