By Jordan Friedman
World Education Services
If you're interested in public policy or government administration, you might want to consider pursuing a public service degree in the United States.
In the past 50 years, public service degrees have increased in popularity, and almost 300 degree options now exist across the country, according to PublicServiceCareers.org. Pursuing such a degree has proven beneficial for policymakers and government officials alike. And, on Sept. 17, you can learn more about this field during our free webinar, which will include expert insight from Jay Esposito, associate director of admissions at the New York University Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.
What are the different degree options out there?
In the U.S., you can pursue a public service degree at different levels, whether it’s undergraduate, graduate or Ph.D. New York University is one of many schools that offer an undergraduate major in public policy, as the program is hosted jointly by the Wagner school and the College of Arts and Sciences. According to the program’s website, earning an undergraduate degree in public policy will "prepare you to play roles in the creation, implementation and evaluation of policies that address the challenges faced by domestic and global publics in the 21st century.”
A master’s degree might also be a good option and enable you to take your career to the next level. The two main types of master’s degrees for public service are the Master of Public Administration (MPA) and the Master of Public Policy (MPP). Note that some schools use different names for the degrees, such as “Master of Government Administration” or “Master of Public Affairs.”
According to PublicServiceCareers.org, MPA and MPP programs typically provide training in economics, policy analysis, management and communications, among other subjects. In addition, class sizes are typically somewhat small, and many programs are flexible in allowing you to take courses in other schools or departments or complete a joint degree program. Generally, the pursuit of a public service master’s degree provides ample opportunities for internships during both the academic year and the summer between the first and second years.
That said, it’s important to distinguish between the two types of master’s degrees. While both have similar focuses, the University of North Carolina writes on its website that MPA programs typically emphasize public policy administration, whereas MPP programs focus on economic analysis and policy.
For those interested in conducting intensive research in the field of public service, you may want to consider earning a Ph.D. – but that depends on your career goals. Typically, a master’s degree is not a good step to take before earning a Ph.D. Master’s degrees focus on the skills needed for professional careers, as opposed to a doctoral education, which places greater emphasis on theory and technical topics. If you're interested in teaching at the university level, then a Ph.D. could be the right decision.
What types of careers can I pursue with this degree?
A public service degree can help prepare you for the following career paths, though keep in mind that graduates from these programs typically find employment in a variety of fields:
- Local, state and federal governments
- Nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations
- Firms that work with governments
- Private corporations active in public service
- And many more!