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Public Policy Major

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Public Policy

3,219 Master's Degrees Annually
232 Doctor's Degrees Annually
#52 in Popularity (Master's)
$99,480 Median Salary

Types of Degrees Public Policy Majors Are Getting

The following table lists how many public policy graduations there were in 2018-2019 for each degree level.

Education Level Number of Grads
Master’s Degree 3,219
Graduate Certificate 250
Doctor’s Degree 232

What Public Policy Majors Need to Know

In an O*NET survey, public policy majors were asked to rate what knowledge areas, skills, and abilities were important in their occupations. These answers were weighted on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the most important.

Knowledge Areas for Public Policy Majors

Public Policy majors often go into careers in which the following knowledge areas are important:

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  • English Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • Education and Training - Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
  • Law and Government - Knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, and the democratic political process.
  • Customer and Personal Service - Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
  • Mathematics - Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.

Skills for Public Policy Majors

public policy majors are found most commonly in careers in which the following skills are important:

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  • Speaking - Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Reading Comprehension - Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
  • Active Listening - Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Writing - Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
  • Critical Thinking - Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

Abilities for Public Policy Majors

A major in public policy will prepare for your careers in which the following abilities are important:

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  • Oral Expression - The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Written Comprehension - The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
  • Oral Comprehension - The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Written Expression - The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
  • Speech Clarity - The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.

What Can You Do With a Public Policy Major?

People with a public policy degree often go into the following careers:

Job Title Job Growth Rate Median Salary
Education Professors 10.3% $64,780
Health Specialties Professors 25.9% $97,370
Legislators 7.0% $24,670
Medical and Health Services Managers 20.5% $99,730
Political Science Professors 10.4% $83,370
Political Scientists 2.7% $117,570
Transportation Planners 6.7% $81,340

Who Is Getting a Master’s Degree in Public Policy?

3,219 Master's Degrees Annually
57% Percent Women
25% Percent Racial-Ethnic Minorities*
The major attracts more women than men. About 57% of the recent graduates in this field are female.

Racial-Ethnic Diversity

At the countrywide level, the racial-ethnic distribution of public policy majors is as follows:

Racial-Ethnic Diversity of Public Policy Students with Master's Degrees
Race/Ethnicity Number of Grads
Asian 227
Black or African American 225
Hispanic or Latino 261
White 1,525
International Students 760
Other Races/Ethnicities 221

Geographic Diversity

Students from other countries are interested in Public Policy, too. About 23.6% of those with this major are international students. The most popular countries for students from outside the country are:

  • China
  • South Korea
  • India
  • Mexico
  • Japan

How Much Do Public Policy Majors Make?

Master’s Degree Starting Salary

The median early-career salary of public policy students with a master’s degree is $58,650 a year according to 2017-2018 data from the U.S. Department of Education. During this timeframe, most salaries fell between $52,750 (25th percentile) and $65,575 (75th percentile).

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We don’t know for sure if all of these people took jobs related to public policy so take that into consideration.

Salaries According to BLS

Average salaries range from $73,680 to $115,300 (25th to 75th percentile) for careers related to public policy. This range includes all degree levels, so the salary for a person with just a bachelor’s degree may be a little less and the one for a person with an advanced degree may be a little more.

To put that into context, according to BLS data from the first quarter of 2020, the typical high school graduate makes between $30,000 and $57,900 a year (25th through 75th percentile). The average person with a bachelor’s degree (any field) makes between $45,600 and $99,000. Advanced degree holders make the most with salaries between $55,600 and $125,400.

Median Salary for a Public Policy Major  ( 73680 to 115300 )
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250K
Median Salary for a High School Graduate  ( 30000 to 57900 )
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250K
Median Salary for a Bachelor's Degree Holder  ( 45600 to 99000 )
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250K
Median Salary for an Advanced Degree Holder  ( 55600 to 125400 )
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250K

Some careers associated with public policy require an advanced degree while some may not even require a bachelor’s. Whatever the case may be, pursuing more education usually means that more career options will be available to you.

Find out what the typical degree level is for public policy careers below.

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Education Level Percentage of Workers
Post-Secondary Certificate - awarded for training completed after high school (for example, in agriculture or natural resources, computer services, personal or culinary services, engineering technologies, healthcare, construction trades, mechanic and repair technologies, or precision production) 0.4%
Associate’s Degree (or other 2-year degree) 3.8%
Bachelor’s Degree 25.5%
Post-Baccalaureate Certificate - awarded for completion of an organized program of study; designed for people who have completed a Baccalaureate degree but do not meet the requirements of academic degrees carrying the title of Master. 1.3%
Master’s Degree 15.1%
Post-Master’s Certificate - awarded for completion of an organized program of study; designed for people who have completed a Master’s degree but do not meet the requirements of academic degrees at the doctoral level. 0.0%
Doctoral Degree 51.1%
Post-Doctoral Training 3.1%

Online Public Policy Programs

In the 2018-2019 academic year, 195 schools offered some type of public policy program. The following table lists the number of programs by degree level, along with how many schools offered online courses in the field.

Degree Level Colleges Offering Programs Colleges Offering Online Classes
Certificate (Less Than 1 Year) 4 0
Certificate (1-2 years) 0 0
Certificate (2-4 Years) 0 0
Associate’s Degree 2 0
Bachelor’s Degree 34 11
Post-Baccalaureate 4 0
Master’s Degree 119 11
Post-Master’s 11 0
Doctor’s Degree (Research) 54 0
Doctor’s Degree (Professional Practice) 0 0
Doctor’s Degree (Other) 0 0

Is a Degree in Public Policy Worth It?

The median salary for a public policy grad is $99,480 per year. This is based on the weighted average of the most common careers associated with the major.

This is 149% more than the average salary for an individual holding a high school degree. This adds up to a gain of about $1,191,600 after 20 years!

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You may also be interested in one of the following majors related to public policy.

Major Number of Grads
Social Work 32,304
Public Administration 13,942
Human Services 1,360
Community Organization & Advocacy 541
Other Public Administration 386

References

*The racial-ethnic minorities count is calculated by taking the total number of students and subtracting white students, international students, and students whose race/ethnicity was unknown. This number is then divided by the total number of students at the school to obtain the racial-ethnic minorities percentage.

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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