MPP Program Details
We do not offer part-time or online options for the MPP degree. Sanford’s MPP program is an in-person, full-time program. Core courses are scheduled Monday – Friday, 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM on average; electives are scheduled Monday – Friday, 8:30 AM – 8:00 PM. The in-person, full-time model is necessitated by the rigorous academic and professional expectations of the program, paired with our community’s emphasis on in-person collaboration.
The MPP program does not offer a spring start date for the program. Our core curriculum is linear and requires students to begin in the fall semester.
Sanford offers a wide range of graduate elective topics. To explore Sanford's course offerings, please visit Duke's course catalog. To see Sanford specific courses, please select "School of Public Policy" under the career dropdown menu. Please note, the course catalog represents a historic record of courses offered at Sanford. To see when specific courses are offered, please click on the [View Sections] option at the right of each course's name.
Our seven MPP concentrations are an indicator of the range of topics and subjects covered at Sanford. However, MPP students do not have to concentrate in a specific area of policy. Rather than concentrate in a specific policy area, about half of our MPP students choose to focus on non-subject specific skills-based courses, or explore the intersectionality of different policy areas.
We target an enrolling class of 80-90 students each fall. Core courses usually contain 40-45 students; elective courses range from 15-30 students per class.
Sanford offers some merit-based financial aid to every admitted MPP student who is not already receiving full external funding. The amount of merit-based funding that the program offers is based upon the strength of each application. Sanford is committed to providing generous funding to admitted students, however it is important to note that full tuition coverage is rare.
We offer many fellowship opportunities, and third-party fellowships from Sanford and Duke partners. For both domestic and international students, student loan options are also available.
The faculty of the Sanford School of Public Policy lead or collaborate with a wide variety of on-campus interdisciplinary research centers that are exploring vital policy questions and bringing provocative and timely speakers to campus. These research hubs can offer students opportunities to work with faculty on ground-breaking research, and to engage with leaders in many fields.
For a look at recent professional opportunities pursued by Sanford MPP students, please visit our Career Services Fast Facts to view our Career Services 2022-2023 Annual Report. In addition to the Annual Report, we are listing below a few examples of MPP internship opportunities pursued in recent years:
State & Local Government
- North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management
- City of Chicago
- Montgomery County Council
- City of Durham
- National Governors Association
- U.S. Department of State
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- U.S. Government Accountability Office
- Federal Reserve Bank
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Urban Institute
- Wilson Center
- The Hunt Institute
- U.S. Institute for Peace
Consulting and Private Sector
- Booz Allen Hamilton
- Manatt Health Strategies
- Rios Partners
- American Civil Liberties Union
- North Carolina Justice Center
- Housing for New Hope
- Self-Help Credit Union and the Center for Responsible Lending
International Development Employers
- United Nations (multiple agencies)
- World Bank
- Oxfam International
- International Finance Corporation
- Heifer International
We are affiliated with the following organizations:
- Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA)
- Association for Public Policy and Management (APPAM)
- Idealist - Action Without Borders (Idealist.org)
- National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals (NAGAP)
- National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA)
While portions of our MPP curriculum incorporate data analysis, microeconomics, and statistics, our MPP program is not STEM designated. As such, Sanford’s MPP program does not qualify for the 24-month extension for optional practical training (OPT).
Sanford offers application-fee waivers for MPP applicants who are recipients or finalists for the four following partnerships:
- Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Graduate Fellowship Program
- Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Program
- Public Policy and International Affairs Program (PPIA) Junior Summer Institute
- Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation
Applicants who are not recipients or finalists with these four partnerships do not qualify for an application-fee waiver under our policy.
On the MPP application, you will have the option of noting up to two areas of policy interest, based upon our seven MPP concentrations. However, you do not have to specify an area of policy interest. The one exception is for applicants interested in applying to become a Ladd Fellow in Education Policy; if you are intending to apply for the Ladd Fellowship, you must indicate your interest in education policy.
Our MPP program has two quantitative prerequisites: prior to enrollment, our incoming MPP students must successfully complete at least one course in microeconomics and one course in statistics at an accredited college or university, with a grade of “B” or higher. For applicants who have not completed microeconomics and statistics during their previous academic career, you may still apply to the MPP program, but you will be expected to satisfy the prerequisites prior to enrollment in August.
The following external, online courses have been approved for satisfying our prerequisite coursework with a Certificate of Completion:
- Coursera Offered by Stanford: Introduction to Statistics
- Coursera Offered by University of Illinois: Microeconomic Principles: José J. Vázquez-Cognet
- Khan Academy: Microeconomics
Many students have found these courses to be more accessible, self-paced, and significantly more economical in their pricing. You may also complete your statistics and/or microeconomics courses via courses taken over the summer at an accredited college (including community colleges) or university.
Strong applications will have a clear narrative. The combination of your personal statement, your resume, your academic transcripts, and your letters of recommendation should demonstrate intellectual curiosity, academic acumen, professional experience, and a commitment to public service. The program looks for students with two or more years of post-undergraduate work experience, but also admits a limited number of outstanding students directly from undergraduate programs.
You should include all components of your educational background, including undergraduate, graduate, and any individual courses taken outside of a degree granting program. Your study abroad course names and grades should appear on your official undergraduate transcript; if not, you must submit the transcript(s) from your study abroad institution as well.
We deliver admission decisions via online notification by mid-March. You will receive an email notifying you of an update to your MPP application; by logging into your application dashboard, you will be able to see the admission decision added to your application.
We can retrieve and use some previous application materials for two years. If wish to reapply to the Duke MPP Program, please email the MPP Admissions staff and let us know the year you previously applied. We can obtain your GRE and TOEFL scores and transcripts, which may be used again for a re-application. We recommend revising your resume and providing updated information.
Sanford Admissions reviews applications holistically. If your application reflects strong quantitative and qualitative academic performance, then there is likely little value added taking the GRE. For students who do not have quantitative or qualitative coursework on their previous transcripts, the GRE could be an opportunity to demonstrate strength in those areas. But students might also take that time to strengthen their personal statements, revise their resumes, and seek out individuals who can write them strong letters of recommendation. It is up to the individual student’s discretion what will best strengthen their application.
Applicants qualify for an exemption from the proof of English proficiency requirement if they satisfy any of the following:
- Applicants who hold citizenship/permanent residency in a country where English is the sole, official language of the nation, and who have resided within that nation for at least 10 years.
- Applicants who have received/will receive a four-year, undergraduate degree from an accredited university in the United States.
- Applicants who have received/will receive a four-year, undergraduate degree from an accredited university where English is the sole language of instruction. The program retains the right to request additional documentation from the institution to confirm that English is the sole language of instruction.
Our application software will automatically recognize countries where English is the sole, official language of the nation and will not ask for further material. For applicants in the remaining two categories, please contact our admission office (firstname.lastname@example.org) after submitting your application, and our office will manually waive the requirement on your application.
Honing her skills
Jaquell Sneed-Adams MPP'23 graduated from Harvard and then joined Teach for America prior to coming to Sanford. "I spent three years teaching middle school math and science in and around my hometown of Henderson, N.C. Now at Sanford, I’m exploring and honing skills that will strengthen my advocacy and broaden my reach," she says.