Value of a MPP Program From a Private Sector Perspective

By Uloop Guest Writer on March 27, 2017

By Lucy Xi LIU

Consultant at Gallup. Inc, California

2007 Masters of Public Policy,

Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore

The value of aMasters of Public Policy (MPP) program for the public service sector is well known. However, its value for graduates choosing a private sector career is often missed or understated. An MPP program is an equally valuable asset for students who plan to pursue a private sector career.

The 2014 Harvard Kennedy School Employment Overview report indicates that over the past 10 years, the breakdown of employment sectors among MPP graduates has remained fairly consistent — two-thirds take on positions in the public or nonprofit sectors immediately following graduation while the rest work in the private sector. Strategy consulting firms are among the top choices for MPP graduates pursuing work in the private sector.

When 1 in 3 MPP program graduates choose a career in the private sector, “what exactly can a private sector professional gain from an MPP program?” is a legitimate question to consider.

Success in one’s career is based on their performance at the job. The education degree and school brand may help you get the job, but your success and career advancement depends on your performance. After studying top performers across industries for over 30 years, Gallup, a leading management consulting firm with clientele across both private and public sectors, sets the predictors for great performance as talent, knowledge, and skills. Talent here is defined as your naturally recurring patterns of thought, feelings, or behaviors. Knowledge consists of the facts and lessons learned. Skills are the steps of an activity. Top MPP programs are designed to enhance the students’ capacity in all three areas.

1. “Stretch” projects of an MPP can push you to discover and refine your talents. Students often focus on the knowledge and skills in an academic program but miss the talent self-discovery experience which can be equally important for one’s success. Talent is developed when you intentionally practice and reflect on its application on a regular basis.

Effectively communicating your ideas and winning the support of a classroom comprised of over 50 nationalities is not in everyone’s comfort zone — but that is a daily experience in an international MPP program. To stand out in a room full of strong personalities, identify who you are, and represent your own voice is key. Beyond the everyday classroom experience, the program also provides proven, useful psychometric tools and leadership training to guide the self-reflection and learning experience. By the end of an MPP program, you can expect to better know yourself and your strengths, and how you can use these strengths to make a difference.

2. Students acquire knowledge through coursework and real life experience at an MPP program. Similar to an MBA program, the MPP program prides itself on a diversity of learning modules across multiple disciplines. Unlike the MBA program, the MPP program trains students to analyze the cases from a governmental and societal perspective, instead of a corporate perspective. From Economics to Urban Development, Organizational Behaviors to Health Policy, all facets of a public management system are taught. When working in the private sector, especially in strategy consulting firms, it is invaluable to have the ability to look beyond the corporate entity and analyze the macro environment along with social forces. Businesses hire consulting firms seeking an external perspective backed by industrial, political, and economic data and experience.

Besides the coursework, knowledge of different cultures and organizations is gained by networking with your fellow MPP classmates. For example, the inside perspective of Myanmar’s political landscape from a former political activist in Myanmar is not learned from books but through conversation and relationship. To experience a grand Indian wedding in person is a great way to be introduced to the very colorful and unique Indian culture. The rich personal experience one can gain from the MPP network is phenomenal. Should MPP graduates choose to work in a multinational corporation, the early exposure to different cultures prepares them with culture sensitivity and open-mindedness.

3. Teamwork and Leadership skills are used every day in an MPP program. Virtually all projects for the MPP program are designed to be group projects. In the private sector, work is often project-based, especially in consulting firms. When working in groups, the ability to organize resources, create a team culture and engage each team member is a constant challenge. In my own experience, the group work experience in the MPP was much harder than group projects in the private sector. There is less common ground in expectations and interests among a group of 4-5 students who all come from different cultural norms and professional training. The daily experience of juggling different projects and progressing conversations with team members in an MPP program well prepares the student to navigate the private sector contexts of ongoing teamwork and cross-cultural exchange.

When students make a choice to enroll in an MPP program, most plan a public service career. However, should the time come that they prefer to take the path of a private sector career, the education gained in an MPP is still invaluable.

So, my advice to current and prospective public policy students: whether your future career choice is public sector or private sector, an MPP program will prepare you to be in a better position to achieve success.

About the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy

The LKY School is an autonomous, professional graduate school of the prestigious National University of Singapore. Its mission is to educate and train policy-makers and leaders, with the objective of raising the standards of governance throughout the region, improving the lives of its people, and, in so doing, contributing to the transformation of Asia and beyond. A new Master’s in International Affairs degree program was created to meet the needs of students internationally, to teach them to study the relationships between regions, countries, and nations.

For more information on the LKY School and its MIA program, visit

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