Just to offer a slightly contrary opinion... I agree that the government does not care specifically where you got your degree, but do think that being in DC helps. I think the internship opportunities are pretty helpful at getting your foot in the door, due to the experience and contacts (and also, there are special hiring programs for interns in some cases).
Also, there are a lot of graduates from DC-area schools working in the government. The alumni networks can be very useful, even though the federal hiring process is fairly regimented.
This is not to discourage you from going to a non-DC school, I just think that there are a lot of advantages to being in DC if you want to pursue a career in the government. You mention the foreign service, though, and I think there is less of an advantage to being in DC due to the way the recruitment process works.
Also, keep in mind that the federal budget situation is not good right now, and many agencies have a hiring freeze. So even if you are in DC, there may not be government jobs available.
I am an MA (not MPP) student, but I would definitely agree with the previous posters regarding the importance of work experience in making sure you are getting into the right field.
I should also note that it is extremely hard to get a federal job right now, so be aware that you may need to work elsewhere for some period of time. However, there are lots of non-profits, trade associations, companies, etc. that work closely with the government on economic policy issues.
I agree, you will most likely have to take a proficiency test. At GW if you had taken language classes within a certain number of years, you could automatically meet the language requirement. In my case, my language classes had been too long ago, so I had to take the proficiency test. The school itself only offered a limited number of languages that they could test, but they would also accept results from another outside testing company that had more options.
I should note that GW just requires proficiency by graduation. I do not recall any programs that require proficiency before enrollment, though.
I have had this same problem. I did work for a consulting company on the west coast for several years before going to DC for school. I would love to get back to the west coast after graduating, but there are very few options. There may be Asia-oriented companies on the west coast, but they are hard to find (plus, most companies have a policy office in DC).
As I have said elsewhere, I am a big believer in the importance of being in DC. There may be good opportunities in Boston, and I admit that I do not have a lot of knowledge of what is available in the area. However, DC is really where all of the international policy is happening. To me it makes a big difference in everything from the types of internships that are available to the types of events and speakers that you can attend. I have to agree with Revolution that the presence of other top-tier universities is unlikely to have much of an impact on your career prospects or even your everyday life.
Pinkman, I am curious to know what you mean by saying that Fletcher has a "stronger alumni base." If you mean that the alumni is more connected to the school and has a bigger sense of community, then that seems plausible to me. However, in terms of size, I am sure that Elliott has a larger base. I run into Elliott alumni working in DC all the time, but I have never met a Fletcher alumnus.
I think this is a bit harsh. I agree with some of these points, but let me put a different spin on it. I agree that GW is less competitive to get in to that SAIS or GT, but I do not think that means it is not worth the sticker price. Many careers (particularly in IR and public affairs) require a grad degree eventually. If SAIS or GT are not options for whatever reason (cost, fit, not accepted, etc.), then I think GW is a good option. To the point that GW grads are all in internships or entry-level positions, this is not accurate from my personal experience. I do think grad students everywhere are having a hard time now (look at the market for JDs and MBAs), and it is not suprising that people just out of school with little professional experience have to take lower-level jobs. That said, all of the students that I know of in my program that graduated last year have a job in the field.
I have to disagree that GW has a low reputation in DC. It is true that there are a lot of GW grads out there (perhaps due to the higher admit rates?), but many of them are in high-level positions in government or the private sector. They obviously do not look down on fellow GW grads. There is a very large alumni network in the area; I work full time and I am always running into GW grads through my job. So I think there is value in the GW brand. Obviously I may be biased, but I was making the same calculations a couple years ago, and I do not regret choosing GW.
As I have said before, I also think that it is very important to be in DC if you are interested in working here at some point, and working/interning here is critical.
Yes, SAIS is known for its econ component, which is required. I do not recall all the specifics of the SAIS curriculum, but I believe you have to have one concentration in international econ and one in another field. The ITIP program is all international econ, and you can focus in specific areas of that. I think I have taken three non-econ courses, and even those were econ-related (international political economy, international business, etc.). I have enjoyed the ability to focus more narrowly on econ (and trade in particular) in the ITIP program. Note - this is different than the more general IA program.
I just checked the SAIS site and it seems that their curriculum has changed a little in the two years since I was applying, so now there may be a greater opportunity to focus on econ exclusively.
