Skip to content

Uncovering the Real Value of Cornell University’s MPA Degree

An MPA Positions You for Personal and Professional Success

Every professional who chooses to invest the time, money, and energy in a graduate degree hopes for some reassurance that upon graduation, there will be real, measurable ROI (return on investment) — both professionally and personally.

Professional ROI:

In general, professionals who invest in a graduate degree are reported to earn an average of 26 percent more in salary compared to those who hold only a bachelor’s degree, according to the National Center for Education Statistics in 2017.

A Master of Public Administration (MPA) is a professional graduate degree that prepares mission-driven students for interdisciplinary careers working in public administration. The MPA is a rigorous, advanced degree that prepares individuals for management careers and leadership roles across the field of public affairs — in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.

Our Cornell MPA students are poised to enter the job market with a competitive edge. Historically, more than 90 percent have found full-time employment in the field or have moved on to further graduate study within nine months of graduation. Our coursework is designed to cultivate your critical thinking skills and to increase your knowledge about policy-making in general, and to develop your expertise in a specific area of policy of your choosing (we offer eight different concentration options). Obtaining a cutting-edge graduate degree that promotes these skills makes you more qualified for more senior leadership roles, which also results in increased salary potential and more opportunities for professional promotion.



To learn more about what it would mean for you to pursue an MPA at the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs, we invite you to request more information today.

Request More information

Personal ROI: Leading in Today’s Volatile World

Political unrest. Climate change. Public health needs. Migration rights. National debt. Education reform.

These are just a few of the many pressing public policy issues affecting the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. If you’re interested in positively impacting the field of public service and passionate about improving people’s lives, a graduate degree in public administration and a career in the field of public affairs is an ideal path for you.

Particularly in today’s tumultuous and polarized society, getting a Master of Public Administration is one of the most effective and strategic graduate degrees for students who are passionate about improving the lives of others.

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 an interdisciplinary perspective, the MPA provides students with the tools required to navigate conflict and bring people together to improve lives.

Choosing to invest in an advanced academic program isn’t for the faint of heart. Graduate-level coursework is rigorous and intellectually challenging, but for those who are passionate about lifelong learning, earning a graduate degree is the perfect opportunity to continue to broaden your knowledge base while increasing your future professional potential. For professionals who are committed to mission-driven, results-oriented work, further cultivating your marketable skills with a graduate degree will enable you to secure a leadership role necessary to impact real, tangible change in the lives of others.

Cornell MPA: Valuable, Versatile, Marketable

Adam DeRise

“After doing research on Cornell’s MPA, I saw how robust and flexible the program was, and I couldn’t wait to make full use of it. The freedom students are given in choosing their concentration courses at a world-class institution like Cornell made it an easy choice to select.”

— Adam DeRise, Cornell MPA ‘18

“I chose CIPA because of the program’s flexibility, first and foremost. CIPA, and Cornell more broadly, allowed me to structure a course of study that aligned with my specific interests and made relevant connections to practitioners in the field.”

— Ben Sandberg, Cornell MPA ‘17

Ben Sandberg


Fueled by the expert faculty teaching the curriculum at the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs, graduates of our MPA programs enter the workforce with real-world experience and the practical expertise needed to succeed in a variety of professional landscapes. The experiential learning opportunities woven into the MPA curriculum make graduates of the MPA highly marketable in the workforce.

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, consultants, directors, and planners. 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.

Cornell’s Master of Public Administration degree gives students a variety of opportunities to augment their education with experiential learning activities and in turn, provides students with the relevant materials needed to build an impressive, robust résumé — before and after graduation.

Employment Breakdown
by Sector/Further Education


Employment Distribution
by Location


Cornell MPA Guide Cover


At Cornell University, we have measurable data that shows the real, marketable value of our MPA degree. As you consider advancing your career with an MPA, we invite you to explore our free, informative resource — Uncovering the Real Value of Cornell University’s MPA Degree!

Download the Guide

Financing Your MPA at Cornell: Here's What Our Students Have to Say About Cornell's Affordable MPA!

At the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs, we know that figuring out how to finance an Ivy League education can be daunting, but we’re excited to tell you about your options when it comes to funding your MPA at Cornell University. Here’s what a couple of our MPA alumni had to say about Cornell’s affordability!

Molly Harrington

“The top reason that CIPA was a good fit for me? I would say the affordability of the degree coupled with the reputation of Cornell. CIPA allowed me to get a world class education at an affordable price.”

