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Public Policy

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Public Policy Major

5,318 yearly degrees
#144 in popularity
$99,000 median salary

Public policy is a major that typically falls into the Public & Social Service category.

There are 1 programs available throughout the country that offer an associate’s degree in public policy, 94 that offer a bachelor’s degree, and 116 that offer a master’s degree. There are also at least 52 schools in the nation where you can get your doctorate degree in the field.

Who Is Getting a Public Policy Degree?

Public policy is one of the least chosen majors in the country, ranked #130 in popularity. About 1,900 students graduated with a bachelor’s degree in the field in 2017. This major is dominated by women with about 60% of recent graduates being female.

Racial Distribution

At the countrywide level, the racial distribution of public policy majors is as follows:

  • Asian: 11.4%
  • Black or African American: 9.3%
  • Hispanic or Latino: 11.7%
  • White: 57.1%
  • Non-Resident Alien: 3.4%
  • Other Races: 7%
Public Policy Majors Ethnic Diversity Statistics

Americans aren’t the only ones with an interest in public policy. About 3.4% of those graduating in 2017 were international students. The most popular countries sending public policy majors to the U.S. are China, South Korea and India.

What Will You Learn as a Public Policy Major?

An O*NET survey asked people with careers related to public policy to rate how important certain subject areas were to their job. The following are some of the results of that survey. Importance was rated on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being most important.

Knowledge Areas for Public Policy Majors

Public policy majors often go into careers in which the following knowledge areas are important:

Important Knowledge Areas for Public Policy Majors

Skills for Public Policy Majors

When studying public policy, you’ll learn many skills that will help you be successful in a wide range of jobs - even those that do not require a degree in the field. The following is a list of some of the most common skills needed for careers associated with this major:

Important Skills for Public Policy Majors

Abilities for Public Policy Majors

As you progress with your public policy degree, there are several abilities you should pick up that will help you in whatever related career you choose. These abilities include:

Important Abilities for public policy Majors

What Can You Do With a Public Policy Major?

Below is a list of occupations associated with public policy:

Careers Related to Public Policy
Job Title Job Growth Rate Median Salary

Political Scientists



Health Specialties Professors



Transportation Planners



Education Professors



Political Science Professors






Medical and Health Services Managers



Public Policy Major Salary

Average salaries range from $74,000 to $115,000 for careers related to public policy. This range includes all degree levels, so you may expect those with a more advanced degree to make more while those with less advanced degrees will typically make less.

To put that into context, the typical high school graduate makes between $29,000 and $57,000 a year. The average person with a bachelor’s degree (any field) makes between $44,000 and $99,000. Advanced degree holders make the most with salaries between $55,000 and $120,000.

Average Salary for a Public Policy Major  ( 74000 to 115000 )
Average Salary for High School Graduate  ( 29000 to 57000 )
Average Salary with Bachelor's Degree  ( 44000 to 99000 )
Average Salary with Advanced Degree  ( 55000 to 120000 )

The area of the country you choose to work in will also affect your career and salary prospects. Getting a graduate degree may open up more options with higher salary potential.

Amount of Education Required for Public Policy Major Jobs

Some careers associated with public policy require an advanced degree while some may not even require a bachelor’s. In general, the more advanced your degree the more career options will open up to you. However, there is significant time and money that needs to be invested into your education so weigh the pros and cons.

Find out what the typical degree level is for public policy careers below.

Education Levels for Careers Associated With Public Policy
Level of Education Percentage of Workers

Less Than a High School Diploma


High School Diploma or Equivalent


Post-Secondary Certificate


Some College Courses


Associate's Degree or Equivalent


Bachelor's Degree


Post-Baccalaureate Certificate


Master's Degree


Post-Master's Certificate


First Professional Degree


Doctoral Degree


Post-Doctoral Training


Online Public Policy Programs

There are 94 colleges that offer a bachelor’s degree in public policy, with 3 of them offering at least some courses online.

Online learners must listen or watch video lectures, participate in group chats or forums, submit papers and assignments electronically, take tests, and meet deadlines.

Many learners are drawn to online programs due to the ease of use and flexibility. Students should be warned that those who enroll in online programs can take longer to graduate than average and are more likely to drop out.

Is a Public Policy Major Worth It?

The median salary for a public policy grad is $99,000 per year. This is based on the weighted average of the most common careers associated with the major.

This is 156% more than the average salary for an individual holding a high school degree. This adds up to a gain of about $1,211,600 after 20 years!

public policy salary compared to typical high school and college graduates over a 20 year period


Bureau of Labor Statistics
National Center for Education Statistics
O*NET Online
Image Credit: The Official CTBTO Photostream via License

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