2021 Best Part Time MPP Programs [Campus & Online]

Part time MPP programs may provide a convenient path to earning a graduate degree despite having a full life with a packed schedule.

MPP Programs

Graduate classes can help prepare you for leadership roles in government, community organizations, nonprofit agencies, think tanks, or other institutions.

Public policy touches nearly every aspect of life, including healthcare, the economy, the environment, and social justice. If you want to contribute to finding solutions for societal problems, then earning a Master of Public Policy may equip you with the tools for the job.

Best Part-Time MPP Programs

Political Scientists at work

Perhaps you have your heart set on a graduate degree, but the thought of quitting your job to enroll in school full-time seems nearly impossible. In that case, a part-time Master of Public Policy might be the solution you’re looking for.

You may earn a part-time degree by visiting campus once or twice a week. Courses are often held at times that are convenient for working professionals. Examples include evening and weekend classes.

There are part-time online programs available as well. Some online programs require students to log in at set times, but many give you the scheduling freedom to access course materials at any time of the day or night. You may find hybrid programs as well. These offer online courses combined with some on-campus requirements.

No matter what format you choose for your Master of Public Policy, you’ll receive similar content. Your courses may cover political theories, foreign policy, and the American governmental system. There may be research components as well, such as data analytics courses and classes that teach you how to draw insights from case studies.

To tailor your studies toward a particular aspect of the public policy field, you might be able to select a few electives or enroll in a specialization track. Elective options could include nonprofit management and municipal leadership.

Foreign affairs is one example of a concentration you might be able to choose. Courses in that track could include international politics and foreign relations in the Middle East. Your school might also have concentrations like local government, politics and campaigns, environmental policy, local government, and economic affairs.

Some MPP graduates hold elected positions or other leadership roles in government. Such jobs are available at the municipal, state, and federal levels. If you don’t want to hold office yourself, you may coordinate campaign affairs for a politician instead.

Other MPP professionals choose a career in lobbying, advocacy, research, or public awareness. For such roles, you might be employed by a think tank, a public interest group, or a government agency. Private businesses sometimes hire for these types of roles as well.

Part-Time vs. Full-Time MPP Programs

MPP students in university

Choosing to earn a Master of Public Policy won’t lock you into any one format for grad school. You’ll likely have options for how you can earn your degree.

Some colleges focus on full-time programs while others have part-time offerings for students who need to spread their courses out over time. Plus, with both part-time and full-time programs, you can choose between on-campus classes and online coursework.

Enrollment

MPP student

If you can handle 9 or more credits per semester, then full-time enrollment might be a beneficial option for you. This may be more feasible if you’re taking time off work to focus solely on your studies.

If you need to balance grad school with work or other responsibilities, then you may think about taking fewer courses per term. Part-time programs are often structured with working adults in mind. In-person classes are sometimes held in the evenings or on the weekends.

Online courses may be accessible 24/7, so you can schedule study sessions when it’s most convenient for you.

Time to Completion

MPP students in class

One of the top reasons for going to school full-time is so that you’ll be finished with school sooner. A full-time master’s degree program often takes 1 to 2 years. It may be even shorter if you choose an accelerated online program with 8 week terms.

Part-time programs spread the same amount of content out over a longer period. As a result, it might take 3 to 5 years to finish your master’s degree. If you’re committed to the idea of part-time enrollment but would rather wrap up your program more quickly, you may look for colleges that offer accelerated terms.

Pros and Cons

Part-Time MPP Full-Time MPP
Pros
  • Easier to balance work, school, and personal life
  • May find opportunities to try out new ideas in your workplace
  • Admissions process may be less rigorous
  • Can make studies your primary focus
  • May finish degree and earn promotions and raises sooner
  • May qualify for more scholarships or fellowships
Cons
  • Will be in school longer
  • May not make as many network connections during school
  • May not qualify for as many scholarship opportunities
  • Will spend more time each week on studies
  • May miss out on earning potential while focusing on studies
  • Per-semester costs may be higher

MPP Careers & Salaries

MPP Careers & Salaries

MPP degree programs may help you branch into a new line of work or qualify for higher positions in your current field.

Policy plays a role in nearly every aspect of society, so this can be an incredibly versatile degree. It may equip you for political work, leadership in government agencies, or jobs in the private sector. Other options include employment with nonprofit organizations, think tanks, or research groups.

