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The Benefits of a Master of Public Affairs Degree

Tuesday, February 09, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Master of Public Affairs is an advanced professional degree that prepares students for a successful career in public service. It is ideal for those who are interested in positively impacting public policy and developing strong leadership skills that can be used in a variety of careers. The degree can lead to work in nonprofit organizations, the private sector or in government.

What is public affairs?

Public affairs work involves government and media relations, social and corporate responsibility and information dissemination. Practitioners focus on improving public policy and influencing and building relationships with stakeholders, such as politicians or business groups.

General degree overview

Most online Master of Public Affairs candidates are already working or involved in public affairs in some capacity. Programs generally take about one to two years to complete, either online or on a physical campus. There is no prerequisite undergraduate major for the MPA degree, but familiarity with social science disciplines is beneficial.

What to expect from coursework

The field of public affairs is multidimensional, so you can expect coursework in a master's program to cover a lot of ground. Most Master of Public Affairs programs are interdisciplinary and typically include courses in statistics, economics, political science and communications. MPA curricula may also put a heavy emphasis on policy evaluation, research and policy analysis.

Classes are designed to hone practical skills in qualitative and quantitative analysis. To cater to different career objectives, specific concentrations are often offered in categories such as healthcare policy, nonprofit management and education policy. Completing an internship or other hands-on fieldwork during your studies can also provide valuable, practical experience.

 Where Master of Public Affairs grads work

Online MPA graduates can take on a number of diverse professional roles. Many find work as elected officeholders, program managers, policy advocates or researchers. For example, one graduate may work for a think tank that explores how private companies and government agencies can collaborate to improve environmental issues. Another may take on a financial role in charge of securing funding for educational or social programs. Still another may choose to become a political lobbyist or launch a political career. The outcomes are endless and depend on the specific interests and specialization of the graduate.

We live in an increasingly globalized, interconnected society, and now is an exciting time to embark upon a career in the public sector. If you have an analytical mindset and care about affecting social change, or are already working in the field and want to increase your knowledge and marketability, consider working toward earning a Master of Public Affairs.

Learn about University of Texas Rio Grande Valley online MPA program.


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