Master of Arts in Public Policy and Administration

Build the analytical, administrative, and leadership skills needed to make an impact. Northwestern’s master's in public policy and administration offers a unique and comprehensive opportunity to delve into both the administrative and analytical sides of policy. This holistic approach is grounded in the perspective that policy challenges are fluid, interconnected, and global. With this perspective, graduates will have the tools needed to rise in the field and drive change at the local, national, and international levels.

Earn your master's degree from Northwestern entirely online or with a blend of online and on-campus courses on Northwestern's Chicago campus.



Two facets of policy, one unique program

As a master's in public policy and administration student, you'll earn your master’s degree in one of the only programs that focuses on both policy and administration and build the leadership, administrative, and analytical expertise needed to drive change at the local, national, and international levels.

Students in the MPPA program will:

  • Develop the skills needed to drive change in government, education, and nonprofit organizations
  • Study under world-class faculty including Fulbright Fellows, DHS Fellows, Congressional advisors, Civitas Scholar recipients, National Institute on Aging grant recipients, among others
  • Critically examine public organizations and leadership using the theories and concepts of collaborative systems
  • Learn to apply methods for analyzing policies such as cost-benefit analysis, economic evaluation, and statistics
  • Leverage the flexible curriculum to enroll in both online and on-campus courses, depending on their specialization and their schedules.

Choose your specialization

Make informed decisions using a global perspective

The master's in public policy and administration program helps students put their analytic skills and administrative knowledge together into a new, synergistic perspective and understand how these connect to achieve global solutions in an increasingly interdependent world. The program prepares students to do the following:

  • Compare the methods international governments use to make policy decisions with the U.S. policy-making milieu.
  • Examine the effects of international organizations on world politics.
  • Collaborate with global client organizations on live projects in the MPPA Global Policy Lab. Past clients include the American Red Cross and The Urban Institute.
  • Develop a theoretical and technical understanding of demographic, economic and sociological tools.
  • Discuss the current debates surrounding topics such as world economic systems, international trade, monetary policy, and global resource allocation.

Choose the pace that's right for you

Accelerated full-time and part-time options

The MPPA program is offered in part-time and accelerated full-time formats. The part-time option offers a flexible curriculum with five specializations and a wide range of electives that enable you to create the course of study you need to meet your career goals while maintaining full-time commitments through part-time study. The full-time option offers a curated curriculum with three specializations comprising mostly on-campus courses. You can complete your degree through part-time, nonresidential study or the one-year accelerated option. Whatever you choose, you will learn from experienced, engaged faculty who are thought leaders in their fields.

Please note: the part-time program cannot satisfy any visa eligibility requirements; only students in the full-time, accelerated option may use the program for visa eligibility.

(The MPPA) gives you an opportunity to study public administration and public policy. If you want to be an effective agent of change, I think you need both skills.”

Santiago Ernesto Castrillon, MPPA student

Law is reactive. If you want change, you have to effect it at the policy level.”

Sherrell Pyatt Harrison, (MPPA '15) U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Sherrell Pyatt Harrison

I loved my time at Northwestern. The people that I've met and the resources that I've been able to connect to will serve me well throughout my career.”

Nick Mathiowdis (MPPA '17) Housing Authority of Cook County

Not only was [behavioral economics] interesting to me academically, but those ideas have helped inform my professional work. In the world of politics, a lot of the questions are about how people are going to react to situations.”

JC Kibbey (MPPA '14), Outreach and Policy Advocate at Union of Concerned Scientists
JC Kibbey

Prepare for roles in government, education, NGOs, and nonprofit organizations

During the master's in public policy and administration program, students build skills that are relevant to a variety of fields — public and private. After successful completion of this interdisciplinary professional program, graduates will possess the knowledge and aptitude to:

  • Evaluate the collaborative inter-organizational, inter-governmental, and international public policy and administrative environment
  • Apply a standard of ethics to policy and administrative context
  • Design public policies and programs
  • Assess the effectiveness and efficiency of public policies and programs
  • Communicate relevant policy or program information to diverse stakeholders
  • Lead public organizations to implement policy decisions with respect and understanding for the broader institutional, societal, economic and political environment
  • Manage public resources to achieve organizational goals

More about the MA in Public Policy and Administration

Public Policy and Administration Curriculum

Before applying to the master's in public policy and administration, be sure to review curriculum details and elective choices to make sure they align with your future goals. The MPPA program requires the successful completion of 13 courses. The curriculum covers nine core courses, three elective courses corresponding to a declared specialization, and a capstone (498) or thesis (590) project. 

  • MPPA 401: Research Methods
  • MPPA 402: Public Finance and Budgeting
  • MPPA 403: Fundamentals of Public Administration
  • MPPA 404: Microeconomics for Public Policy and Administration
  • MPPA 405: Statistics for Research
  • MPPA 406: Program Evaluation and Policy Analysis
  • MPPA 407: Scope and Theory of Public Policy
  • MPPA 408: Public Organization Theory and Management
  • MPPA 418: Ethics and Leadership
  • Three specialization courses
  • MPPA 498: Capstone Project or MPPA 590: Thesis Research
Current students should refer to the curriculum requirements in place at time of entry into the program.


