Home > Best Online Master’s in Public Policy Programs for 2018

Best Online Master’s in Public Policy Programs for 2018

Positions in public policy span a variety of fields and industries, including lobbying and policy research. Whether you want to influence legislation or develop surveys to assess public opinion, this degree equips you with skills in nonprofit budgeting, cash flow analysis, and microeconomics.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, political scientists employed by the federal government earn a median income of $123,230 each year. Earning an advanced degree can set you apart in this competitive field. The information highlighted below prepares you to make an informed choice when selecting your master’s in public policy online.

What are the Best Online Master’s in Public Policy Programs?

1

Northwestern UniversityEvanston, IL

Degree Master of Arts in Public Policy and Administration
Admissions Rate 13%
Default Rate 2%
Retention Rate 97%
Graduation Rate 93%
Online Enrollment 8%

Located in Illinois, Northwestern University offers an online master's in public policy and administration that requires students to complete 13 courses. In addition to core courses, degree candidates must take three elective classes in their chosen specialization. Available specializations include global policy, global health, and data analytics for public policy. All students must also fulfill a capstone or thesis requirement to earn their degree, and they can choose to complete the accompanying research project individually or as part of a group.

To be eligible for admission into Northwestern's online public policy master's program, applicants must have a bachelor's degree. Other admission requirements include a resume and two letters of recommendation. In addition, the school gives preference to those candidates who boast strong academic performance or a high score on the GRE.

2

American UniversityWashington, DC

Degree Master of Public Administration and Policy
Admissions Rate 35%
Default Rate 4%
Retention Rate 88%
Graduation Rate 81%
Online Enrollment 4%

Featuring courses in organizational analysis, project management, and managing human capital assets, American University's 36-credit online master of public policy and administration takes a pragmatic approach to the field. Full-time students can complete the 12-course program in two years. Using the Engage learning management system, distance learners focus on topics like federal budget processes, quantitative methods used to address organizational issues, and economics-based public policy.

AU requires applicants for its master's in public policy online program to submit GRE scores, but accepts LSAT or GMAT scores on a case-by-case basis. Prospective students must also provide a resume, a statement of purpose, and two letters of recommendation. Candidates with strong academic credentials are eligible for AU's Online Merit Scholarship.

3

Liberty UniversityLynchburg, VA

Degree Master of Arts in Public Policy
Admissions Rate 22%
Default Rate 7%
Retention Rate 75%
Graduation Rate 47%
Online Enrollment 82%

Founded in 1971, Liberty University delivers nearly 300 online degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels. Included among the school's offerings is an online public policy master's degree that requires students to earn 36 credits. With an asynchronous format and an entirely online curriculum, the program features courses in topics such as international relations, government bureaucracy, and leadership skills.

Degree candidates enrolled in LU's master's in public policy online program can choose to either earn a general degree or concentrate their studies in a particular area, such as international affairs, campaigns and elections, and leadership. Full-time students take eight-week courses and can earn their degree in two years. The program offers eight start dates each year.

4

Oregon State UniversityCorvallis, OR

Degree Master of Public Policy
Admissions Rate 78%
Default Rate 5%
Retention Rate 85%
Graduation Rate 64%
Online Enrollment 17%

Featuring concentrations in energy policy, environmental policy, rural policy, and social policy, Oregon State University's online master of public policy caters to working professionals who are seeking to advance their career within the field. With all coursework available online, distance learners can choose to complete a 10-credit internship to apply their acquired knowledge and skills in a real-world setting. All degree candidates must fulfill an applied capstone project requirement that addresses a current issue in public policy.

Prospective students interested in OSU's master of public policy online program should submit three letters of recommendation along with a resume. Other requirements for eligibility include GRE scores, a graduate degree, or five years of professional experience in public policy. Candidates should also provide a statement of purpose.

5

University of PittsburghPittsburgh, PN

Degree Master of Public Policy & Management
Admissions Rate 54%
Default Rate 4%
Retention Rate 92%
Graduation Rate 82%
Online Enrollment 2%

The University of Pittsburgh offers many online graduate programs, including a 30-credit master of public policy and management that is taught through an asynchronous format. Full-time distance learners can earn their degree in 19 months by taking two courses during the fall, spring, and summer terms. Alternatively, students can choose to complete the program at their own pace, taking just one course per term.

Designed for working professionals who are looking to switch careers, the school's online master's in public policy requires applicants to have a minimum of five years of professional experience in addition to a bachelor's degree. The school charges distance learners the same tuition rates as their on-campus counterparts.

6

Regent UniversityVirginia Beach, VA

Degree Master of Arts in Government - Law and Public Policy
Admissions Rate 84%
Default Rate 5%
Retention Rate 80%
Graduation Rate 49%
Online Enrollment 66%

Regent University's online master of public policy and law consists of 36 credits. Available entirely online, the program includes courses in political theory, healthcare policy, and national security affairs. The curriculum focuses on the Christian foundations of government in preparation for careers as public servants, political consultants, and other related roles.

