An Educational Guide for Future Leaders in
Public Affairs

Master of Public Administration — Defined

A Master of Public Administration (MPA) is a rigorous, professional, post-graduate degree that prepares students for interdisciplinary careers working in the public interest. An MPA prepares individuals for management and leadership careers across the field of public affairs—in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Graduates work in a wide range of federal, state, and local government agencies, nonprofits, private firms that interface with the public and nonprofit sectors, and international organizations, where they serve as executives, managers, analysts, and planners.

WHAT DEFINES A QUALITY MPA PROGRAM?

An MPA program values diversity of thought and experience. Relative to other professional degrees, the MPA is far more interdisciplinary, drawing on the fields of economics, finance, management, political science, and psychology. By promoting this interdisciplinary perspective, the MPA provides students with the tools required to improve people’s lives.

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The Value of Public Administration in 2018

The term “public administration” is a misnomer. In reality, solutions to our world’s most pressing public affairs challenges are implemented via a complex network of public, private, and nonprofit organizations. The MPA provides graduates with the hard and soft skills required to forge these solutions across sectors in a strategic, mission-oriented, and equitable manner. We foster the development of innovative ideas and tools that really matter for improving the political, economic, environmental, and social climate of our world.

Public Administration in a Volatile World Climate

Work in public affairs is for service-oriented professionals looking to make a real, tangible difference in people’s lives. Professionals serving in the field of public affairs work as leaders across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors on a variety of pressing and “wicked” public policy issues, such as:

  • Climate change, and how climate change affects related spaces (disaster management, economic development, food security).
  • Infrastructure in underdeveloped countries, and how government and the private sector can work together to improve infrastructure.
  • Transitioning incarcerated individuals back into society.
  • Addressing the opioid epidemic.
  • Improving the management and delivery of public and private education around the world.
  • Improving access to healthcare for those living in poverty.
  • Economic development strategies for those living in urban areas.

If you’re interested in building a career in public service, and if you are passionate about improving people’s lives, the field of public affairs is an ideal path for you.

WHO PURSUES AN MPA?

Those who pursue an MPA pursue management roles in the public interest, where the standards of accountability, transparency, and equity demand a unique mix of knowledge, skills, and abilities. Those pursuing an MPA do so after careful introspection, and upon determining that their goals, values, and focus lie in improving people’s lives.

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MPA vs. MPP vs. MBA

While there are several professional degree options that can enhance your knowledge, skills, and abilities and allow you to make a valuable contribution to the world, it is important to distinguish between these degrees and the opportunities they will lead to.

The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) is the professional organization that oversees education in the field of public affairs, public policy, and public administration. NASPAA defines a Master of Public Administration as “the core professional degree for a management career in public service. The curriculum is designed to aid students in developing the skills and techniques used by leaders and managers to implement policies, projects, and programs that resolve important societal problems. NASPAA also notes that graduates of an MPA program “work in all levels of government (federal, state, and local), in nonprofits, in international organizations, consulting firms, and in the private sector.”

So, how does the MPA differ from a Master of Public Policy (MPP) or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree? Let’s dive a little deeper.

What’s the Difference Between an MPA and an MBA?-508964-edited


Master of Public Administration (MPA) vs. Master of Public Policy (MPP)

A Master of Public Policy (MPP) degree focuses on analysis. MPP students use the tools of economic analysis to forecast the consequences of public policy. MPP graduates typically assume roles as analysts in the public or private sectors. The MPA, on the other hand, is a general management degree that builds leadership, planning, management, and evaluation skills.

Master of Public Administration (MPA) vs. Master of Business Administration (MBA)

An MPA is often referred to as a “Master of Business Administration/MBA for the Public and Nonprofit Sectors.” While this is the case in many respects, the two degrees are not interchangeable. Both the MPA and MBA degrees are interdisciplinary, merging perspectives from management, economics, and organizational behavior. The MPA degree provides insight into the intricacies of how these disciplines apply in the context of public service, however, whereas the MBA is focused on profit-driven results.

Those who pursue an MPA pursue management roles in the public interest, where the standards of accountability, transparency, and equity demand a unique mix of knowledge, skills and abilities. Those pursuing an MPA do so after careful introspection, and upon determining that their goals, values, and focus lie in improving people’s lives.

The MPA allows graduates to accelerate the “business of public affairs” and unravel challenges in federal, state, or local government; nonprofit organizations, and in international public organizations.

