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Online Bachelor's Degree Programs in Public Policy

Rankings, Salaries & Courses

Updated on: 12/04/2018
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The following page provides an overview of the best online bachelor's degree in public policy programs in 2018. Below, you can learn about possible coursework, future careers, scholarship opportunities, and how to select the program that fits you. You can also learn about the benefits of earning your public policy degree online, namely flexibility, accessibility, and reduced tuition costs.

The current Job Growth 2016-2026 climate offers a wide variety of opportunities to students who hold a bachelor's in public policy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects most careers in public policy will grow substantially over the next decade, including a forecasted 13.2% growth rate in the number of nonprofit management positions through 2026. As such, earning a public policy degree online in 2018 should continue to pay dividends in the Job Growth 2016-2026 market over the next decade.

How Much Can You Make in a Public Policy Career?

Earning a public policy degree online opens up a myriad of job opportunities to graduates. While no degree can guarantee employment, individuals who hold a bachelor's in public policy can pursue fields such as law, nonprofit management, politics, and compliance. Additionally, the BLS projects that nearly all possible careers in the field will grow at rates above or equal to the 7% national average. For example, the BLS projects the number of paralegal and nonprofit management jobs to grow by 15% and 18%, respectively.

Job Growth 2016-2026: 8.2%
Job Description

Compliance officers ensure that businesses adhere to laws and regulations. They focus on environmental or financial compliance, among other areas. In most cases, compliance officers either work in-house for a company — ensuring their compliance to regulations — or for national agencies, auditing companies on behalf of the federal government. Familiarity with public policy and law can help you earn this position.

Job Growth 2016-2026: 13.2%
Job Description

Often working for nonprofit, governmental, or social service groups, these managers coordinate an organization's finances, marketing, donations, and programs. In most cases, a bachelor's degree and relevant nonprofit work experience separate top candidates from the pack. As such, earning your public policy degree online can help you become more competitive for these positions.

Job Growth 2016-2026: 14.6%
Job Description

Paralegals serve as support staff members for lawyers, often performing tasks such as research, filing, and drafting documents. They generally work for large law firms and receive substantial on-the-job training. Some familiarity with public policy and law, though not a requirement, can help you stand out as an applicant for paralegal positions.

Job Growth 2016-2026: 2.7%
Job Description

Political scientists analyze political trends and study the history, development, and function of politics, parties, structures, and systems. In most cases, political scientists must hold a Ph.D. or a master's degree. Nevertheless, earning a public policy degree online often serves as the first step toward earning these positions.

Job Growth 2016-2026: 8.2%
Job Description

Lawyers often specialize in a specific legal field, providing advice, counsel, and representation to individuals, groups, and organizations. Some lawyers practice in the courtroom, while others do not. Though students must graduate from law school and pass the bar to become lawyers, a bachelor's in public policy can start you on that path.

Sources: BLS 2018

The following list provides data about salaries and job growth for reporters and correspondents in all 50 states. Salaries vary from state to state because job demand and the cost of living vary by state. For example, media hubs like New York City and Los Angeles offer higher salaries due to their higher demand for reporters and their higher cost of living, while more remote locations offer less demand and a lower cost of living. As such, New York and California offer both the highest concentration of reporter and correspondent jobs and the highest median salaries according to the BLS. Public policy graduates should pay attention to job growth rates in their desired areas, as this reflects the extent to which your degree will help you get hired in the future.

What Courses Can be Taken for an Online Public Policy Degree?

Public policy bachelor's degree online curricula include a variety of courses, as public servants must have a wide range of skills. Possible topics include research, leadership, economics, and writing. Below, we provide a sample public policy curriculum. While most programs share many core courses in common, students should check schools directly to see specific courses, electives, and degree requirements.

Public Service and Policy in the 21st Century

This survey course serves as an introductory option for students pursuing a public policy degree. Topics include history and development in the public sector.

Leadership and Change

This course discusses leadership theory and methods. In addition, students learn and discuss how to create change at both organizational and societal levels.

Persuasive Writing on Public Issues

Writing is an essential skill for any public servant or leader. This advanced course delves into techniques for analyzing and creating research-based persuasive writing.

Public Policy Economics

This course provides an overview of microeconomics topics as they relate to public policy, including individual consumer and firm behavior and market failures and governmental corrections.

Public Policy Research Methods

This survey course provides an overview of quantitative and qualitative research methods in addition to research design as it relates to public policy.

