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B.A., MPA/MPP, Ph.D: Education for Public Service Careers

Related pages on this site:

link Detailed information on the MPA/MPP.

link More information on the Bachelor's and Ph.D programs.

link Advice on whether to seek graduate education, and at what level, beyond the Bachelor’s.

link Resources on the Internet for finding a graduate school that meets your career objectives.


Public service careers span a wide range of organizations and jobs in the new public sector, including frontline positions in government, senior positions in nonprofit management, and faculty positions in universities. Today's schools of public administration and public policy offer a range of degree programs to prepare you for launching and sustaining a desirable career in the field. The schools also offer mid-career and executive education programs designed specifically for the ongoing education needs of the working professional.

MPA/MPP: Professional Master's Degrees for Public Service.

The two most common of these for public service careers are the Master of Public Administration (MPA) and the Master of Public Policy (MPP). These are terminal degrees, meaning that the persons who earn them most likely will not seek additional education beyond the degree nor will their careers require additional education. Earning an MPA/MPP opens doors to a wide variety of career options. Other well-known professional degrees of similar status are the MBA (business), JD (law), MD (medicine), MSW (social work) and MPH (public health). The MPA/MPP most often require four semesters of course work and a summer internship (full-time attendance), although there are some three semester programs and some longer programs (especially those that permit part-time attendance).

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Ph.D. Programs.

The Ph.D. focuses on training persons to conduct sophisticated research. Persons earning the Ph.D. might seek employment in universities, consulting firms and think tanks, or perhaps other job opportunities in public service that require such skills. A Ph.D. is a terminal degree but one that often leads to a very different career track than would an MPA/MPP. Most Ph.D. programs in public administration/public policy do not require prospective students to first earn a Master’s degree.

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The Bachelor's Degree.

Schools of public administration and public policy also offer Bachelor's degrees and the Ph.D. Bachelor's degrees in public policy or public administration offers students a longer course of study but usually focus more on specific topics (for example, health care or the environment) rather than on building advanced skills (such as management techniques or quantitative methods). The Bachelor's rarely would be considered a terminal degree.

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