5 Best Online Colleges with Online Degrees in Public Policy

Written by College Cliffs Team At, our team, comprising seasoned educators and counselors, is committed to supporting students on their journey through graduate studies. Our advisors, holding advanced degrees in diverse fields, provide tailored guidance, current program details, and pragmatic tips on navigating application procedures.

Reviewed by Linda Weems I got started researching colleges and universities about 10 years ago while exploring a second career. While my second career ended up being exactly what I’m doing now, and I didn’t end up going to college, I try to put myself in your shoes every step of the way as I build out College Cliffs as a user-friendly resource for prospective students.

Updated: February 2, 2024, Reading time: 18 minutes

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Public policy provides the guidelines for creating laws and regulations that shape our communities on the local, national, or international levels to ensure that societies move towards positive change. It encompasses various aspects of local government and society, such as environmental protection, healthcare, and education.

Online Degrees in Public Policy - fact

The Bachelor’s in Public Policy program is designed to equip aspiring individuals with the skills and knowledge to navigate policy analysis and formulation complexities. This comprehensive program covers various related topics such as economics, political science, ethics, and research methodologies, allowing students to dissect complex issues and propose viable solutions.

With a curriculum tailored to address a wide array of policy areas, graduates emerge as adept problem solvers ready to tackle the many challenges of modern society.

In the digital age, the accessibility and flexibility of online education have expanded learning opportunities. Programs for online degrees in Public Policy have emerged as a valuable platform for individuals seeking to enhance their understanding of public policy dynamics while managing their existing commitments.

This convenience is not just limited to fresh high school graduates but also to nontraditional students, including working professionals aiming to elevate their career prospects.

For those juggling work, family, and personal responsibilities, these online programs offer a unique opportunity to delve into the world of public policy, empowering them to contribute meaningfully to society while pursuing better and brighter opportunities.

The Lowdown

An online bachelor’s degree in Public Policy program offers a flexible and accessible learning experience for students, including those currently employed. It allows learners to complete their coursework at their own pace, which benefits those facing geographic limitations or mobility challenges. Moreover, the online format can be cost-effective,  as the tuition is lower and there’s no need for commuting or housing expenses.

Despite the online delivery, students receive the same high-quality education as their on-campus counterparts, including those offered at Liberty University and Penn State World Campus. Especially in universities, experienced faculty members are handling both online and on-campus classes and can provide a rich learning experience.


To ensure a well-rounded online Public Policy degree education, key factors must be evaluated. These include the program’s curriculum, student outcomes, tuition costs, and learning structure. It is crucial to align the chosen program with your current needs, personal growth, and career aspirations.

Each of our recommended online Bachelor’s in Public Policy programs was thoughtfully designed to cater to students’ diverse schedules, needs, and situations. Some of the features are:

Read our Methodology for more details.

College Cliffs is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

5 Best Online Bachelor’s In Public Policy Programs

Arizona State University

Arizona State University - Online

Online Bachelor of Science in Public Service & Public Policy

Arizona State University offers its Bachelor of Science in Public Service & Public Policy online degree program to equip students with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in their roles in the nonprofit and government sectors.

Offered through ASU Online, the program requires 120 credit hours with 40 total classes. The curriculum is designed to facilitate constructive transformation within local, national, and global communities and refine the graduates’ relevant skills in leadership, management, analysis, and policy development.

Some of the courses offered in this online bachelor’s degree program include:

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) has accredited Arizona State University to provide online degree programs through ASU Online. The University is also an institutional participant in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA).

What Makes this Program Unique:

The innovative curriculum design and exemplary faculty are the same whether students attend online or on-campus classes. This means that ASU Online students will receive the same quality University standards in education as on-campus students.

Furthermore, the transcripts and diplomas will all say “Arizona State University” without indicating that students obtained their degree from an “online” program.

Did You Know?

The university is a recognized leader in academic innovation and is known for offering excellent online bachelor’s programs.