Cornell University’s Institute for Public Affairs

Our graduates experience tremendous success finding employment across many key areas of public policy including education, healthcare, criminal justice, sustainability, infrastructure, and economic policy. If you are looking for an opportunity to make valuable contributions to the world around you, then you should make CIPA the next step in your career. — Maria Fitzpatrick, CIPA Director and Associate Professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management

Cornell University is located in Ithaca, New York, a vibrant town that offers the perfect backdrop for two years of concentrated graduate study. Ithaca is also just a short drive or bus ride from many major, metropolitan areas (four hours to NYC, Philadelphia and Toronto; six hours to Washington, DC). Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology is home to a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs, all dedicated to preparing students to improve human’s lives by exploring and shaping human connections to natural, social, and built environments.

A department within the College of Human Ecology, Cornell’s Institute for Public Affairs offers a two-year program of study leading to the Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree. Cornell’s MPA program prepares individuals for management and leadership careers in public service. The MPA offers a solid foundation of core coursework in management, economics and finance, and quantitative analysis.

Cornell’s MPA places a strong emphasis on experiential learning. Real-world consulting opportunities, internships, off-campus study, and Capstone experiences help you develop the skill set you need to be successful in your future careers, and provide relevant material for inclusion in résumés and job interviews.

Cornell’s interdisciplinary curriculum also affords you the opportunity to work with renowned faculty across many different departments, schools, and colleges at Cornell, which is among the largest and most diverse of the Ivy League universities.

EIGHT CONCENTRATION OPTIONS

CIPA allows you to choose from eight options and pursue specialized courses to develop expertise in your selected area. Within each of these concentrations, you have the flexibility to formulate a personalized study plan. With the guidance of your advisor, you select a set of five courses that offer you the specialized knowledge you need to achieve your personal goals within a concentration.

There is no one correct or "best" set of courses for any given concentration because students' backgrounds vary as do their goals. It is important that you give serious thought to crafting a set of classes that are complementary and that provides you with a base of knowledge and skills from which you can further improve your professional and personal capabilities.

The goal is for you to leave CIPA prepared to compete as one of the best-of-the-best in your respective field, recognizing that in the course of your career you may make several changes in focus and direction. The CIPA curriculum is designed to balance generalizable knowledge and skills with more specific applications to particular areas of public affairs. 

We invite you to explore our eight concentrations below:

Brettany Tucker, MPA 2018
Associate Strategist at AWA Consults
Allison Springer, MPA 2016
Marketing & Research Associate of Outdoors America, Open Space Institute
Daniel Arukwe Johansen, MPA 2015
Team Leader, WFP Operations Center, UN World Food Programme Division of Emergencies
Tiffany Jordan, MPA 2016
Recruitment and Retention Coordinator, Roanoke (VA) Public Schools
Vanisha Sharma, MPA 2018
PhD Candidate in Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University
Clare O’Brien, MPA 2017
Management Associate, The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey
Michael W. Foley, MPA 2017
Consultant – Business & Finance, Landrum & Brown
Zach German, MPA 2018
Officer in Charge (OIC) of Administration Department, Health Services Administration, United States Air Force Medical Service Corps
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Cornell is constantly offering opportunities (both internationally and domestically) to expand your learning outside the classroom. In my case, I had the amazing opportunity, alongside a research team of six members — to travel to Kigali, Rwanda. There, we supported our client Ikirezi (a social enterprise) by conducting market research analysis. ― Brettany Tucker, MPA 2018
Associate Strategist at AWA Consults

MPA students concentrating in Economic and Financial Policy explore ways in which public policy affects economic and financial decision making, and vice versa. Students may study these policy issues at the level of international organizations, federal/state/local government, non-governmental organizations or the private sector.

MPA students can draw on the broad CIPA faculty strength in this area and further identify a public affairs focus. This can include: 1) economic policy, public economic and public finance, 2) finance and financial policy, and 3) international economics.

The greatest value was in building a toolkit of knowledge and expertise in the environmental field, which I’m tapping into in my new position in D.C. ― Allison Springer, MPA 2016
Marketing & Research Associate of Outdoors America, Open Space Institute

MPA students concentrating in Environmental Policy tailor their courses to gain an understanding of current economic, social, political, technical, and legal issues regarding the restoration and management of our natural environment, as well as engineering, economic, and legal perspectives for analyzing and formulating policy at the national, sub-national, and international levels.

Study topics can include, for example, the impacts of climate change on our environment and economies, and the interdependencies of the food, water, and energy nexus as society attempts to meet its demands for food, water, and energy and reduce its risks from floods, droughts, and the pollution of water, air, and soil.

