Public Administration: A historic and a cutting-edge discipline

Public Administration: A historic and a cutting-edge discipline

  • Administration Publique © Matej Kastelic/ShutterstockAdministration Publique © Matej Kastelic/Shutterstock

What is the Public Administration policy stream?

The Public Administration policy stream is the most renowned course option offered at the School of Public Affairs. That’s undoubtedly thanks to it being the oldest programme at Sciences Po – what fewer people realise, however, is that it is also one of the most modern!

Every year, the Public Administration stream attracts a huge number of students from immensely varied horizons. Naturally, some are these are keen to launch their careers within the public sector, while others are more interested in the private sector or institutional relations. Others still decide to go into national, European or international politics.

The stream equips its students with a base of fundamental, multidisciplinary knowledge in French and European public law, public finance, economics, social issues and all aspects of public affairs. This complements invaluable professional skills in management, negotiation, project management, public innovation and design thinking.

It is primarily designed for students who wish to enter the senior French and European civil service, either through competitive recruitment exams or by applying to contracted positions. At the School of Public Affairs, we offer preparatory classes for 14 recruitment exams. But the stream also provides excellent training for a host of other professions: public affairs departments in French or international businesses, consultancy firms, or even budding start-up creators! Did you know that more than half of students in this policy stream go on to work in the private sector?

Graduate School, Master’s programme, policy stream: let’s break it down…

The Public Administration stream is a course option for students on either of the two two-year Master’s programmes taught at the School of Public Affairs: the Master in Public Policy and the Master in European Affairs.

When they join the School of Public Affairs, students choose one of two Master’s programmes and one of 11 policy streams, including the Public Administration stream. Choosing this option gives students access to a range of stream-specific courses relating to the field of public administration. The structure and breadth of teaching at the School of Public Affairs means that students can personalise the curriculum right the way through their degree, adapting it to their own career plans. The further students progress in their chosen programme, the more opportunities they have to personalise their studies.

What does one learn on the Public Administration policy stream?

All students on the Public Administration policy stream take the five core courses attached to their chosen Master’s programme.

These are grounded in concrete case studies, which give students in-depth, comparative and interdisciplinary knowledge within the broader field of public affairs. They blend economic, legal, ethical, historical, political, managerial and digital perspectives. Students also conduct a deep dive into one particular case study. By immersing them in a complex problem-solving situation, this study gives them real-life insight into decision-making and policy implementation processes across different sectors (both public and private).

Students then take five courses relating to their own policy stream: Public Law, European Public Law, Public Finance, Economic Policy and, finally, Social Issues.

The School’s Policy Lab provides a collaborative space for students to examine case studies, participate in simulations and design and implement public policy projects within the Public Policy Incubator. This is a chance for them to develop the practical skills they will need in their careers: teamwork, negotiation, change management and leadership.

This core learning is enriched by three additional elective courses, which students choose from over a hundred options on offer each semester. Students on the Public Administration policy stream also take language classes and two courses from Sciences Po’s Common Academic Curriculum.

Every semester, as in all policy streams at the School of Public Affairs, students on the Public Administration pathway can also choose to attend additional optional classes to prepare them for competitive civil service recruitment exams.

These optional classes cover general knowledge, international affairs, European affairs and advanced economic issues.

Students spend their fourth and final semester completing either an end of degree internship, an academic exchange at one of Sciences Po’s partner universities, a personal project or a master's thesis.

They may also wish to take a gap year between the two years of their Master’s to complete an internship or academic exchange. The other opportunities available to them include an integrated apprenticeship in the second year, the chance to get involved with the public policy incubator, a packed calendar of events, a long list of student associations and Sciences Po’s vibrant student life.

All core and elective courses offered at the School of Public Affairs are designed to open students’ minds to contemporary challenges facing politicians, civil servants and stakeholders across public affairs:  deontology, digital transition, inclusive and sustainable policy, democratic challenges. These are just some of the issues to which our students are trained to respond.

What happens afterwards?

The career paths unlocked by the Public Administration policy stream are as varied as its course options. 58% of graduates from the Class of 2018 went on to work in the private sector, 39% entered the public sector and 3% joined international organisations.

The public sector route

A significant proportion of students aspiring to enter the senior civil service in France or Europe choose to sit competitive recruitment exams. The School of Public Affairs offers preparatory classes for 14 of these, including those for the ENA, the INET, the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, the French Parliament, the Banque de France and so on. It also offers preparatory classes for the EU’s own civil service recruitment exams.

Every year, some of our graduates go on to careers in politics, as parliamentary attachés, ministerial cabinet secretaries, local government employees etc. Their workplaces include ministries, parliaments and the European Commission.

The private sector route

The majority of our graduates from the Class of 2018 now work in the private sector. They are employed in the public affairs departments of French and international businesses, at leading consultancy firms or else in the non-profit sector, think tanks, start-ups and more.


Key figures of the Public administration policy stream (from the 2020 Graduate Employability Survey asked to the Class of 2018) :

  • 88% of graduates are employed less than 6 months after graduation
  • 58% in the private sector, 39% in the public sector and 3% in international organisations
  • Job opportunities by profession: Public sector consultants, Parliamentary attachés, Institutional relations officers, Hospital directors, French and European public administration officials, Public law and regulation advisors, Consultants to firms, Managers of cultural institutions, Central administration directors, Development analysts
  • A few major employers: Ministries, Parliaments, The European Commission, consulting firms (EY Consulting, Capgemini, Accenture, Mazars, BCG, KPMG, etc), Public affairs divisions of major companies, etc.

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