What is an MPP?

A Masters in Public Policy (MPP) is an advanced degree for individuals who want to work in public policy design and analysis. MPP degrees provide the quantitative skills to examine empirical data concerning a problem in society and come up with a coherent solution. MPP graduates may go on to hold jobs developing policies for government agencies, non-profit organizations, or private firms.

The core curriculum of an MPP degree typically includes several courses in economics, statistics, cost-benefit analysis, mathematical modeling, and public finance. Electives often include significant overlap with MPA degree programs, such as courses in management and organizational decision-making. For the most part, however, prospective MPP students should expect a significantly math-heavy curriculum. An MPP degree is distinguished from an Masters in Public Administration (MPA) for precisely this reason; MPP degree programs focus on the numerical analysis behind policy-making, while MPA degree programs train leaders to make the managerial decisions required for implementing those policies. Many MPP students choose to tailor their curricula to a specific policy area such as ecology and conservation, education, health, transportation, monetary policy, fiscal policy, international trade and development, urban affairs, and criminal justice.

Individuals holding MPP degrees generally function as the “numbers guys” in public policy organizations. As a result, an MPP enables public policy employees to play a significant role in the generation of ideas at their organizations. In fact, MPP graduates are referred to as both policy analysts and designers, meaning that while someone with an MPA degree may be in charge of putting everything into action once a policy has been drawn up, someone with an MPP will be the one who actually creates policies. Public policy is a system developing responses to empirical data. An MPP degree program focuses on exactly how to interpret empirical data and come up with a plan based on those interpretations.

An MPP program typically requires 2 years of study (usually 4 semesters of full-time course work and a summer internship); some students require additional time to complete a thesis for the degree. Some graduate schools in the U.S. offer part-time MPP programs which may be completed in more than 2 years. Because some MPP students are working professionals, there are online MPP degree programs that allow students to schedule coursework around their professional commitments.