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MPA vs. MPP: How Do the Careers Differ?

A Master of Public Administration and a Master of Public Policy prepare you for different types of public service jobs.

If you’re thinking about starting or advancing a career in public service, one of the best steps you can take is to earn a master’s degree in the field. In particular, a Master of Public Administration (MPA) or a Master of Public Policy (MPP) can give you the skills and qualifications you need to successfully advance the public good. But which one will lead to the career that’s right for you? To answer that question, you need to know how the two degrees differ.

Difference in Core Focus

To put it succinctly, an MPA degree is primarily focused on managing programs that serve the public good while an MPP is primarily focused on creating the policies that drive those programs. More specifically:

MPA vs. MPP: How Do the Careers Differ?

Earning an MPA degree is about learning to work with nonprofits, government agencies, and the private sector to deliver needed public services in ways that are effective, efficient, and ethical. The degree seeks to teach such skills as balancing budgets, writing and negotiating contracts, managing conflict, and building partnerships.

Earning an MPP degree is about learning how to formulate, implement, and evaluate public policy within government agencies, nonprofits, and the private sector. The degree seeks to enhance your analytic and quantitative skills while educating you on the policymaking structures within our institutions.

Difference in Learning Outcomes

When you earn a master’s in public administration, you can expect to be prepared to:

  • Describe key leadership concepts and theories that can be used to effectively lead and manage in the public sector.
  • Determine appropriate skills needed for participating in and contributing to public and nonprofit policy processes.
  • Critically evaluate strategies for resolving public policy and administration problems in a global economic and political environment.
  • Develop ethical solutions to advance and improve the lives of citizens and organizations.
  • Apply models that represent best practices in utilizing diverse perspectives in local, state, national, and international public agencies.

When you earn a master’s in public policy, you can expect to be prepared to:

  • Explain how public policies are developed, approved, implemented, and evaluated.
  • Apply major theories and concepts associated with the development of U.S. public policy and public administration.
  • Apply a variety of data analysis methods in the study of public policy issues. 
  • Apply a variety of research and design methods in the study of public policy issues.
  • Describe how to implement methods of organizational change and development while adhering to ethical standards of practice.
  • Design strategies for collaboration across the research, policy, and practice sectors to solve complex problems.  

Difference in Career Possibilities

Common public administration jobs available to those with an MPA include:

  • City manager
  • Department head
  • Government relations officer
  • Public health administrator
  • Health department manager
  • Human resources manager 
  • Budget manager
  • Operations manager
  • Management analyst
  • Head of a nongovernmental organization (NGO)

Common public policy jobs available to those with an MPP include:

  • Policy analyst
  • Development manager
  • Grant writer
  • Nonprofit executive director
  • City government elected official
  • Government affairs director
  • Legislative analyst
  • Federal intelligence analyst 
  • Health program analyst
  • Clinical research associate
  • Environmental analyst
  • Sustainability manager
  • Policy consultant
  • Communications director
  • News and politics editor
  • Policy reporter 

What’s the Best Way to Earn Your MPA or MPP?

Whether you want the type of career an MPA degree can lead you toward or the type of career an MPP degree can lead you toward, you don’t have to go far to find the right graduate program. In fact, thanks to the advantages of online education, you don’t even have to leave home.

When you choose to earn an MPA or MPP online, you can complete your coursework right from home or from anywhere else you have internet access. Plus, an online MPA or MPP can make it possible for you to continue working full time. That’s because both online MPA programs and online MPP programs offer flexible scheduling, allowing you to attend class at whatever time fits best with your work and life obligations.

Either an MPA or MPP can lead you toward a highly successful public service career. Thanks to online learning, earning the right degree is more convenient than ever before.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering Master of Public Administration and Master of Public Policy degree programs online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,