Masters Degree in Public Affairs: Program Overviews

Apr 24, 2020

Essential Information

Public affairs specialists are also called communications, media and public relations specialists. These professionals serve as advocates to universities, businesses, hospitals and non-profit organizations by building and maintaining positive relationships with the public and media.

An M.P.A. program prepares students to handle complex public policy problems and relations with various entities, including consumers, industry and government. They are taught how to create, analyze and interpret public policy in both domestic and international arenas.

M.P.A. programs are typically available to students holding bachelor's degrees in any academic discipline. Many programs recommend that students have a background in areas such as economics, English, statistics or government. Some schools offer online programs. Students can also choose from a wide array of specializations that include international affairs, natural resources and the environment, nonprofit and philanthropic studies, public management and leadership, social and economic policy, technology, innovation, and information policy, urban and state affairs.

Master's Degree in Public Affairs

The typical M.P.A. curriculum includes a professional research project, thesis or internship. Students take lecture classes in public administration and various electives.

  • Public affairs theory and concepts
  • Political science
  • International public policies
  • Journalism
  • Advertising
  • Business administration

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

Students who graduate with an M.P.A. can work as public affairs or public relations specialists in healthcare, education, business, government or non-profit organizations.

The public relations field is competitive; however, employment of public relations specialists is expected to grow 6% from 2018-2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( The median annual salary for a public relations specialist was $61,150 in May 2019.

Professional Certification and Continuing Education

The Universal Accreditation Board offers examinations for the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) designation, available to public relations and public affairs specialists who've worked in the field for at least five years. The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Public Affairs is available for students pursuing research or academic careers in the field. The Ph.D. program can be an additional 3-4 years of study, and it is offered at a number of colleges and universities across the country.

Students of M.P.A. programs learn to develop and organize proposals, scripts, speeches and annual reports. They gain a strong background in domestic and international public policies that prepare them to work in different fields.

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