Uncovering the Real Value of Cornell University’s MPA Degree


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.

Student Spotlight: William LaRose

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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.

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

Ben Sandberg

“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, Cornell MPA ‘17

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

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Employment Distribution by Location

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Cornell MPA Guide Cover copy


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!


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

Clare OBrien

“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

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.

6 Ways to Finance Your Cornell MPA

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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.


Public Policy in Action


Flexible, customizable, diverse — there are many adjectives used to describe Cornell’s MPA program, but perhaps the most valuable aspect of Cornell’s MPA curriculum is the dedication to experiential, hands-on, practical learning. Students getting an MPA at Cornell emerge from the program with an impressive résumé, marketable skills, and the competitive edge needed to tackle the challenging issues that are present in all facets of policymaking.

Consider the following experiential learning options that are designed to help prepare MPA students to take an active role in shaping policy — both during the program and upon graduation.


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. Representative internships include:

  • Habitat for Humanity International
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • Amazon.com, Inc.
  • World Bank
  • National Partnership for Women and Families
  • Philanthropy in Motion, Hong Kong
  • World Wildlife Fund
  • The Global Poverty Project
  • The Wilderness Society
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • U.S. Government Accountability Office


Cornell offers three program-specific externship opportunities, which enable you to live and work in Washington D.C., New York City, or India for a semester and take relevant coursework. Externship options allow you to gain professional experience in various government agencies, private sector firms, or non-government agencies.

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.

















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.


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.

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Cornell Brooks 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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MPA students may choose from one of eight concentration options in order to develop expertise in a selected area of interest. 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.

Complementary and Dual Degree Programs

Cornell offers a complementary degree option and a dual degree option for competitive, driven MPA students looking to augment their MPA with an additional 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.
Pro Tip: Read about 5 Reasons to Pursue a Dual Degree — Getting an MPA and an MBA!

Master of Public Administration (MPA)/Master of Health Administration (MHA): This dual degree option enables students to complete both degrees in three years while eliminating duplicate coursework. Students must apply and be accepted to both programs. The goal of this program is to enable students to combine training in public administration with training in health administration, health policy, and the tools of public health.

Graduate Certificate Programs

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

Environmental Finance and Impact Investing
Infrastructure Project Management and Finance
Systems Thinking and Leadership (STML) Certificate

Cornell MPA Guide Cover-min-sq

View MPA Resource

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.

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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 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.

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