Online Public Policy Degrees

Updated August 24, 2023

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Top Public Policy Degrees

A bachelor's degree in public policy often qualifies graduates for entry-level local, state, or federal civil service positions. Graduates can choose to focus on a specific practice area, such as finance, human resources, or organizational leadership.

A bachelor's degree in public policy satisfies the educational admission requirements of several postgraduate programs. A master's can lead to jobs such as political scientists or economists, both high-paying jobs in growth-oriented professional areas. Several schools now offer a public policy degree online, further opening the field to students worldwide.

Our guide provides a ranking of the top public policy degrees and outlines their costs, career outlooks, and scholarship opportunities. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Top 10 Programs for Public Policy

Bachelor's in Public Policy Frequently Asked Questions

What is public policy?

Public policy refers to the body of laws and regulations drafted and adopted by local and state governments.

What kinds of jobs can you get with a public policy degree?

Public policy degree-holders typically qualify for jobs in policy research, community relations, or city management, largely depending on their professional interest.

Is a public policy degree worth it?

A bachelor's degree in public policy allows students to develop fundamental skills vital to the field, including data analysis, critical thinking, and communication.

What is the difference between public policy and public administration?

Public policy focuses on research and data analysis to draft laws and regulations. Public administration focuses on the proper implementation of those policies.

A public policy degree gives students a firm foundation with coursework in policy analysis, legislative and administrative processes, and research methodologies. Most public policy programs include an internship experience, allowing students to build a professional network even before graduation.

Students can pursue a public policy degree online to take advantage of the flexibility and convenience of an off-campus program. Public policy majors pursuing an online program at an in-state institution often save a significant amount of money. They qualify for lower resident tuition and do not pay additional housing and transportation costs.

How Much Does a Public Policy Degree Cost?

National Center for Education Statistics data reports that attendance at public four-year institutions cost on average $20,598 for 2018-19. Students enrolled at private institutions paid an average of $44,662. The amounts include tuition, fees, room and board.

Online enrollees, who do not incur additional on-campus room and board expenses, paid significantly lower amounts. Tuition and fees came to $7,250 for public colleges and universities and $31,519 for private institutions. The typical cost of a bachelor's degree in public policy likely comes close to these figures.

Students in accelerated online programs often end up paying less for their education since they enroll for fewer semesters. An earlier graduation also means they enter the workforce and start receiving a paycheck sooner.

Calculating the Cost of a College Degree

Students can compare actual attendance costs among schools by using the affordability calculator below. A school's website often contains much of the required information. Keep in mind that some institutions allow out-of-state online students to pay in-state tuition. Since capitalizing on this option can yield significant savings, students should find out if they qualify.

Break down your current financial situation, and receive a college tuition estimate you can afford to pay.

Public policy majors who become policy analysts can earn close to $60,000 annually, according to March 2021 PayScale data. Mid-career policy analysts with five years or more of experience earn $66,000-$73,000. Public policy degree-holders who pursue a master's often see their professional opportunities and income potential improve. Master's trained public policy practitioners can qualify for growth-oriented, highly paid positions including political scientists, economists, or urban and regional planners.

Public policy bodes well in terms of career growth and higher income potential, especially for practitioners with experience and advanced degrees. However, many public policy professionals likely enter the field not for the outlook, but for internal motivations. They want to make a difference in people's lives by influencing the laws that govern them. Public policy remains a field of practice that gives practitioners the opportunity to affect positive change in society.

Courses in Public Policy

A bachelor's degree in public policy typically includes classes in economics, quantitative research, and political science. Many programs include leadership and ethics coursework to provide students a balanced, interdisciplinary framework of public policy practice and processes. The courses below represent a sample of common subjects offered in many public policy programs.

Analytic Foundations for Public Policy

Students explore the tools, models, and concepts of public policymaking. They evaluate different analytical perspectives to develop a deeper understanding of policy practices and outcomes. The course covers incrementalism versus rational approaches to policymaking, globalization of public policy, and the different stakeholders and actors in the policy process.

Social Justice Issues in Public Policy

The class introduces core theories and advocacy strategies that promote public policy reform around various issues, including racial justice and gender bias. Enrollees examine real-world problems from an interdisciplinary standpoint and learn about various components that shape and impact public policy.

Statistics for Public Policy

The course familiarizes participants with tools for evaluating and producing quantitative research specifically for the public policy field. Students examine the goals and framework of social scientific inquiry. Learners also study the different statistical tools and techniques for effective public policy analysis.

Certifications and Licensure for Public Policy

States do not currently require professionals working in public policy to hold a license. Depending on their area of interest or expertise, public policy practitioners can earn a credential in diverse professional arenas, including those below.

Graduation Cap

Certified Business Analysis Professional

Although a business credential, many of the skills and knowledge areas hold relevance in the public policy domain. Candidates need extensive work history in business analysis and at least 35 hours of professional development within fours years of applying for the credential.

Graduation Cap

Certified Government Financial Manager

Public policy degree-holders with two years of work experience in government financial management can earn this credential after passing three comprehensive exams. The Association of Government Accountants administers the credential, attesting the holder's knowledge and competency in governmental financial reporting, budgeting, and internal controls.

Graduation Cap

ICMA Credentialed Manager

The International City/County Management Association issues this credential for members working full time in an appointed local government management position. Candidates undergo a peer review process to earn the credential. Local governing bodies recognize the credential's value and the expertise that credential-holders bring to organizations and communities.

Scholarships for Public Policy

Institutions offering a public policy degree online or on campus often give enrollees equal access to scholarship opportunities. Public policy majors can also find financial aid options from professional organizations and private nonprofit agencies with ties to the field, including the two below.

Dr. Julianne Malveaux Scholarship

Who Can Apply: African American female public policy students of at least sophomore status can apply to this National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Club, Inc. scholarship. Applicants must show a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Amount: Varies

Minorities in Government Finance Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The Government Finance Officers Association welcomes applications from graduate or upper-level undergraduate students. Candidates must belong to a minority group and pursue a degree preparing them for a public sector career, preferably with a focus on government finance.

Amount: $10,000

Online Bachelor's In Public Policy Programs 2021

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Emma Yenko

With an undergraduate degree in communications and a master's in education, Emma finds writing for the education vertical to be the perfect niche.

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