Master of Public Policy | Top Universities

Electing to pursue a Master of Public Policy (MPP) degree could lead you to the heart of policy-making. In challenging economic and environmental times, an MPP could equip you with the skills to make a real difference to a nation, society and the wider world. Click on the tabs below for more information about Master of Public Policy courses, specializations and careers.

What is public policy?

You might have previously studied public policy as a specialization in an undergraduate politics degree, but if not, here’s a quick definition. Public policy focuses on the processes by which various types of policies and regulations that affect members of the public are created and enforced. You’ll learn about the executive, legislative and administrative processes involved, as well as how to analyze and develop policies and conduct relevant research. You’ll also build your understanding of the wider economic, political and social factors to be considered.

Master of public policy courses 

Master of Public Policy (MPP) courses may be one or two years long, depending on the country and whether you choose to study full or part-time. As well as the MPP, they could be offered as Master of Science (MSc) or Master of Art (MA) qualifications.




The content of Master of Public Policy programs tends to overlap with that of Master of Public Administration (MPA) degrees, due to the need for an understanding of public administration (how government policies are put into action) in order to fully analyze policies and programs. This means your public policy degree may be offered as dual major, alongside administration. 

You will study qualitative analysis/methods (analyzing issues without the use of quantitative measurement or statistics, but instead using methods such as case studies), policy analysis, program evaluation, management and politics, and also have the opportunity to specialize in a particular field of public policy – you can find out more about common specializations in the next tab. You may be given the opportunity to complete an internship during your degree, and in some cases this will count as one of your course modules.

You will usually be assessed through a written assignment at the end of each module and perhaps group projects. Most Master of Public Policy degrees conclude with a dissertation, allowing you to complete independent research.

Entry requirements

Most universities will ask for a good bachelor’s degree in any subject, and you do not usually need to have previously studied a similar subject. However, it may be beneficial if you have studied a related program, such as politics, economics or business studies. Alternatively, professional work experience in the area may be considered if you do not have a degree. 

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There are many optional modules available in Masters of Public Policy courses, and these commonly include the following:

Environmental policy

This specialization focuses on the policy approaches which safeguard economic prosperity and human well-being, whilst also improving the health and quality of the natural world – this will be studied in different contexts. Similarly, an energy policy specialization focuses on the study of how current and future energy systems interact with policy and society, ensuring economic well-being, energy security, environmental protection, and energy access.

Health policy 

Health policy

If you specialize in health policy, you’ll become familiar with the relevant history and organizations involved in public health initiatives. You’ll gain an understanding of how to evaluate related moral, economic, social and operational issues, and develop quantitative (statistical) skills for program evaluation and the analysis of large data sets. 

Urban policy

Another option which may be available as part of a Master of Public Policy degree, urban policy focuses on how public policies affect urban issues, both nationally and globally. You’ll cover topics such as crime, community safety, urban regeneration, sustainable housing development, and approaches to overcoming a range of contemporary and future urban challenges.

Economic policy 

Economic policy

This specialization will introduce you to international political economy (IPE) and give you an overview of key economic concepts, arguments and methods in relation to the implementation of public policy, including understanding the concept of economic stability as a social objective. This topic can be further specialized to focus on issues such as public finance, uncertainty and risk, public service reform, economics of public enterprises, poverty and more.

Education policy

Many countries share a commitment to improving education, and this specialization will give you an understanding of the social and political discourse that lies behind this. You’ll also learn how issues of race, social class, gender and possible inequalities relate to education policy, often with an international outlook.

Other possible specializations include: new security challenges, comparative politics, international intuitions and regimes, public management, human rights, strategic planning and international development policy. 

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Public policy careers

There are a wide variety of public policy jobs available once you’ve graduated. Many public policy graduates will find roles in the public sector or governmental, but your skills will also be highly valued in many private and non-profit organizations. Your degree should equip you with many of the tools acquired by business students (such as quantitative reasoning and management skills), with a readiness to apply these skills to tackle social problems.

Popular public policy jobs include:

Local government officer 

Local government officers are responsible for the progress and performance of council policies and procedures, as well as making sure that local services are provided efficiently. A career in local government offers a broad professional environment with good prospects for career progression. This is likely to be a varied role, with opportunities to specialize in a range of areas, from education or environment to leisure and recreation.  

Government social research officer/policy advisor 

Government social research officer

Next in our overview of public policy jobs is another role within the government. Government social research officers are responsible for commissioning and contributing research to support analysis of government policies. This is used to help politicians and ministers evaluate existing policies, and develop new ones. This is a fast-paced role which involves liaising with other government workers, such as statisticians and operational researchers.

Civil service administrator

This is a broad role which can vary significantly depending on which department of the civil service you work in. You could be involved in writing reports, managing staff, debating and submitting ideas, conducting research, working with the public or preparing policy proposals.

Foreign affairs officer/diplomat 

Foreign affairs officer

Also known as diplomatic services operational officers,foreign affairs officers protect and promote the interests of their country in many different ways. This can include helping to address issues such as climate change or terrorism. You’ll need to be a citizen of the country for which you work, and foreign language skills will be an asset.

Working in diplomacy could also include the role of a policy officer. Policy officers help to formulate policy on governmental, commercial and financial matters. This could mean anything from writing a progress report on complex negotiations to briefing a minister on the latest updates. You’ll specialize in policy work but may also contribute to press and public affairs, consular, immigration or administration work.

Social researcher

You could put your research skills to good use as a social researcher, a role in which you will design, manage and undertake research projects addressing social issues in areas including unemployment, crime and education, to name just a few. Social researchers typically use computer software packages to collect, store and present their data, so you will need good IT skills. Social research employers are keen to recruit candidates who have a detailed knowledge of research techniques, and the quantitative and/or qualitative research skills gained from a Master of Public Policy will be highly useful.

Other public policy jobs

Other public policy jobs you might like to consider include charity or humanitarian work, working for a non-profit organization or charity. You may also consider roles as an outreach consultant, political speech writer, trade officer or education administrator. 

See the full list of social sciences course guides 

Key Skills

Common skills gained with a Master of Public Policy degree include:

  • Ability to evaluate situations from different perspectives
  • Knowledge of quantitative and/or qualitative research methods
  • Understanding of key contemporary issues in public policy
  • Analytical skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Ability to handle numerical data
  • Teamwork
  • Excellent communication skills, verbal and written
  • Information technology proficiency