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What are the MPA & MPP degrees?


The MPA:

The Masters of Public Administration (MPA) degree is the professional degree for students seeking a career in public service or nonprofit management. MPA programs develop the skills and techniques used by managers to implement policies, projects, and programs that resolve important problems within their organization and in society.

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. .

The MPP:

The Masters of Public Policy (MPP) degree is the professional degree for analyzing, evaluating, and solving all aspects of policy. As analysts and managers, MPP graduates work with quantitative and qualitative data to develop, assess, and evaluate alternative approaches to current and emerging issues.

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.

What kinds of classes will I take?

MPA: 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. 

MPP: 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.

What's the difference between the two?

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.

Both programs usually take two years to complete full time, and many schools offer a part-time option. In addition, many provide evening classes for students who already have a job or may be pursuing one. Also, it is important to note that every school is different in what it provides and specializes in. One school may focus on nonprofit management, another may be well-known for its program in state/local administration, and others may be famous for specific policy topics. Other commonly asked questions are addressed in our FAQ page.

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.

Make it your own!

Most programs allow enough flexibility so that you can tailor your MPA or MPP coursework to your interests. Unlike most graduate degrees, the wide array of schools with MPA and MPP programs feature almost two-dozen specializations and a wide array of course options. Use it to your advantage!

updated October 2013