Under the public administration umbrella, a Master of Public Policy provides a higher-level education within the design and implementation of laws and regulations. The goal of public policy is to solve problems that are based in the community, such as setting restrictions and funding optimization projects.

Being able to determine what needs to be accomplished within urban, suburban, and rural communities requires data collection and evidence-based analytical methods to determine its accuracy without any bias.

Online Master of Public Policy Degrees

Online MPP programs can typically be completed within a few years, though some universities will allow for an extended period of time for working professionals that have a very limited amount of time to take classes.

Depending on the university, course lectures will be offered in a live, synchronous format that may require student interaction, or an asynchronous format that can be viewed at anytime. Typically, coursework can be done on a student's own schedule, but they must show progression.

Especially for accelerated programs, there will be weekly assignment deadlines and quizzes or exams that are taken throughout the course.

Working in Public Policy

Educational programs will often oversee the evolution of public policy and the various changes that have taken place within human rights, climate change, and the economy.

They provide a number of theories, principles, and ethical courses to have a better understanding of policymaking. Public policy courses can typically be found when pursuing a Master of Public Administration, and it is sometimes offered as a specialization instead of a standalone program by a university.

Consider a Featured Online MPA Program

Universities with Online Public Policy Programs

DePaul University

The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences provides a Master of Public Policy that can be completed in just over two years with courses offered both online and in the evening hours at the Loop Campus. The curriculum consists of 10 core courses and 3 additional electives to specialize the degree, with courses involving healthcare, international development, and or an internship if an adequate amount of prior work experience is not reached. Admission into the online program is only available in the fall. In addition to the Master's degree, graduate certification can be earned in Community Development and Metropolitan Planning and Development.

Requirements to get into the Master's program include obtaining a Bachelor's degree and submitting an online application, updated resume, and two-page personal statement that details career goals, work experience, and academic performance. DePaul utilizes both asynchronous and synchronous learning through the Desire2Learn course management system and live video classes with Zoom. For online exclusive students, there are no on-campus requirements, but there is a mandatory live session at the beginning of the course.

Oregon State University

The Ecampus at Oregon State University provides two programs in public policy: the Master of Public Policy (MPP) and Executive Master of Public Policy (EMPP). The difference between the two is the Executive track is geared toward those that have many years of experience in the industry already and are looking to advance into a higher position or move into a different job category. This program requires less credits (45 credits) to complete with the expectation that they are more knowledgeable in the field. The traditional MPP requires 62 credits to complete.

Concentrations available for those taking the full program are policies dedicated to Energy, Environment, Rural, and Social. There are also many graduate certifications that can be used to tailor the program to a professional’s needs, such as Urban Forestry, Data Analytics, and Water Conflict Management. Based on data from 2017-18 graduates from either program, 87.5 percent of the class were employed within six months. In addition to being accredited by NASPAA, both MPP and EMPP programs are apart of the Public Policy and International Affairs Consortium (PPIA) to promote and include underrepresented groups within the industry.

American University

While the School of Public Affairs has a specific program for a Master of Public Policy, the online program is a combination of administration and policy. The Online Master of Public Administration and Policy (MPAP) requires 36 credit hours to complete with 33 core courses and the remaining credits dedicated to a culminating practicum. Students will create a policy analysis project for a client that will showcase the skills they learned throughout the program.

There is no requirement to have work experience or an educational background in public administration, but a personal statement that details a background in public service and why the student is pursuing the degree is needed along with GRE, GMAT, or LSAT test scores. Classes are taught by the same faculty within the School of Public Affairs and have the same requirements and deadlines as the on-campus equivalent. Most classes require participation through completing assignments and posting on discussion boards.

Course Examples

Policy Design and Analysis

Explores the outcomes of government policy and specifically what a policy analyst is responsible for when creating policy framework. Determine what the potential benefits and consequences are of implementing certain policies with real-world examples, and develop skills in social discourse when analyzing certain policies.

Quantitative Methods

Students analyze and interpret statistical analysis through the use of mathematics, sampling, theories, and hypothesis. These methods focus on the collection of data and the creation of models that depict the data that is found. This is in contrast to qualitative methods, which attempts to find the reasoning behind why the data is represented or trending a certain way.


Public policy degrees will typically explore some form of economic studies, such as microeconomics. This focuses on the supply and demand of individuals, or specific companies or organizations. There is some overlap with macroeconomics, such as how inflation can impact living expenses and the cost of goods. An example of public policy in economics is determining affordable housing guidelines for low-income workers.

Metropolitan Planning

Typically offered as an elective course or area of emphasis, these classes provide a look into how urban areas are maintained and improved. Explores the evolution of community planning and all the social, economic, and environmental affects it can have. Specializations in this topic will go further into residential development, land use, transportation issues, management issues surrounding metropolitan growth in developing countries, and more.

Budgeting and Financial Management

Understand the processes and concepts around budgeting in the public sector with topics on federal and state debt, strategic planning, and the difference between spending methods (like mandatory and discretionary). Typically, this course will examine financial management in many areas at various levels, whether it is local, state, or federal.

NASPAA Accreditation

The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) has a peer-reviewed accreditation process that ensures the curriculum of a graduate program at a particular institution meets high standards in public service. Typically, requirements to get into an accredited program are a Bachelor’s degree and demonstrate prior work achievements and career goals. There are over 300 colleges around the world that have received this accreditation, and it requires annual overview of teaching capabilities and updating the curriculum to maintain high standards.

Career Opportunities

Survey Researcher

Uses a quantitative or qualitative method in collecting data in a variety of categories in the government, healthcare, educational sector, and more. These researchers will determine what is the method of interaction, be it interviewing specific candidates, holding a focus group, or sending a broad survey across a segment of people. In some instances, they will observe interviews in order to gather data or determine that surveys are properly and accurately representing information. Median average salary is around $54,237 across the United States according to PayScale.

Policy Analyst

Influence and make policy decisions for the government or an organization, researching and compiling various data sets and presenting recommendations. Other duties can include budgeting, what effects implementing certain policies can have on a community, and working directly with vendors. Typical skills needed are being comfortable with working with mathematics and analytical models, so a specialization in that department toward a Master’s degree is recommended.

Campaign Manager

Coordinates a program that focuses on policy issues for a particular company or organization to improve their public perception. This job requires strategic thinking, organizing, and plenty of community engagement in order to succeed, which are skills taught in a variety of public policy courses. On the management level, an average salary across the United States is around $114,800 according to BLS.gov.