Why study public policy

Would you like to see increased funding for homelessness services, fairer employment practices for parents, or maybe a robust and sustainable policy on climate?

Students who study for a Master of Public Policy want to effect lasting change. They want to give a greater voice to the community and understand the policies that underpin our society, economy and government. Whatever your drive and motivation, a Master of Public Policy will equip you with the knowledge and skills that you need.

Complex real-world problems require real, lasting solutions. People who possess a thorough understanding of public policy and how it affects the world around us are better equipped to take on these issues. They also tend to have a more nuanced understanding of how policy operates to influence social, political and health outcomes. 

Many of us are motivated by an ambition to change the world for the better. But it can be challenging to know where to start or what skills we need to implement these changes. If you’ve ever wondered ‘what is public policy?’ or ‘how to start a career in public policy?’, our article will help you discover what’s next. 

This guide will take you through the benefits of studying public policy and what career opportunities may be available to you. 


What are some public policy issues?

Public policy dictates every part of our lives – from the health of our communities to the future of our climate. It also shapes how we educate the next generation, the kind of research our country prioritises, and the manner in which governance gets conducted overall.

According to Professor Brenton Prosser from the University of Canberra, public policy affects almost every aspect of our lives. It sets the parameters around the decisions that we make as individuals and within institutions.

“If you're not at work today and you're working at home, that's probably guided by government decisions around COVID,” says Professor Prosser. “When you go to the GP, the services that you get are affected by funding for MBS item codes. Public policy decides at what age your children start school and how those schools are funded. The list goes on, right up to the large issues of decisions about investment in submarines and defence in these difficult geopolitical times.”

A profession that exists all around us, it’s no surprise that many ask why study public policy and how to start a career in public policy. 


Career paths of studying public policy 

There are varying career paths available for those choosing to study a Master of Public Policy, including:

  • industry peak bodies
  • public service
  • local council, state and federal government
  • the non-profit sector 
  • healthcare
  • intelligence and policy analytics
  • policy planning management.

A Master of Public Policy could also help you advance to higher levels within your industry or secure a higher paying role. According to Seek, policy and planning managers earn an average of $2,500 per week. With its focus on health, social and intelligence policy, the Master of Public Policy at the University of Canberra will give you an edge in areas of high demand in the Australian public service. 

The University of Canberra is one of only two universities that offers specific fundamental data analytics and modelling core units in its Master of Public Policy course. It is also the only one to offer leadership units to help people progress in their careers.


Benefits of studying public policy 

Public policy isn’t just something decided by the relevant government minister. “It’s influenced by stakeholders, research and public opinion, as well as politics,” says Professor Prosser. “And then there are the people who are at the coalface, making very important decisions around how policy is developed.” 

Studying public policy could put you right at the forefront of decision-making bodies within government ministries. But in our ever-changing world, we also need people outside of government. We need people in non-government organisations (NGO) and the private sector that are armed with a firm understanding of how public policy can confront the complex challenges we face as a society. With this knowledge, they stand the chance of creating a better future. 


Should I study public policy?

Projection data from the Australian Department of Education, Skills and Employment shows that professionals, including career changers, will benefit from a postgraduate qualification in public policy. They stand to benefit at a rate of up to three times the Australian average. 

At the time of writing, around 36 per cent of workers in occupations relevant to public policy have a postgraduate qualification. Demand for public sector roles with policy skill sets in Australia is expected to grow by 10 per cent before 2024. 

While public policy has a long history, it is an ever-evolving field. The public service requires people with adaptable and transferable skill sets who can stay on top of changes in the policy landscape. 

Students in our public policy course will also learn about the history and context in which public policy has been shaped and how things came to be where they are today. You will acquire multidisciplinary knowledge and be given a toolkit of resources to be able to make informed decisions according to the context, situation or nature of the particular challenge at hand.


Where to study a Master of Public Policy

A Master of Public Policy will give you the practical skills you need to make solutions a reality. You will develop capabilities in policy planning, research, report writing, briefings and stakeholder management. 

The course is delivered by experts across the fields of politics, economics, law and business. These experts collaborate with leading industry bodies to ensure that the content is relevant, engaging and up to date from start to finish. 


Study public policy online

Our Master of Public Policy is a two-year course and is delivered entirely online, giving you the flexibility to study alongside work and other commitments. There are six intakes per year, so you can start at a time that suits you.

To be eligible for the Master of Public Policy, applicants must have a recognised bachelor’s degree or equivalent or a higher-level qualification in any discipline from a recognised tertiary institution. Non-standard English speaking applicants must also have an overall IELTS Academic score (or equivalent) of 6.5, with no band score below 6.0.

The course includes either a Graduate Certificate in Policy Evaluation or a Graduate Certificate in Public Policy, obtained within eight months of study. It also includes a Graduate Diploma in Public Policy, obtained within 16 months. Students can choose either of the two graduate certificates to continue into the master’s degree.

Core units within the master’s course include Evidence-Based Policy Analysis, Communicating Policy Expertise and Co-Design and Deliberative Engagement. 

Through the course, you will develop a range of capabilities, such as:

  • identifying issues surrounding the formation
  • implementation and evaluation of public policy
  • analysing the effectiveness of government policy in addressing equity concerns
  • understanding approaches and techniques used in policy development
  • engaging in politically aware, evidence-based policy design
  • understanding the intersection between evidence and politics
  • effective and professional presentation of knowledge, ideas and opinions.


Start on the path to your career in policy today

In the Master of Public Policy, you’ll be led by experts in the field and learn how to tackle some of the biggest issues we face as a society. You’ll study alongside other inspired students and professionals who want to shape the future for the better. 

To advance your career and make a lasting impact on Australian society, apply today to enrol in the Master of Public Policy at the University of Canberra.