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hellohi

Public Policy Masters

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Hello all,

I wasn't sure where to ask this besides the general discussion section, but does anyone have any experience with public policy degrees? I was thinking of getting one and then working for a few years prior to applying to law or maybe doing a joint JD/MMP degree. 

1) Which MMP programs are best in Canada? Do grads from certain programs generally have better job prospects?

2) Do certain schools "cater" to certain sectors/fields (government, corporate, economic, social etc.) or regions of the country?

3) Does anyone have any thoughts to share on how difficult and employable MMP degrees are, whether that’s based on word of mouth, general knowledge, or personal experience?

Thank you everyone

:)  

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I will answer your questions as best I can, but I will first address the underlying question of your post.

An MPP degree will not prepare you for a career or law or improve your chances to get into a law school any better than any other graduate degree. In fact, it is generally accepted as truth on this forum that you would be better off enrolling in law school ASAP rather than spending time and money on a master's degree if you intend to be a lawyer. 

(People who happen to have masters degrees, etc, tend to have a better chance of getting into law school, but it is not worth chasing after graduate degrees simply to improve your law school application).

Now, if you intend to work in the field of public policy, and maybe use the JD as a secondary credential, then your plan might be a good idea.

1) I have no idea about the best university for MPP.

2) I assume you are talking about the school where you'd be taking the MPP, not the law school. Again, I have very little knowledge on that specific field of study. I will give you the same advice that is often given here on the forums: Go to school in the city where you want to work and you can at least build connections in that city/region. For example, Toronto if you want to work for a corporation based out of TO. Ottawa if you have your eye on federal politics, etc.

3) I believe a career in public policy is a long shot unless you have networking connections within politics, the corporate world, etc. I personally would not go into this with the attitude "I'll find a job somewhere; maybe become a lawyer later." However, if you have a passion a particular career (ex. advisor to a certain government department), then pursue it, by all means.

My basis for these opinions are (1) that I know lots of people with great sounding degrees who never made those degrees into a career advantage (2) there is one particular friend with a masters degree in municipal planning and policy who has not had a long road of about 20 years before finally getting a well paid position within her field. In the mean time, she worked unrelated and low paying jobs.

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8 hours ago, hellohi said:

Hello all,

I wasn't sure where to ask this besides the general discussion section, but does anyone have any experience with public policy degrees? I was thinking of getting one and then working for a few years prior to applying to law or maybe doing a joint JD/MMP degree. 

1) Which MMP programs are best in Canada? Do grads from certain programs generally have better job prospects?

2) Do certain schools "cater" to certain sectors/fields (government, corporate, economic, social etc.) or regions of the country?

3) Does anyone have any thoughts to share on how difficult and employable MMP degrees are, whether that’s based on word of mouth, general knowledge, or personal experience?

Thank you everyone

:)  

1. There are is no "best" MPP program. There is a best MPP program for you depending on your goals. If you want to work in local government in South-western Ontario, getting a MPA from Western is better than a fancy MPP from UofT. Generally, grads of MPP co-op programs and MPP programs with strong alumni networks have an easier time finding employment after graduation. Quality of employment matters too though. What type of job do you want? 

2. Yes, most policy schools tend to be regional. With law schools and policy schools, you generally want to go to school in a region where you want to work. Some MPP programs also concentrate on certain policy areas. E.g., McMaster has a MPP focused on economic policy. University of Toronto's MGA tries to focus on corporate and international policy jobs. 

3. With most MPP degrees you get what you put into them. It is pretty hard to fail out of most MPP programs once you are in unless they are really quant heavy. Don't go assuming any MPP will guarantee you a great job (some schools with expensive degrees will insinuate this). Most MPP degrees place well into government and government relations. A lot of the private sector doesn't see a lot of value in a MPP degree. 

I have a MPP degree. Let me know if you have more questions.   

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On 9/18/2020 at 1:42 AM, SNAILS said:

I will answer your questions as best I can, but I will first address the underlying question of your post.

