A higher degree of learning, with flexibility in mind

The typical student seeking a master of professional studies or advanced public policy degree, university leaders say, is secure in a job, juggling family demands and motivated to quickly complete a degree or certificate.

Professional studies programs in the greater Washington, D.C. region draw from a variety of academic disciplines and educate students face-to-face, online or in a blend of both.

With this in mind, the George Washington University offers courses throughout the year and uses innovative formats that accommodate students’ obligations, said Ali Eskandarian, dean of the College of Professional Studies.

“We see more interest in a hybrid, or blended, format and fully online programs,” Eskandarian said.

The university meets with external partners—government agencies, professional associations, consultants, and business and industry leaders—to develop its MPS program and ensure its offerings are consistent with current job trends.

“It will also allow others, already holding bachelor’s degrees, who are more interested in the knowledge encapsulated in a certificate,” Eskandarian said.

Just down the road, Georgetown University offers students 14 MPS degrees, covering topics as disparate as emergency and disaster management, hospitality, human resources, marketing communications, journalism, public relations, real estate, sports, systems engineering, technology and urban planning.

“MPS degrees prepare people not only with content in a particular field but also with the ability to apply that content to particular problems in practice,” said Kelly Otter, dean of the School of Continuing Studies.

The MPS in global strategic communications, for instance, helps prepare senior-level professionals to communicate across cultures in the global marketplace. The yearlong program melds online learning with collaborative on-site residencies in London, Singapore and Washington, D.C.

Another notable program, at the University of Maryland, offers an MPS in applied economics through the department of economics. The program emphasizes tools for authoritative policy analysis, with a focus on empirical applications.


“Some students have asked if our degree is less marketable than a master of arts or a master of science,” said John Straub, program director. “The employment rate for our 2015 graduates is virtually 100 percent.”

Straub said the list of employers for Maryland’s class of 2015 includes private consulting firms such as KPMG, government agencies such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and NGOs such as the Inter-American Development Bank.

Communications, management skills and economic analysis are also crucial in the field of public policy. Many professional studies programs offer a public policy degree, while other public policy graduate programs are standalone.

The master of arts in global policy at the Johns Hopkins University attracts professionals seeking to advance their careers under the guidance of world-class scholars, diplomats and policymakers.

The curriculum, delivered through the School of Advanced International Studies, offers interactive seminars and experiential learning. The 16-month program culminates with a capstone project where students address a trending policy challenge, said Sidney Jackson, director of global enrollment and recruitment.

An alternating weekend schedule enables students to learn in a rigorous academic setting while continuing to work full time.

The global policy program is “designed specifically for highly motivated, experienced professionals wanting a practical understanding and application of international policy,” Jackson said.

“We have people from the Peace Corps, the Office of Naval Intelligence, the Federal Reserve,” Jackson said. From nonprofits, the private sector and the public sector, it’s “a mix.”

Johns Hopkins also offers 21 master’s degrees and 14 certificate programs in its Advanced Academic Programs, which include biotechnology, applied economics, museum studies, governmental studies and two new programs, research administration, and film and media studies.

“The Johns Hopkins University name alone tells people I received a high-quality education,” said Phyllis Hecht, director for JHU’s master of arts in museum studies.

At the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, students receive practical experience alongside world-class experts, whether in nonprofit management, international security, public finance, social policy or environmental and energy policy.

Cheryll-Ann Wilson Drakes, who worked in banking and finance for two decades, earned an Alexander and Cleaver Fellowship at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, where she has devoted her attention to environmental and energy policy.

“Not only have I become very interested in the environmental impacts of our ubiquitous and indiscriminate use of chemicals, I have made lifestyle changes as well,” Wilson Drakes said.

Wilson Drakes said her short-term goal is to help the public and private sectors transition to a low-carbon future.

Photo credits: University of Maryland, Department of Economics (inline image); Georgetown University, School of Continuing Studies (headline image)

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