— Molly Harrington, Cornell MPA ‘18

“The affordable tuition and Cornell reputation 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, Cornell MPA ‘17

Clare OBrien


Because Cornell is the only Ivy League school with land-grant status, Cornell’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 for Cornell’s two-year MPA range from $20,000 to $40,000 less than our competitors.


2021-22 Tuition Comparison (horizontal)


In addition to CIPA’s affordable costs, there are a variety of funding opportunities available to further reduce the cost of your education, including merit-based fellowships, part-time campus employment, federal loans, CIPA-supported fellowships, and external funding. Here at Cornell, we want to make getting your MPA as easy as possible. Let's dive into a few of the financial aid options available to you.


1. Merit-Based Fellowships:

1. Merit-Based Fellowships:

We award about 50 percent of our students with partial, merit-based tuition fellowships. 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.

CIPA also has partnerships in place with the following agencies to offer additional support to students. This support may include application fee waivers and further consideration for financial support:

2. Part-Time Employment:

2. 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 that lists hourly positions.

Here’s a few actual job titles you’ll likely see in the jobs database.

  • AV Equipment Assistant
  • Library Support
  • Student Writer Intern
  • Student Research Assistant
  • Student Assistant

3. Federal Loans:

3. 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.

4. Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program:

4. 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.



The FAFSA isn't just for undergraduate students. Graduate students will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to apply for Federal Student Loan Programs. Filling out the FAFSA is an extremely smart — and sometimes vital decision — when it comes to financing graduate school.



Subscribe to the Cornell University MPA blog, Public Policy in Action. Through the stories we share, we hope to cultivate a community of exceptional students who have the analytical, leadership, and communication skills necessary to succeed in serving others across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.


















Professional Development Coursework

At the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs, we’re dedicated to teaching the “nuts and bolts” of professional development and career advancement.

MPA students are required to take two semester-long courses (or equivalent) that focus on strengthening professional preparation, which may include statistical, analytical, or mathematical skills, professional writing or speaking, leadership or management, or additional skills or knowledge needed for a student’s selected concentration. MPA 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.



CIPA offers rolling admissions. To receive optimum consideration for funding opportunities, however, we encourage you to submit your application by the end of January.

Contact Admissions        Apply Now

Customize Your MPA

By choosing Cornell’s MPA program, you’ll have the opportunity to further customize your degree by choosing from one of eight concentrations, pursuing a dual degree option, or adding a graduate certificate to your MPA coursework.

Cornell MPA Guide Cover-min-sq


For an in-depth look at the Master of Public Administration degree offered at Cornell University – including curriculum details, program outcomes, and experiential learning opportunities – we invite you to download and explore our interactive resource: An Educational Guide for Future Leaders in Public Affairs.

View Resource

The Cornell MPA Network

An MPA program values diversity of thought and experience, and for that reason, the Office of Career Management is ready to provide you with a comprehensive suite of services to get you up and running for your internship and job prospects. Our services include:

  • Confidential career advising
  • Interview preparation
  • Career development workshops

Your Career Plan

You provide CIPA with the information necessary to develop your career plan. We use a variety of instruments to accomplish this, including: a self-assessment and career exploration guide, a first-year career interests survey, a second-year individual development plan, and a top five strengths test.

Cornell Career Services may also be a resource you want to explore for additional career assistance.

Résumé Building

We help take your résumé from good to great and assist you in tailoring different versions of it to the specific jobs you are seeking. Then we collect one of your résumés, which conforms to a template based on best practices and present it on your behalf to employers looking for your skills.


Building a wide network is the best way to land your dream job. CIPA hosts career networking events in Washington  D.C. and New York City for positions in the private, public, nonprofit NGO, and international development sectors. We also maintain an official CIPA LinkedIn site for current students, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of CIPA. In addition, we encourage you to attend the Cornell Careers Services Fair, the All Ivy Environmental Sustainable Development Career Fair, and the Cornell Nonprofit and Government Career Fair. Check the events calendar for further details.


The Application

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.
  • There is NO GRE requirement.
  • 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

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

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

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.

The Cornell Institute for Public Affairs is proud to offer rolling admissions, and we will continue to accept applications to our MPA program through June 15.



The Cornell Institute for Public Affairs is looking for students of exceptional quality who have the analytical, leadership, and communication skills necessary to succeed in a career serving the public in government, nonprofit, or for-profit sectors. If you’re ready to take on some of the world’s most complex policy challenges, you’re in the right place. Let’s get started.

Apply Today

Request More Information

Schedule Your Visit

View Curriculum Details