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Graduate School Abroad: A Look at the Benefits of MPAs and MPPs

Posted on November 07, 2019

Master of Public Affairs/Administration (MPA) and Master of Public Policy (MPP) programs emphasize broad-based fundamentals in policy analysis and management, while allowing you to pursue a specialization through courses in an area of focus. These programs generally offer the knowledge of values, roles, skills and practices that will help graduates become competent professionals capable of ethical, intelligent and creative leadership in the public service. There are many opportunities to pursue these degrees abroad or to add a global component to your MPA or MPP curriculum.


Most faculty that teach in areas of public affairs, policy and administration have diverse academic backgrounds, offer a variety of philosophical and practical approaches to public service, and boast a wide range of research interests. Many of the courses you will take will reflect similar goals of courses in MBA programs in that they focus on some of the core attributes to management including economic theory, statistical analysis, effective management, and budget/financial management. Additionally, the coursework is intended to endow you with practical abilities in problem-solving, program analysis, evaluation and implementation.

Most MPA/MPP programs also provide options for students to pursue certificate programs and/or dual degrees in areas like public health, urban planning, and international studies to name a few.

These kinds of programs prepare students for career employment as supervisors, managers, and decision makers in the public sector, including local, state, and federal government agencies. Many successful MPA/MPP candidates also go onto employment in similar capacities in the nonprofit sector.

In the International Context

If you are thinking about taking your interest in public service to the international level, there are certainly a number of ways those interests can manifest into a career serving the international community. Aside from the numerous career options you could pursue following your graduate study, you will also find that there are a number of ways for you to gain first hand international experience while you’re still in school. There are a number of master’s programs that offer you the opportunity to pursue academic courses, language study, and internship opportunities while you are working on your degree. There is also a consortium of institutions that offer students the chance to participate in the Peace Corps program while they study as well (see the Graduate School page for more information).

Whether you are interested in working on U.S. foreign policy domestically, managing a nonprofit working on local refugee issues, or becoming a Foreign Service Officer with USAID, the career opportunities are limitless.

Skills gained from studying abroad will be useful in this field, regardless of whether you decide to work domestically or abroad. This knowledge includes:

  • Cross-cultural communication skills: You will likely be working with diverse groups of people and will need to communicate effectively with them.

  • Cultural sensitivity: Knowing the values and lifestyle of the local culture can help you implement tools that work best for the client.

  • Ability to work independently: This career often requires a high level of independent work, something that is also attributed to living abroad.

  • Awareness of diverse perspectives: Not only have you had the opportunity to experience a new culture, you have also gained insight on others outlook on the world.

  • Adaptability: Being able to work in a variety of environments is key to succeeding in a career that involves travel or contracted work.

  • Effective use of language: How well something is interpreted can mean the difference between the success or failure of a peace treaty, and your schooling and ability to draft effective documents will be useful to you.

Job Opportunities In the Field

You will find that with an MPA/MPP under your belt, the kind of career options available to you become much broader. Like an MBA, MPA and MPP degrees provide you with the fundamental skills you will need to be successful in a management position. Many successful candidates go on to pursue careers in local, state and federal government positions, however, there are also those who find equally gratifying careers in nonprofit management, international development, policy analysis/development, program management, legislation, research, and academia amongst others.

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