How to Choose the Best Online Public Policy Program

Students should consider several factors when deciding which online public policy program they want to pursue. These include tuition cost, synchronous or asynchronous delivery method, school reputation, requirements, direct-experience opportunities, and program and school accreditation. In the following section, we answer some frequently asked questions that students ask while wondering which online bachelor's degree in public policy they should pursue.

Do I need to enroll in a program that is accredited? What accreditations does my program need?

You should only enroll in schools and programs with regional accreditation. The U.S. Department of Education and Council of Higher Education oversee the regional accreditation process — in which evaluators visit schools and vet programs and operations against standardized criteria.

National accreditation provides an added bonus, focusing on specific fields. In the public policy, administration and affairs fields, the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration oversees national/programmatic accreditation.

Will I need to complete an internship or a practicum experience?

Internship, practicum, and experience requirements vary from program to program. However, perhaps a better question reads "Should I complete an internship?" Direct experience in the field not only provides you with invaluable employment connections, it also makes you eligible for certain scholarships and funding opportunities. In many cases, internships or practicum experiences help employers differentiate among entry-level job applicants.

Should I look for a specific curriculum focus or concentration?

If you have a specific career in mind — such as law or political science — you may want to seek out an appropriate concentration within your online bachelor's degree in public policy. However, if you just know that you generally want to work in the field, a general public policy degree should serve you well in the workforce.

How can this degree help me fulfill my professional goals?

In many cases, graduates use a public policy degree as a springboard either directly into the workforce or into academia or law. In the latter cases, students can use strong undergraduate public policy performance to secure admission to law school or political science Ph.D. programs. As long as you want to work in some capacity in public administration, policy, or affairs, earning a public policy degree online makes sense as both a short-term and a long-term investment.

How much should my public policy degree online cost?

According to National Center for Education statistics, the average four-year university charged $26,120 in annual tuition as of 2016. As such, students can expect to pay as much as $100,000 for their bachelor's in public policy. Nevertheless, as we discuss in the following section, students can seek out scholarships, grants, or federal aid to reduce the cost of tuition. Additionally, many schools allow online students to pay either in-state tuition or otherwise reduced tuition compared with on-campus students.

Scholarships & Financial Aid for Public Policy Programs

The following table provides a list of five specific scholarships that can help students pursuing their public policy degree online finance their education. Students can pay for their education in many ways, including by pursuing federal aid or student loans. Moreover, grants and scholarships provide students with funding that they do not need to pay back.

The American Association of University Women Career Development Grants

AAUW offers research, advocacy, and other resources that help women gain access to STEM education and enter STEM fields. The organization's career development grants provide between $2,000 and $12,000 to women pursuing higher education in the U.S. The organization gives priority to first-generation college students and women of color. The committee also takes financial need into account. Applicants must submit a budget, essays, recommendations, and a form.

Antonio Jorge Foundation Political Economy Scholarship

A subsidiary of the Dr. Antonio Jorge Socio-Economic Development Council of Miami-Dade County, this foundation focuses on awarding scholarships and publishing research. The scholarship aims to advance the field of political economy by awarding $500 to two Miami-based students currently studying fields like public policy, history, economics, public administration, political science, or international relations. Students may apply by filling out a form on the foundation's website.

Cameron Impact Scholarship

The Bryan Cameron awards around 10-15 scholarships each December to high school seniors who want to pursue public service, although the organization describes its scholarship criteria as "intentionally broad." All applicants must possess a minimum GPA of 3.7; demonstrate leadership, extracurricular interests, and potential for community impact; and participate in community service. The organization awards the scholarship — which covers full tuition and expenses — for four years.

Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership Scholarships

CAPAL exists to "empower Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander youth by increasing access to public service opportunities." CAPAL's scholarships carry out that mission, providing funding to Asian American students who earn public policy-related internships in Washington D.C. Through a partnership with the Midwest Asian American Students Union, the organization also awards scholarships to undergraduate students pursuing public service-related fields at schools in certain Midwestern States.

Tau Kappa Epsilon Bruce B. Melchert Scholarship

Tau Kappa Epsilon is an international fraternity based in Bloomington, Indiana. TKE awards the Bruce B. Melchert Scholarship to one of its members every year. The recipient must be a sophomore and hold a GPA of at least 3.0. The recipient must also study political science, government, public policy, public administration, or a related field. TKE gives preference to applicants who hold an officer position within the fraternity.