An MPP degree will not prepare you for a career or law or improve your chances to get into a law school any better than any other graduate degree. In fact, it is generally accepted as truth on this forum that you would be better off enrolling in law school ASAP rather than spending time and money on a master's degree if you intend to be a lawyer. 

(People who happen to have masters degrees, etc, tend to have a better chance of getting into law school, but it is not worth chasing after graduate degrees simply to improve your law school application).

Now, if you intend to work in the field of public policy, and maybe use the JD as a secondary credential, then your plan might be a good idea.

1) I have no idea about the best university for MPP.

2) I assume you are talking about the school where you'd be taking the MPP, not the law school. Again, I have very little knowledge on that specific field of study. I will give you the same advice that is often given here on the forums: Go to school in the city where you want to work and you can at least build connections in that city/region. For example, Toronto if you want to work for a corporation based out of TO. Ottawa if you have your eye on federal politics, etc.

3) I believe a career in public policy is a long shot unless you have networking connections within politics, the corporate world, etc. I personally would not go into this with the attitude "I'll find a job somewhere; maybe become a lawyer later." However, if you have a passion a particular career (ex. advisor to a certain government department), then pursue it, by all means.

My basis for these opinions are (1) that I know lots of people with great sounding degrees who never made those degrees into a career advantage (2) there is one particular friend with a masters degree in municipal planning and policy who has not had a long road of about 20 years before finally getting a well paid position within her field. In the mean time, she worked unrelated and low paying jobs.

Thanks for your thoughts. Sorry I couldn't reply earlier, its been a hectic month.

Truth be told, my interest in an MPP degree wouldn't be just for the sake of law school. It is genuinely something I am considering as well as pursuing a JD. If I pursue an MPP, it would ultimately be to complement my law degree down the line as you noted with using a JD as a credential in the public policy field.

2) Your assumption is correct. It seems like certain programs have a "focus" or specialization on certain things- I know UBC has connections to Asia which could help facilitate jobs in that region. I also wonder if certain schools have internships that can really get your foot in the door to certain fields and such. Of course, your point about going to school in the city where you want to work also makes a lot of sense. 

3) Hmm, so there aren't a lot of stable long-term jobs in public policy? I was under the impression that it was a moderately safe route to go down assuming you pull your weight in school, do some networking, get internships etc. Perhaps I will have to revaluate. I guess becoming a lawyer would be a much safer career choice.

 

 

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On 9/18/2020 at 8:36 AM, Policywonk said:

1. There are is no "best" MPP program. There is a best MPP program for you depending on your goals. If you want to work in local government in South-western Ontario, getting a MPA from Western is better than a fancy MPP from UofT. Generally, grads of MPP co-op programs and MPP programs with strong alumni networks have an easier time finding employment after graduation. Quality of employment matters too though. What type of job do you want? 

2. Yes, most policy schools tend to be regional. With law schools and policy schools, you generally want to go to school in a region where you want to work. Some MPP programs also concentrate on certain policy areas. E.g., McMaster has a MPP focused on economic policy. University of Toronto's MGA tries to focus on corporate and international policy jobs. 

3. With most MPP degrees you get what you put into them. It is pretty hard to fail out of most MPP programs once you are in unless they are really quant heavy. Don't go assuming any MPP will guarantee you a great job (some schools with expensive degrees will insinuate this). Most MPP degrees place well into government and government relations. A lot of the private sector doesn't see a lot of value in a MPP degree. 

I have a MPP degree. Let me know if you have more questions.   

1) Fair enough, so doing a degree in the city and near the organizations you would like to work at is best? I have no doubt that networking combined with an internship placement will be pivotal in securing a career position. I think a job within the private sector or a government position in a bigger city would be ideal- I am sure positions in those two areas are likely the most difficult to secure. 

2) This presents a dilemma to me. While I understand the importance of going to school in an area that you want to work, what if a certain policy school specializes in something that interests me? If I went to Mac for economic policy but I wanted to work in a different city, how do I balance these two competing factors?

