What Can I Do with a Master of Public Policy Degree?

A master of public policy degree shouldn't be confused with a master of government service degree. While government is ultimately where public policies become laws or regulations, the master of public policy degree is a multi-disciplinary, multi-dimensional degree, and as such, your career and job options are varied.

Government options include political positions such as working for a local official or state legislator, for a United States Representative or Senator, or in the White House and range from campaign operations, legislative analysis, events and public relations, communications, and policy development. Non-political options within the government sector are also varied, ranging from program analysis, program management and administration, legal analysis to public relations and communications and policy development for local, state, national, and international government agencies.

Within the nonprofit arena, public policy graduates can conduct policy research; do advocacy work on specific policy issues including policy management, development, and communication; serve on government relations team; or be entrepreneurs starting their own nonprofit or non-governmental organization (NGO).

Increasingly, the private sector is looking for master of public policy graduates as businesses begin to recognize the role policy development and implementation plays in influencing and affecting their business decisions. These roles include advocacy and government relations roles, but also more traditional master of business administration roles like marketing, communications, public relations, consulting, and program analysis and management.

Overall, the master of public policy degree may be the most flexible graduate professional degree available, qualifying holders for not only a wide range of careers and jobs, but also the ability to jump sectors seamlessly.

What can I do with a Master of Public Policy? - Pepperdine University

What Sectors Hire Master of Public Policy Graduates?

Because of the multi-disciplinary nature of master of public policy programs, the government, private sector, and nonprofit arena all recruit graduates.

As of 2015 data provided by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA), fields in which master of public policy or administration graduates are employed six months after graduation include the following:

  • 23% are working for a domestic nonprofit
  • 7% for a local government
  • 15% for a state/provincial/regional government
  • 12% for a non-research/consulting business
  • 11% for a national or central government
  • 8% are in the research/consulting private sector
  • 5% are in a government not in the same country as the program the graduate completed
  • 4% are in an international nonprofit and pursuing further higher education (i.e. a PhD)
  • 1% has entered military service.

What Are Some Master of Public Policy Jobs?

The following is a cross-section of potential jobs held by master of public policy graduates:

Private Sector:

  • Government relations manager
  • Program analyst
  • Program manager
  • Public relations and marketing manager
  • Consultant
  • Community relations manager

Non-profit Sector:

  • Advancement or development manager
  • Policy research assistant/associate/fellow
  • Program manager
  • Government relations advocate
  • Community outreach manager
  • Assistant professor/lecturer

Government Sector:

  • Legislative aide
  • Program analyst/administrator/manager
  • Budget analyst/manager
  • City manager
  • Representative/senator/elected official
  • Diplomat

How Do I Get a Public Policy Job?

Just like job searching in any industry, graduates can find a public policy job in a number of ways.

Various job listing boards online provide a quick and easily searchable option for those looking to find public policy jobs. These include publicservicecareers.org, www.usajobs.gov, www.idealist.org, and LinkedIn's jobs search.

In addition, most master of public policy programs have dedicated career services staff on campus to assist with the job search process and notify students of employment opportunities.

Finally, your own network provides employment opportunities, and networking with faculty, friends, and the great policy communities in government, the nonprofit arena, and the private sector allows master of public policy holders to market themselves for job openings. Public policy students are encouraged to broaden these networks through internships during their graduate studies.

What Do Pepperdine Master of Public Policy Graduates Do With Their Degrees?

The Pepperdine master of public policy degree prepares policy leaders via a unique liberal arts curriculum that not only emphasizes quantitative analysis, but also political philosophy, applied history, and strategy. This unique approach firmly prepares graduates for careers in a wide range of sectors ensuring they are leaders from day one.

Six months after graduation, 88 percent of Pepperdine master of public policy graduates are employed or pursuing postgraduate studies, including PhDs in economics, public policy, political science, political philosophy, or history. Of those employed 46 percent are in the private sector, 31 percent in the nonprofit arena, and 23 percent in government service.

For more details about a career in public policy with the Pepperdine master of public policy, check out our "See Your Career Differently From Here" brochure.

What Is Different About the Careers of Pepperdine Master of Public Policy Graduates versus Other Graduate Public Policy Programs?

As you'll notice from the NASPAA data versus the Pepperdine School of Public Policy data, Pepperdine master of public policy graduates are more heavily represented in the private sector and nonprofit arena than in government service.

Of those employed, 64 percent of Pepperdine master of public policy graduates are in those two sectors compared to 49 percent of all master of public policy or administration graduates (28 percent non-profit, 21 percent private sector).

This is because of the unique way the Pepperdine School of Public Policy educates its students. While most graduate public policy programs are designed to educate and prepare technocrats and government bureaucrats, the Pepperdine School of Public Policy's philosophy is to educate leaders by melding quantitative analysis with qualitative reasoning in an approach that ensures students not only see policy problems and solutions, but also the human and ethical impact of policy decisions.

As such, Pepperdine master of public policy graduates are persuasive communicators, effective problem-solvers, strong critical thinkers, and savvy strategists. They can technically understand policy problems, identify solutions, develop effective implementation plans, and evaluate results. Pepperdine master of public policy graduates promote policy research and encourage public engagement all while understanding the philosophical foundations of policy stakeholders and the causes and resolutions of current and past policy debates. These skills are highly valued in all sectors but particularly so in the nonprofit arena and private sector.

What Would My Salary Be with a Master of Public Policy Degree?

Like any profession, your salary depends on a number of variables, including geographical region, previous work experience, role and responsibilities, and level of education among others.

That said, of master of public policy or administration graduates employed, 33 percent earn a salary of over $55,000 in their first job after graduation compared to just 16 percent who earn such a salary prior to entering the graduate policy program.

Additionally, three years after graduation, 65 percent are making over $55,000 with almost 10 percent earning over $100,000, up from just two percent from their first job after graduation.

On average, master of public policy or administration graduates three years out of their program supervise a team of 15 people and administer a budget of almost $700,000.

More information can be found about graduate policy program earnings and careers at the NASPAA career resources site.

How Does Pepperdine Prepare Its Students for a Career in Public Policy?

The Pepperdine School of Public Policy strongly believes in professional and career development for all of our students and alumni. Our career-centric program incorporates two unique features—the policy internship and the professional development requirement.
The policy internship—240 hours of substantial policy work—enables students to put their policy education to practice either during the school year or over the summer.

The professional development requirement seeks to encourage students to set aside their homework to network and explore the greater policy community via attendances at career service events, lectures, conferences, seminars, and other events both on-campus or off-campus. The School of Public Policy hosts a wide variety of eligible professional development programming, but students are encouraged to seek out and attend off-campus opportunities to further broaden their policy exposure.

A dedicated director of career services for the Pepperdine School of Public Policy plans career services events; networks on behalf of the Pepperdine master of public policy students and alumni with potential employers across all sectors; and counsels students on interviewing, resume and cover-letter writing, and job searching skills.