Robert M. La Follette School 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 and poverty policy, education policy, health policy, environmental policy, economic policy, and policy analysis.

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 Degree Plan

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 field. 

Core Courses

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

  • Professional Development Seminar focuses on essential skills students must have to be successful in graduate school and in their careers, such as policy memo writing, data visualization, job search and networking strategies, resume and cover letter development, interviewing, and policy memo writing.
  • The Policymaking Process examines the political processes that shape public policy in the United States, and provides the broad contextual framework for understanding the roles of policy analysis and public management in this country.
  • Two courses, Intro to Statistical Methods for Public Policy Analysis and Microeconomic Policy Analysis, develop competence in important analytical tools for the study of public affairs. Students learn how to evaluate implications of policies for efficiency and equity, and to employ basic statistical methods to interpret and present quantitative data relevant to policy considerations.
  • Introduction to Public Management develops an understanding of leadership in the public sector and, in so doing, builds management skills. Students examine relationships among organizations, problems of accountability and control, human resource management, budgeting and finance, and policy implementation.
  • Introduction to Policy Analysis establishes the conceptional foundations and craft skills relevant to policy analysis. Students learn how to define policy problems, determine goals, design policy alternatives, and systematically assess tradeoffs to make recommendations.
  • Workshop in Public Affairs, the MPA capstone course taken in the final semester, gives students practical experience working in teams under the direction of a faculty supervisor. They apply the conceptual and analytical tools acquired during three semesters of coursework to issues real-world clients face in the public, nonprofit, and private sectors.

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

Elective Courses

In addition to the required core courses, 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.


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.