3) I definitely try to work really hard so I don't think failing out would be a problem. The stats part definitely scares me a bit though even though undergraduate statistics went fine for me. From perusing the websites of some MMP programs, they seemed to imply that most grads secure jobs, so I will try to be cautious of this.

On a more personal note, would you say that your MPP degree was worth it? Why or why not?

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23 hours ago, hellohi said:

3) Hmm, so there aren't a lot of stable long-term jobs in public policy? I was under the impression that it was a moderately safe route to go down assuming you pull your weight in school, do some networking, get internships etc. Perhaps I will have to revaluate. I guess becoming a lawyer would be a much safer career choice.

I am looking at this a week later and thinking, "I didn't mean to say that."

First of all, I honestly do not know, since it is not my career field.

Second of all, I would guess Public Policy is a decent enough field in which to find a job provided that you are willing to go where the opportunities are. Basically, that you are willing to move to whichever city where your career seems to be taking you.

I believe I cited an example earlier where the public policy graduate had settled in a smaller city with no intention of moving (married, kids) and thus found it hard to find a job in the field within that city.

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On 10/3/2020 at 9:22 PM, hellohi said:

1) Fair enough, so doing a degree in the city and near the organizations you would like to work at is best? I have no doubt that networking combined with an internship placement will be pivotal in securing a career position. I think a job within the private sector or a government position in a bigger city would be ideal- I am sure positions in those two areas are likely the most difficult to secure. 

Generally yes. It's easier to network if you are geographically close to where the jobs are and employers tend to actively recruit more in areas geographically closer to them. This doesn't mean that you cannot get a policy job in Ottawa if you go to UBC but its easier to get a policy job in Ottawa if you go to Carleton or OttawaU.

2) This presents a dilemma to me. While I understand the importance of going to school in an area that you want to work, what if a certain policy school specializes in something that interests me? If I went to Mac for economic policy but I wanted to work in a different city, how do I balance these two competing factors?

Yes, there may be a trade-off between geography and policy specialization depending on what your goal is. If you were more clear on what your goal is we could give you better advice. Generally, if you want to work in a highly competitive policy area (e.g., tax policy, human rights policy) and don't care where yo work, I would lean towards a specialized program. Generally, if you are set on working in a particular geographic area and are open to broad policy areas, I would lean towards going to a policy school in that geographic area.  

3) I definitely try to work really hard so I don't think failing out would be a problem. The stats part definitely scares me a bit though even though undergraduate statistics went fine for me. From perusing the websites of some MMP programs, they seemed to imply that most grads secure jobs, so I will try to be cautious of this.

Most grads do secure jobs. I'd be more concerned about quality of employment than being unemployed. 

On a more personal note, would you say that your MPP degree was worth it? Why or why not?

It was worth it for me personally. I'm in a policy job that requires a MPP degree so if I didn't have one my salary and quality of life would likely be significantly lower. I have good work-life balance, job security, and often get to do interesting work. The policy process can be slow, and I wish the pace was faster sometimes.  

 

On 10/3/2020 at 8:45 PM, hellohi said:

3) Hmm, so there aren't a lot of stable long-term jobs in public policy? I was under the impression that it was a moderately safe route to go down assuming you pull your weight in school, do some networking, get internships etc. Perhaps I will have to revaluate. I guess becoming a lawyer would be a much safer career choice.

There's quite a lot of stable long-term jobs in public policy in Canadian governments, but the stable jobs are harder to get than the more precarious contract jobs. I'm not familiar with all of the provincial governments but it's my understanding its easier to get an indeterminate (permanent) policy job with the federal government than most provincial governments. Even before Ford, it was typical for the Ontario Government to hire policy analysts for 2-3 years on contracts before they got a permanent job. Most policy sector jobs are unionized and it is incredibly difficult to get fired from them (unfortunately). 

