Masters in Public Policy Analytics Degrees

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Using data analytics in public policy is a developing trend for government agencies to become more accurate when implementing rules and regulations. Some of these tasks that can be solved through analytics includes improving city infrastructure to adapt with a growing population, using predictive methods to eliminate crime, and determining public response to policy changes. Public policy analytics is not to be confused with public policy analysis, which is a broad term on reviewing regulations and laws set by the government and determining their impact within a community.

Are there online Masters in Public Policy Analytics?

There are no direct Master's degrees in public policy analytics, but there are variations of programs that have specializations in this topic. For example, a common pathway is pursuing a Master of Public Administration or Public Policy that has an emphasis in data science or data analytics.

This can also be achieved in reverse, pursuing data science or engineering degrees that explore topics related to public policy. Concentrations in government, environmental policy, and health care informatics can all have relation to public administration and public policy.

Master of Public Policy Analytics Programs

What to Expect in an Online Master's of Public Policy Analytics

Online courses will typically be distributed through the school's learning management system of choice, frequently Canvas or Blackboard. All course materials can be viewed, such as the syllabus, announcements of any updates when taking the class, discussion boards and chat rooms for interaction with students and faculty members, and the ability to view lessons and lectures on demand.

Quizzes and exams may be taken online with a virtual proctor, or students will be required to go to an approved testing center in their area. Different programs will require a varying set of prerequisites, and students accepted into the program that do not meet these standards will likely take these courses early on without credit.

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Online Master's in Public Related Programs

Norwich University

Master of Public Administration

The online MPA offered by the Vermont university has an area of emphasis in Policy Analysis and Analytics, one of eight options available. The curriculum is fully customizable with six total courses, the only required course being Foundations of Public Administration and Policy within this concentration. This specific emphasis is a collaboration effort between the school and the MITRE Corporation, which manages research and development centers for government agencies. Students can typically complete the program between 18 to 24 months.

Up to 12 transfer credits can be used in the program. Prospective students will need to have a Bachelor's degree from an accredited university and high marks on their academics to be considered for the program. After completing the capstone project, there is a one-week on-campus residency required at the conclusion of the program, which invites faculty and students to come together for a closing ceremony and networking opportunities. Accommodations and meals are paid for by the university.

Northeastern University

Master of Science in Urban Informatics

The College of Social Sciences and Humanities features a unique Master's degree that focuses on big data and how to apply it to urban locations for improvement. Various inputs of information are collected in city life, and this can help create updated policies or add services that are better suited for certain communities. These will be data-driven solutions to solve real-world issues, and the program will give students the skills needed to gather and interpret various forms of data, create visualizations and reports on recommended updates, and communicate with others to deliver change.

32 credit hours are needed to complete the program with four courses directly focused on data science and data analytics, such has how to gather information and structure it in order to better interpret the information. There are two electives that students can choose to customize the program, and there is a one-credit course that focuses on creating a portfolio with real-world projects that would be completed in this profession. Admission requirements include transcripts showing an undergraduate degree and letters of recommendation, but no Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores are needed.

John Hopkins University

Master of Science in Government Analytics

With government agencies turning toward big data, the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences offers a convenient Master's degree that teaches students how to implement data analysis techniques to their organization. This is a fully online program that also has some electives available at the Washington DC campus for those in the area, and a combination of the two can be pursued. 12 total courses are taken and the program lasts between 16 to 24 months. There is an opportunity to jump into the program prior to the start of the fall, spring, and summer semesters.

There are no firm deadlines when it comes to applying for the program, and no GRE scores are needed to submit. All prospective students should be experienced in math, and the introductory course, Statistics and Political Analysis, will cover the foundational topics needed to succeed in the program. Students should have a computer that is relatively up to date that utilizes the Windows operating system or a Mac that is capable of emulating Windows. Some courses, like Data Visualization, requires students to bring a computer. The core courses will be using R and Stata programming software, and elective options can use SPSS, RStudio, MTurk, Python, and more.

