Bridging the Policy and Administration Gap

Bridging the Policy and Administration Gap

How American University's online MPAP program opens doors in the nonprofit sector

"I was a practitioner of affordable housing programs originally," said Crystal Wojciechowski, alumna of American University's online Master of Public Administration and Policy (MPAP) program, "then I moved into the policy world about four years ago."

Like many in the nonprofit sector, Wojciechowski's career path doesn't sit neatly in either public policy or public administration.

"If you're administering programs as an executive director or program manager, you're always considering policy and evaluating programs," she noted. "On the alternative side, if you're in the policy world, you really need to have a good grasp of what it's like to run programs."

Minding the Gap

Traditional Master of Public Administration (MPA) and Master of Public Policy (MPP) degrees are missing key components that can help graduates to stand out and excel by addressing the interwoven nature of these disciplines in most nonprofit organizations.

Nonprofit organizations are also a great place to cultivate a rewarding career. According to a 2017 survey conducted by the nonprofit job board Work for Good, 93 percent of respondents felt engaged in their work, and 77 percent were either somewhat or highly satisfied with their jobs.1

The Best of Both Worlds

AU's online MPAP program gives students the opportunity to gain skills in both public administration and policy while exploring the deeply dependent relationship between the two.

"The world of nonprofits really makes you wear every single hat," said Nina Wertan, another AU MPAP alumna who currently works for the Humane Society of the United States. "As much as I loved the policy and knew I needed a background in it, I knew the administration, and the quantitative and budgeting aspects were also going to come forward in a nonprofit, especially the one I'm currently at."

By exploring concepts of policy analysis, organizational analysis, program evaluation, and more, the MPAP program gives students a foundation that will serve them in countless nonprofit positions. The program even provides a built-in chance to demonstrate their new abilities as part of the policy practicum.

Putting New Skills to Work

The policy practicum puts students in the thick of policy to work in partnership with a government entity like the General Accountability Office or the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or a nonprofit organization like the National League of Cities or the National Juvenile Justice Network, to build hands-on experience.

"They essentially gave us a piece of their work, and we were required to work with them to make sure that there was a proposal drafted," said Wojciechowski. "It was really, really great project management experience."

From the Classroom to the Public

"This degree is one of a kind," said Naomi Miguel, AU MPAP alumna. "The skills that you learn will be completely applicable to the nonprofit world."

If you're looking to advance or begin a public service career in the nonprofit sector—whether in housing, animal research, tribal representation, or anything in between—gaining a dual policy and administration perspective can give you the skills and experience you need to get there.

Learn more about AU's online Master of Public Administration and Policy here.

  1. Work for Good (2017) The nonprofit workforce speaks. Retrieved from