Applicants to Regent's master's in public policy online program should have an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above. In addition, they can submit GRE or LSAT scores along with a current resume to boost their application. Students with prior graduate education can transfer up to nine credits toward their degree.

7

Rochester Institute of TechnologyRochester, NY

Degree Master of Science in Professional Studies with a Concentration in Public Policy
Admissions Rate 57%
Default Rate 5%
Retention Rate 89%
Graduation Rate 68%
Online Enrollment 3%

Located in New York, Rochester Institute of Technology offers an online graduate program in professional studies that allows students to earn their degree in one of any 50 fields. Among the available choices is a 33-credit master of public policy online, which requires distance learners to complete a capstone project. Students can take courses on a full-time or part-time basis to accommodate personal schedules.

To be eligible for RIT's online public policy master's program, prospective students must provide a personal statement, a current resume, and letters of recommendation from recent professors or supervisors. Candidates must also submit undergraduate transcripts showing a GPA of 3.0 or better. RIT recommends that all students meet with a faculty adviser regarding their personalized plan of study.

8

Eastern Illinois UniversityCharleston, IL

Degree Master of Arts in Political Science with an Option in Public Administration and Public Policy
Admissions Rate 50%
Default Rate 6%
Retention Rate 75%
Graduation Rate 58%
Online Enrollment 7%

Located in Charleston, Eastern Illinois University offers an online master's in political science with a concentration in public administration and public policy. Students who are seeking to enter or advance careers in areas such as public policy research, protective services, or budget analysis can earn their degree in two semesters and one summer. Alternatively, degree candidates can complete just one course each term to finish the program at their own pace.

Required courses in EIU's online master of public policy include classic political theory, American constitutional law, and political modernization. In addition to core credits and electives, distance learners must complete either a thesis or a capstone project wherein they synthesize program concepts in application to a practical issue. Applicants must have an undergraduate degree, but it does not have to be in political science.

9

Jacksonville UniversityJacksonville, FL

Degree Master of Public Policy
Admissions Rate 54%
Default Rate 10%
Retention Rate 68%
Graduation Rate 41%
Online Enrollment 28%

Jacksonville University's 48-credit online master's in public policy is available in a part-time or full-time format. The curriculum consists of courses in statistics, political science, and microeconomics. Full-time students can earn their degree in two years, while part-time learners generally finish the program in three. All distance learners must fulfill a two-credit summer internship requirement after they complete their first year of core courses. All degree candidates work with a faculty adviser to produce a capstone research paper that includes policy recommendations.

JU accepts applications on a rolling basis and encourages prospective public policy graduate students to complete undergraduate or graduate coursework in economics and statistics. Admission requirements include two letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and test scores on the GRE, GMAT, or LSAT.

10

Virginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmond, VA

Degree Master of Public Administration with a concentration in Public Policy Analysis and Evaluation
Admissions Rate 79%
Default Rate 6%
Retention Rate 86%
Graduation Rate 62%
Online Enrollment 3%

Offering distance learners the opportunity to either complete a general degree or personalize their studies in an area of concentration, VCU's online master of public administration requires all students to earn 36 credits. Degree candidates who lack at least one year of professional experience in the public or nonprofit sector must earn 39 credits, including a three-credit internship. Required core courses include financial management and government, public policy analysis, and public human resource management. Available electives include planned organizational change and research methods.

Prospective students interested in VCU's master's in public policy online must submit test scores on the GRE, GMAT, MAT, or LSAT as part of their application. The application deadlines for fall, spring, and summer semesters are April 1, October 1, and February 1, respectively.

11

University of Nebraska at OmahaOmaha, NE

Degree Master of Public Administration with a Concentration in Public Policy
Admissions Rate 76%
Default Rate 7%
Retention Rate 77%
Graduation Rate 47%
Online Enrollment 9%

The University of Nebraska at Omaha's online master's in public administration features a concentration in public policy and requires students to earn at least 39 credits. Beginning core courses cover topics such as public and nonprofit budgeting, policy design and implementation, and foundations of public service. Full-time students generally complete their degree in a little over two years by taking three courses each semester.

Degree candidates work with a faculty adviser to select from available electives, which includes courses in emergency management, aviation, and urban studies. All students must complete a capstone project, and UNO encourages those without experience in the public or nonprofit sector to complete an internship course. These internships consist of half-time positions over the course of one term.

12

University of Massachusetts-DartmouthNorth Dartmouth, MA

Degree Master of Public Policy
Admissions Rate 76%
Default Rate 8%
Retention Rate 75%
Graduation Rate 46%
Online Enrollment 7%

The University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth delivers a fully online master of public policy program that blends policy analysis with the application of skills in research and public management. In completing the 36 credits required to graduate, distance learners must fulfill an internship requirement and produce a final portfolio. Available concentrations include education policy, environmental policy, and public management.

Students earning their online master's in public policy take courses like environmental consequences of globalization and organizational behavior in educational settings. With access to resources such as free online tutoring, personal advising, and an online writing center, UMass distance learners benefit from flexible scheduling and personal attention. Possible jobs in public policy available to graduates include roles in nongovernmental organizations, nonprofits, and trade and labor associations.

