Public Affairs Degrees Guide for 2018 and Beyond
Learn about public affairs degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate level, which degrees you should look for if you want to work within public administration and public affairs, and find programs online that are accepting applicants.

What is Public Affairs?

Public affairs is a cumulative term that includes an organization's relationship with those in which its affects. This can be in relationship to business - which would concern the aspects of the business that is of interest to customers or partnerships. In politics, public affairs would be concerned with the relationship between politicians and the public, or the people being served. Entertainment is a field that relies heavily on public affairs professionals to work with the media and the public for promotional purposes. Social services are also a major source of policy demand, as well as direct implementation of policies and management to the public.

Public Affairs Degrees Guide for 2018 and Beyond

Public affairs is not limited to just a domains, however, this subject can be found in basically any area that includes business or relationships with the public. Since a majority of professional organizations, including the government, require some restrictions and expectations for working with people within society, this degree path is exceptionally helpful to contribute to the increase in effectiveness of public communication and enforcement of policy.

This area focuses on the need for public understanding of public policies, influence on public opinions, and the development of new policies that are important to stakeholders.

Online Public Affairs Degrees

Pursuit of a degree in public affairs online can be a rewarding experience that can pay off throughout a lifetime. These programs are well-designed to give students knowledge of what is expected of public servants throughout the country. Students that are involved in public affairs degree programs may learn that a lot of their responsibilities are involved in following the rules and regulations of an organization during service to the public. Ethics, fair treatment, and problem solving are a few of the topics that are discussed in depth throughout these programs, as well as subjects regarding the infrastructure of different types of businesses. While within these programs, you can expect to develop skills related to leadership, problematic decision making, and the structure of complex businesses and other professional entities. Our experts believe that you should learn as much as you can about educational programs prior to choosing the right one. Take a look below at some of the online degree programs available in public affairs below.

Online Bachelor of Public Affairs

At the bachelors level, students are just entering into this highly diverse and inclusive curriculum. Starting with general education, students will gain the basic skills of collegiate writing and scientific studies needed to be successful in this field. The more public affairs-focused course start within the last 2 years of this 4 year journey and includes classes that touch on finance, management, law and policy development, and public relations. Most bachelors programs require students to complete 120 credit hours of both general education and core classes prior to graduation. Throughout this program, students are given the tools necessary for success in public service careers and possibly higher degree programs.

Online Master of Public Affairs

Online masters programs that specialize in public affairs can be completed in 1-2 years, depending on how willing students are to complete their degree. Most online masters programs in this discipline require 45 credit hours for graduation, but this figure varies greatly among different colleges. The curriculum in this program includes a more structure view into the complex economical, legal, and management perspectives required for public affairs, as well as more opportunities for students to express their knowledge through independent projects. Some online masters programs require that students complete research projects or presentations to prove they have gained the necessary knowledge to move forward into a career.

Online Doctorate in Public Affairs

At this point and time, the Doctorate in Public Affairs is the highest level that students can get within this subject. At the doctoral level, students can pursue research-oriented careers that may contribute useful knowledge to public affairs professionals working in the field. Students within this program use the skills learned in lower degree programs as well as the advanced skills learned through the doctoral program to become reliable and knowledgeable professionals in the public affairs domain.

The online degree program is designed for professionals that have experience working in the field and wish to further their careers by obtaining a higher degree. Students that have graduated from accredited programs at the bachelors or masters level may also qualify for acceptance into these programs – with competitive scores on the GRE or higher GPA scores. During this program, students may take a look into the theory of public affairs and the practical applications of public service policies and regulations.

What can you do with a public affairs degree?

Public affairs as a field is highly diverse. Depending on whether you are interested in working directly with the public or with a team that develops and implements policies, there are many different careers fields and options available. The main responsibility of public affairs specialists is the development or management of programs or policies that work in favor of the public interest. This can be completed in a wide array of different fields, including social sciences, public relations, or even business. The work environment that you seek is a major component in determining where your degree would be best applied. Working with other professionals within an office setting to develop strategies for better policy development, speaking on behalf of a client to the public through speeches or media broadcasts, or teaching awareness courses throughout the community are just a few of the settings that are possible within this field. Our team took the liberty of listing some of the more popular fields for public affairs graduates for you to view below.

Social Services

Policy development and enforcement is a huge part of what social service is all about. Policies dictate how social service workers develop community health care plans, welfare benefits, and even criminal justice rehabilitation programs. Social work professionals can possibly benefits from a degree in public affairs, especially when in higher positions that work with policy and program development. Other potential areas that students can pursue careers are probation and parole, community health services, and educational development.

Public Relations

One of the most important aspects of public relations is its direct work with the public. Since public affairs is a degree program that is concerned primarily with the public interest, this field draws in quite a few graduates each year. Public relations as a whole is one of the more popular career fields for graduates, since it can be applied to companies that desire a better connection with the public, public officials that require assistance in communicating changes and policies to the public, and entertainment companies that regularly make public appearances for individuals with a high social status.