ASU has also ranked No. 1 in the US for global impact in 2022, according to Times Higher Education.

Florida International University

Florida International University - Online

Online Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy and Service

Florida International University provides a gateway to a fulfilling career for students (as well as busy adults) who are passionate about serving the public with its fully online Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy and Service degree program. Delivered by FIU Online, the program is facilitated by the same competent faculty who teach on campus.

It requires 120 credit hours, including 60 credits in Public Policy and Service courses. Some of the core courses include:

The University is accredited by:

What Makes this Program Unique:

Every online Public Policy bachelor’s degree student is paired with a personal success coach who will provide one-on-one guidance in every step.

The program is taught by distinguished instructors who bring practical insights from their real-world experience in government and nonprofit sectors and, thus, can provide students with valuable, relevant education.

Did You Know?

The University is also certified with the Seal of Excelencia – Excelencia in Education, a comprehensive certification recognizing institutions committed to serving Latino students.

The University’s commitment to solving worldwide problems earns it the R1 Carnegie ranking. This accolade is the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s highest research classification.

Oregon State University

Oregon State University Ecampus

Bachelor of Science in Public Policy (Online)

Through its online Bachelor of Science in Public Policy degree program, Oregon State University molds and inspires the next generation of public policy professionals who are adept at utilizing research data to champion and uphold positive change.

This interdisciplinary program, delivered by OSU Ecampus, encompasses discussions in sociology, economics, and political science to provide students with the capabilities to analyze and resolve relevant challenges in society and communities.

OSU’s BSPP program requires 180 quarter credits, equivalent to 120 semester credits.

The following are three specializations available for the BSPP program:

The University is a Northwest Commission on Colleges & Universities (NWCCU)-accredited institution.

What Makes this Program Unique:

The curriculum includes a practicum course, which requires students to engage in a supervised work experience in a program related to public policy.

The Accelerated Master’s Platform enables online students to take graduate-level courses while still in the bachelor program, essentially jumpstarting their Master of Public Policy (MPP) degree.

Did You Know?

The US News & World Report has consistently placed OSU Ecampus in the Top 10 best online education providers in the US.

OSU Ecampus students can access various resources, including free online tutoring, library services, career guidance, and success coaching for a more fulfilling and interactive learning encounter.

The University of Arizona

The University of Arizona - Online

Bachelor of Science in Public Management & Policy (Online)

The University of Arizona inspires students to enhance their professional leadership skills for various government service roles through its online degree program for a Bachelor of Science in Public Management & Policy. Upon graduation, students of this program are expected to develop and refine core skills such as:

The University’s BS program, offered through Arizona Online, requires students to complete 130 credit hours toward graduation, including 12 major courses and 15 public management and policy emphasis units. The program also requires three units of internship, for which online students can opt for in-person or online internship opportunities.

Some of the courses under this program include:

The University is a WASC Senior College and University Commission-accredited.

What Makes this Program Unique:

Online students learn from the same instructors on campus and receive the same resources available to students attending face-to-face classes.

The tuition rate remains the same whether you’re an Arizona resident.

Did You Know?

The Second Start Program enables online students to reboot their GPA and start with a clean slate after an absence of at least three years from the University.

University of Missouri–St. Louis

University of Missouri–St. Louis

Bachelor of Science in Public Policy and Administration (Online)

University of Missouri–St. Louis offers students the opportunity to positively impact society and communities by offering its Bachelor of Science in Public Policy and Administration online.

Delivered by the College of Arts and Sciences, the program aims to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the country’s nonprofit and public administration and policymaking.

The curriculum is also designed to equip students with effective oral and written communication, information-gathering and processing, research and analysis, and other valuable skills necessary to excel in public service.

Aside from the General Education requirements, the BSPPA program requires students to complete at least 33 but less than 51 hours of Political Science courses. Internships are also included in the curriculum.

BSPPA students can choose from three emphasis areas: Public Policy, Public Administration, and Nonprofit Management.