Through CIPA’s affiliation with the Cornell in Rome program, I spent a semester working full time at the United Nations World Food Programme, while earning academic credit. There, I worked on some of the largest humanitarian emergencies in the world today … it was an amazing opportunity to learn from true practitioners of multilateral public policy. Ultimately, this experience led to a full-time job offer. ― Daniel Arukwe Johansen, MPA 2015
Team Leader, WFP Operations Center, UN World Food Programme Division of Emergencies

MPA students choosing the Government, Politics, and Policy Studies concentration develop an advanced understanding of how politics and political management intersects with policy processes, program development, and resource management in the public sector.

This concentration, in particular, focuses on the politics of domestic and international policymaking and administrative processes. Students in this concentration develop a skills set that allow them to work with elected officials, public managers, and citizens to develop actionable policy goals.

Unlike other MPA programs with compressed one-year degrees, CIPA is a two-year program. I never felt rushed and was able to take classes based on my career interests. ― Tiffany Jordan, MPA 2016
Recruitment and Retention Coordinator, Roanoke (VA) Public Schools

MPA students concentrating in Human Rights and Social Justice focus on human rights, which, although often assumed to be universal, remain controversial in domestic and world politics. Students study policies that support the expansion of human rights and the elimination of all forms of discrimination, such as those based on gender, race, class, religion, ethnicity, caste, sexual orientation, disability, or marital status both domestically and internationally, and work toward ensuring equal opportunities before the law and in society-at-large.

Students pursuing this concentration also analyze the political and economic constraints that stand in the way of the full realization of human rights and learn to serve as advocates for alleviating political, economic, and social inequality.

I believe that all of these courses have helped create a strong foundation of the core concepts required to succeed in the field of international development. I am confident that pursuing a degree at CIPA will construct a bridge between my current acumen and that required to be a successful professional in the field of international development. ― Vanisha Sharma, MPA 2018
PhD Candidate in Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University

MPA students concentrating in International Development Studies are concerned with policy issues, policy formulation, and implementation in developing countries. This concentration helps students understand the broad and specific contexts in which international development decisions are made.

Students can explore international development concerns using a range of interdisciplinary perspectives and methods including anthropology, demography, economics, regional planning, sociology, biotechnology, and legal studies.

The affordable tuition and Cornell name offered me unparalleled value for an MPA program. CIPA also provided a supportive environment for me to grow from a fresh liberal-arts graduate to a prepared and confident public affairs professional. ― Clare O’Brien, MPA 2017
Management Associate, The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey

MPA students concentrating in Public and Nonprofit Management tailor their studies for careers as general managers in the public sector or as leaders of domestic or international nonprofit organizations. In this concentration, students acquire a strong set of budgeting, investment, debt financing, and data-driven analytical skills as well as managerial skills including negotiations, leadership, staffing, and compensation skills. In addition to these specific skills, students will gain understanding of the broad political, economic, and regulatory factors that affect the sector in which they are working.

I only applied to CIPA. There were no other MPA programs I found that had an infrastructure related concentration. The choice was easy. ― Michael W. Foley, MPA 2017
Consultant – Business & Finance, Landrum & Brown

The STIP concentration is intended to assist MPA students in developing the knowledge and skills to work in policy/project analysis, project planning, implementation (including financing and construction), and operations in the areas of science, technology, and infrastructure policy.

Students can approach the concentration from various perspectives, drawing on Cornell's strengths in engineering, finance, planning, economics, environmental and resource management, policy analysis, and sustainability studies. MPA graduates with this concentration will be equipped to work in either the public or private sector and across those sectors.

My purpose in pursuing an MPA at Cornell was to obtain the skills, abilities, and insight necessary to enter the field of health policy development. When I arrived to CIPA with several years of healthcare experience and clear goals, choosing my concentration was an easy decision. Of the eight defined concentrations, I chose social policy. This concentration includes focused areas of study such as health, education, family, poverty, and inequality and welfare policy. ― Zach German, MPA 2018
Officer in Charge (OIC) of Administration Department, Health Services Administration, United States Air Force Medical Service Corps

MPA students concentrating in Social Policy learn an array of tools required for designing, managing, and evaluating programs in their choice of social policy area which include health, nutrition, education, poverty alleviation, aging, criminal justice, and others.

Much of the fundamental material in this concentration introduces students to problem formulation, identification of policy alternatives to address social concerns, cost-benefit analysis, and other tools needed to evaluate policy alternatives and policy implementation strategies.

