- Annual Enrollment:
- Approximately 100 new graduate students enroll per academic year
- Work experience (in years):
- 2-5+ years (MPA); 7-15+ years (MPP); 2-5 years (Ph.D.)
- % international:
- 20-30% on average
- Employment sectors:
- Vast majority of SPIA graduates come from and continue to work in the public, nonprofit/ non-governmental and foundation sectors
- Degrees offered:
- Master in Public Affairs (MPA), Master in Public Policy (MPP), Ph.D. in Public Affairs
- $58,790 (2021-22 academic year). All students receive 100% tuition and required fees support; nearly all students receive a generous need-based living stipend.
“In the Nation’s Service and the Service of Humanity” captures the essence of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.
What began in 1930 as a small interdisciplinary undergraduate program has become a major center of research and education, providing training in its graduate programs to masters and doctoral students.
The School offers a rigorous academic experience in a tight-knit, intimate community. Admitted students will join an intellectually stimulating family that includes more than 4,000 alumni, esteemed research faculty, high-level policymakers, and a staff dedicated to helping them succeed.
With 200 graduate students enrolled in our three graduate programs, students are able to create meaningful connections and lifelong friendships with peers and professors. Generous financial aid packages allow students to pursue careers in public service unencumbered by debt.
Our work is informed by a commitment to a multidisciplinary approach to policy issues, a global perspective, and an emphasis on top-quality research and teaching. Our faculty reflect the complexity of today’s policy issues and includes economists, historians, political scientists, and sociologists, as well as scientists, engineers, psychologists, and legal scholars. Practitioners are an important part of students’ training and bring real-world policy experience to the classroom. Our Leadership Through Mentorship Program brings in high-level policy officials who attend classes, share meals with students, and offer office hours. Finally, the School is home to 20 research centers and programs organized around policy-relevant areas.
To receive information directly from the Admissions Department, click here.
Events like the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have had tragic impacts on the ground, as well as ripple effects worldwide. How can policy-oriented institutions react to these watershed moments?
History is being written every day: Long-standing ideals, such as the expansion of democracy or the relative peace Europe has enjoyed for decades, face challenges and imminent threats. Rebuilding in Afghanistan and Ukraine will require significant and sustained support across the humanitarian-development-peace nexus, as well as evidence-based policy. This academic year, Princeton will be hosting displaced Ukrainian scholars in several departments, including SPIA; and I am proud we can provide safe refuge for their continued scholarship. At our Afghanistan Policy Lab, academic fellows from Afghanistan, who worked previously in support of U.S. government efforts there, are collaborating with members of our community on policy-relevant research focused on humanitarian aid, health, civic space, women, and national healing and reconciliation.
At the same time, we need to share our own faculty expertise globally. This spring, we produced an expert webinar series on implications of the war in Ukraine. Moderated by Razia Iqbal of the BBC World Service, the series received hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube and beyond.
Even as we address these global challenges, how can we prepare for what might come next?
We must anticipate the global power shifts to come, including the policy impacts on regions, countries, communities, and individuals. SPIA is uniquely positioned to do this, given our cutting-edge interdisciplinary scholarship that spans the globe. Our faculty’s work is shaping public debates on topics such as U.S.-China relations and China’s rise, democratic back-sliding and the rise of populism, race and gender, mis/disinformation, and poverty and inequality.
SPIA also has a long-held tradition to send our students abroad to study policy. We offer summer internships for graduate students, workshops where they contribute to solving a policy issue on behalf of a real client, and field work to supplement our formal curriculum. SPIA’s graduate degrees are fully funded, and our students regularly connect with world leaders, institutions, and government officials—on campus and around the world.
One of your top priorities as dean is to “internationalize” the school. What does this mean, and why is it important to you?
For an institution to be at the forefront of the study of public policy, both internationally and domestically, its community needs expert representation from across the globe. Our graduate admissions team is focused on recruiting international students, paying particular attention to regions outside the OECD member countries. We’re creating new institutional partnerships abroad and re-launching research centers, such as the Research Program in Development Economics, co-led by Seema Jayachandran and Pascaline Dupas—renowned development economists engaged in India and Africa, respectively.
We’re also highly committed to amplifying our faculty’s research on critical challenges—ranging from climate change and the global refugee crisis to international security and rising inflation.
SPIA is dedicated to welcoming and building new opportunities and partnerships for global engagement, exchanges, and outreach.
The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs’ one-year, full-time residential master in public policy (MPP) degree is ideal for midcareer professionals who are rising leaders in international and domestic public affairs. While MPP students are required to select a field of concentration when applying to the school, the structure of the degree is flexible and allows students to tailor their studies to their specific career goals.
As members of tight-knit cohorts, students foster lifelong relationships with their classmates and learn from one another’s diverse experiences, interests, and backgrounds.
We recently sat down with graduate Alexandra Kahan (MPP ’17) to trace her steps from Princeton to the U.S. Department of State and understand how the midcareer program equipped her with new skills and perspectives to tackle the most pressing policy challenges.
How did Princeton prepare you to adapt in the face of changing, complex global challenges?
Earning my MPP from the School of Public and International Affairs was a pivotal experience for me. With a truly unique academic setting made possible by the financial generosity afforded to all students, each course and discussion was made richer by students with incredible experiences and diverse points of view from all over the country and the world. I was able to take a step back from my career and reflect on critical, complex global challenges that I had an opportunity to see up close in practice in my prior work in roles in the National Security Council and the State Department. My time at Princeton gave me an opportunity to grapple with these issues anew, through the multiple lenses of my peers, the faculty, and academic focus.
How has Princeton’s unique midcareer MPP program helped you advance within your career?