Edited by Policywonk
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20 hours ago, Policywonk said:

Yes, there may be a trade-off between geography and policy specialization depending on what your goal is. If you were more clear on what your goal is we could give you better advice. Generally, if you want to work in a highly competitive policy area (e.g., tax policy, human rights policy) and don't care where yo work, I would lean towards a specialized program. Generally, if you are set on working in a particular geographic area and are open to broad policy areas, I would lean towards going to a policy school in that geographic area.  

At this point, I am broadly open to different areas of policy work. I don't really have applicable experience with policy work, so I haven't been able to identify my "passion" at this point per se. That being said, I wouldn't want to select a program, find my "passion," and subsequently realize I should have gone to a school with a specialized program. Are there certain schools that specialize in tax or human rights policy as you mentioned? Mac's focus on economic policy and U of T's focus on corporate and international policy both appeal to me.

20 hours ago, Policywonk said:

Most grads do secure jobs. I'd be more concerned about quality of employment than being unemployed. 

Does this mean just looking at the typical things like salary, job security, location, work-life balance, etc? Or are there certain things I should be wary of that might be unique to policy jobs?  

20 hours ago, Policywonk said:

There's quite a lot of stable long-term jobs in public policy in Canadian governments, but the stable jobs are harder to get than the more precarious contract jobs. I'm not familiar with all of the provincial governments but it's my understanding its easier to get an indeterminate (permanent) policy job with the federal government than most provincial governments. Even before Ford, it was typical for the Ontario Government to hire policy analysts for 2-3 years on contracts before they got a permanent job. Most policy sector jobs are unionized and it is incredibly difficult to get fired from them (unfortunately). 

Taking on a new contract job every couple of years sounds intriguing given that I am still relatively young, but ultimately this wouldn't be ideal given that I would want to settle down in a particular location. Is it relatively common to work your way into a long term position after a while, or are a lot of policy workers perpetually swapping locations and jobs every so often? I don't live in Ontario at the moment, so perhaps it will be tougher for me to find a permanent position out west away from the federal government.  

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3 hours ago, hellohi said:

At this point, I am broadly open to different areas of policy work. I don't really have applicable experience with policy work, so I haven't been able to identify my "passion" at this point per se. That being said, I wouldn't want to select a program, find my "passion," and subsequently realize I should have gone to a school with a specialized program. Are there certain schools that specialize in tax or human rights policy as you mentioned? Mac's focus on economic policy and U of T's focus on corporate and international policy both appeal to me.

If that's the case I would do a more general MPP/MPA degree. Survey a bunch of different things and then if you find something you like you could choose electives to focus on it. For example, you don't need a Masters of Economic Policy to do economic policy it just makes it easier. You can still learn about economic policy and demonstrate to employers you have an interest in economic policy by having a Master of Public Policy and taking electives on economic policy. 

I would encourage you to research more policy schools than the ones I just listed in this thread. Most universities have some sort of MPP/MPA program.  

3 hours ago, hellohi said:

Does this mean just looking at the typical things like salary, job security, location, work-life balance, etc? Or are there certain things I should be wary of that might be unique to policy jobs?  

Nothing unique to policy jobs that I can think of. I would just look at the typical things you mentioned. 

3 hours ago, hellohi said:

Taking on a new contract job every couple of years sounds intriguing given that I am still relatively young, but ultimately this wouldn't be ideal given that I would want to settle down in a particular location. Is it relatively common to work your way into a long term position after a while, or are a lot of policy workers perpetually swapping locations and jobs every so often? I don't live in Ontario at the moment, so perhaps it will be tougher for me to find a permanent position out west away from the federal government.  

If you are working in a government city (e.g., Ottawa, Toronto) you could work on contracts for many years and still stay in the same city. Most policy workers in the Ontario and federal government usually get a permanent position after a couple of years; however, that doesn't stop them from moving around a lot within the government. To get into management, breadth of experience is usually more valuable than depth. The federal government has regional offices across the country but job mobility tends to be lower in the regions than in Ottawa/Gatineau. There are also municipal and provincial governments out West if you want to stay out West. Generally, the smaller the government, the less job mobility there is. 

 

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