Research fuels policy work. You may conduct surveys, gather data through market analytics, or join a PhD’s research team. MPP graduates may also play key leadership roles in government or nonprofit organizations.

Examples include being a city manager, an agency administrator, or the executive director of a foundation. You’ll also find that public policy is linked to issues of budgeting and urban planning.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for political scientists, a job category that often includes policy analysts, is $122,220.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Political Scientists $122,220
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers $116,180
Top Executives $104,690
Administrative Services Managers $96,940
Budget Analysts $76,540
Urban and Regional Planners $74,350
Market Research Analysts $63,790
Public Relations Specialists $61,150
Survey Researchers $59,170
Social Science Research Assistants $47,510

One of the most common careers for someone with a master’s in public policy is working as a policy analyst. Many policy analysts work for the government. Others are employed by NGOs or advocacy groups.

Policy analysis is about coming up with research-backed solutions to societal problems. As an analyst, you might study the potential effects of proposed policies or evaluate the effectiveness of current programs. You may advocate for your policy ideas to be incorporated in new legislation or try to sway public opinion on the topic.

Policy analysis is an incredibly varied line of work, but it’s just one of the many jobs you could pursue with an MPP. Public relations is another popular path. Press secretaries are politicians’ PR representatives. Also, PR strategies help advocacy groups communicate their messages to legislators or the public.

Certain concentration tracks could help prepare you for additional career paths as well. For example, after studying environmental policy, you might become an environmental specialist.

Public Policy Masters Curriculum

Budget Analyst working

There may be 36 to 45 credits required for your MPP program. The 12 to 15 courses that you’ll take may include core classes and electives like those listed below.

  • Economics and Policymaking: In this course, you’ll study how economic realities influence policymaking and how policies have economic effects.
  • Ethical Leadership: The topics covered in this course will help you analyze your ethical framework and prepare you to lead accordingly.
  • Government in America: This class will provide an in-depth look at the systems and structures that define American government and politics.
  • International Politics: In this course, you’ll survey governmental systems used in other countries and discuss foreign relations and international work.
  • Legislative Process: The better you understand the legislative system, the better you’ll be able to research legislation and influence policymaking.
  • Nonprofit Management: Foundations, community agencies, and other nonprofits require a distinct set of leadership and budgeting skills.
  • Organizational Leadership: This course will equip you with leadership skills that you’ll draw on when heading up government departments or nonprofit agencies.
  • Policy Analysis: You can prepare for a career as a policy analyst as you learn to evaluate policies and research their effects.
  • Political Theories: You’ll explore influential political philosophies that have affected history and shaped modern approaches to governance.
  • Statistical Tools for Public Policy: This course will teach you to use statistical methods to interpret research and evaluate policies.

Some colleges end the coursework with a comprehensive examination or a thesis project.

Admissions Requirements

MPP students studying together

At one time, getting into grad school almost always meant taking the GRE. These days, a number of colleges are doing away with that requirement and considering other admissions criteria instead. Schools might ask you to submit:

  • Personal goals statement
  • Resume with work and volunteer history
  • Reference letters from professional contacts
  • Transcripts from undergraduate studies and any graduate work

You’ll also be required to fill out an application form, and some colleges charge a small fee for the admissions committee to review your materials.

Accreditation

MPP Programs Accreditation

For a reputable degree with the potential to take you far in life, you may want to consider choosing a regionally accredited college. Those schools have gone through a rigorous evaluation process by one of the country’s regional accrediting agencies.

Regional accreditation is a mark of a quality college. A school’s accreditation status may factor into your eligibility for government financial aid. Your accredited credits may transfer to another college or help you get into a doctoral program. Having attended an accredited university may also give you a competitive edge in the job market.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

MPP Programs Financial Aid

A graduate degree is an investment, but you may not have to fund it entirely on your own. Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step to determining your eligibility for financial assistance for your studies.

You may receive government aid from your state or a federal program. Low-interest student loans may allow you to spread your tuition payments out over time. Depending on your income level, grant money may be available as well, and you wouldn’t have to pay that back.

For other types of assistance that don’t need to be repaid, you may apply for scholarships and fellowships. Not all scholarship programs are open to part-time students, but those for which you’re eligible may end up being a helpful source of funding.

