A Master's Degree in Public Policy (MPA), also known as a master of public administration (MPA's) or master of social work (MSW), is a doctorate degree in social work that prepares graduates of this degree program to serve at the highest levels of public service. Master's degrees in this field require a thorough grounding in public health and social services, with an emphasis on helping individuals and communities to work toward a common goal. Master's degrees are awarded by many colleges and universities across the nation and can be obtained in a range of concentrations. In order to qualify for a Master's degree, a student must first earn their undergraduate degree from an accredited university.
A variety of programs exist for students interested in a career in public policy and management. However, there are several things prospective students should keep in mind when choosing their Master's program. First, prospective students should consider which areas of concentration will provide them the best educational opportunities, as well as the most practical training in order to fulfill their state's requirements for licensing to practice in their chosen profession.
The area of concentration of a Master's degree program is important since it can affect how the program will prepare its graduates for a career in government or non-profit agencies. A master of public policy program that offers a wide variety of courses will prepare students to work at state or federal level agencies such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, and the United States Conference of Mayors. Areas of concentration may include development and advocacy, community organizing, public health, education, immigration, labor laws, and welfare and social assistance. Students pursuing a Master's degree program in social work should also take courses that examine issues that concern them. These courses may be required by some universities to ensure that they meet prerequisites for graduation.
A master's program may be comprised of either one year or two years. A two-year program provides students with the opportunity to complete the program in less time than those who opt for a one year program. Students who are seeking to earn their Master's degree from an accredited institution should seek out information regarding the length of time between the completion of their undergraduate degree program and the beginning of a Master's program in order to ensure that they have the appropriate amount of time before the start of their Master's program for an accelerated path towards their chosen career. An accelerated master's program offers the advantage of allowing students to take courses at their own pace in a timely fashion that will help them finish earlier and get to work sooner.
Most Master's programs are offered by the Universities of Phoenix or the University of Denver and some Master's programs are offered by a variety of other colleges and universities across the country. Students should also inquire about the particular college or university they plan to attend, as well as the length of the program, when selecting a master's program. The majority of Master's programs in public policy are four-year programs, while other programs may be two and half years, two and a half years, three years, or even longer. Programs that require a minimum of a bachelor's degree are usually two years.
Students who decide to earn their Master's degree in public policy or management should select a program that offers them the opportunity to specialize in a field of interest. For example, students may choose to focus on community development, labor laws, labor practices, law, or human rights. If they pursue a two-year Master's program, they will gain experience in a variety of subjects and be able to focus in on a specific subject matter that interests them. In addition, students who choose a three-year program will acquire a more rounded understanding of the legal and social policies of a state as well as the related practices of various professionals in the area.
Students should carefully consider the different requirements they must comply with when enrolling into an MPA. The program is a serious endeavor and there are some regulations and procedures involved in enrollment and graduation as compared to other programs in the United States. Students should inquire about the exact requirements for their program at their respective universities and should be sure that they understand what those requirements entail before enrolling.
Students should also look for an MPA program that emphasizes internships and placements. Internships are usually arranged by the university and students will be placed in these positions as a way of providing students the opportunity to participate in real world settings. As an internship, students will be placed in departments that may include those of government officials, attorneys, business personnel, and nonprofit groups. To be eligible for placement as a student manager of an internship, students should be determined and show good leadership abilities and be willing to take initiative within the organization.