Northwestern University

Master in Public Policy and Administration

The School of Professional Studies has an MPPA degree with five specializations, one of them being a focus on Data Analytics for Public Policy. While the majority of the curriculum can be taken at local campuses, this particular specialization is only available online. Students will need to take Statistics in Research before taking any courses in the curriculum. There is one required course, Math for Data Science, and then students can select two courses from a group of five electives, with topics such as data visualization, decision analytics, and data preparation available.

With the analytical portion of the program being geared toward part-time students, the accelerated one-year format is not available for this concentration. One unique aspect of the program is the Global Policy Lab, which gives students the ability to gain real-world experience by solving organizational problems through collecting, organizing, and reporting on the issues. This gives them an early start on building a portfolio of their accomplishments and enhances their communication skills further than examples within a classroom setting. Graduates have gone on to be city administrators, regional planners, and federal workers after completing the program.

Typical Coursework

Public Policy Theory/Evaluation

These courses will explore the evolution of public policy and city development, and gives examples on the successes and failures over time. Interesting theoretical topics such as how cities came to be and why policies were established are discussed, and students will explore how the latest technological developments have been implemented and what is to come.

Research Methods

Qualitative and quantitative methods are generally studied in these courses, and how they are used when creating policy. This includes surveying a community to determine if a policy that has been implemented is making the predicted impact, looking at trends to see if there are any new services that should be brought into a city, and what impact a new company would make in the area.

Data Mining

Extraction methods of structured and unstructured data are taught in these courses, and they will typically use a programming tool like R and/or Python. Methods such as linear and logical regression, and various algorithms, like association rule learning and instance-based, are explored. Students will be able to determine what method works best in certain situations. Some courses will combine methods to convert this data into viable information, similar to data visualization.

Data Visualization

These courses take raw data and converts them into charts and graphs for an easier look into what it means. Students will be able to figure out types of graphs will make the most impact when working with data such as trends in homelessness or how local businesses are impacted by a national or regional chain creating a new store in the area. In some cases, this course can be combined with the extraction of information, or data mining.

Statistical Analysis

Explores the differences in various statistical methods and the best ways to study and observe them. Typical methods in these courses include binomial and normal distribution, Naive Bayes method, data clustering, decision trees, neural networks and deep learning, linear and logical regression, and univariate and multivariate analysis. Statistical programs like SPSS, SAS, and R are frequently used in these courses.

Difference Between Online and Campus-Based Programs

Due to the specialized nature of public policy programs that implement data analytics and data science, it fully depends on the university if they offer the same curriculum on-campus or online. In many instances, the core curriculum for a Master of Public Administration or Public Policy will be the same and students have the flexibility to attend either option if they are close to the university. Concentrations within data science and data analytics will require students to be proficient with computers, so the ability to take these courses online are common with proper equipment.

Statistics courses are common in the curriculum and the frequent programming software used is R. This is a free program that can be used on many operating systems, including Windows, Mac, and Linux. Other paid programs may be needed in electives with limited compatibility, but it is common for the license of the program to be included with the tuition of the course. Students should consult with faculty to see if program needs will be met with their desktop or laptop computer. Pursuing a full degree online will require a relatively fast connection with reliable bandwidth and a modern computer system.

Careers and Salaries

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, political scientists will see five percent growth in their employment between 2018-28. The federal government is the largest employer of this position and it will only grow as improvements need to be made toward the services they offer. This includes popular topics such as research in climate change, health care and immigration policy. Political science is a bit of a niche industry for this reason as the bulk of the job opportunities are in the Washington DC area.

There are many other positions within public policy analytics, however. An urban planner is a broad category for jobs that consist of creating an infrastructure plan for a city, what services they need to optimize or create, specialists that can determine how the economy will be affected by bringing in businesses, managing public transportation, and there are planning positions that will cover different scopes in terms of location (city, state, regional, etc.). All of these positions require analyzing data in order to make the proper decisions that will best impact the community.

Various analyst positions also exist within public policy. For example, a data analyst at the Tulsa Health Department in Oklahoma will interpret data and determine trends in order to improve patient recommendations for medication and treatment plans. They also make sure that the organization is following all rules and regulations that have been set. In some instances, this type of position may help in improving database management and working with software developers to improve their processes.

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