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Master of Public Policy (On-Campus)

Tamari Ramishvili, SPA/MPP '17
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Shaping Future Policy

Tomorrow’s policy analysts and change-makers start here. The mission of The Master of Public Policy (MPP) at the AU School of Public Affairs is to prepare students to advance the quality of policy making in a variety of institutional settings. Accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA), our program instills a blend of substantive analytical skills and contextual knowledge. 

World-Class Instruction, Personalized Attention

Students in the MPP program gain insights from leading policy scholars in education, health, social welfare, the environment, and international development. You’ll learn how to create and evaluate public policy and effectively share that analysis with stakeholders. Our students explore policy analysis in the context of political and policy processes in the U.S. and abroad. They learn to improve policy using sound evidence and evaluations of costs and benefits. Small class sizes help students learn about cutting-edge research tools and apply them to issue areas that matter.

Rich Real-World Experiences

Class time is balanced with experiential learning opportunities. Located in the epicenter of public affairs, where leaders in government and public policy and administration practice their craft, Washington, DC offers unparalleled resources for research, internships, and employment. Campus life is rich with policy talks, conferences, and active student groups. You’ll also find resources and experts at the many academic research centers in the School of Public Affairs, including the Center for Environmental Policy, the Washington Institute for Public Affairs Research, and the Metropolitan Policy Center.

Designed for Flexible Learning

AU’s MPP program allows you to align your degree with your career goals. With 11 concentrations, flexible platforms upon which you can form personalized areas of expertise and showcase them on your resume, online portfolios, LinkedIn, and other social media profiles. Most class schedules cater to both full-time and part-time students. Classes start at 5:30 p.m. on weekdays to allow for work and internships.

Position Yourself for Success

Our MPP program will set you up for success in a competitive marketplace. Graduates emerge from the program ready to bring about policy change in the government, non-profit, and private sectors. Whether you want to work locally or globally, the MPP program will arm you with the skills to make important contributions to the world of public policy.


This concentration introduces students to social welfare policy programs and interventions aimed at improving social and economic well-being within the United States. This coverage includes a range of programs, policies, and reforms primarily targeted towards families with children. The concentration broadly exposes students to education, health, food assistance, housing, and income support programs designed to promote upward economic mobility and economic security. Several courses within the concentration address current issues in social policy and poverty studies, while providing important historical context. 

This concentration offers an understanding of the historical, political, economic, and policy context of the U.S. healthcare and public health systems and those around the world. Courses are designed to provide a framework for and sharpen the analytical skills necessary for developing and evaluating health-related policies and interventions.

This concentration allows students to gain an appreciation for the issues faced by policymakers and analysts working on education and related issues in the U.S. and abroad. Students in this concentration will learn to critically evaluate research on education policy while being introduced to a variety of education policy topics, such as inequalities in education, school finance, health and education, charters and vouchers, teachers and accountability, access to higher education, and early childhood programs.

Students who wish to work on policy as it relates to global issues, particularly those affecting the developing world, will benefit from this concentration. Topics include the unique challenges of administering public programs in developing countries and the methods by which development projects are carried out, the role of foreign aid on good governance, the interplay of various actors involved in development (such as NGOs and INGOs), and intergovernmental finance. Students can choose from traditional course offerings in development within the School of Public Affairs and the School of International Service, as well as courses with a development lens in the Economics Department of the College of Arts and Sciences.

The concentration in science, technology and environmental policy examines how public officials bring to bear the full presence of science onto critical issues confronting society. While emphasizing global climate change and environmental protection, the concentration also addresses policy issues arising from pandemics, changes in computer technology, robotics, genetics, energy production, national security, and space exploration. Faculty working in the specialization give special attention to ethical concerns, the interplay of culture and technology and the use of science to promote innovation, counter anti-science feelings and devise new forms of governance.