GRADUATE CERTIFICATE OPTIONS

CIPA offers three graduate certificate programs, which are open to current graduate students in good academic standing:

  • Environmental Finance and Impact Investing: Working with their academic advisor and CIPA’s Professor of Practice in Corporate Responsibility, EFII students design a program of study that meets the certification requirements. CIPA students pursuing this certification typically (but not exclusively) are working towards a concentration in one of the following areas: Economic and Financial Policy, Public and Nonprofit Management, or Environmental Policy.
  • Infrastructure Project Management and Finance: Working with their academic advisor and the IPMF faculty coordinator, students pursuing an IPMF certificate will design a program of study that meets the academic requirements. CIPA students pursuing this certification are typically working toward a concentration in the area of Science, Technology, and Infrastructure.
  • Systems Thinking and Leadership (STML) Certificate: Working with their academic advisor and CIPA’s STML program faculty, students design a program of study that meets the certification requirements. Students pursuing any concentration can work toward a concentration in the area of Systems Thinking and Leadership.

These certificate programs provide you with specific knowledge and tools for working in the respective area of study. The additional credentials that these certificates provide may offer you a competitive edge in your future careers. Courses that apply to your certification also apply toward your MPA degree requirements.

COMPLIMENTARY AND DUAL DEGREE OPTIONS

CIPA offers a complementary degree option and a dual degree option for competitive, driven CIPA students looking to augment their MPA with an additional degree.

Complementary Degree

Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Juris Doctor (JD): Applicants who wish to pursue a Cornell MBA or JD along with their MPA degree may work out a complementary program of study if they apply to and are accepted by both programs. Students may then apply up to twelve credits of the complementary professional degree program (MBA or JD) toward their MPA. Applicants to CIPA who have already completed a Cornell MBA or JD may apply up to twelve credits from their other degree program toward the MPA degree if these are appropriate for an MPA course of study.

Dual Degree

Master of Public Administration (MPA)/Master of Health Administration (MHA): A dual MPA/MHA program is available for students enrolled at CIPA and the Sloan Program in Health Administration. This option enables students to complete both degrees in three years while eliminating duplicate coursework. Students must apply and be accepted to both programs (admission to one program does not guarantee admission to the other). The goal of this dual degree program is to enable students to combine training in public administration with training and management tools and their applications to health administration and of the organization of the health care sector, health policy, and the tools of public health.

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MPA CURRICULUM

Professional Development Coursework

At CIPA, we’re dedicated to teaching the “nuts and bolts” of professional development and career advancement.

CIPA students are required to take two semester-long courses (or equivalent) that focus on strengthening professional preparation, which many include statistical, analytical, or mathematical skills, professional writing or speaking, leadership or management, or additional skills or knowledge needed for a fellow’s selected concentration. CIPA students may also want to consider including a course from the list of General Concentration courses or from the list of Public and Nonprofit Management courses as one of their two specialized/professional development courses.

The Capstone

To earn the MPA degree, CIPA students must complete a “Professional Writing” requirement. Of the options available, most students choose to participate in the CIPA Capstone. A semester-long program for second-year students, the Capstone engages participants in rigorous consultancy projects for either domestic or international clients. Students work on teams conducting research on well-defined policy or management problems posed by their clients, and develop proposals for relevant and actionable solutions. Check out our case study clients, below:

  • Inter-American Development Bank
  • Global Livingston Institute
  • Agricultural Association of Growers and Exporters of the Copiapo Valley
  • Dr. T.S. Wilkinson Memorial School, Nav Jeevan Sanstha
  • The Volcker Alliance
  • U.S. Government Accountability Office
  • Ithaca Health Alliance
  • American Civic Association

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EXTERNSHIPS AND INTERNSHIPS

The CIPA Office of Career Management works one-on-one with graduate students to integrate real-world experience into their program of study. This is revealed in the internship and externship opportunities for Cornell's MPA students.

Externships

Students who choose to spend a semester in one of CIPA’s off-campus study programs earn academic credit while completing an externship.

Here are our Current Externship Locations:

washington-dc

Washington, DC

new-york-ny

New York, NY

albany-ny

Albany, NY

mysore-india

Mysore, India

Internships

To fulfill the Practical Experience component of the degree, most students choose to complete an internship in the summer between the first and second year of study or to do an externship while enrolled in one of CIPA’s off-campus semester programs. The Office of Career Management will assist you through each phase of your internship search.

