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Getting a masters in public policy? Expect a salary bump

Katie Schenk - November 19, 2018

Prodigy Finance considers public policy salaries

Public policy and administration is a wide, wide field. People working in this sector don’t have many similarities with each other – except for a dedication to serving the people where they live. 

Where and what people work on and how much they earn for that work varies greatly.

Contrary to popular opinion, public policy isn’t limited to government work. Private companies and health care providers are among the biggest employers of public policy and administration graduates (at any level of education). And, of course, there are plenty of international positions available.

What can you do with a masters in public policy?

Employment opportunities are almost endless for those with a masters in public policy; there’s a long list of employers to work for and sectors to work in.

While salaries will naturally reflect the realities of the sector and type of organisation you work with, you should be able to find a combination that motivates you to make a difference.


  • National governments
  • State governments
  • Local governments
  • International organisations
  • Non-governmental organisations
  • Non-profit organisations


  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Security and intelligence
  • Human rights
  • Poverty alleviation
  • International law
  • Science and technology

Just as there’s a range of employers and sectors, you can expect a variety of positions available to those with a masters in public policy. 

Top positions

If you're striving for a top salary or a position where you can really show off your MPP skills, you might be looking at one of these positions:
  • Economic Development Director
  • Executive Nonprofit Director
  • Human Resources Director
  • Public Affairs Director
  • Public Relations Consultant
  • Research Director

Job title

Mean annual salary¹ 

Acquisition manager


Budget analyst


Human resources manager


Information resource manager


Programme analyst


Public relations and fundraising manager


Is a public policy masters worth it?

As with any career path or field of education, an advanced degree isn’t necessary for everyone. But, a masters will always open your career possibilities and earning potential.

According to the US Census Bureau, Master’s in Public Policy (MPP) graduates earn an average of $19,000 more than their counterparts with bachelors degrees.² 

Some surveys suggest that MPP grads can expect a 31% increase in their salary.

It’s difficult to know what that means, however, given the broad range of industries and starting salaries. The work you do will affect your take home pay.

What do Masters in Public Policy grads actually earn?

According to Study.com, MPP degree holders earn relatively high salaries



Political scientists

Policy analysts


Median Salary





PayScale.com, provides an idea of the range of public policy salaries.⁴

They place the lowest salaries around $41K, with a high-end at $124K. 

However, it’s worth noting that they draw their information from voluntary sources in the US only.

For potential MPP and MPA applicants, it may be more useful to consider the public policy salaries reported to their alma maters.

Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College*

Mean salary

Median salary

Minimum salary

Maximum salary





* Reported MPP 2017 grad salaries

Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs*

Public sector median

Private sector median

Non-profit sector median




* Reported MBA 2017 grad salaries; additional breakdowns available within each sector

Every source considers different criteria, and just like the people working in this sector, there is a range. Fortunately, it’s a healthy one. 

And, the increase is reiterated by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA).⁷ This organisation has members in 15 countries and is the recognised body providing accreditation for MPA, MPP and similar degrees in higher learning institutions.

Given that the US government suggests masters in public policy salaries are $19,000 higher than positions occupied by those with bachelors degrees only, the investment is worth it.

How do public policy salaries translate across international boundaries?

It can be frustrating for international students to continually see figures reported in USD for positions in the United States. 

While students in Western Europe and a few other parts of the world can expect comparative salaries and positions, those in developing countries operate on different economic levels.

Anyone considering international study towards an MPP or MPA degree should take a close look at the employment reports of graduates at top schools such as Carnegie Mellon and Columbia University, or any of these programmes for an understanding of public policy salaries for masters grads. 

Though the individual salaries aren’t reported for the sake of privacy, it is possible to determine a range through the positions and locations of grads.

The question isn’t, however, how much you’ll earn but what are you waiting for? 

Prodigy Finance offers loans to international students at more than 20 schools, and the number continues to grow. If you’re considering an international MPP, MPA, or a similar Master’s degree, isn’t it time to take the plunge?

 ¹ bls.gov

² careersinpublichealth.net/resources/mpp-public-policy-salary-outlook

³ study.com/articles/Career_and_Salary_Info_for_a_Masters_in_Public_Policy_Degree.html

⁴ payscale.com/research/US/Degree=Master_of_Public_Policy_(MPP)/Salary

⁵ heinz.cmu.edu/heinz-shared/_files/img/career-services-pages/employment-reports/msppm-2017-graduates.pdf

⁶ sipa.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/2017_MPA_Employment_Overview.pdf

⁷ naspaa.org/about_naspaa/naspaa.asp

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