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MPA vs. MPP: What You Need to Know About Policy and Administration Degrees

Are you searching for a challenging career that will empower you to make a difference in your community? Public administration or policy work might be right for you. 

The government and nonprofit sectors offer a wide range of jobs and opportunities, many of which demand specific skills and expertise. A master’s degree in public administration or public policy can help you attain that knowledge and offer a pathway into public service – but it’s important to understand the differences between the two degrees before you apply. 


What Is an MPA?

A Master of Public Administration (MPA) is a graduate degree for aspiring public sector and nonprofit leaders. Like MBA programs for private sector employees, MPA programs focus on preparing professionals for roles with increasing oversight and responsibility. While they include coursework related to leadership, financial management and personnel management, MPAs approach these topics with public sector considerations top-of-mind. The MPA degree also prepares students to work within complex political systems, drive progress across government agencies and refine programs to improve service delivery. 

Some MPA programs, like Franklin University’s Master of Public Administration, offer additional elective coursework related to specific areas within public service, such as nonprofit healthcare, criminal justice or employee relations. 

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What Is an MPP?

While MPA programs are geared towards the leaders who implement programs and policy, Master of Public Policy (MPP)  programs are aimed at professionals who analyze needs, assess existing policies and create new policies to address specific problems. The MPP degree typically emphasizes qualitative and quantitative research and analysis and is geared toward professionals who wish to use those skills extensively in future roles. MPP degrees usually focus heavily on technical topics such as statistics and economic theory, and some programs offer additional coursework focused on specific areas, such as international policy or health policy. 

Which Degree is More In Demand?

It's hard to definitively say which degree is more highly sought or more in demand, though program completion data paints a clear picture about which one is pursued more commonly in the United States.

According to completion data from Lightcast Analyst, a total of 12,201 master's programs in Public Administration were completed in 2021, while 3,153 master's programs in Public Policy Analysis were completed during that same period. 


What Jobs Require an MPA vs. an MPP?

Professionals with an MPA or an MPP often end up in similar positions, but choosing the degree most closely aligned with your career goals can help you find the right fit more quickly.

MPA degrees are designed for professionals who wish to hold leadership positions in government agencies or nonprofits, either at the institutional level or the departmental level. These positions are more likely to be public-facing and involve significant work interfacing with other agencies or organizations as well as community groups and the media. 

MPP degrees are best suited for professionals who wish to work on policy in a more technical capacity. These positions are less likely to be public facing, though they involve policies and programs with significant public impacts. 

“An MPP degree is a better fit for those who are interested exclusively in public policy analysis and development,” says Dr. Wendy Eaton, chair of Franklin’s Master of Public Administration program. “An MPA degree offers a broader focus for those who want to prepare themselves for a variety of governmental positions or to advance their careers in the public sector. An MPA degree opens the door to a wider range of career options in government, nonprofit organizations and the private sector.”

Is an MPA or an MPP Right for You?

Choosing between an MPA and an MPP is ultimately a highly personal decision. The right fit for you can depend on factors ranging from your personality and preferred work environment to your long-term career goals. 

Before you start applying to programs, take time to map out your ideal career path and explore the skills and knowledge you’ll need to succeed. If you’re considering multiple pathways, speaking to professionals in the field or fields you’re interested in may help you clarify your goals. For example, if you aren’t sure whether you are better suited to a policy creation or implementation role, it might be useful to talk to professionals in both positions. Ask them about their backgrounds, the pros and cons of their job and what a day in their life looks like. These conversations can also help you hone in on the skills that you’ll need to develop in a graduate program.

Since MPA and MPP programs can vary significantly in their curricula and approaches, it’s also important to consider the coursework and methodology of each program that interests you. Of course, you’ll also want to compare programs’ lengths, costs and schedules to ensure that your degree will fit into the broader context of your life. 

Step Into Your Future

If you decide to pursue an MPA degree, Franklin University can help you reach your goals faster. You can complete Franklin’s MPA program entirely online, in as few as 17 months, with the scheduling flexibility you need as a working professional. 

“Franklin’s MPA program emphasizes professional knowledge, skills and abilities that help ensure our graduates are capable of serving as effective, accountable leaders and managers in government and nonprofit organizations,” says Dr. Eaton. 

At Franklin, you’ll learn actionable skills like methodological reasoning and strategic communication through real-world examples, case studies and discussions. You’ll graduate prepared to take on emerging challenges and make a positive impact in your community and beyond. 

Learn more about how a Master of Public Administration at Franklin can help you secure a career that makes a difference.

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