Recent Internship Opportunities Include:

  • Amazon.com, Inc.
  • Angora Partnerships, Nicaragua
  • Boston Redevelopment Authority
  • Brookings Institute
  • City of New York, Office of Management and Budget
  • Chicago Mayor’s Office Fellowship Program
  • Council on Foreign Relations
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • Habitat for Humanity International
  • Inter-American Development Bank
  • International Labour Organization, Zimbabwe
  • New York City Department of Education
  • UN Development Program
  • U.S. Government Accountability Office
  • U.S. Embassy, Australia
  • World Bank
  • World Wildlife Fund

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Career Outcomes for MPA Graduates

MPA graduates are found in a wide variety of workplaces. The career paths that require professionals with public affairs education often influence major decisions that affect the community around you—at the public, nonprofit, and in some instances, the private sector.

Graduates of Cornell's MPA program have gone on to work in the following positions/organizations:

Non-Profit

  • Community Solutions, Inc., Director of Operations
  • Catholic Relief Services, Technical Advisor
  • World Affairs Council, Program Officer
  • Partnership for a Healthier America, Chief of Staff
  • Microsoft Philanthropies, Program Officer

Private

  • Deloitte Tax, LLP, Consultant
  • NextEra Energy Resources, Regulatory Affairs Analyst
  • Success Academy Charter Schools, Manager
  • BitTiger, Public Relations Specialist
  • CCS, Executive Director

Public

  • U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer
  • World Bank, Consultant, Young Professional
  • Inter-American Development Bank, Consultant
  • New York City Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget, Analyst
  • USAID, Desk Officer

Public Administration Employment Trends

Within nine months of graduation, 92 percent of the Cornell MPA class of 2017 were employed or pursuing further graduate degrees. Given the diversity of interests and career objectives represented at Cornell, postgraduate activities are regularly distributed across three primary sectors: public, private, and non-profit.

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Current MPA Student Story

colin_mollyMolly Conlin, an MPA student with a concentration in Public and Nonprofit Management, shares her experience studying an MPA, why she chose CIPA in particular, and how her graduate education is preparing for meaningful work in nonprofit leadership.

Describe your background before coming to CIPA:

At Connecticut College, I majored in Environmental Science focusing on sustainable agriculture and minored in Studio Art with a concentration in painting. While there, I participated in a French-speaking study abroad program in Madagascar entitled “Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management,” where I completed an independent study on Fairtrade vanilla production.

After graduating in 2013, I joined AmeriCorps NCCC FEMA Corps as a field team leader. For one year, I supervised volunteers on various service projects across the US as assigned by FEMA. I then decided to continue my service work with the Peace Corps in Togo, where I was able to utilize both my French-speaking skills and agricultural knowledge.

I worked alongside farmers and women’s groups as an environment and food security volunteer for 27 months, building gardens, planting trees, improving childhood nutrition, and expanding economic opportunities for women.

Why did you chose to pursue an MPA program? Why did you chose CIPA in particular?

Following my experiences in the U.S. and abroad, I was certain of my desire to pursue a career in sustainable development and food security. A quick job search revealed to me that in order to get the jobs that would interest and challenge me, a master’s degree would be necessary. Initially, I wasn’t sure that an MPA would be the best choice to continue the work I had grown to love, but I felt certain that I should select whichever program would best prepare me for the demands of running a nonprofit — as this idea had been growing in the back of my mind for some time.

I considered international development programs as well as MBA programs, but ultimately, I decided on CIPA! Cornell’s MPA program not only offered a concentration in nonprofit management but also a concentration in international development.

Most importantly, it was clear to me that the peers I would be studying with in CIPA would all share similar altruistic goals. The network of friends and colleagues I would build in CIPA as well as Cornell as a whole would be invaluable throughout my entire career.

How has CIPA exceeded your academic and professional expectations?

CIPA offers students numerous opportunities to connect with potential employers and work experiences. Several classes require collaborating with real organizations, ranging from governmental, NGOs, for-profit and nonprofit, depending on students’ interests.

There are weekly roundtable discussions with professionals in various fields as well as networking trips to Washington D.C. and New York City. All of these opportunities have not only served to expand my professional network significantly but also to provide me with a better understanding of potential career opportunities I could pursue.

What was the most pleasant surprise about your first year at Cornell?

Although it is larger than some of the other graduate programs at Cornell, there was a clear sense of community within CIPA. I quickly got to know my faculty and peers through various social events organized throughout the semester. I know that my fellow classmates will remain close friends and valuable members of my professional network long after graduation.

