MPA Careers in Public Policy

Successful management in the public policy sector requires a capacity to integrate regional and local considerations and the ability to achieve desired outcomes within a complex tapestry of intergovernmental fiscal pressures, regulations and the political process. The program equips students with the tools to create new solutions to public administration problems — critical thinking, analytical reasoning, leadership and problem solving. The Price School is ranked 6th in Public Management/Administration by U.S. News & World Report, and students benefit from a teaching community that is at the forefront of research and real-world solutions.

Can an MPA Help Me Enter the Public Policy Field?

The USC Master of Public Administration online degree program focuses on intersectoral leadership. The capacity for leadership is especially important in a world of rapid change, where the future will be unlike the past and present. In such a world, successful managers must be able to forge relationships among neighborhoods, businesses, nonprofit organizations and city hall. Our online MPA, Public Policy concentration and Public Policy certificate are designed to help you do just that.

Through a multidisciplinary curriculumthat touches upon nonprofit, local government and public policy issues, our MPA positions you to develop the skills you need to take cutting-edge research about organization and social processes, combine it with practical experience, and apply it to craft and execute successful problem-solving strategies. Other key public policy skills you can learn with our online MPA include:

  • Strategic decision-making and planning in public agencies
  • Policy design, implementation, evaluation or termination
  • Ethical issues in public policy analysis

What Roles Can I Pursue with an MPA?

Public Policy Careers focus on policy creation and implementation. They can work within multiple sectors, including government agencies, nonprofit organizations or private corporations. Approximately 13% of USC MPA graduates work within the public policy field (2014 Employment Survey of USC MPA), though many public policy concentration graduates leverage their specialized expertise in other sectors.

As an MPA holder, your options in the public policy sector are varied. Some of the roles you can pursue include:

Political Scientist
Salary: $99,730

Political scientists research political concepts and analyze government policies, political trends and public administration issues. They do this by analyzing data from surveys and election results and conducting research to forecast political, economic and social trends. Political scientists may also work as policy analysts, professionals who work with organizations with a vested interest in political policies.

The average political scientist earns a salary of $99,730, while the top 10% earn more than $162,500 per year (BLS). Salaries for political scientists depend on the focus of their careers, which may be federal government, private services or educational institutions. These experts will be needed at research and policy organizations, though they may face strong competition for roles.

Salary: Varied

As elected officials, legislators are tasked with representing their constituents through law creation, implementation and modification. They work within the government, but unlike many other government careers, their responsibilities are audience-facing and lie within the realm of public policy.

Legislators do not have set salaries and they can vary widely between states, which means there are no average salaries available for this role. Salaries can range anywhere from $15,869 per year in Arkansas to $79,500 per year in New York (2014 NCSL State Legislator Compensation). As elections come and go, effective, dependable and strategic legislators will always be needed.

Our MPA in Action

Many of our alumni currently work in public policy settings, including the Los Angeles Business Council, California Building Industry Association, and Families in Schools. USC online MPA student Tom Bazan works as the assistant deputy director for research for the Legislative Research Unit and believes that his MPA will help him perform his daily responsibilities better and continue to serve his community.

“I like what I’m doing, and the biggest reason that I’m doing this [MPA] is to do what I’m doing better. I love that I’m able to help my community and help the legislature do their jobs better. The MPA program will empower me to better serve my community.”
— Tom Bazan, USC MPA Graduate

To read more about Tom Bazan and other alumni, visit our student testimonials page now.