Key Program Information

Program Length: Two years (varies for students pursuing joint or concurrent degrees)

Degree Awarded: Master in Public Policy

Admission Application Deadline: December 2024

Financial Aid Application Deadline: January 2025

Contact the MPP Program

Contact e-mai icon Email
617-496-1845

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Littauer Building, Room 133
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138

Become an expert problem solver

The Master in Public Policy Program provides you with a conceptual toolkit rooted in the social sciences and adapted for action.

A defining feature of the Master in Public Policy (MPP) Program is its commitment to practice. Take what you learn here and apply it right away—through capstone exercises, case studies, experiential learning opportunities, and optional internships—to deliver lasting results.

At the heart of the program is a cross-disciplinary core curriculum that exposes you to the analytic methods, conceptual frameworks, and habits of mind that empower you to craft solutions for real-world public problems.

Sebastian Agignoae

“At HKS, my professors taught me valuable quantitative skills, strategies on working multilaterally with different stakeholders in different sectors, the power of storytelling, and how to build an effective organization.” 

Sebastian Agignoae MPP 2022

About the MPP Program

The MPP curriculum will broaden your perspective and sharpen skills to prepare you for a successful career in public service.

The first year of the MPP Program focuses on the cross-disciplinary fundamentals of policy design, analysis, and implementation. You will take core courses to develop professional competencies in: 

  • Economics
  • Ethics
  • Financial management
  • Negotiation
  • Policy design and delivery
  • Politics
  • Quantitative analysis
  • Applied history

Areas of Focus

As a complement to the MPP core curriculum, you will also choose a Policy Area of Concentration (PAC) in one of five areas: 

  • Business and Government Policy
  • Democracy, Politics, and Institutions
  • International and Global Affairs 
  • Political and Economic Development
  • Social and Urban Policy 

Summer Internships

While it isn’t a formal requirement, most MPP students take on a policy-oriented internship during the summer after the first year. You’ll apply what you’ve learned in class to gain deeper insights; use new skills; and face challenges in different professional areas, policy fields, or parts of the world.

Most first-year MPP students take 38 credits, which consists of 18 core course credits in the fall and 16 core course credits credits in the spring. Many students also begin taking elective courses in the spring of their first year.

Required Core Courses (First Year)

Spring Exercise

The first-year MPP curriculum culminates in the Spring Exercise, a two-week simulation that applies the tools and concepts of the first-year core to a real-world, real-time policy issue. 

During the Exercise, you are assigned to a five-person team tasked with forging solutions to a deliberately tough challenge. You’ll conduct research, attend sessions and presentations that link the topic to your core courses, and work with your team to prepare a package of policy and management recommendations. 

Required Core Courses (Second Year)

  • Policy Area of Concentration year-long seminar (or “PAC Seminar”), including completion of the Policy Analysis Exercise (PAE) (4 credits)
  • PAC electives (8-20 credits dependent on PAC/Concentration)

Policy Analysis Exercise

The Policy Analysis Exercise (PAE)  is the capstone of the MPP experience.

The PAC Seminars familiarize you with key issues and policy debates in your particular area and guide you through the PAE writing process. Once you declare your PAE topic, you will be assigned a faculty advisor with the expertise to help you succeed.  

During the PAE, you develop solutions for a policy or management problem that your client—a public or nonprofit organization—is grappling with. You and your client work together to scope the problem, examine the context,  gather data, formulate and evaluate options, and make actionable recommendations. The final analysis—usually around 40 pages or 10,000 words—gives you the opportunity to integrate the technical skills and specialized knowledge you have gained from the MPP curriculum while also helping your client organization create public value.

Learn more about the Policy Analysis Exercise and read past examples. 

The MPP Program consists of four semesters of full-time coursework in residence at HKS. 

To graduate, you must: 

  • Earn at least 72 credits, which must include the required core curriculum, your PAC requirements, capstone experiences, and electives
  • Matriculate as a full-time, in-residence student and take between 12-24 credits per semester
  • Finish with a GPA of B or better
  • Earn a B- or higher in all required MPP core courses, and PAC requirements, as well as a passing grade for the Spring Exercise, PAE, and PAC Seminar

You might consider pursuing a second degree jointly or concurrently if you’re interested in how the world’s challenges can be addressed at the intersection of public policy and business, law, medicine, design, or other fields.

Pursuing a joint or concurrent degree reduces coursework and residency requirements and makes it possible to earn two degrees in a shorter amount of time.

Joint Degrees

As an MPP student, you can pursue a joint degree—either an MBA at Harvard Business School or a JD at Harvard Law School—that involves carefully crafted and integrated coursework.

Concurrent Degrees

You can pursue a concurrent degree in business, law, medicine, design, or another field—as long as it is:

  • A professional degree (an MBA, MD, or JD; not a PhD or an academic master’s)
  • At least a two-year program
  • Completed at a partner school

The concurrent degree program allows you to pursue degrees at HKS and at a partner school; however, the coursework is not as closely integrated as the joint degree program. As a concurrent degree student, you are responsible for weaving together the two halves of your learning experience.

