Online Master of Public Policy Degree Program Overviews

Find out about online public policy courses and in which master's degree programs they're most commonly offered. Get course descriptions, program info and online requirements to make an informed decision.

Essential Information

Online master's degree programs in public policy or public policy and administration are often designed for mid-career professionals working on policy implementation and public policy advocacy in government agencies, associations, private enterprises and non-profit foundations. Many programs are offered entirely online, but there are also programs that require students to participate in on-campus group projects.

Prospective students must hold bachelor's degrees from accredited institutions and are also encouraged to have relevant work or coursework experience in areas such as sociology and political science. These master's programs generally require two years of study. Course topics may include policy analysis, public sector economics, sustainability issues and budgeting.

Master of Public Policy

An online public policy master's degree program prepares graduates to implement policies that improve the economic and social welfare of individual communities and the nation as a whole. Graduates should have a thorough understanding of the main institutions responsible for the implementation and formulation of public policy, including local governments and the three branches of the federal government. They should also be able to build coalitions, deliver policy arguments and sustain partnerships. Emphasis is often placed on the correlation between the political process and abstract policy, public policy analytic methods, policy design and public policy models.

Information and Requirements

An online master's degree in public policy program, which is typically around 36 credits, is sometimes offered as a public policy and administration degree. Students are able to communicate with professors and fellow students via Web conferencing, chat sessions and e-mail. In order to access course materials and participate in Web conferencing, students may need Adobe Acrobat Reader, word processing software, high-speed Internet, a microphone, a Web camera, a DVD drive and speakers.

Common Coursework

A master's degree-level public policy program draws from a number of areas, including political science, economics and sociology. Students learn how policies are developed from their early, abstract stages to their use in day-to-day political affairs.

Public Policy Analysis

This course explores various methods for analyzing public policy issues. Topics covered might include alternative policy responses, cost-benefit analysis, problem identifications and decision theory.

Economics and Public Policy

Many courses look at various economic and budgeting issues within public policy. Areas covered might include financial statement analysis, nonprofit organization budgeting, government economic principles, monetary policy and the role of the markets in public policy.


Topics covered as part of an ethics course might include the administrative responsibilities and moral issues involved in governing. Additional areas covered may include leadership theories, civil liberties issues and public service dilemmas.

Career Information

Potential employment areas might include research institutions, public interest groups, think tanks, community advocacy organizations and oversight agencies. Graduates may also work as lobbyists, staff analysts or in legislative staff roles.

Online master's degree programs in public policy train students to analyze policy issues from multiple perspectives in order to make sound policy recommendations and decisions. Much of the training involves class discussions that are facilitated by modern online communications technology.

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