Education Pathways

Do I need an advanced degree to get a job in policy, advocacy or organizing?


For a policy career, consider obtaining a policy-related degree, such as a Master of Public Policy (MPP), Master of Public Administration (MPA), or Juris Doctorate (JD). Research different programs and check out Teach For America’s graduate school partnerships. 

Note that there is considerable debate about whether a Master’s or Ph.D. degree is necessary to be successful, and you should do your own benefit-cost analysis to determine if the investment is right for you. Experience and connections can help people land jobs, and a graduate degree can help build a network. Many policy, advocacy and organizing jobs do not require advanced degrees. However, many non-profit organizations prefer to hire a person with an advanced degree for policy and advocacy roles. A law degree opens additional potential options, though it is also more costly than a policy degree.

Advanced graduate training in economics, public policy and political science hone individuals’ critical thinking skills and develop their expertise in a policy area of interest. It prepares individuals to shape the direction of public policy research and to train the next generation of policy researchers, instructors and leaders. It also qualifies individuals to perform high-level policy analysis in both national and international organizations, positioning individuals to guide policy development.

For advocacy and organizing positions, no specific degree is required.


Which degree is right for me?


Master’s Degree

  • Public Policy / Public Administration: A master’s degree in public policy offers coursework in economics, statistics and public management. 
  • Business: A master’s degree in business offers coursework in finance, management, strategy and marketing.


  • Economics: A Ph.D. in economics provides a detailed understanding of economic theory and how it is applied to various fields.
  • Political Science: A Ph.D. in political science offers coursework in quantitative analysis and political theory.
  • Public Policy: A Ph.D. in public policy offers coursework in quantitative analysis, sometimes centered around a particular policy issue.


  • Typically a terminal degree, a J.D. offers coursework in Constitutional law, civil procedure and contracts.
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