MPA vs. MPP: Which Degree Is Right for You?In 2014, New York’s City Council quietly made history with the passage of laws that expanded paid sick leave and the funding of universal prekindergarten. As a result, more than 1.2 million New Yorkers had access to paid sick leave for the first time, and the number of local children enrolled in pre-K programs doubled within a year.

Working behind the scenes of these two acclaimed social policies was Charles D. Fall, who graduated with a Master of Public Administration from Dyson College of Arts and Sciences at Pace University that same year. When the bills became law, Fall was the Staten Island Borough Director and Citywide Islamic Liaison for Mayor Bill DeBlasio. Today, he serves as a New York Assembly member for the state’s 61st Assembly District. When Fall decided to leap headfirst into a career where he could use policy to improve community resources and opportunities, he pursued an MPA degree at Pace University.

If you’re interested in leadership roles that make a difference, you may be considering an MPA as well as other degrees like a Master of Public Policy (MPP). These two educational paths are related, but they have important differences in curriculum and outcomes.


When deciding between an MPA and an MPP, your career goals should remain top of mind. Both degrees offer a combination of comprehensive coursework and hands-on experience that will prove valuable in a number of fields, such as:

  • Government
  • Healthcare
  • Nonprofits
  • Education

Despite their similarities, the two degrees offer critical differences for career outcomes. An MPP prepares students to analyze, evaluate, and design solutions to tough policy problems. An MPA degree develops the skills to implement and manage such policy solutions, ensuring they achieve purposes as quickly and comprehensively as possible.

Which Degree Program Is Right for You?

If you’re looking to work with organizations that shape policy and serve the civic good, an MPA degree and an MPP degree are both excellent choices. The two programs take different approaches to tackle similar issues. The right choice depends on your specific skills, passions, and career goals.
To help choose which degree is best for you, we’ll compare how MPA vs. MPP degrees stack up, from curriculum and program outcomes to career paths and salaries.



An MPP degree sets students on a career path geared toward designing and evaluating the impact of policy. Public policy professionals engage in research, analysis, and evaluation, directing their findings toward creating policies with the most effective outcomes in society.

Courses are designed to hone your knowledge and skills in research design, data analysis, statistics, and economics. In careers as analysts and managers, MPP graduates use both quantitative data and qualitative findings to address current and emerging policy issues. An MPP degree typically takes one and a half to two years to complete.

An MPA program also deals with policy, but the curriculum’s focus is their proper implementation and management. Some MPA programs offer optional concentrations or specializations to help refine your career path, such as government management, healthcare administration, or nonprofit management.

Critical thinking practices that aim to solve complex public service problems, as well as applied and ethical leadership, are at the core of many MPA programs. For example, learning outcomes of the online MPA program online MPA program at Pace University not only touch on management and problem solving, but also community-based solutions and public service. An MPA can take one and a half to three years to complete.

At a Glance: MPA Learning Outcomes at Pace University

  • Lead and manage in public, nonprofit, and healthcare governance.
  • Participate in and contribute to the public policy process.
  • Analyze, synthesize, think critically, solve problems, and make evidence-informed decisions in a complex and dynamic environment.
  • Articulate and apply a public service perspective.
  • Communicate and interact productively with a diverse and changing workforce and citizenry.

Career Outcomes for MPP vs. MPA

Though there is significant overlap in career outcomes between MPA vs. MPP, there are certainly some notable differences. We’ll explore some of the professional paths, and important distinctions, between the two.

MPP Careers

The average salary for MPP graduates average salary for MPP graduates is $73,000, according to PayScale. Possible careers for MPP graduates include:

MPP CAREER MEDIAN SALARY (all educational levels)*

*Source: Burning Glass Labor Insight

Research Analyst

Research analysts collect and analyze quantitative data from a variety of sources to produce meaningful and actionable reports about existing policies, identifying areas for improvements and/or recommended adjustments. Research analysts can be found in both the private and public sectors, and they often work as part of a larger team.

