4 Surprising Celebrities with a Masters in Public Administration

It’s easy to forget that the people we see on television were once faced with questions like “What major should I choose?” and “Should I go to grad school?” These famous folk chose to change the world by pursuing a master’s degree in public administration.

Ashley Judd Backs up Celebrity Activism with a Degree from Harvard

Judd may be more serious about her activism than many celebs. In 2010, she received a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Judd discussed her decision to enter the program with the New York Times, saying she wanted to immerse herself “in some very serious, earnest, practical learning with people who have literally dedicated all they have to public service.”

Since graduating, Judd has been a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, has considered running for office, and has joined the Leadership Council of the International Center for Research on Women. She works for a variety of humanitarian groups and is also an active public speaker.

Bill O’Reilly Parlayed His Degree Into a Commentary Career

Bill O’Reilly started his career as a high school teacher with a history degree. A master’s in broadcast journalism helped him move into newscasting, and eventually he was co-anchoring Inside Edition. In 1995, however, he left that position to earn his MPA.

With his new degree and new perspectives on public policy, O’Reilly joined the Fox News Channel with his own program, The O’Reilly Report (later titled The O’Reilly Factor). His incendiary opinions and aggressive style made his show a flagship for the budding network, giving O’Reilly a strong role in shaping Fox News programming. O’Reilly’s degrees have helped him pen a number of books about history and politics.

Hill Harper Doesn’t Just Play a Smart Guy on TV

Another Harvard MPA holder is Hill Harper. Harper has enjoyed a successful career in movies and television, but it is his writing and political career that set him apart from the Hollywood pack.

Harper graduated magna cum laude from Brown University, and holds a J.D., cum laude, from Harvard Law School in addition to his Harvard MPA. Harper’s books all intersect with his legal and public administration studies, and several of his books touch on race issues and economics in the United States. His fifth book, Letters to an Incarcerated Brother: Encouragement, Hope, and Healing for Inmates and Their Loved Ones, was nominated for an NAACP Image Award.

The United Nations is Being Led by an MPA

It’s not so surprising to find world leaders with a master’s in public administration. Examples include the presidents of Liberia and Mexico, the prime minister of Singapore, and the director of the CIA, but Ban Ki-Moon has risen to the position of Secretary-General of the United Nations. Ban has brought his MPA background to tough issues like global warming, weapons of mass destruction, the HIV/AIDS health crisis, and the conflict in the Middle East.

Masters degrees in Public Administration are a popular choice for students entering the realm of politics and law, but these examples show how versatile a public admin background can be in the right hands.