If you are currently pursuing a summer internship, what organization are you working for and in what capacity? How does it augment your current studies and/or your career aspirations?

In addition to working at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, Italy as my spring externship, I chose to work with Professor Prabhu Pingali during the summer doing food policy research out of the Tata-Cornell Institute. It proved to be a wonderful experience that complimented my externship perfectly.

I have been able to contribute to policy research that will ultimately influence food security programs in developing countries.

When people ask you to describe your experience at CIPA, what do you tell them?

I explain that CIPA is an excellent program for a wide variety of professional interests. Whether a student is seeking a career in government, nonprofits, or NGOs, whether it be in the U.S. or international, there is a common thread that connects us: a passion to improve communities around the world.

Financing an Ivy League Education

Because Cornell is the only Ivy League school with land-grant status, CIPA’s MPA program is more affordable than some other schools offering the same degree, including Columbia, New York University, and Georgetown. Combined tuition, fees, and overall living expenses range from $20,000 to $40,000 less than our competitors.

Despite CIPA’s affordable costs, a variety of funding opportunities are available to pay for your CIPA education, including merit-based fellowships, part-time campus employment, federal loans, CIPA-supported fellowships, and external funding.

Merit-Based Fellowships

About 50 percent of our students receive merit-based fellowships from a number of sources. These fellowships, based on previous academic performance, partially cover tuition. If you are admitted to CIPA, you will receive notification of your award in your admission letter.


Fellowships Supported by CIPA:

Part-Time Employment

Cornell’s Student Employment website is the source for information and policies about student jobs on campus. The site maintains a jobs database open to Cornell graduate students.

Federal Loans

Cornell currently participates in two federally funded programs: the William D. Ford Direct Loan and the Federal Graduate PLUS loan. These programs are available to U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are matriculated toward the degree.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

If you work for a nonprofit organization, you may be eligible for the federal loan forgiveness program. The program forgives loans on the balance of your student loan after you have made 120 qualifying monthly payments while working full-time for a qualifying employer. Qualified employers include government organizations, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations and other nonprofits that provide qualifying service.

Whatever your financial standing, Cornell University is dedicated to helping high-achieving and competitive students to fund their graduate education. If you have questions about financing your graduate degree at Cornell, don’t hesitate to contact us today.

ADMISSIONS

Cornell's Institute for Public Affairs offers rolling admissions. To receive optimum consideration for funding opportunities, however, we encourage you to submit your application by the end of January.

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Application Process and Requirements

The Application
  • Complete Cornell’s Online Graduate School Application. For questions pertaining to any technical issues or errors, contact the Graduate School office at 607-255-4884.
  • Submit unofficial copies of your college and university transcripts. An official paper transcript is required for all admitted students before matriculating.
  • Complete the GRE. Official scores must be sent to Cornell University using Code: 2098 and to our Public Affairs Department using Code:2204. Please note that CIPA does NOT accept GMAT or LSAT scores in lieu of GRE scores.
  • Submit your résumé and three letters of recommendation.
  • Applicants for whom English is a second language will need to meet minimum scores on either the TOEFL or IELTS exams. Required minimum scores on the TOEFL exam are: writing 20, listening 15, reading 20, speaking 22, as well as an overall combined score of at least 100. Our field requirements for the IELTS exam are: 7.0 in each section as well as an overall score of at least 7.5.
  • Submit both a Statement of Purpose and an Essay. See detailed information below for completing these submissions.
  • You will be sent email instructions to participate in an online interview to complete your application.
The Statement of Purpose
  • 500 words maximum
  • Detail why you are applying to the program.
  • Include personal and/or professional experiences that have led to your interest in Cornell's MPA program.
  • Describe your future goals and explain how you would put an MPA graduate education to use.
  • Include examples of volunteer work, positions of responsibility, and any other life experiences that have contributed to your interest in public affairs.
The Essay
  • 1,000 words maximum
  • Briefly describe an area of public affairs to which you would like to make a contribution.
  • Discuss what you would like to see accomplished in this area.
  • Explain how you would go about initiating, supporting and sustaining changes in this area so as to enhance public well-being and public services.
About the Online Interview
  • Once Cornell receives your application, you will receive an email with information about completing an online interview. It will include login information and detailed instructions.

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Ready to take on some of the world’s most complex policy challenges? You’re in the right place. We are looking for students of exceptional quality who have the analytical, leadership, and communication skills necessary to succeed in a career serving the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Let’s get started.

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