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MPA vs MPP vs MSF vs MBA vs MA Econ vs MA Psci

philbegasphilbegas Registered User Posts: 2,844 Senior Member
Hey guys,
Since I'm nearing the halfway point of my undergraduate education I'm thinking it's time to do a little research about graduate degrees because my parents don't really have much advice to offer where these things are concerned. A couple comments first before I ask questions:

-Before any graduate school, of course, I'm going to work for a few years and see where I end up at.

-It looks like I'm going to be doing the second half of my education at Drexel : Lebow business: Finance major.

-I'm 23 so in financial terms I'll be independent by the time I'd be applying to graduate schools.

-Even though I'm doing Finance for undergrad, Politics/Economics are extremely interesting fields for me, and I enjoy discussing related issues at great length with my friends. I would potentially be interested in going into politics one day, but I don't want to do the law school route that a lot of people do because that's extremely expensive and I don't think I want to go into a lot of debt for something I'm unsure about.

-That brings me to my next point. My parents will not be paying for any of my actual tuition or board (just associated costs like textbooks, insurance, etc) so I'm taking on small loans for undergrad. As a result, my graduate school choice will definitely be influenced by affordability, and getting a return on my investment. For example, doing a very long program would mean giving up years of salary while spending lots of money or taking on more debt, so I wouldn't want to do that.




Questions about degrees:

I understand the basics around what all of these degrees do, but I'm a bit fuzzy about what the difference would be between Masters in Political Science vs MPP vs MPA. Are any of these degrees more pragmatic than others? I got the impression that a MPP is more theoretical, and a MPA is more applied. But is there really an advantage to doing one of those vs Econ or Finance?

Additionally, after doing extensive research I've seen that as an undergraduate finance major, a MBA will not necessarily be all that valuable. The only reason a MBA would be worth the high tuition would be if I get into a top 25 school (Stanford, Stern, HYP, etc). But it seems like getting a MBA from a second tier school makes a fairly small difference in terms of salary, and you have to give up 1-2 years of salary for that anyways so it's probably not worth it.



I know it's a bit early for me to be worrying about it, but the reason I wanted to learn more about it now is that I heard if I take classes in, or minor in political science, it might help me skip introductory level courses for politics-related graduate programs. Because I still have a few general elective slots left, I could gear those towards politics or economics if it would make a difference towards a graduate degree. In addition, at Drexel I will have access to co ops, so maybe I'll sign up for the 2 co op program and try to do a politics related co op so I have some experience in the field.

In any case, I appreciate any/all responses!
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Replies to: MPA vs MPP vs MSF vs MBA vs MA Econ vs MA Psci

  • CheddarcheeseMNCheddarcheeseMN Registered User Posts: 2,366 Senior Member
    edited April 28
    Public management or policy programs historically specialized in public administration and offered MPAs. But there are some MPP programs that also offer budgeting and other administrative specialities. So in practice, it isn't correct to say that MPPs are theoretical and MPAs are applied. You need to look at each program to understand the specializations offered. In both programs, students are there to learn some skills as opposed to pursuing theoretical concepts. Some MBA programs offer a focus in nonprofit management, so that is another area to consider. For both MPP and MPA programs, internships are key so choose a program that has good connections. The masters in poli sci is probably the least employable, IMO. A masters in econ can be very employable if you have quantitative interests and enjoy working with data and statistical software.
  • philbegasphilbegas Registered User Posts: 2,844 Senior Member
    edited April 28
    First of all thanks for responding!

    -I kind of figured MA in Polisci would be the least employable it seems like it would offer the smallest amount of quantitative or executive skills. And perhaps a MA in International Relations even less so because it's even more specific.

    -I've heard about MBA concentrations before, I figured it would be similar to concentrations offered by BSBA programs (finance, administration, supply chain, nonprofit, marketing, etc).

    -Thanks for clearing that up about MPA/MPPs. I won't make sweeping generalizations about them, but when the time comes I will do research about specific programs.

    -I'm guessing the schools that are in areas like DC, NYC, and other large metropolitans would have the easiest access to internships & connections in general. I see that G-Town SFS has some interesting graduate degrees, like a joint degree in International Business & Policy.

    -For the MA in Econ, I haven't gotten the chance to look en mass yet, but would that generally require upper level mathematics? Perhaps calculus, differential equations, etc? Since I took a hiatus from school, I feel as though my math skills are not as developed as they could be, especially if it involves trigonometric concepts (but I could remedy that if needed).

    -Last comment: I'm not fluent, but I speak Russian relatively well (Russian-born actually), so I figured if the time comes and I'm still interested in in foreign relations/ politics, I might try to perfect my Russian because that could be quite an asset when it comes to foreign affairs. Drexel actually offers a Russian minor too, so if I have time I might try to go for it.
  • philbegasphilbegas Registered User Posts: 2,844 Senior Member
    https://gps.ucsd.edu/academics/mpp.html#Areas-of-Specialization

    Is one thing that I had my eye on. Interesting specializations, I could count Russian towards the required credits, and I'm in state for CA.
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 11,416 Super Moderator
    I know it's a bit early for me to be worrying about it, but the reason I wanted to learn more about it now is that I heard if I take classes in, or minor in political science, it might help me skip introductory level courses for politics-related graduate programs.

    Unlikely. Academic graduate degrees are designed for people with undergraduate training in that field - so most people going to get an MA in political science will have at least taken a lot of political science classes, if not majored in it. It's unlikely that you having taken a few poli sci classes will get you out of the graduate-level MA classes.