Management Consultant

Management consultants are brought in to help an organization improve various facets of their business, from internal productivity and management to external company image. The management consultant identifies current issues and helps the organization build strategies to overcome them. In a public policy setting, a management consultant can help improve data collection and analysis processes.

Data Analyst

Data analysts collect, clean, sort, and review data to derive meaningful insights that would otherwise be unnoticable. When it comes to public policy, their job often involves reviewing the outcomes of existing programs or policies, combining publicly available information with surveys of and individual testimonies from the people who are most impacted.

Project Manager

A project manager supervises all aspects of a given project within their company. In the public policy profession, this means all research, analysis, and policy design are conducted efficiently, effectively, and on schedule. Their work includes defining long-term goals, setting timelines, budgeting, and assigning tasks. The project manager will not only keep track of the overall progress, but also report that progress to the relevant stakeholders.

MPA Careers

According to Payscale, the average salary of an individual with an MPA degree is $71,000. An MPA can prepare you for the following careers in the public and nonprofit sectors:

MPA CAREER MEDIAN SALARY (all educational levels)**

*Source: Burning Glass Labor Insight, Payscale

Policy Analyst

Policy analysts focus on changing or implementing new public policies, regulations, and laws. They tend to work in government agencies and think tanks, and often partner directly with either elected officials or nonprofit organizations. Some for-profit companies will even employ policy analysts to help lobby for regulations favorable to their interests. According to an analysis of job listings from Burning Glass in June 2022, the top skills associated with a higher salary are policy development and budgeting. Given the work’s often political nature, it’s not surprising that the majority of policy analyst job listings are in and around Washington, D.C.

Healthcare Administrator

Healthcare administrators oversee and coordinate the delivery of healthcare and medical services, working to improve quality and efficiency within their practice. Their work environments span from large hospital systems to smaller, individual medical practices outright. Job duties include managing finances, recordkeeping, and communicating with medical staff.

Government Affairs Director

Government affairs directors help businesses navigate current, new, and changing legislation set by the government. They review applicable laws and regulations to ensure businesses remain compliant, forecast how legal changes will impact the business, and create solutions to weather change in the best ways possible.

Fundraising Manager

Fundraising managers secure funding and spearhead new initiatives to generate revenue. They typically liaise between multiple departments in an organization, acting as a crucial bridge between their internal managers and the entities they solicit for financial assistance.

City Planner

City planners design projects that maintain or improve the quality of life in the municipal space. Their work is highly diverse, addressing issues in transportation, economic development, housing, and the environment in their city. The plans they develop must keep sight of community goals and anticipate the future impact of any proposed development.

Grants Director

As the position is focused on generating grant funding for research or nonprofit work, grants directors often work for nonprofits or academic organizations. A grants director works with applicants and internal staff to determine funding allocation and to track payments. The job requires strong writing and presentation skills. Grants directors also need solid accounting knowledge since they may need to oversee auditing and bookkeeping to make sure grant funds are spent effectively.

Which Program Is the Right Choice?

If you’re someone looking to take an active role in shaping and supporting policy, an MPA degree and an MPP degree are two excellent options to bring you to the next level in your career. Both degrees are valuable; they simply offer different approaches toward similar objectives:

  • An MPP focuses on policy research and design.
  • An MPA focuses on policy implementation and management.

The right choice for you depends on your specific skills and long-term goals.

About the online MPA Program at Pace University

The 100% online Master of Public Administration Master of Public Administration program from Pace University’s Dyson College of Arts and Sciences prepares working professionals and aspiring administrators to lead in public service. Students can choose from one of three tracks: government management, healthcare management, or nonprofit management. MPA graduates find a wide range of opportunities within federal, state, and local governments as well as advocacy and community organizations. Through flexible, hybrid, and cutting-edge learning environments, our students get the quality education they want and the upskilling they need to be successful in the changing world.