Some employers offer tuition reimbursement for employees whose studies may benefit the company. You might qualify to receive assistance during each semester of your program.

What Is an MPP Degree?

executives in meeting

An MPP degree is an advanced degree for those who want to be leaders in the field of public policy.

Earning this degree can help you advance your career in the public sector or enhance your efforts in a field that intersects with policy issues. It may also help you enter a policy-related line of work for the first time.

Topics covered in a public policy graduate program usually include government systems, politics, legislation, leadership, ethics, and economics. Most programs include research components as well.

What Can You Do with an MPP?

M.P.P.

Public policy degrees often lead to careers in policy analysis. The Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies most policy analysts in the category of political scientists, who often earn between $60,960 and $164,210 annually.

Public relations is another field with opportunities for MPP graduates. The typical salary for PR specialists ranges from $34,590 to $115,430. Most PR managers earn between $64,790 and $208,000. On average, PR managers who work for civic or grantmaking institutions make $117,430 each year.

How Long Does It Take to Get an MPP?

The length of your public policy degree will depend on what format your studies take. Full-time enrollment typically takes 1 to 2 years to complete a masters. Some online programs are faster thanks to year-round calendars with 8 week courses.

Studying for an MPP part-time may take you around 3 to 5 years to complete if you stick to the traditional format of 16 week semesters. Online programs with shorter course terms can often be completed more quickly.

You might even get through an online part-time program with shorter semesters in the same amount of time that it would take to go through a full-time on-campus program.

What Jobs Can You Get with an MPP?

Political Scientists in conference

With an MPP, you might become a budget analyst who handles financial matters for a government agency, an NGO, or a community nonprofit.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, budget analysts in the federal government earn an average annual salary of $83,070. You may also become a policy analyst who weighs in on matters related to social justice, public safety, or foreign affairs. Analysts work for the government as well as a variety of private organizations.

In the business sector, you may handle regulatory compliance or international relations for a private company. The median annual salary for management jobs is $105,660.

What Is the Difference Between an MPA vs. MPP?

In a Master of Public Administration program, you may prepare to hold a management role in an organization that benefits the public good. For example, you might be an executive director or an HR manager in a government agency or a nonprofit organization.

The focus of a part-time MPP degree is on shaping policies that address societal problems. Public policy professionals conduct research, measure public opinion, run advocacy campaigns, and influence legislation.

Despite these differences, MPA and MPP students often take several similar courses and follow overlapping career tracks.

Is an MPP Degree Worth It?

Public Relations Specialists in office

Yes, a Master of Public Policy is worth it for many students. With an average salary of $122,220 and 6% job growth for political scientists (Bureau of Labor Statistics), a degree in public policy can help you launch a career in this influential field.

Common public policy careers include policy analyst, administrative manager, public relations specialist, regional planner, and survey researcher.

Public policy is a varied field, and this degree may pave the way for leadership roles with high earning potential. More than that, this is a field of study with the power to shape communities, improve lives, and make a lasting difference.

Universities Offering Part Time Master of Public Policy Degree Programs

Each of the universities included below are regionally accredited and offer part time public policy masters degree.

#1  American University

American University campus

American University is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.

#2  Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University campus

Johns Hopkins University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#3  Northwestern University

Northwestern University campus

Northwestern University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#4  Tufts University

Tufts University campus

Tufts University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

#5  University of Southern California

University of Southern California campus

USC is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Getting Your Part Time MPP Online

MPP Online

For many students, part-time MPP programs are a beneficial and convenient approach to graduate studies. Enrolling in a part-time program may allow you to study government, leadership, and policy analysis on a schedule that works for your current lifestyle.

With online MPP programs, in particular, you can log in day or night, weekday or weekend. These programs are often crafted with busy professionals in mind, and accredited online universities are reputable and reliable.

If you’re ready to advance your career in public policy, you may start by searching for the accredited MPP program that best fits your professional goals and schedule preferences.

Joy Cromwelle
WRITTEN BY
Joy Cromwelle
Joy is pursuing her Ph.D. in Public Policy & Foreign Policy and holds a Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management, as well as a Bachelor's in Business Administration. Joy's focus is helping non-traditional students find accelerated degree options and credit for prior learning opportunities.