Policy Studies vs. Public Administration

What's the difference?

The Master of Arts in Policy Studies degree and a traditional Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree may overlap in some areas of content or focus, but there are some basic differences.

Because the MA in Policy Studies is part of the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, we take a deliberately interdisciplinary approach to Policy Studies, drawing on multiple areas of inquiry, including Political Science, Economics, Sociology, Psychology, Philosophy, and more. In the program you develop the skills that are considered to be the heart of liberal arts education: critical thinking, research, analysis, writing and speaking, philosophical and ethical analysis, and historical and cultural understanding. Many MPA programs, in contrast, focus more on building discrete skills in areas such as budgeting, management, or forecasting, and each course typically focuses on a single area. Because of its interdisciplinary approach, the Policy Studies program incorporates the learning of these and other skills within each class.

Moreover, because the Policy Studies program is a Master of Arts degree, it places emphasis on building a strong theoretical foundation for policy research, whereas an MPA program generally emphasizes public administration. The MA in Policy Studies can serve as an effective springboard for scholarly work at the doctoral level.