Yes, introductory stats is the key. Most of the econ classes for the ITIP program do not require calculus (some professors offer it optionally). The quant requirement is essentially for a statistics/econometrics course above introductory stats. I only took minimal math and intro to stats as an undergrad, and I had a five year break between graduation and starting at GW, so the lack of math background is not a killer. Obviously, the more you already know, the higher the level of classes you can take.
The main consideration was the ability to work while completing my degree at GW, which I needed to do since I have a family. I think if I were single I would have preferred SAIS due to the rankings/brand. I did get less money there, though, so that was a factor too.
In retrospect, I think the ITIP program in particular at GW is equivalent to or better than the quant/econ requirements at SAIS. Overall, it was a better fit for me and what I want to do long term (i.e., international trade).
I am currently in the GW ITIP program, so I thought I would offer my view.
I really like the program. I think it is more marketable than the more general IA program and there is more individualized attention. The program office does a good job of getting out information about internships and other opportunities. I definitely think that the ability to intern or work during the day is a huge benefit of GW (though I believe American may be the same). Everyone that I know of in the ITIP program has some kind of internship. However, I believe most of them are not paid (though there are some).
As to whether the MA is worth it, I think it depends what you want to do. For a lot of jobs in international orgs or think tanks, a grad degree is required. If you look at bios of key public and private officials that work on international issues, almost all of them have grad degrees. So I think that if you want to work in the field, it is important to have the degree eventually. For government, the degree may be less important, but it is becoming more and more difficult to get a government job these days. That's my take, at least.
Full disclosure: I am actually working full time and have a good financial package at GW, so the cost is less of an issue for me. I still would have come to DC (and probably GW) for my degree if I had not gotten the job and scholarship right away, though. I think it is very helpful to be here where the policy is actually happening and the employment/networking opportunities are greater, and the ability to work/intern during the day is key.
I'm not an MPP student (though I have taken some public policy courses), but I am getting my master's while working full time. I did one semester of full time school plus full time work, and I survived. It was a bit much for me, since I have a family, but it is doable. I have since switched back to part-time study (2 courses vs. 3) though. Depending on the school, it may not actually cost more to get your master's part time. At GW, we pay by the unit, and if you do summer school, you can graduate only a couple months later than everyone else. Just throwing it out there.
I agree with the idea that it is good for resume continuity to keep working at least some amount. You will end up with an additional two years of experience. Plus, you know what they say: the easiest way to get a job is to already have a job (or something like that). Definitely try to network as much as possible through your current job, as this will be very helpful in your post-master's job search.
I think this is accurate. A lot of the people in my current master's program have relatively little experience (or experience outside of the international affairs realm). Almost everyone is doing internships (some paid, most not) now as a grad student, but I think that for many this is the first time they were able to get hands-on international affairs experience. Of course, networking is also key.
I do think the DC job market is better than many places in the country (and if you want to work in IA, it is really the only place to be). That said, be realistic about your ability to get a federal job if that is your goal. With all the budget difficulties, cutbacks, and quirks of the application process, there may not be jobs available even if you are the perfect candidate.
I may be biased, but I agree with the previous posters. Elliott is ranked much more highly than CIPA for international affairs masters programs. I personally feel that being in DC is invaluable for getting experience and networking. Thanks to the evening class schedules, you may even be able to get a paid internship/job at Elliott, which would help with the higher DC costs.
I would be hesitant to get a JD for a political career. Based on what I have read, most people feel you should only really get a JD if you actually want to be a lawyer. Also, I have read several articles indicating that there is a huge glut of JDs out there without jobs. Unless you go to a very top-tier law school, my understanding is that the investment is unlikely to pay off. I can't speak from personal experience, though.
I actually wonder if you really need another degree to get into politics. To me, it seems to be more of a factor of being in the right place (i.e., DC for federal politics) and networking. Working on campaigns/getting your foot in the door as a professional staffer might be a better way to get into the right circles. There are a lot of young people in DC doing this kind of work, and Hill experience seems to be valued fairly highly in the private sector as well, if you still want to spend some time there.
I will note that the GW has a Graduate School of Political Management, which might be more focused on what you want to do. I am not really familiar with the various programs or where their graduates end up. There may be other similar programs in other schools.