The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Master of Public Policy & Administration Curriculum

Professor Marta Vicarelli and students in classroom

The Master of Public Policy and Administration (MPPA) at the UMass Amherst School of Public Policy is a two-year, 48-credit degree program. Eight core courses and a full-time summer internship are required. Elective courses comprise the remaining credits of the curriculum. At least three electives must be selected from the pool of SPP program electives, while others may be chosen from a larger pool of free electives, which are UMass courses that meet the approval of the student's adviser. Within the MPPA curriculum, students may choose to specialize in a particular policy area or focus on honing a specific skillset.

Core Courses

Our core courses are designed to provide students with a strong analytical foundation, applicable to a wide variety of policy issues. The MPPA degree requires the following eight 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 considers comparatively some of the experiences, accomplishments, and problems common to advanced industrial societies.
  • Public Management prepares students for managing public programs and organizations by exploring topics that include leadership, motivation, decision-making, ethics, and administrative structure.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Capstone in Public Policy and Administration synthesizes the major experiences, concepts, principles, and skills covered in the program. Working with a faculty advisor, they design their own Capstone projects in their area of interest. In some cases, this work focuses on policy research; sometimes students choose to work with real-world clients.


MPPA students are required to complete an internship equivalent to 35 hours a week for 10 weeks. 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 program electives provide students with a deeper understanding of areas that affect professionals in the public and nonprofit sectors. In order to fulfill requirements for the MPPA, students are required to take three program electives, one from each of the following sections: policy, management, and methods. Elective offerings change frequently; for current information, check the SPP course list.

Download the MPPA course timeline and program requirements.

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