13

New England CollegeHenniker, NH

Degree Master of Arts in Public Policy
Admissions Rate 98%
Default Rate 10%
Retention Rate 57%
Graduation Rate 34%
Online Enrollment 57%

Founded in 1946, New England College offers nearly 50 programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels. Full-time distance learners seeking jobs in public policy can earn NEC's online master of public policy in less than two years. With a global focus on the impact of the U.S. political system, the curriculum explores the interplay between theory and practical expertise in ethical policy leadership.

As there is no residency requirement, distance learners can complete the program entirely online. NEC offers several start dates throughout the year and does not require prospective students to submit standardized test scores. Prospective careers for graduates include leadership positions across all levels of government and nonprofit organizations.

14

SUNY Empire State CollegeSaratoga Springs, NY

Degree Master of Arts in Social and Public Policy
Default Rate 10%
Retention Rate 50%
Graduation Rate 24%
Online Enrollment 48%

Founded in 1971, SUNY Empire State College delivers a variety of online degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Among the school's offerings is a 36-credit online master's in social and public policy, which consists of four core classes, four electives, and four research courses. Required subjects of study include social policy perspectives, ethical issues in social policy, and policy implementation. Students must also complete a final project or an academic thesis.

SUNY Empire allows students to transfer up to nine credits from a regionally accredited college or university toward their online master's in public policy. In addition, the college allows degree candidates to add an advanced certificate to their program to enhance their employability upon graduation.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Public Policy Program

A master’s in public policy online typically consists of 45 to 48 credits of required coursework. Depending on a student’s enrollment status, this degree takes approximately two years to complete. Tuition rates vary by school, but generally range from $1,000 to $2,000 per credit. Students who attend a college in state usually pay less than out-of-state residents.

Online public policy master’s programs prepare students for research and analysis jobs in public policy and include coursework on data analysis and research methodology. Students learn how to implement a variety of modeling approaches to study governmental policies that impact economic outcomes across systems. Equipped with this knowledge, learners acquire an understanding of policy planning and analysis at various levels, including organizational, regional, and federal. In addition to core coursework, students enrolled in an online master’s of public policy have the opportunity to concentrate in areas such as global public policy, advanced policy analysis, and nonprofit leadership.

Careers for Graduates of Master’s in Public Policy Programs

Earning an online public policy master’s provides students with numerous career opportunities in politics, and can also lead to positions with annual incomes starting around $50,000. Graduates possess the expertise needed to work in research and management positions, often serving as liaisons between political systems and the general public. The following table provides an overview of careers commonly pursued by graduates of an online master’s of public policy.

Public Policy Director

Public policy directors oversee a variety of tasks, including developing agendas to promote policy change, advocating for policies, and securing funds for policies. These professionals often work alongside lawmakers to direct policy decisions. Directors closely monitor public opinions on issues and conduct policy research to keep organizations informed.

  • Median Annual Salary: $77,930
Public Policy Analyst

These professionals analyze public policies to determine their outcome. Based on their findings, public policy analysts suggest changes that will positively impact communities. They collect data from numerous sources, including specific populations, law enforcement, and community health workers. Public policy analysts frequently collaborate with similar professionals to identify societal problems.

  • Median Annual Salary: $53,280
Public Policy Associate

Relying on skills in communication and writing, public policy associates conduct research, draft reports, and develop project outlines. These professionals establish relationships with organizations to advance lobbying efforts. They often supervise recruitment and event planning for campaigns. Through extensive research, public policy associates ensure that they stay informed of the most current local and federal policies.

  • Median Annual Salary: $48,899
Political Scientist

Political scientists often focus on a specific area, such as the world economy, gender equality, or political party analysis. They write or commentate on current events to facilitate unbiased public awareness. Political scientists employ statistical measures to monitor political developments, and they commonly engage in contractual work with colleges or public programming organizations.

  • Median Annual Salary: $52,207
Lobbyist

Working closely with political officials to influence legislation, lobbyists rely on connections and media contact to secure meetings with legislators. Many lobbyists work for trade organizations and develop working relationships with other lobbyists to advocate for legislative outcomes. Lobbyists use media outlets to convey messages and present the public with research findings that support their legislative goals.

  • Median Annual Salary: $69,166

Job Outlook and Salary for Graduates of Public Policy Master’s Degrees

While slower than than the national average, occupational growth projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates a positive trajectory for jobs in public policy. In 2016, political scientists held 7,300 positions in the U.S., a number projected to rise to 7,500 by 2026. Graduates from an online public policy master’s program possess the skills to compete for these new positions. Location significantly affects the availability of job opportunities, with the District of Columbia and Virginia employing the highest number of political scientists. In addition to job availability and location, your employer will influence your potential earnings as well.


To determine the best online bachelor’s in forensic psychology programs, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school’s commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the best online bachelor’s in forensic psychology programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school’s ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category’s ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.

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