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Universities with a Master of Public Affairs Degree Program

Public affairs focuses on public administration, public policy analysis and organizational management. Closely related master's degree programs might also be called public policy or public administration and international affairs. This article explains what students should look for when selecting a public affairs program.

Public affairs is often offered as a field of study in a master's degree program. A public affairs program may also have a specialization area, such as public management and leadership, social policy, economic policy, urban affairs and international affairs.

Top Public Affairs Schools

All of the following institutions are among the top public affairs schools, according to 2016 U.S. News & World Report rankings.

College/University Location Institution Type Graduate Tuition 2015-2016*
Syracuse University (Maxwell School) Syracuse, NY 4-year, Private not-for-profit $34,500
Indiana University - Bloomington Bloomington, IN 4-year, Public $9,743 in-state, $28,113 out-of-state
Harvard University (Kennedy School) Cambridge, MA 4-year, Private not-for-profit $42,874
University of Georgia Athens, GA 4-year, Public $10,750 in-state, $26,348 out-of-state
Princeton University (Wilson School) Princeton, NJ 4-year, Private not-for-profit $45,350
New York University (Wagner School) New York, NY 4-year, Private not-for-profit $40,984
University of California - Berkeley (Goldman School) Berkeley, CA 4-year, Public $13,341 in-state, $28,533 out-of-state
University of Southern California (Price School) Los Angeles, CA 4-year, Private not-for-profit $40,670
Carnegie Mellon University (Heinz College) Pittsburgh, PA 4-year, Private not-for-profit $41,371
University of Kansas Lawrence, KS 4-year, Public $9,958 in-state, $22,049 out-of-state

Source: *National Center for Educational Statistics

University Selection Criteria

When selecting a school to pursue a master's degree in public affairs, consider the following:

  • Students should consider whether they work better in a classroom setting, or would prefer a fully online or hybrid program, since public affairs programs may be available in all of these formats.
  • Look for public affairs programs that offer internship opportunities, which are a great way for students to network with seasoned professionals while gaining hands-on experience in the field.
  • Students looking to specialize should consider attending a school that offers a dual degree program in public affairs and a specialization area.
  • Those interested in international affairs should look for schools that offer learning/work experiences in other countries specifically for public affairs graduate students.

Master of Public Affairs Programs

Master of Public Affairs (MPA) programs are generally intended to prepare students for management positions within nonprofit organizations, governmental bodies and other public service-oriented institutions. Usually, students who pursue this degree are professionals who have worked in the field, but not all schools require previous work experience. Topics of study include policymaking, economic analysis, negotiations and strategic thinking, and some programs require students to participate in an internship and/or submit a capstone project. Depending on the school, students can choose between full-time and part-time study options, and some provide online coursework.

Public affair master's degree programs are available both on campus and online, and they often have a variety of specialization areas. Students should look for programs that offer internships or allow them to continue work in their professional capacity in the field.


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