This concentration provides students the cutting-edge tools of program evaluation necessary to estimate causal impacts of existing and proposed policies in both experimental and non-experimental settings, and to assess the internal and external validity of estimates. These courses can be combined with a related course in cost-benefit analysis. In addition, the methods-based courses can be combined with topical courses in specific policy areas, such as education, social, environmental, and health policy.

This concentration provides students with an understanding of the legal issues that policymakers and analysts encounter within the area of criminal justice. An emphasis is placed on constitutional criminal procedure under the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution as well as on impermissible conditions of confinement and remedial law under the Eighth Amendment. Basic aspects of constitutional tort law and administrative law are also covered as they impact the administration of criminal justice. 

This concentration helps students analyze the ways in which different countries address common domestic policies such as health, education, and social services, as well as how countries interact on issues of an international scope, such as global security policy. Some questions that students will explore include: Why does the same policy work in Germany, but not in South Korea? What if a country has a parliament instead of a president? How can we explain different approaches and policies towards Covid-19 in different countries? This concentration is rooted in the university’s traditional course offerings in comparative politics and area studies in the School of Public Affairs and the School of International Service, coupled with courses dealing with global issues in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Degree Requirements

The Master of Public Policy (MPP) requires 39 credit hours of approved graduate work for students entering the program with a bachelor's degree. Required core courses comprise 30 credit hours, with an additional 9 hours in an area of concentration. A minimum grade point average of 3.0 in all coursework is required to remain in good standing and to earn the degree. Full-time status is considered to be 9 credit hours per semester. Students are expected to complete the degree within two years, including one summer.

Public Policy Practicum

The Public Policy Practicum (PUAD-688) exposes students to the institutional, legal, and ethical dimensions of policy analysis in organizational settings. It tests critical thinking, research, and writing skills using a client-based policy analysis project. The Practicum, taken in the final semester of study, is offered in fall and spring semesters only.


Students without an extensive professional background in public policy participate in either a for-credit or non-credit internship relevant to this field. If you are taking the internship for credit, you will register for the course as part of your concentration. If you have a non-credit internship, you will be required to complete a survey on your experience.

More information about course requirements can be found here.

For more information, please contact the SPA Graduate Admissions Office at 202-885-6230 or

The School of Public Affairs operates on a rolling admissions basis for our graduate programs. Applications are reviewed on an ongoing basis until programs reach capacity.

While previous academic or professional work in public policy is not required, SPA values applicants who have acquired practical experience before beginning their degree program. Your personal statement about your background, career interests, and reasons for pursuing graduate study in the program will be essential, along with the other required application materials.

Under certain circumstances, you may be able to substitute test scores from similar tests, such as the GMAT or LSAT, for the GRE. If you received your undergraduate degree more than five years before applying to the program, you may be able to waive the requirement for test scores altogether.

For more information, please contact the SPA Graduate Admissions Office at 202-885-6230 or

The Master of Public Policy (MPP) is a 39-credit-hour program. To estimate the cost of tuition, please see the current cost per credit hour for graduate students.

The School of Public Affairs offers graduate students both merit-based and need-based financial aid. Merit awards and named scholarships are administered by the SPA Graduate Admissions Office, while need-based awards are administered by the American University Office of Financial Aid. Additional financial support is available for veterans.

All merit awards are based on your academic merit and professional experience, specifically your undergraduate grades and leadership activities as well as career-related accomplishments. Merit awards are valid for one year-they vary in amount, are typically divided evenly between the fall and spring semesters, and are not typically renewable.

Frequently Asked Questions

Our Master of Public Policy (MPP) degree emphasizes evidence-based ideas and approaches and the use of data and research methodologies to find solutions to policy challenges. Our Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree delves more into leadership in public and nonprofit organizations, the organizational environment, and the analysis of public management issues. As an example, the Social Policy concentration in the MPP program and the Social Policy focus area the MPA program may cover similar topics and may even offer some of the same courses and faculty, but the courses will have different emphases depending on the program you’re pursuing.

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