The areas of concentration available for Public Policy emphasis include:

The HLC accredits the University

What Makes this Program Unique:

The faculty members are actively engaged in research and scholarship and, thus, able to provide students with well-rounded, practical, and relevant education and learning experiences.

UMSL acknowledges relevant organizations that students under the BSPPA program can join, including the Student Government Association, Students of the University of Missouri and the Political Science Academy.

Undergraduate research and scholarship opportunities are available, and students are encouraged to participate.

Did You Know?

According to Business Insider, UMSL is ranked as the No. 1 institution in Missouri for affordability.

According to Great Value Colleges, the University is also ranked as the 5th best college across the nation in terms of adult education. This recognition reflects its commitment to nontraditional students.

The University generated $429 million in economic impact in Missouri, including investing $1.7 million in local communities and generating and sustaining 5,485 jobs, according to the 2021 Economic Impact Report.

Internship Requirements in an Online Bachelor in Public Policy Program

Internships are essential to bachelor’s degree programs that enable students to apply classroom lessons to real-world situations. These hands-on experiences allow students to gain practical skills, build industry connections, and enhance their employability upon graduation. Integrating internships into the program helps students understand their chosen fields holistically.

Institutions offering online bachelor’s degree programs, including those in Public Policy, recognize the importance of internships in shaping well-rounded professionals. While the online format presents unique challenges, innovative approaches have been devised to ensure that students receive the benefits of real-world exposure even in virtual settings.

Some online Public Policy programs require students to participate in internships at selected offices or locations, subject to approval by academic advisors. This approach offers a structured and supervised experience, enabling students to directly apply theoretical knowledge in practical contexts relevant to their studies.

This enriching opportunity fosters skill development, networking, and a deeper understanding of the policy landscape.

Completing internships is equally attainable for students enrolled in fully online degree programs. Virtual internships, remote projects, and digital collaborations have become integral alternatives to traditional in-person placements.

Moreover, students can contribute remotely to policy initiatives and research by engaging with governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations, and consulting firms online. This flexibility ensures that even those pursuing fully online degrees can benefit from experiential learning.

Bachelor of Science vs. Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy

The Bachelor of Science in Public Administration and the Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy serve as stepping stones for significant roles within the public sector. Despite a shared focus on public affairs, these programs diverge in their focal points, curriculum, skill enhancement, and eventual career pathways.

Scope of Coursework and Topics

A Bachelor of Science in Public Administration curriculum emphasizes courses in organizational management, administrative law, public finance, and leadership. Students deal with the operational aspects of public agencies and acquire the skills needed to manage resources, personnel, and policies efficiently.

In contrast, a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy curriculum covers a broader spectrum of policy-related topics. Students engage in coursework on policy analysis, research methodologies, ethics, and public advocacy.

They study policy formulation, its impact on communities, and the role of government in addressing societal challenges, sometimes including in the criminal justice and emergency management fields.

Skill Sets Developed

Graduates of a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration program cultivate organizational management, budgeting, leadership, and public service administration skills. They are equipped to oversee public sector operations, manage personnel, and allocate resources effectively.

Conversely, Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy graduates refine their skills in policy analysis, critical thinking, research, and communication. They are well-equipped to assess complex policy issues, analyze data, and advocate for evidence-based solutions.

Distinct Career Paths

A BS in Public Administration prepares graduates for roles as public administrators, budget analysts, city managers, or program coordinators within government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and local municipalities.

On the other hand, a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy opens doors to careers as policy analysts, researchers, legislative assistants, market research analysts, community service managers, advocacy specialists, or city management consultants.

BA graduates may find opportunities in policy research organizations, think tanks, advocacy groups, or policy advising roles within the federal government or government agencies, as well as in the area of public and nonprofit administration.

However, it’s important to note that these career possibilities in public and nonprofit sectors are not fixed. With the appropriate skill set, a graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree could pursue roles such as a budget analyst or a public administrator, while a graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree could find fulfillment as a policy analyst or an advocacy assistant.

