Students who want to understand how public policy shapes all areas of life, from the environment and government to business and technology, can translate their thirst for knowledge into a lifelong career. Taking an online Bachelor’s in Public Policy will equip them with the necessary tools and skills to navigate the different variables integral to government decision-making and societal functions.
In this degree program, students learn how to think critically in situations that involve multiple participants in areas of governance, law, business, and non-profit sectors. Public Policy students learn how to transform theories and ideas into real-world applications while tackling the issues that affect the public. They are also expected to provide analysis and leadership while creating a sense of balance between the interests of different groups.
While it is more commonly found in brick-and-mortar schools, the Bachelor’s in Public Policy program is also available online. Public Policy online degrees typically mirror the traditional classroom set-up. The only difference is that the former utilizes technology as a medium. Taking up a degree in public policy online is favorable to adult learners and those who want the flexibility an online format affords while they juggle their career and family responsibilities.
Making it to our 10 Best Online Schools for Bachelor’s in Public Policy for 2020 are academic institutions all over the United States that deliver the academic program online. These online schools are considered the most suitable for distance students based on important factors that demonstrate the quality of online education they deliver.
- Focusing on outstanding academics, these online schools provide Public Policy majors with rigorous coursework to equip the most competent future professionals with the knowledge and skills required in the job.
- The online schools on this list best combine flexibility and quality in an online Public Policy degree program. The virtual classes are held on top-rated online learning platforms that provide students with an easy access to their coursework and technical support. All these create a conducive learning environment that is comparable to on-campus programs.
- The online academic institutions set stringent requirements for student admission, retention and graduation to ensure only the most committed students who are ready to take on the challenges of the program.
- All online schools on this list are duly accredited by accrediting agencies and institutions. Their online Public Policy programs are also recognized by industry authorities.
Find out more about our ranking process. Visit our Methodology page.
Arizona State University–ASU Online
Online BS in Public Service and Public Policy
Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, is dubbed as a prestigious global university. It is also named as the number one university in the U.S. for innovation. ASU Online is also number two in the U.S. for online undergraduate degree programs.
They offer Bachelor of Science in Public Service and Public Policy, where students are equipped with the highest quality knowledge and skills to influence change in the public service sector. They will learn courses on public policy, civic leadership, and management. Students must complete a total of forty classes with the required 120 credits. The program’s featured courses are Public Service and Policy in the 21st Century and Leadership and Change.
Arizona State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges and authorized by the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement. After graduating, the students may explore careers in city management, community outreach, parks and recreation management, legislative positions, lobbying, and many others.
Online Bachelor in Government and Public Policy
Based in New Castle, Delaware, the Wilmington University takes pride in its flexible and affordable online Bachelor’s in Government and Public Policy program. Once admitted, the students can customize their degree by choosing one of the two concentrations offered by the program: Social Policy or Compliance. These concentrations help your degree fit in the career and goals of your choice.
Admission requirements include an undergraduate application, official high school transcripts, and a completed Math and English Skills Assessment, among others. The program has forty courses with a total of 120 required credits. The students are required to maintain a minimum grade of C- for program core courses.
After graduating from this program, the students have guaranteed admission to the Juris Doctor program of Widener University Delaware Law School. Wilmington University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Online BS in Criminal Justice-Public Policy & Leadership
Utica College in Utica, New York, offers six specializations in BS in Criminal Justice. First is Public Policy & Leadership, followed by Legal Issues in Criminal Justice, Cyber Criminology and Policy, Homeland Security, White-Collar Crime, and General. The online classes that Utica College offers are small, where students and instructors study and work together virtually, promoting high quality personal and professional development. They are accredited by The Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
The specialization in Public Policy & Leadership helps students understand how policies are created and their impact on society. This program develops and strengthens the leadership, management, and policy-making skills of students. They need to complete a total of 120 required credit. Careers in Policy and Leadership include victim advocate, first-line supervisor of correctional officers, correctional officer, and juvenile probation officer.
Oregon State University
Online BS in Public Policy
The Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, offers an online Bachelor of Science in Public Policy degree. The program integrates economics, political science, and sociology in its core courses, equipping students with knowledge and skills needed for public policy.
The benefits of learning Oregon State University online include classes developed by world-class faculty known for their research, expertise, and innovation, regional accreditation by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, and the same diploma for e-campus students and on-campus students alike.
The program requires 180 credits. Students may choose among Environmental Policy, Rural Policy, and Social Policy as areas of specialization.
Grand Canyon University
Online BA in Government-State & Local Public Policy
The Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona, offers BA in Government with an Emphasis in State and Local Public Policy degree. With this degree, students will have foundational knowledge of the American government, the American Constitution, and international affairs. Although the degree surveys the framework of local and state governments, its focus is on the political and social landscape of Arizona. The total required credits for this degree is 120 credits.
The university is an experienced leader when it comes to providing online degree programs. Students will find that its online programs are conducted in an intimate setting, encouraging engaging discussions among instructors and students. It has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) since 1968 and authorized by in Arizona by the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education.
University of Colorado Denver
Online BA in Public Service
The Bachelor of Arts in Public Service is offered in the University of Colorado Denver in Denver; Colorado is top-notched. The program provides students with award-winning instructors coming from the university’s School of Public Affairs. It is a high-ranking, one of the best in the U.S., public affairs school. It is from this renowned faculty that students will learn the needed skills and knowledge to thrive in public policy and public administration careers.
Exclusively offered in an online format, students must complete a total of 120 credits to earn this degree. Afterward, students who graduated from this program will have carried excellent communication skills, ethical decision-making, and cultural awareness (among others) to their chosen public service career. Their focus can be anywhere between a nonprofit management specialization to local, state, or federal government careers.
The University of Colorado-Denver is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Online BS in Government-Politics & Policy
Based in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University offers students with a Bachelor of Science in Government – Politics & Policy degree. In this program, students will learn everything from political science and government systems to economics, public administration, and public policy to help them excel in their careers in the public policy field.
For admission requirements, applicants must have a 2.0 or above cumulative GPA for admission on Good Standing. They must also submit an admission application, application fee, unofficial college transcripts with a completed official transcript request form, a high school self-certification form, and proof of English proficiency. This program is 100 percent online and requires students to complete 120 credits.
Liberty University is accredited by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Indian River State College
Online Bachelor in Public Administration- Public Policy and Leadership
Indian River State College is based Fort Pierce, Florida. They offer an online Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration. It specializes in the formation and management of public agencies. This degree has two concentrations: Emergency Planning and Management Concentration and Public Policy and Leadership. The degree requires students to earn 120 credits: transfer from associate degree (42 credits), general education requirement (36 credits), and major concentration courses (42 credits).
The concentration on Public Policy and Leadership teach competent people and projects management, efficient use of resources for local, county, state, or federal professionals and officials, and other integrated knowledge and skills that can advance their careers.
Indian River State College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Online BA in Government
Online BA in Leadership-Government & Public Policy
Established in 1978 in Virginia Beach, Regent University is a Christian institution that currently has more than 11,000 students. Their online programs have been frequently included in U.S. News & World Report’s online education rankings, including the top spot for Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in Virginia in 2019. Regent is accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on College.
Two of the programs on offer are their Bachelor of Arts in Government and Bachelor of Arts in Leadership – Government & Public Policy, both eight-week courses requiring 120+ credit hours. Fees start at $395 per credit hour for full-time students, or those taking an average of 12 credit hours per semester. Meanwhile, for part-time students taking only six credit hours per semester, fees are at $450 per credit hour.
For BA in Government, Regent University offers a concentration on International Relations & Foreign Policy, which has courses like American Foreign Policy and Comparative Foreign Policy, for those interested in pursuing a career in foreign policy analysis. Meanwhile, for BA in Leadership – Government & Public Policy, Regent’s goal is to cultivate strong ethics-based leadership skills in its students. Courses include Introduction to Public Policy & Administration, Ethics, Communication & Influence, Managerial Decision-Making, Leading Teams, and Strategic Planning.
University of North Alabama (North Alabama Online)
Online BA/BS in Political Science-Emphasis on Public Policy & Administration
One of the oldest public universities in the state, University of North Alabama started as the humble LaGrange College in 1830. The historical university, which has lived through the Civil War, now has a sprawling campus that encompasses four cities in Alabama and is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
Its online campus, North Alabama Online, offers a four-year online Political Science degree that can either be a Bachelor of Arts or Science, and students can choose Political Science as their major. Public Policy and Administration is a required course for those under the Political Science majors. Courses include Religion, Politics, and Public Policy, which examines the relationship of religion and politics and how policies are impacted by both, while the Introduction to Public Policy course delves into how public policy is created in the United States.
Tuition for online programs starts at $277 per credit hour for those taking fewer than 11 hours and those taking 19 hours or more. Students taking 12 to 18 hours are charged a flat rate of $4,155.
Online BA in Political Science-Emphasis on Public Policy
Keiser University is a private university established in 1977 and mainly based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Accreditation includes the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. It currently has over twenty campuses—the majority of them in Florida and two in Nicaragua and China—and an online division.
Currently on offer is Keiser University’s online liberal arts-focused Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, which can be completed in 120 semester credit hours and costs $792 per credit hour for both in state and out of state students. One of the program’s objectives is to help students examine and analyze how the United States’ foreign policy affects the world today, making it an excellent choice for students who wish to focus on public policy on a more global scale. Students can then choose from relevant courses like Intro to Public Policy, Middle East Foreign Policy, Urban Government Social Policy, and Issues in International Policy.
Penn State World Campus
Online BA/BS in Political Science-Emphasis on Public Policy
Accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and boasting a total of 24 campuses scattered across the state, Pennsylvania State University is one of the most prominent universities in the United States in terms of enrollment, with its total student population reaching up to 99,000 in 2015-2016.
Its online division, the Penn State World Campus, was launched in 1998 and had more than 150 degrees and certificates available to students worldwide, while U.S. News & World Report included it in its top ten rankings for online bachelor’s degrees.
Penn State World Campus’ Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science in Political Science are both excellent choices for those interested in the field of public policy. The BA focuses more on political analysis and research, while the BS requires the application and synthesis of politics in areas like statistics and computer science. Both programs provide courses like Analyzing Public Policy in the United States, American Foreign Policy, and Policy Making and Evaluation. The BA program also offers courses on policy making for more specific fields, such as energy, criminal justice, and security.
Rates start at $555 per credit for students with fewer than 59 credits, while prices for those taking more than 60 are higher at $596 per credit.
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
Online Bachelor in Political Science-Emphasis on Public Policy
The Dartmouth campus of the University of Massachusetts, also known as UMass Dartmouth, is a public university well-known for its successful efforts at sustainability and its consistent placement in the top 20 rankings of the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for civic engagement. UMass Dartmouth is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (CIHE).
Part of UMass Dartmouth’s Online & Continuing Education services is their Bachelor of Political Science degree. The degree can be completed in 120 credit hours, including a 3-credit internship in the student’s preferred institution. UMass Dartmouth’s affordable tuition, at $332 per credit hour, has placed the online school in many affordability rankings nationwide. The program offers four subfields to students, one of which is American Politics/Policy, with several public policy courses, such as Public Policy in America, Women and Public Policy, Ocean Policy, and Law, and Environmental Policy.
Eastern Kentucky University
Online Bachelor in Political Science-Emphasis on Public Policy
The four-campus Eastern Kentucky University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Among their 40-plus online offerings is an 8-week, 120-hour online Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. Tuition comes in at $409 per credit hour, while veterans and active duty military students who wish to pursue an undergraduate degree can avail of the $250 per hour rate.
Eastern Kentucky University’s online Political Science program has three available areas of emphasis, one of which is Public Administration/Public Policy. Aside from the core course on Introduction to Public Policy, students can select from a wide variety of other courses and electives that are best suited for their public policy concentration.
University of Maryland University College
Online Bachelor in Political Science-Emphasis on Public Policy
The University of Maryland University College is a Middle States Commission on Higher Education-accredited member of the University System of Maryland that focuses on online and distance learning. Its main physical campus was established in the late 2000s and located in Adelphi, Maryland. The university boasts an offering of more than 120 programs, both online and on campus.
For students looking into a career in public policy, University of Maryland’s Global Campus has a Political Science Bachelor’s Degree. This program focuses on areas like analysis and creation of policy development from the local to the international level, defense policy, and the development of skills like research and writing that are critical for those who wish to develop strategy nationally and internationally. Undergraduate tuition rates for Maryland residents are at $294 to $300 per credit, while students outside the state fall under higher rates at $499 per credit. Meanwhile, military servicemembers in active duty, as well as their spouses and children, can avail of the discounted $250 rate per credit.
University of Central Florida
Online Bachelor in Political Science-Emphasis on Public Policy
The University of Central Florida in Orlando is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). More than 200 degrees are offered by UCF’s ten campuses throughout Florida with a total student population of 68,000. UCF is one of the public universities in the US with the highest number of enrollees.
Under its College of Sciences, UCF offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, which can be completed in 120 credit hours. Three tracks are offered for Political Science students: American Politics and Policy, International Relations-Comparative Politics, and Prelaw. Those interested in public policy may take the American Politics and Policy track, with courses that include like State Government and Public Policy, American Public Policy, Women and Public Policy, Space Policy, and Topics in Public Policy. The International Relations-Comparative Politics track also has courses on Immigration Policy, Human Rights Policy, Global Drug Policy, American Foreign Policy, and American Security Policy, among many.
The university charges an affordable price of $179.19 per credit hour for students within the state of Florida and $383.86 for those out of state.
Online BS in Political Science, American Affairs & Public Administration
Headquartered in Troy, Alabama, Troy University is a public institution founded in 1887, with four campuses in the state and regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
Troy University launched its first few online courses in 1997 and now offers 70 fully online degree programs. Among the 70 is their Bachelor of Science in Political Science, American Politics And Public Administration degree. Starting at $338 per credit hour, the courses can be completed in 9-week terms or 120 credit hours. The program is a good fit for students interested in public policy, as major requirements include courses on Public Policy Making (how public policy is created, implemented, and analyzed), Comparative Public Policy, and Contemporary American Foreign Policy.
The University of Maine
Online BA in Political Science-Emphasis on Public Policy
The University of Maine is a public university in Orono, Maine and is also commonly referred to as UMaine or UMO. It is the flagship university of the University of Maine System, which is composed of eight higher education institutions and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).
Their UMaine Online division offers a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science that is 100% online and can be completed in 120 credit hours. In-state tuition for online programs is at $300 per credit hour and $375 for those out of state. Thirty-six of the 120 credits must be used for subfields such as American Politics, International Relations, Comparative Politics, and Political Theory. All four subfields offer courses on public policy, including Religious Thought, the American Identity, and U.S. Public Policy, Conduct of Foreign Policy, and Practicum in Engaged Policy Studies.
What do online Bachelor’s in Public Policy students study?
Most bachelor’s in public policy degree programs take four years to complete but can be completed sooner at some colleges and universities. Their course track usually involves general education requirements and specialty programs.
As an interdisciplinary academic program, a bachelor’s in public policy involves insights in political science, economics, research methods, statistics, and other related fields. Knowledge of these relevant topics enable students to tackle the problems that plague society at large. It includes finding resolutions to domestic public policy such as climate change, poverty, and health care.
Their coursework typically provides the basis to analyze economic and political issues. It also covers knowledge of organizations and how to lead them, the foundations of policy-making, and the process of implementation.
In this program, they will learn the basic policies which are created for the public domain, expanding their understanding of the different aspects of policy development while exercising responsible leadership that fosters positive policy change. They will also discuss management strategies, financial planning, and ethics at length.Courses like public policy analysis, public administration, and social research are also expected to be covered by the coursework. These courses enhance the students’ knowledge of the many aspects of public policy development.
Some schools offer a choice for specialization. They can choose to focus on the economic analysis of public policy, education and social policy, environmental policy, international and development policy, or politics and the policy process, among many others.
Public policy majors are expected to gain the following skills when they graduate:
- A balanced, well-rounded liberal education program that hones their skills for policy-making.
