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The Difference Between a Master's in Public Affairs & a Master's in Public Administration

by Flora Richards-Gustafson, studioD

Those with a degree in Master in Public Affairs or Master in Public Administration generally have careers that require an understanding of ethical policies as well as economic, political and social events. While the two graduate degrees may seem to overlap, they each help students develop different skill sets and prepare them for unique types of government-related careers.

Master of Public Affairs Degree Program

While some universities may consider Master in Public Affairs and Master in Public Administration degrees to be one in the same, some design a Master in Public Affairs, or MPAff, degree program that’s similar to a Master of Public Policy, or MPP. Alternatively, a graduate school may offer a combined MPAff/MPP degree program. In general, a Master of Public Affairs degree program is good for those interested in evaluating and analyzing the different aspects of policies in the nonprofit and public sectors, according to the University of North Carolina. The program prepares students to solve policy-related issues using qualitative and quantitative information. It also helps them evaluate alternative solutions to challenges that the public faces. Individuals who earn a Master of Public Affairs may go on to work for an advocacy group, as a consultant, or in a role that deals with health care policies.

Master of Public Administration Degree Program

Graduate schools design Master of Public Administration, or MPA, degree programs for those seeking a management or decision-making role within the public service sector. The program prepares students to work in management and leadership positions, as well as helps them develop the skills needed to implement policies and programs that impact the public. According to the University of North Carolina, an individual with a Master of Public Administration may have a career in criminal justice, government management, urban planning or national security.

Master of Public Affairs Course Work

Courses for a Master of Public Affairs program tend to focus on policy evaluation, analysis and policy research, according to the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration’s website. The University of Washington shares that the courses teach about statistics and economics. Some graduate schools that offer a Master of Public Affairs program may list college-level statistics as a prerequisite undergraduate course. Depending on the program, a student may choose a concentration such as education policy, foreign policy or program evaluation.

Master of Public Administration Course Work

Master of Public Administration degree programs generally offer courses that focus on management, leadership and implementation techniques, according to the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration. Some schools list statistics or undergraduate social sciences courses as prerequisites for the degree program. George Washington University shares that concentrations that a Master of Public Administration program may offer include state and local government management, nonprofit management and public-private policy and management.

About the Author

Flora Richards-Gustafson has been writing professionally since 2003. She creates copy for websites, marketing materials and printed publications. Richards-Gustafson specializes in SEO and writing about small-business strategies, health and beauty, interior design, emergency preparedness and education. Richards-Gustafson received a Bachelor of Arts from George Fox University in 2003 and was recognized by Cambridge's "Who's Who" in 2009 as a leading woman entrepreneur.

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