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 for all students who complete the program.


The program is designed to serve the needs of students who hold the bachelor's degree in any field. The criteria for admission to the program are those specified for the master's degree by the Graduate School at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. 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. Students will be expected to complete a statistics course, such as SOC 333, PY 300, or AHS 300, if they have not taken one. 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. Generally, in cases where students don't have practical experience, a degree in one of the social sciences or a field of administrative science would be helpful but not required for admission and successful completion of the program.


The program is administered by the Department of Political Science, and the bulk of the instruction is provided through that department. The focus of the program is on fundamental issues related to the problems of politics and governance in a democratic society. The subject matter and the objectives of the program dictate that there should be an interdisciplinary dimension to the program. Consequently, significant coursework and academic experiences outside the Department of Political Science will be required as a component of the program of study.

Liberal Arts 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.

Degree Requirements

The Master of Arts requires 36 hours of approved graduate work from the following courses:

1. A minimum of 36 credits.
2. A minimum of 18 hours at the 600-level.
3. Foundation courses - 12 hours. All of the following courses are required.*
PSC 600 The American Polity
PSC 601 The Public Policy Process
PSC 610 Public Management Professions
PSC 635 Methodological Issues and Public Policy
*Although these courses are not prerequisites for other courses in the program, it is advisable for students to complete them as early in their program as practicable.
4. Political Science Electives (18 hours)
PSC 520 Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations
PSC 540 Regional Studies
PSC 551 Public Policy and the Law
PSC 562 Decision-Making in Foreign and Security Policy
PSC 564 American Foreign Policy
PSC 566 National Security Strategy and Policy
PSC 570 Issues in Security Policy
PSC 580 Special Topics in Political Science
PSC 605 Public Policy Seminar
PSC 611 Public Personnel Administration
PSC 612 Budgetary Process
PSC 615 Special Topics in Public Affairs
PSC 630 Public Values and Public Policy
5. Other options (6 hours) Courses in other disciplines. Student should consult with department chair to determine appropriate course work from other disciplines.
PSC 695 Internship in Government (3-6 hours)
PSC 698 Directed Readings and Research
PSC 699 Master's Thesis (6 hours)