Students that enter into this specialized area of public affairs may find that it has a widespread potential that can provide for a long-lasting career. Graduates that work within this discipline may be public relations specialists, public relations managers, or personal assistants for political figures or people of celebrity status.

Business

Business is another field that calls upon public affairs graduates regularly. Certain businesses that sell products and services to the public need advice and assistance in developing effective marketing plans and advertisements for society. Public affairs specialists can work with these organizations to research and develop proper methods that are appropriate for specific areas or audiences. Within organizations, public affairs specialists may also contribute to employer-employee relations and provide communication between organizations for different purposes. Business has a huge dependence on the public interest, which is why graduates in public affairs contribute so much to this field. It is important that businesses have representatives that can communicate their products and services to the public. Marketing research specialists, occupational safety specialists, and even human resource workers can work with public affairs degrees.

Top online schools for public affairs

  • University of Missouri – Online Master of Public Affairs
  • Indiana University – Bloomington – Online Master of Public Affairs
  • University of California – Berkeley – Online Master of Public Affairs
  • Park University – Online Master of Public Affairs
  • Penn State Online – Online Bachelors in Advertising/Public Relations

Public Affairs Coursework to Expect

Public affairs as a degree major can include many different topics that range from the general public policy formation to more specific courses such as public health, communications, or conflict resolution. Most degree programs allow you to choose a specialization to accompany your degree program, which can adjust the curriculum to include ideas from both subjects. Our experts looked through some of the more popular public affairs programs to find a list of courses that are most commonly seen from students. The list below has the title and descriptions of these common courses for you to review.

Public Policy Processes and Strategies

This course outlines public policy analysis, governance, and public services. The initial research, development, and implementation of public policy are discussed, as well as the continuous analysis and evaluation of current policies.

Economic Analysis for Public Policy

The main purpose of this course is to identify and study the relationship between economics from a behavioral standpoint and public policy. Public decisions and choices in economics are discussed, as well as an investigation into the psychology of human behavior within the economic spectrum.

Management of Public Service Organizations

Organizational and management principles are discussed within this course. Standard policies and procedures of both non-profit and public organizations are examined. Trends, planning, funding, and budgeting are looked at in depth, giving students a better idea of what is included within management positions in this career path.

Ethics of Public Service

This course teaches students to apply ethical guidelines to public service positions and situations. History and development of public service principles is discussed, as well as legal and ethical issues that are faced by public service officials.

Group Dynamics and Conflict Resolution

This course looks at common issues and problems that can arise in a public service environment. Students can gain the skills necessary to intervene and reduce tension during these situations, while still preserving the rights of all people involved.

Masters in Public Affairs

Length – 1-2 years on average
Credit Hours – 42 on average

Admissions Requirements

In order to be considered for the masters level program, students must have previously completed a bachelors level degree from an accredited university. Most master programs in public affairs require that students have a minimum GPA of 3.0, with some online universities not requiring completion of the GRE. Work experience up to 3 years may be required from some universities, so those without experience should research their opportunities to ensure they meet the requirements.

Public Affairs Concentrations

  • Public Administration
  • Public Relations
  • Public Health Management
  • Non-Profit Management
  • Government Relations

Career Outlook for Public Affairs Graduates

Choosing a degree program that can contribute to a life-long and successful career can be difficult and time-consuming. Public affairs is a degree program that not only works in the best interest of the public, but also provides invaluable services to the companies that employee its services. As the country continues to actively use government services and business progressively desires a connection with consumers, public affairs positions may continue to thrive.

Public relations is one of the larger fields within the public affairs genre. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, public relations careers can potentially see a 6% increase over the next decade (BLS; 2015). This is a truly comforting fact for individuals that want to know how useful this degree program will be throughout their career.

On the health care-related side of public affairs, educators and community health professionals could see as much as a 13% increase in jobs from now until 2024 (BLS; 2015). With these figures in mind, you should feel confident in knowing that the hard work and dedication you may put into your degree program can have positive results for your future. If you choose a degree path that deals directly with the public interest, such as public affairs, you can feel good about your decision and move forward into a proactive career with assurance and reliability.

All Programs

See below for the list of programs. You can filter down by state, accrediting board, or program to find the best program for you.
Programs That May Be Currently Accepting Applicants
Indiana University South Bend - Master Of Public Affairs
NASPAA Accredited
IN
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis - Master Of Public Affairs
NASPAA Accredited
IN
Indiana University-Purdue University, Ft. Wayne - Master Of Public Affairs
NASPAA Accredited
IN
Indiana University, Bloomington - Master Of Public Affairs
NASPAA Accredited
IN
Indiana University, Northwest - Master Of Public Affairs
NASPAA Accredited
IN
The University of Texas at Austin - Master Of Public Affairs
NASPAA Accredited
TX
The University of Texas at Dallas - Master Of Public Affairs
NASPAA Accredited
TX
University of Missouri-Columbia - Master Of Public Affairs
NASPAA Accredited
MO
Washington State University - Master Of Public Affairs
NASPAA Accredited
WA
Western Carolina University - Master Of Public Affairs
NASPAA Accredited
NC