The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Master of Public Affairs Curriculum

Students talking in classroom

The Master of Public Affairs (MPA) at the UMass Amherst School of Public Policy is a 37-credit program that includes the policy seminar; six core courses; a summer internship; and five electives, three of which must be SPP program electives.

Our One-Year MPA program is open to any applicant who has completed a bachelor's degree, in any field. Our 4+1 MPA program is open to undergraduates at UMass Amherst and the other Five Colleges (Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges).

Download the One-Year MPA course timeline.

Download the 4+1 MPA course timeline.

Mission Statement

The Master of Public Affairs (MPA) degree is for students seeking public service through careers in government, non-profit organizations, businesses, and social movements. The program is suitable for mid-career or pre-service students seeking to advance their career and obtain a grounding in the skills and knowledge of public policy and governance. Students follow a comprehensive core curriculum and choose from a range of electives taught by accomplished faculty and practitioners. These courses provide students with the essential leadership, communication, research, and analytical skills to become effective and ethical leaders. Our graduates will address complex policy and administrative issues in ways that uphold democratic principles and further social justice and sustainability.

Degree Requirements

  • Public policy seminar (3 credits)
  • Six graduate-level core courses (3 credits each, except 1-credit professional development seminar; 16 credits total)
  • Summer internship (3 credits)
  • Three program electives, from each of these three sections: policy, management and methods (3 credits each; 9 credits total)
  • Two additional electives (6 credits total)

The public policy seminar (SPP 613) brings MPA students together to apply interdisciplinary tools to analyze possible solutions to a broad contemporary challenge in public policy, such as climate change.

Core Courses

Are designed to provide students with a strong analytical foundation, applicable to a wide variety of policy issues. The MPA degree requires the following six core courses:

  • Politics and the Policy Process examines the influence of political factors on the initiation, formulation and implementation of public policy. The goal of the course is to give students the background necessary to devise strategies to develop public policy. (Comparative Public Policy can be taken instead of Politics of the Policy Process to satisfy this requirement.)
  • Public Policy Analysis applies economic, political, social, organizational and other skills from previous core courses to actual and hypothetical policy issues. Students complete a client-based project as part of this course.
  • Economics and Public Policy provides an introduction to microeconomic theory and analysis. The course examines economic rationales for and against government policy and the economic consequences of public policy.
  • Policy Methods provides an introduction to qualitative and quantitative methodologies for analyzing and evaluating public policy. Topics include research methods, participant observation, survey research and questionnaire construction, measurement theory and practice, and framing categories.
  • Introduction to Statistical Methods covers the use and interpretation of statistics in policy research. The course investigates such topics as probability theory, statistical methods, descriptive statistics, analysis of tabular data, correlation and regression, and multiple regression analysis. Students interested in acquiring additional methodological skills are encouraged to take advanced courses in qualitative and/or quantitative methods.
  • The Professional Development Seminar sharpens students' job-seeking and networking skills. In addition to sessions on writing resumes and cover letters; interviewing; and internships, students get opportunities to meet SPP alumni who are working in a variety of government departments and nonprofit organizations. While this one-credit class is not required, it is highly recommended that MPA students take it in the fall semester of their undergraduate senior year.


Students in the MPA program are required to complete a three-credit summer internship. The internship will be integrated into the curriculum and will be supervised by a SPP faculty member. Students' interests will guide the internship placement process, and SPP staff and faculty will help students establish internships through our alumni network and through our connections via the Five Colleges.


SPP's program electives provide students with a deeper understanding of areas that affect professionals in the public and nonprofit sectors. MPA students are required to take three program electives, with one each chosen from these three sections: policy, management and methods. Elective offerings change frequently; for current information, check the SPP course schedules for graduate, and undergraduate courses.