Faculty members at HKS aren’t just teachers. They are global experts who shape public policy, advise governments, and help run major institutions in the United States and abroad. Learn more about our core MPP faculty members.

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John Donahue

MPP Faculty Chair; Raymond Vernon Senior Lecturer in Public Policy

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Marcella Alsan

Angelopoulos Professor of Public Policy

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Desmond Ang

Assistant Professor of Public Policy

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Christopher Norio Avery

Roy E. Larsen Professor of Public Policy

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Gloria Ayee

Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy

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Jeeyang Rhee Baum

Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy

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Jonathan Borck

Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy

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Cornell Brooks

Hauser Professor of the Practice of Nonprofit Organizations; Professor of the Practice of Public Leadership 

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Michela Carlana

Assistant Professor of Public Policy

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Dara Kay Cohen

Professor of Public Policy

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Suzanne Cooper

Academic Dean for Teaching and Curriculum; Edith M. Stokey Senior Lecturer in Public Policy

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Justin de Benedictis-Kessner

Assistant Professor of Public Policy

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Pınar Doğan

Senior Lecturer in Public Policy

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Mark Fagan

Lecturer in Public Policy

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Anthony Foxx

Emma Bloomberg Professor of the Practice of Public Leadership

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Archon Fung

Winthrop Laflin McCormack Professor of Citizenship and Self-Government

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Jason Furman

Aetna Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy

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Sharad Goel

Professor of Public Policy

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Yanilda González

Assistant Professor of Public Policy

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John Haigh

Lecturer in Public Policy

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Juan Jimenez

Lecturer in Public Policy

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Juliette Kayyem

Belfer Senior Lecturer in International Security

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Robert Lawrence

Albert L. Williams Professor of International Trade and Investment

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Tim Layton

30th Anniversary Associate Professor of Health Care Policy, HMS

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Elizabeth Linos

Emma Bloomberg Associate Professor of Public Policy and Management

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Brian Mandell

Mohamed Kamal Senior Lecturer in Negotiation and Public Policy

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Zoe Marks

Lecturer in Public Policy

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Liz McKenna

Assistant Professor of Public Policy

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Julia Minson

Associate Professor of Public Policy

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Khalil Gibran Muhammad

Ford Foundation Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy

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Thomas Patterson

Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press

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Christopher Robichaud

Senior Lecturer in Ethics and Public Policy

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Eric Rosenbach

Senior Lecturer in Public Policy

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Juan Saavedra

Lecturer in Public Policy

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Benjamin Schneer

Assistant Professor of Public Policy

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Daniel Schneider

Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy, HKS; Professor of Sociology, FAS

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Mark Shepard

Associate Professor of Public Policy

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Kathryn Sikkink

Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights Policy

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Sandra Susan Smith

Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice, HKS; Professor of Sociology, FAS; Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor, Radcliffe

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Teddy Svoronos

Lecturer in Public Policy

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Charles Taylor

Assistant Professor of Public Policy

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Stephen Walt

Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs

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Setti Warren

Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy

 

MPP at a glance

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Entering age
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International students

*Statistics are based on a five-year average.

Featured MPP stories

 

Megan Cordone MPP 2023 is a rocket enthusiast who combined her strengths in physics and policy to pursue a public service career.

 

Austin Boral MPP/MBA 2023 wants public officials to retain and share what they learn tackling the most complex public problems.

 

Grace Park MPP 2023 is exploring the intersection of artificial intelligence and public policy.

Hiram Rios Hernandez standing in HKS Courtyard

“I believe every public servant should be polished in a basic toolset: economics, ethics, statistics, policy analysis, negotiations, leadership. The MPP core offers that and more.” 

Hiram Ríos Hernández MPP 2017 

Applying to the MPP Program

To apply to the MPP Program, you must have:

  • A bachelor’s degree with a strong academic record 
  • Evidence of quantitative proficiency such as success in undergraduate-level economics, statistics, or calculus courses, regardless of your undergraduate major

Work experience is not strictly required but is an advantage for admission, and more importantly, for making the most of the MPP experience. Incoming MPP students typically have 2-3 years of professional work experience.

A complete application to the MPP Program includes: 

  • Online application
  • Essays
  • Résumé/CV
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Standardized test scores
    • GRE or GMAT required
    • Non-native English speakers who did not earn an undergraduate degree conducted in English must submit TOEFL, IELTS, or Cambridge English exam results
  • Academic transcripts
  • $100 application fee or waiver

Read more about how to apply.  

The application for the 2025-2026 academic year will be available in September 2024. There is one admission application deadline and one start date for each degree program per year. You may apply to only one master's degree program per admissions cycle. 

The cost of attendance for the 2024-2025 academic year is outlined in Funding Your Master’s Education to help you plan financially for our master’s degree programs. Living expense costs are based on residence in Cambridge. The 2025-2026 academic year rates will be published in March 2025. HKS tuition and fees are subject to change without notice. 

Financing your education is a partnership—we are here to help guide you. You are strongly encouraged to explore all funding opportunities.

 

Learn more about the HKS community

How to Apply
Apply to the MPP Program. Now is the time.
Funding Your Master’s Education
Explore all opportunities to fund your master’s education at HKS.