MA in Public Policy and Administration Areas of Specialization

Students can focus on a particular area of interest by selecting one of the MA in Public Policy and Administration specializations as part of the application process. Students can also choose the "generalist" designation, which allows them to take their electives from different specializations.

Public Policy and Administration Course Schedule

Explore the Public Policy and Administration course schedule. You can narrow your course search by day, location or instructor.

Master's in Public Policy and Administration Admission

A variety of factors are considered when your application is reviewed. Background and experience vary from student to student. For a complete list of requirements, see the admission page for SPS graduate programs.

MPPA Tuition and Financial Aid

Tuition for the Master's in Public Policy and Administration program at Northwestern is comparable to similar US programs. Financial aid opportunities exist for students at Northwestern. Complete details can be found on the MPPA tuition and financial aid pages.

Registration Information for Public Policy and Administration

Already accepted into the Master's in Public Policy and Administration program? Get ahead and register for your classes as soon as possible.


Public Policy and Administration Careers

Professional opportunities for graduates of Northwestern's MPPA program are as broad and varied as the field of public policy and administration itself. With five concentrations to choose from, MPPA graduates set their sights on leadership roles in government at the local, regional and federal levels, in nonprofit organizations or in private enterprise.  Explore fulfilling careers in public policy and administration.

Public Policy and Administration Faculty

Faculty in the Master's in Public Policy and Administration program at Northwestern are leading scholars and practitioners in their field. They bring real-world experiences to the  classroom and engage with students on a personal level.

MPPA Student Leadership Council

Learn about the MPPA Student Leadership Council and their efforts to create and host network events for the program.

Find out more

Northwestern Master's in Public Policy and Administration

Frequently Asked Questions


What can you do with a master’s in public policy and administration?

A master’s in public policy and administration is a versatile degree that can lead to fulfilling careers in the public, private, and non-profit sectors. Take an active role in creating a better world by putting your MPPA degree to work on environmental policy, urban planning, or non-profit advocacy. Or, consider a job in government and legislative affairs to influence important topics such as economic development, healthcare, education policy, and public program evaluation which shape the lives of countless constituents every day. A public policy master’s from SPS also provides graduates with a solid foundation for their own entrepreneurial goals as well as fast-paced opportunities in research, risk management, strategic planning and law. Learn how some of our Northwestern graduates are using their master’s in public administration and policy by reading their student stories.

Should I get a master’s in public policy?

Going back to school for a master’s in public policy and administration can feel like a daunting decision, but there are many compelling reasons why you might choose to pursue this degree. If you are looking to get ahead in your current career or switch fields, earning a public policy and administration master’s can help you attain your professional goals by making you eligible for leadership roles, expanding your network, and equipping you with the skills and confidence needed to assess and develop effective policies. Looking for greater fulfillment in your work? Customize your MPPA degree experience by choosing the specialization that speaks to your interests and consider a role in a public or non-profit organization for the opportunity to effect positive change in your world.

What are the benefits of earning an MPPA from Northwestern?

Our multi-disciplinary master’s in public policy and administration curriculum challenges students to expand their perspectives and abilities with courses in statistics, global policy, data analysis, non-profits and more. You’ll have the opportunity to learn from award-winning faculty with robust field experience and forge valuable connections to strengthen your professional network. To further prepare you for your plans after completing your public policy master’s, Northwestern also offers all degree-seeking students access to comprehensive career development resources during and up to six months after graduation to help you achieve your goals. Find out why U.S. News and World Report has ranked Northwestern ninth nationally among U.S. universities; submit your application today to begin classes next quarter.

How does an MPPA degree differ from an MPP or MPA?

Northwestern’s master’s in public policy and administration differs from traditional MPP or MPA programs in that it combines elements and coursework from both areas of study to give students a more comprehensive education. While an MPP prepares you to analyze and create the policies that shape our world, an MPA focuses more on policy implementation through budgeting and management. Graduates of Northwestern’s combined MPPA program—one of the only degrees of its kind—will be well prepared to pursue careers in fields related to both or either of those associated with MPP or MPA degrees.

What are the prerequisites for the MPPA program?

All applicants to the accelerated and online master’s in public policy and administration programs must have a four-year college degree from a U.S.-accredited institution or foreign equivalent. While the admissions committee does review each application holistically, strong candidates will have academic and/or professional experience, field experience, and a solid understanding of how the master’s in public administration and policy degree will advance their future goals.

Which version of the MPPA program is right for me?

The SPS master’s in public policy and administration offers two different tracks—the part-time online option and the one-year accelerated option. Students in the online public policy master’s program can take courses at their own pace, typically one or two classes per quarter, and learn from anywhere through virtual classes. This option is best for those who prefer to continue working full-time while enrolled in the program or who cannot commute to the Chicago and Evanston campuses. Local students, however, still have the option to attend select evening classes in-person. In the one-year accelerated master’s in public administration and policy, students take a blend of day, evening, and online classes at a rate of three per quarter. This option is great for students who can devote more time to their studies and are looking to obtain their degree on a shorter timeline. International students enrolled in the accelerated public policy master’s are also eligible for student visas.

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