Harvard MPA: The Kennedy School

The JFK School of Government at Harvard University (also known as Harvard Kennedy School and HKS) has been ranked third among schools of public affairs by U.S. News & World Report. Founded in 1936 as the Harvard Graduate School of Public Administration, the school was renamed in 1966 in honor of President John F. Kennedy. The Harvard Kennedy School is one of the world’s leading institutions for social science research. The school houses 15 institutes and research centers and more than 30 executive education and degree programs.


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The program can be completed in as few as 24 months. A bachelor’s degree is required to apply.


Harvard Kennedy School MPA Curriculum

The two-year Harvard Kennedy School MPA program is intended for established professionals and dual-degree students who want to advance in managerial positions in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Students work with advisors to design their own 16-course curriculum, with the stipulation that they include at least two elective courses from a policy area of concentration and one course from each of the following core areas:

  • Management and Leadership
  • Economics and Quantitative Analysis
  • Political Thought and Institutions

In addition to the Harvard Kennedy School MPA, one of the school’s newer academic offerings is a two-year Master’s of Public Administration in International Development (MPA/ID). This multidisciplinary program centers on the economics of international development with an emphasis on practice and policy. Most students in this program have at least three years professional experience in government, banks, private businesses or international development organizations.

Students in the Harvard Kennedy MPA program frequently pursue joint and concurrent degrees. By enrolling in a second professional degree program at Harvard or a select number of other universities, students are able to earn to both degrees in less time than it would take to earn them separately. Typical joint degree combinations include an MBA, JD or MD with an MPA and MPA/ID. The Harvard Kennedy School also offers a one-year Mid-Career MPA (MC/MPA) degree that consists of a one-month summer program followed by an intensive eight-course program. The MC/MPA is designed for high-performing, established professionals who want to enhance a career in public service or move from the private sector to a public-service leadership position.

Harvard Kennedy School MPA Specializations

The following HKS policy area specializations are including in the MPA curriculum: Democracy, Politics and Institutions Business and Government Policy Social and Urban Policy Political and Economic Development Policy Analysis International Trade and Finance International and Global Affairs These policy areas reflect faculty research, the current policy environment and the interests of MPA students.

Harvard Kennedy School MPA Admissions

The Harvard Kennedy School uses an online system called Embark for admission applications. Before applying, prospective students can find out more about admission requirements and important dates by visiting Applying to HKS.