Civic-minded people who wish to pursue a career that helps others and contributes to their community often choose to work for government agencies or nonprofits, where they are faced with the difficult task of determining which programs would help. most their constituents and how to implement them. them.
Public administration and public policy degrees are designed to prepare individuals for mission-oriented jobs where securing and maximizing profitability are not the primary goals. The guiding goal within these professions is often to achieve a specific humanitarian goal such as poverty reduction, experts say.
Kendra Smith, chair of Claremont Lincoln University’s new Master of Public Administration program, argues that governments and nonprofits, unlike for-profit businesses, focus on “serving people effectively.” , efficient and ethical ”.
Someone who wants to gain knowledge on how to improve society may decide to enroll in such a graduate program, but in this case, he or she must determine what type of program is best suited.
Differences between public administration and public policy programs
“The main distinction here is that a degree in public administration prepares students for agency management, while a degree in public policy is designed to serve students interested in analyzing policy and suggesting improvements. “, Sanya Carley, director of the Indiana Masters of Public Affairs program. The University’s O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs wrote in an email. “A public affairs degree trains students for both.”
Although the meaning of public affairs depends on the context, schools of public affairs usually offer courses in public administration and public policy, two branches of a huge academic discipline often referred to as “public affairs.” This discipline trains people to do service work in a way that does the most good and the least harm.
Jacqueline Speedy, associate dean of the School of Public Policy and Management at the Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University – which is based in Pennsylvania but also offers programs elsewhere – says there is no necessarily a clear division between public policy and public administration.
“The domains have merged,” she says. “There is no strict distinction between the different types of degrees in the space we currently occupy in terms of how we educate students.”
Public policy programs typically focus on policy evaluation, while public administration programs typically cultivate execution and leadership skills, explains Speedy.
Prospective students in these areas of public affairs should know that they do not necessarily have to choose between studying public administration or public policy. Schools of public affairs sometimes offer hybrid programs.
For example, Carnegie Mellon offers a Master of Science in Public Policy & Management. According to Speedy, the degree aims to give students a wide range of skills so that they have the opportunity to choose the public service position they prefer throughout their careers, whether the role is focused on analysis. or the adoption of policies.
Speedy notes a growing number of analytics-focused public affairs programs that incorporate lessons in data science and machine learning.
“As we all know, government probably has access to the largest and richest datasets of all, and so the way to make government more efficient and effective is to start mining that data and pull ideas and even use them to prevent problems before they start, “she says.” It’s something I would say is at the forefront of the field direction. “
What MPP and MPA Students Learn
A master’s degree in public policy provides in-depth training on how to assess and compare different policies or potential programs and how to assess their results. MPP students also learn to discover and develop solutions to social problems.
In contrast, a Masters in Public Administration offers detailed guidance on how to handle the logistical, organizational and interpersonal challenges that arise when enforcing rules or starting projects. An AMP also provides lessons on how government and nonprofit leaders can maintain their authority and exert a strong positive influence over their subordinates while holding themselves accountable and creating an atmosphere of transparency.
According to Speedy, MPP degrees provide a solid preparation for policy analysis positions in government agencies, think tanks, and consulting firms, while MPA degrees typically lead to administrative or executive positions, including roles of city manager.
Carley suggests that an MLA would be useful for a aspiring lawmaker or lobbyist. Since an MP focuses on determining the optimal laws, it provides valuable education for anyone who wants to draft or suggest legislation.
Faculty of public affairs schools note that starting salaries for MPA and MPP degree holders are comparable. According to PayScale, the average salary for MPP degree holders is $ 72,008, while the average salary for MPA program graduates is $ 69,221.
Why someone might attend a school of public affairs
Aspiring decision-makers may choose to attend public affairs programs out of a desire to learn how to design smart policies that do not have unintended negative consequences. Schools of public affairs could also appeal to lobbyists or political activists who wish to learn how to predict the impact of a law before making the decision to support or oppose it.
Government contractors may also benefit from a public affairs program, as can those in the private sector whose jobs involve frequent collaboration or discussions with government officials, especially people working in regulated or controversial industries. Future leaders of nonprofits may also choose to attend a school of public affairs to learn how to oversee complex initiatives.
Another reason that may compel someone to take a graduate program in public affairs is the desire to promote a specific charitable cause.
This was the case with Janice S. Lintz, who was admitted into a mid-career MPA program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Massachusetts and plans to complete the program in 2023.
Lintz, a long-time hearing advocate, is Founder and CEO of Hearing Access & Innovations, a consulting firm that advises organizations and government agencies around the world on how to make their products and services more accessible to people with hearing loss.
She has been dedicated to making the world more inclusive for people with disabilities since her daughter was diagnosed with hearing loss when she was very young.
Lintz hopes the MPA degree will enable her to become a better disability champion. “My goal is to be the best I can be,” she said, “and I have a responsibility to the community to pay it forward.”