Political management or public policy? A look at two graduate degrees

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Should you pursue an advanced degree in public policy or political management? These two paths can seem like they lead to the same destination. The curriculum for the respective programs does touch upon some common themes, like government, policy, politics, research and analysis. However, public policy and political management have many more contrasts than similarities, particularly at the George Washington University.

If you’re debating which program to pursue — a Master’s in Political Management or a Master of Public Policy — this article can help you decide which one is right for you based on your interests and overarching career goals.

What is political management?

Political management is the study of how policy takes shape and how to engage in the activities that form it. If public policy is the product, political management is the process.

Because political management so often involves public policy, the terms often get used interchangeably, as is the case with “political science.” The principal difference is that political management is action-based, whereas political science and public policy are theory- and product-based, respectively.

With a Master’s in Political Management from the George Washington University, students gain a better appreciation and understanding of the inner workings of the political system, including campaign management, lobbying, government relations, political communications, polling, strategic research, fundraising and advocacy. Whereas the MPP program at GW is broader, involving economic and historical concepts and disciplines, the MPM program’s focus is more granular, focusing primarily on the strategic tools, systems and techniques that make democracy work.

What is public policy?

Public policy is the study of principles upon which society are based.  Representative bodies form the laws, rules and regulations to, in part, maintain order, solve problems and seek solutions.

The Master of Public Policy program explores these aspects of governing at a more granular level. With an MPP degree from the George Washington University, students get the training and certification they need to enter different careers that deal with various aspects of policy analysis or development. These include local, state or federal governments, private businesses, foundations, nonprofit organizations, research institutes, trade associations and think tanks. These latter two groups may not implement policy, but they can provide research-backed insight to public or elected officials about what policies are needed.

How do the public policy and political management programs at GW compare and contrast?

From the required coursework to the schools that oversee the respective programs, public policy and political management have several distinct differences.

In the political management program, the core curriculum is grounded in analysis, communications and leadership, three pillars of applied politics. The MPP program is heavy on research and learning the investigatory skills that fact-finding entails.

In addition, while both programs are located at GW’s Foggy Bottom Campus, the MPP is available to only on-campus students. The political management program is open to both on-campus and online students, enabling individuals from all over the country to take advantage of an internationally recognized program that’s received acclaim from many different publications and organizations, including Forbes and U.S. News & World Report.

Which program should you choose?

It’s up to each individual to determine which program is the best fit. The best way to determine which track to take comes from understanding your current situation and your career goals. Many students with political management degrees from the GSPM have gone on to leadership positions as association executives, government leaders, campaign managers, media professionals, university administrators and elected officials. Flexibility and convenience make the online political management program unique, as it’s custom designed for professionals to boost their career aspirations while they continue to work.

Picket signs depicting words “Yes” and “No”

Similarly, the MPP program at GW’s Trachtenberg School of Public Policy & Administration gives graduates the skills they need to enter various professions, including roles in advocacy groups, the nonprofit sector and government consulting.

Whichever program you pursue, GW can turn your career aspirations into reality. Learn more about our online political management program.

Recommended reading:
Political management or MBA: Which degree is for you?
What is the difference between a master’s in political science and a master’s in political management?

GW Columbian College of Arts and Sciences
GW Graduate School of Political Management