    The way to answer this question is to decide what you want to do first, THEN decide what you want to get. If you wanted to work as a research economist at the UN I'd say then get the economics MA. If you wanted to go into public policy work at the federal level I'd say the MPP was your best bet. But you can't make the graduate degree choice in a vacuum, without any idea of what you want to do yet.

    Since you are planning on working after college, don't worry about this now. Just let your interests guide the electives you choose and the co-op you do.
  • CheddarcheeseMNCheddarcheeseMN Registered User Posts: 2,366 Senior Member
    Would like to add to this that you can often skip an econ course or two in an MPP/MPA program if you have had introductory micro and intermediate micro. Or at least taking these courses can help get you admitted. Your stats background would also affect your placement. Undergrad poli sci courses are less useful in this way. Poli sci major or minor not needed (nor an econ major or minor.)
  • philbegasphilbegas Registered User Posts: 2,844 Senior Member
    edited May 2
    Will do @juillet thanks for the helpful advice as always. I think any finance-related co op would still be valuable in some way for public administration or economics. With the sort of degrees that I'm mentioning, is there going to be shorter tracks for those with relevant undergraduate degrees and then longer tracks for people with irrelevant undergraduate degrees? I would think having a BSBA in Finance would be *somewhat* relevant to public administration or economics (provided the program focuses more on the applied than the theoretical).

    That sort of thing happened to my gf. She has a BA in Landscape Arch, so she got to apply to shorter tracks at graduate school for the MLA.
  • CheddarcheeseMNCheddarcheeseMN Registered User Posts: 2,366 Senior Member
    The shorter tracks for MPP/MPA/MBA programs take the form of 3-2 programs in which you can get a master's degree and a bachelors degree at the same institution in 5 years. There are shorter MPP/MPA programs for mid-career professionals, if you are willling to wait a decade or more to become "mid-career.".
  • philbegasphilbegas Registered User Posts: 2,844 Senior Member
    I definitely don't want to get a graduate degree until I work for a few years to see what I want.
  • philbegasphilbegas Registered User Posts: 2,844 Senior Member
    Hey guys I have a question about Masters of Arts in Economics.

    link for reference:
    https://econ.georgetown.edu/masters-in-applied-economics/faqs#Question_3_4_5

    I was just perusing requirements and plans for economics graduate degrees and I started to see the differences between a Masters in "applied economics" vs just plain old "economics". Is it similar to the differences between a BA vs BS in econ? It seems like with my mathematical background being a bit lackluster, I might not qualify for MS in Economics or Applied economics majors unless I actually did an economics minor (and took intermediate level economics courses throughout my undergraduate time)
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 11,416 Super Moderator
    Applied economics programs tend to focus more on the applications of economics to professional fields, like finance or policy research, and tend to be tailored for students intending to enter the workforce. Economics degrees can really be anything. The way you can tell the difference is by reading the overview of the degree program on the program website - that'll tell you what the focus is and what they seen themselves preparing students for (PhD programs, the workforce, etc.)
  • philbegasphilbegas Registered User Posts: 2,844 Senior Member
    Oh OK thanks @juillet ! I'm going to look through some more programs then.

    So then is it safe to assume that a MA in economics is the most theoretical, and a Masters in Applied Economics is the most practical? With a MS in economics being somewhere in between?
  • philbegasphilbegas Registered User Posts: 2,844 Senior Member
    edited May 22
    As a general question: is a MPP or MPA really worth the money? I read a couple articles that said there's no jobs that a MPA/MPP would qualify you for, that you couldn't get with a MBA.

    In addition, it sounds like MPP/MPA admissions people would care more about finance and economics coursework than political science coursework anyways.
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 11,416 Super Moderator
    As a general question: is a MPP or MPA really worth the money? I read a couple articles that said there's no jobs that a MPA/MPP would qualify you for, that you couldn't get with a MBA.

    Well, that depends entirely on how much money you pay for them (and how).

    I think it's true that a lot of positions that you could get with an MPA or an MPP you could probably also get if you had an MBA. (The reverse is also true, btw - I have at least one friend who works in banking/finance with an MPA.) That doesn't mean that there's not still a big difference between the degrees, though; that's just because that's the nature of life: people often work outside of the field they got their graduate degree in, particularly once they have some work experience. As I've mentioned before, I have a PhD in public health and I work in technology.

    I think you can be strategic about which degree you get depending upon your interests and goals. If you like the flexibility and generality of an MBA, then you can go for an MBA. If you are more interested in focusing specifically on public affairs/issues/policy/administration in your graduate studies, then the MPA or MPP may be a better fit. Keep in mind that many MPAs and MPPs do go onto some of the same careers that MBAs do, especially consulting, and particularly if you go to an Ivy or equivalent university.
    In addition, it sounds like MPP/MPA admissions people would care more about finance and economics coursework than political science coursework anyways.

    Depends on the program. Some MPP and MPA programs are more quantitative/economics-focused than others, and some are a bit more social science-y and focus on your background and interest in political science/public policy.
  • roethlisburgerroethlisburger Registered User Posts: 1,470 Senior Member
    I don't see a lot of value in the MPP/MPA degrees, unless you've got some very specific career goals. A MBA is a much more flexible degree, if you want a job outside the government. If you want to work at a think tank, get a Phd.
  • philbegasphilbegas Registered User Posts: 2,844 Senior Member
    edited May 24
    Seems like people at think tanks get paid around the same as government workers - not that much compared to consulting, investing, CRE, etc.

    At the end of the day, I won't know exactly what I want until I've worked for a couple years, but I could always apply for a dual MBA/MPP or MPA program. At Stanford, you can only apply for a MPP as a pair with a professional degree (as an outside applicant) so I would HAVE to pair it with a MBA anyways. I guess I'll throw that on my list later on as a reach school hah.
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