When I met my MPP class in the summer, I was blown away, not only by their experiences and accomplishments, but by their humility, humor, and kindness. With peers from varied professions and governments, we spent the MPP year in rich conversation, reflecting on lessons in policy, leadership, and the aspiration for, and practicalities of, governing. Over the course of the year, we made lifelong bonds and a community that I will continue to lean on throughout my career and life.
How has your job transformed over the last year throughout the pandemic?
In the day-to-day, in my current role and prior, in management consulting with clients from around the world, I had to navigate new ways of communicating and managing a team during a mostly virtual work setting. The pandemic has transformed not only the way that I work but the focus of my efforts as well. COVID response, globally, has become the singular focus of my career at present. In my current position, our team is working to drive and shape the U.S. leadership role in the response and recovery effort. We are working across the U.S. government and with international partners to drive action that will help mitigate impact, shorten the lifespan of the pandemic, and build a sustainable global health security architecture to prevent, detect, and respond to future health and biosecurity threats.
What leadership traits are crucial to addressing the current global challenges and risks of COVID-19?
Eric: Leaders should be honest, analytical, resilient, and effective communicators. We began responding to COVID-19 without knowing when it would end. The pandemic upended everything, so we had to adapt quickly to the new reality.
In times like these, there are no easy choices. You have to use every tool at your disposal, analyze available data, make decisions, and then do it all again the next day. You have to communicate transparently with the public—through an increasingly fractured media landscape—while showing both strength and empathy.
Ken: The unprecedented nature of COVID-19 and its reflection of economic inequality and racial injustice make imagination and the ability to process uncertainty more important than ever. Things that seemed unthinkable six months ago are now taken for granted. Leaders who fail to think beyond today’s political and policy reality are going to get left behind by a rapidly changing world.
How did Princeton prepare you to lead, and how do you facilitate conversation in a tensely politicized time?
Eric: The Master in Public Affairs program helped me to learn different ways of looking at the world's complex challenges. This is critical to leadership because facilitating conversations in a tensely politicized time requires a willingness to listen and understand the perspectives of others who are not like you.
Dallas is an incredibly diverse city, not defined by one specific issue or economic sector. We must bring different people together and find common ground to make progress on the issues that face our residents.
Ken: I find myself drawing on the interdisciplinary nature of my education at Princeton to look at this crisis from various angles. In particular, the quantitative analysis and behavioral psychology training is proving critical to understanding the science behind COVID-19 and how communities react to constantly evolving information about the virus.
Marginalized communities are often the most impacted when crises come. In what ways did Princeton prepare you to advocate for marginalized voices?
Eric: I grew up in underserved communities in Dallas. As a professional, I knew I wanted to help those neighborhoods. My time at Princeton helped me to think beyond talking points and slogans. I was able to have robust discussions about the kinds of policies that would have real impact for those communities who need it most.
Ken: My classmates at Princeton—through their words and actions—educated me on the unique vulnerabilities of marginalized communities, particularly people of color and immigrant communities, and how seemingly benign technocratic policy choices could compound those vulnerabilities. My classmates challenged me to go further than just thinking about the macro-level impact of a particular policy choice and to think more about how those policies affect individuals in unintended and often harmful ways. I also find myself thinking to the example my classmates showed me about how to marry activism and policy work—the outside and the inside game of politics—as a way to shift the Overton window and secure lasting, meaningful change.
What’s unique about the Princeton School’s approach to policy?
Our distinctive course of study strikes a balance between theory and practice. Ninety-two full-time faculty members teach at the school, most with dual appointments, representing eleven different departments. International relations scholars combine expert analysis of a shifting world order with insight into how history influences today’s geopolitical landscape. Our faculty conduct innovative research; provide policymakers, nonprofits, and research centers with expert, nonpartisan policy analysis; and provide students with the tools and knowledge needed to tackle important policy issues. Students select one of four fields of concentration and can deepen their knowledge in specific areas of study through certificates in health and health policy, urban policy, or science, technology, and environmental policy. All students receive an education focused on rigorous quantitative and qualitative analysis—an adaptable “policy toolkit” that allows them to excel in any field, domestically or internationally.
How do Princeton School students apply classroom lessons to real-world policy challenges?
We believe that learning extends beyond the classroom. Formal coursework is enriched with public lectures and informal talks with policymakers and advocates working on the important issues of the day. We send students all over the world to learn in the field—required summer internships for Master in Public Affairs students, policy workshops to analyze a complex issue and present recommendations to a real client, or fieldwork to supplement formal studies. The result: students are able to learn about any policy topic from various vantage points.
How does the school support students’ career goals and objectives?
We take the view that the school should invest in the students so they can focus on their studies and pursue careers in public service without worrying about financing their graduate education. Generous financial aid is offered to all graduate students covering full tuition and required fees for everyone, as well as financial support for travel to complement policy workshops, for language training, and for summer internships. Our career services team is dedicated to helping launch students’ careers, providing coaching, guidance, and resources for the lifecycle of their careers.
How does the Princeton School engage in foreign affairs and foreign policy, especially as the rules of international affairs seem to be changing?
For a school our size, we offer remarkable range in this regard. Our faculty and practitioners study international relations, politics, and economics, and our twenty centers and programs focus on policy issues ranging from climate change and forced migration to security studies, health, and finance. We are a home for the study and debate of national and international policy and support a variety of educational, research, enrichment, and outreach activities. Opportunities abound for students to gain the skills necessary to become the next generation of strategic thinkers and decision-makers. Recognizing the ways in which advancements in information technology are affecting global relationships, we invest heavily in IT policy studies. In addition to our eighty-plus tenured faculty, we regularly host visiting leaders and diplomats. Ambassadors Daniel C. Kurtzer and Ryan Crocker, both of whom have led crisis decision- and policymaking processes, teach at the school and engage with our community.