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Dec 14, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Public policy studies offer graduates a deep dive into the inner workings of how governments work -- voting, regulations, court decisions, federal, state, and local laws -- and how we, the people, interact with all of it.

What makes it interesting? Well, it’s not all the nitty gritty of political systems, for starters. While politics is one way to affect public policy, communicating with people to change and shape public opinion is another key aspect of the field.

Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of a public policy degree.

Why a modern career?

A career in public policy affords you the opportunity to work across a variety of sectors with different roles and responsibility. These range from the private sector, to NGOs, and government work. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to a public policy degree.

Students in the subject come from a wide range of backgrounds. Some have studied political science or sociology – however, the only real pre-requisite is being committed to making a difference in society.

In addition to studying politics, students in public policy also study economics in depth, as this field has a profound impact on politics, with many economic issues seen through political lenses. See for example the political ramifications of the financial crisis of around a decade ago. 

A degree in public policy can help students understand political and economic shifts such as these, in the US or elsewhere, and also develop a deep understanding of economic theory, policy analysis, decision theory, and institutional frameworks within which policy is constructed.

With knowledge of politics both at ground level and also ‘behind the scenes’, graduates in the subject are fully equipped to navigate the complex yet fascinating political environment in which we live, in whatever career specialization they choose to pursue.

In addition to a variety of sectors, public policy is important and necessary at every level -- local, district, state, and federal levels. And a degree in the subject gives you the tools you need to succeed in a modern career at any level.

One place to study the subject

The Master of Public Policy (MPP) at UC San Diego ensures its graduates leave the program with a toolbox of analytical skills as well as applicable knowledge of contemporary political and economic issues. You will study at a highly ranked international institutionearn your interdisciplinary public policy degree in two years, and be qualified to enter the private, public, or not-for-profit sectors anywhere in the world.

David Robertson, Director of the School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) career services at UC San Diego, explains the degree is “interdisciplinary, the students get a wide range of training in policy, politics, economics, and quantitative methods.”

Peter Cowhey, GPS Dean, adds, “One of the things that we take pride in is that in the core required courses your teachers are from research faculty. We do that so we can translate the state of our research that those professors are leaders in right into the course. As you move in the specialized courses there are several professors who are distinguished career practitioners who offer additional courses as sort of a hands-on training. For example, the former commander of the US 7th fleet and the former head of the US Export-Import Bank.”

Also, the program has a distinct focus on integrating public policy with science and other STEM fields. Robertson says, “The GPS is part of UC San Diego which is one of the top research institutions in the US and it’s the hub of the technology industry in San Diego. Our belief was that we had a natural advantage in developing this, whether in the public sector or the private sector. 

He adds, “The specialization includes, and this is very different from other schools, the option to be involved in science and technology policy which is a growing interest of students over time. In our faculty we have several PhDs in the natural sciences [who] are also skilled policy analysts who make sure that the training in science is quite rigorous.”

Graduates have the upper hand at graduation, too. Robertson says, “At graduation about 40% of students have jobs or go into further education, it increases by 5 to 10% per month until about the six months point, at which it’s about 90%.” That’s right: nine out of ten graduates from the program are fully employed six months after graduation.

Interested? Learn more about the Master of Public Policy (MPP) program at UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy.

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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