- Practice writing, public speaking, and communication skills for effective communication.
- An understanding of the roles and limitations of the government, nonprofits, foundations, and private organizations in the policy-making process.
- Know-how and strategies to help them navigate the political and economic landscapes.
An excellent public policy degree program is one that helps students turn their passion for doing good into proven social impact. It should be able to teach them the knowledge and skills needed for their line of work through rigorous education and hands-on experience.
What are the career options or holders of an online Bachelor’s in Public Policy?
Those who major in public policy are expected to go behind the political scene and determine the reasons behind public policy decisions. It is here where they learn how to analyze and form public policy decisions that can affect lives. They are also integral in shaping important economic and social issues. Since the field of public policy is broad, graduates of this degree program have a wealth of choices for the career paths. Some might choose to further their education by taking up an advanced degree in law school or a master’s in public policy.
Public policy graduate works also include general administration, criminal justice, political science, and healthcare administration. They can choose to build on the program core by selecting electives from an array of courses under public policy or pick other areas of study. Furthering their education can provide them with ample opportunities to land a job that pays well and offers career advancement. For many, taking up an advanced degree is a smart choice.
A large number of graduates also choose to build their career in the private sector, working for businesses and corporations. Some take up jobs in education sectors, and others prefer working for non-profit organizations.
Public policy graduates can be a part of the government administration/management department, nonprofit management, and legislative staff. They can also go on to become lobbyists, management analysts, policy analysts, survey research, and strategic planner.
Those who want to help develop communities can become urban and regional planners. It is their job to examine population shifts and establish facilities necessary to accommodate them. They can receive up to $73,050 per year.
Another career option for public policy graduates is to become a social and community service manager. Their responsibilities include coordinating and supervising social service programs and community organizations. Their annual median salary is around $65,320.
Some work as public policy researchers, evaluating the potential impact of changing government policies. They usually study a wide variety of subjects, from economics and demographics to environmental science. Most public policy researchers are employed by the state or federal governments, academic institutions, or think tanks like the Brookings Institute and the RAND Corporation.
Most public policy majors who are employed by government agencies work as program administrators. They usually oversee programs like early education initiatives, workforce retaining projects in low-income areas, and many others.
Who should enroll in a Bachelor’s in Public Policy?
As a public policy major, students in this program are expected to work in the public sector as policy analysts, administrators, and researchers, among many career choices. This requires them to have the qualities that any public policy major should have to ensure their commitment and ability to finish the degree.
They need to have the ability to think and act independently while keeping their minds open to other perspectives and alternative frameworks. It is also essential for them to be willing to challenge existing narratives and develop new knowledge.
Some of the best qualities of public policy students include:
Good Organization and Negotiating Skills
Students with excellent organization and negotiating skills can easily navigate their college life and juggle different projects, all the while knowing what to prioritize and what can wait. They should know how to deal with their fellow students, peers, and professors and develop their negotiating tactics. These skills are also integral when they finally join the real world where influencing others and negotiating with different departments and organizations are part of their role.
Creativity and Critical Thinking
Public Policy students are expected to encounter challenges and difficulties with their mounting coursework and degree requirements. They need creativity to cope with the stress and pressure of complying with their workload. It is also required when it comes to solving problems presented by policy issues that they need to tackle in class. They must be able to think creatively around problems and be flexible enough to adapt to the changes.
A Sense of Leadership
Dealing with the public requires excellent skill in influencing and inspiring the members of society and the different sectors that affect them. Being a great leader will make this job easy. Students of public policy should be able to take charge and have the initiative to make tough decisions, even under pressure. They must also know how to come up with solutions to different problems.
While leadership skills are needed, being able to work as a team is just as important. Students are expected to work with different people who have different abilities and qualities. They need to be able to work with them into a common goal.
Interest in Politics and Policy Issues
Perhaps an essential quality of Public Policy majors is their genuine interest and passion for politics and policy issues that shape people’s opinions and impact society as a whole. They should read the news regularly and keep updated with the latest news and updates surrounding the government, economy, environment, and health sector. This will help sharpen their minds and equip them with the necessary knowledge that will deepen their understanding of their chosen major.