The Evolution of Public Policy

Centuries ago, public policy was often synonymous with the dictates of monarchs and aristocrats, reflecting a top-down rule of law. The concept of public policy gradually transformed, embracing a more inclusive and negotiated approach.

Notable historical milestones like the Magna Carta in 1215 and the formulation of the United States Constitution in 1787 marked early instances of documented public policy, reflecting society’s shift towards participatory governance.

As societies progressed, the complexities of modern governance demanded a structured approach to address multifaceted challenges. This paved the way for public policy to evolve into a distinct academic discipline. The mid-20th Century witnessed the formal recognition of public policy as an area of study.

The proliferation of policy challenges arising from urbanization, globalization, technological advancements, and social inequalities necessitated a systematic approach to analyzing, formulating, and evaluating policies.

The establishment of public policy programs at universities and colleges met this demand. These programs were designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills required to become efficient in policymaking.

Public policy education drew upon various disciplines, including political science, economics, sociology, law and ethics. This interdisciplinary approach enabled students to comprehend the multifaceted nature of policy issues and their far-reaching implications.

Over time, the academic study of public policy further diversified into various specialized fields that reflect modern societal challenges. Students could opt for focused tracks such as healthcare policy, environmental policy, and social welfare policy.

This evolution essentially acknowledged the distinct nature of different policy aspects, catering to each sector’s specific demands and complexities.

In the past decades, the popularity of online degree programs has further made the study of public policy more accessible to a global audience, breaking down geographical barriers. This allows individuals from diverse backgrounds to engage in policy analysis and formulation.

The history of the Bachelor in Public Policy reflects a journey from authoritarian rule to participatory governance and from rudimentary policy dictates to a structured academic discipline. The recognition of public policy as an independent field of study was driven by the need to address modern societal challenges comprehensively.

This recognition led to the development of specialized programs and the evolution of public policy education into diverse fields, further shaping the trajectory of policymaking in the modern world.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the online program’s curriculum structure, and how does it cover key areas of public policy and related disciplines?

The online program’s curriculum follows a structured framework that comprehensively covers key aspects of public policy and related disciplines. It includes core courses focusing on policy analysis, research methodologies, ethics, and policymaking.

These foundational courses offer a solid understanding of policy development and implementation.

The curriculum extends to economics and statistics, equipping students with analytical tools to evaluate policy impacts. Moreover, specialized elective courses offer in-depth exploration of specific policy domains such as healthcare, environment, and education. Through these, students gain nuanced insights into real-world challenges.

The program’s capstone projects provide opportunities to apply the theoretical knowledge they learned to practical situations. In turn, they enhance their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Altogether, the curriculum ensures students develop a well-rounded expertise in Public Policy, enabling them to contribute effectively to addressing complex societal issues.

Given the virtual learning environment, how does the online program ensure student interaction and networking?

In the online Bachelor in Public Policy program, fostering interaction and networking among students is a priority, even within the virtual learning environment. Various strategies are employed to facilitate meaningful engagement:

These methods create a vibrant online community, mirroring the collaborative environment of traditional classrooms and ensuring students can build valuable relationships, share experiences, and engage in meaningful discussions despite the distance.

Are there opportunities for practical learning in the field of Public Policy as part of the online program?

The online program offers valuable opportunities for experiential learning and practical engagement within public policy. Although conducted in a virtual setting, these experiences are designed to provide hands-on exposure to real-world policy scenarios.

Students often engage in virtual simulations, case studies, and policy analysis projects that mirror authentic policy challenges.

Moreover, some programs facilitate remote internships or collaborations with governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations, or consulting firms. These immersive experiences enable students to apply theoretical knowledge to practical contexts, honing their analytical and decision-making skills.

Overall, the online program ensures that students gain meaningful, practical insights, fostering their readiness to address complex policy issues upon completion.

Check the program’s coursework and contact the academic advisor to determine if the program you’re considering offers opportunities for experiential learning.

Summary Points

Additional Information: