Graduate Degree Requirements

Public Affairs Program

Degree: Master of Arts

The Master of Arts in Public Affairs is designed to provide students with the knowledge and understanding that is required to relate effectively to the American public policy process. Graduates will be prepared to make significant contributions within the public and/or private sectors of American society. The program provides the foundation for productive participation in organizations dedicated to the development, implementation, and evaluation of public policies in the United States. It is expected that the typical graduate will function within public organizations at the national, state, or local levels. In addition, the skills and expertise that are developed in the program will enhance the ability of graduates to contribute to the success of non-profit and for-profit private sector organizations whose activities involve intense interactions with the public policy system.

The program emphasizes theoretical, practical, and methodological issues that are critical for the knowledgeable contributor and consumer of public policy in the American polity. Historical, empirical, and normative approaches are central to each element of the program. The norms of public service, sound governance, effective analysis, and knowledgeable evaluation are central to the program's design. Therefore, the acquisition of relevant skills in quantitative and qualitative analyses is a central expectation of all students who complete the program.


The Public Affairs program is designed to serve the needs of students who hold the bachelor's degree in any field. Admission does not depend on any particular subject matter expertise. The goals and interests of students rather than subject matter proficiency are the primary criteria for the selection of students for participation in the program. Instruction in the program assumes the level of intellectual development and maturity expected of an above average college graduate. The program is organized primarily to serve the needs and interests of the mature individual who has significant experience after completion of an undergraduate degree program. Typically, these students will be employed by public or private sector organizations in which the principles and practices of public affairs are relevant. Successful completion of the program is expected to lead to enhanced organizational contributions and provide opportunities for career advancement. The program also is appropriate for the person who aspires to shift careers toward public policy activities. The design and scheduling of courses in the program assume that most students will have significant practical experience and will enroll in the program on a part-time basis. The program also is appropriate for persons with limited organizational experience, and every effort is made to make it possible for such students to enroll in the program on a full-time basis. 

Admission Requirements

Applicants must meet the general requirements for admission to the School of Graduate Studies and be recommended for approval by the department's graduate committee prior to admission to the program. The minimal admission requirements are as follows:

  • Undergraduate GPA of 3.0
  • GRE score of 300 (combined verbal and quantitative) and 3.0 (analytical) or MAT score of 410

Degree Requirements

The MA in Public Affairs requires 30 hours (with thesis) or 36 hours (without thesis) of formal graduate courses. (Students will be expected to complete a statistics course, such as SOC 303 or PY 300, if they have not taken one.) Four core courses and a capstone course are required:

PSC 600 – The American Polity

PSC 601 – The Public Policy Process

PSC 610 – Public Management Professions

PSC 635 – Methodological Issues/Public Policy

PSC 690 – Capstone

Core courses. PSC 600 provides a comprehensive review of the governmental institutions and processes for the making of public policy; PSC 601 provides an analytical framework for critical thinking about the public policy process; PSC 610 introduces students to public management as a field of study and practice; and PSC 635 provides students with analytical and quantitative tools to understand social science research. Preferably, core courses should be taken at the beginning of the program.

Capstone course. PSC 690 provides an opportunity to engage in a final research project that synthesizes academic content and skills from the Public Affairs graduate program. The capstone course should be taken at the end of the program.

Electives. To complete the required hours of the graduate program, students must select courses from the following list:

PSC 520 – Federalism/Intergov Relations

PSC 540 – Regional Studies

PSC 551 – Public Policy and the Law

PSC 562 – Dec-Making in For/Sec Pol

PSC 564 – American Foreign Policy

PSC 566 – National Sec Strategy/Policy

PSC 570 – Issues in Security Policy

PSC 580 – Special Topics in Pol Science

PSC 605 – Public Policy Seminar

PSC 611 – Public Personnel Admin

PSC 612 – Budgetary Process

PSC 615 – Special Topics in Pub Affairs

PSC 630 – Public Values/Public Policy

PSC 695 – Internship in Government

PSC 698 – Directed Readings/Research

PSC 699 – Master’s Thesis

Students may also transfer a maximum of nine hours of graduate coursework from outside of the department (unless pursuing two Masters degrees at UAH, in which case, only six hours may double-count.)