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Robert M. La Follette
School of Public Affairs
1225 Observatory Drive
Madison, WI 53706

Telephone:  608.262.3581
Fax: 608.265.3233

Last updated:
September 26, 2013


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Degree Programs: Master of Public Affairs

Through the Master of Public Affairs (MPA) degree program, young professionals and new college graduates learn the skills needed to transform an interest in public affairs into serious careers. The multidisciplinary faculty are nationally recognized experts in public policy analysis, public management and administration, and specialized policy fields that include social policy, public finance, urban planning, health management, and environmental policy.

With rigorous professional training across several disciplines, La Follette School MPA graduates take up positions as managers and analysts in government at all levels, in the rapidly growing nonprofit sector, and in private firms across the United States. Program brochure

MPA Curriculum

The MPA degree program, usually completed in two years, is organized around a curriculum of 42 credits made up of six core courses and eight electives, which may include an internship.

The core courses, taught by the La Follette School faculty, help students to build their knowledge of the policy process, acquire skills in microeconomic and statistical analysis, develop competence in public management and public policy analysis, and apply their knowledge and analytical tools to real-world problems.

As MPA students build on their foundation through elective courses, they have great flexibility to pursue their intellectual interests and career goals, and to build expertise in specialized policy focus fields. Students can complete a single focus field of four or more courses, or two focus fields of three courses each.

Students can enroll in electives taught by faculty at the La Follette School and in the many strong departments, schools, and centers across the university. Through electives taught at the La Follette School, students may specialize in public management or policy analysis, and may augment their quantitative analytical skills.

Core Courses

Six required courses are the foundation of the MPA degree program.

MPA students are also encouraged to build proficiency beyond the core analytical requirements by completing at least one of the following: Quantitative Methods for Policy Analysis, Public Program Evaluation, and Benefit-Cost Analysis.

Elective Courses

In addition to the required core courses for their degree program, MPA students choose electives to develop specialized knowledge in policy fields that match their interests and career goals. Guided by faculty advisors, students typically choose electives that build on the expertise of La Follette School faculty across a number of well-established policy fields. Students can also take advantage of the wide range of courses offered throughout the university.

Some MPA students pursue advanced courses in policy analysis or public management (or both) in lieu of specializing in a policy area. Others choose to gain additional credentials through a dual degree, double degree, or certificate program. La Follette School MPA students may pursue dual degrees in law and public policy, offered with the Law School; or a double degree in Urban Planning and Public Affairs, offered with the Department of Urban and Regional Planning. MPA students may also earn a certificate in energy analysis and policy, offered with the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

Building on the expertise of faculty at the La Follette School, students can choose to craft their electives to focus on one of the following areas:

Some students have more specific interests and take electives that meet their individual goals. Examples of individualized policy areas developed by MPA students in past years include: community development, criminal justice administration, educational policy and planning, financial administration, organization theory and policy process, personnel management, and risk management.

In developing an individualized policy field, MPA students typically elect courses from one of the following departments, centers, schools, and institutes:


Students are encouraged to strengthen their career preparedness and broaden their placement opportunities by taking up suitable internships in government agencies, international organizations or offices of non-governmental organizations in Madison, elsewhere in Wisconsin, in Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York City, and other major centers in the United States or in other countries. Upon approval of the career development coordinator and associate director, students may earn up to three academic credits toward their degree requirements.