What is the Public Leadership Credential?
The Harvard Kennedy School Public Leadership Credential (PLC) is a fully online program that provides professionals from across the world with the skills and knowledge to address some of the most pressing public policy challenges.
HKS refers to students enrolled in the PLC as “learners,” possibly to emphasize the program’s focus on continuous learning and recognize that it is a credentialing program. The credential program consists of six courses, all developed by Harvard Faculty, in three focus areas: Evidence for Decisions, Policy Design and Delivery, and Leadership and Ethics.
As stated on the HKS admissions website, the virtual program consists of modules, case studies, and structured group activities to help you develop as a public leader.
Learners engage in both asynchronous work with weekly deadlines and small group conversations over the weekend.
At the end of the program, learners complete a Capstone, a cumulative learning experience where learners apply their new skill sets to complete the final project.
Each class is graded on a “Pass/No Pass” basis. This allows learners to focus on their learning rather than worrying about their grades or competing with their fellow classmates.
After finishing the required courses, participant’s Public Leadership Credential will be conferred in the form of a digital certificate and will join the PLC Alumni Community.
Learners can enroll in courses at their own pace to complete Public Leadership Credential. The credential can be completed in as little as 11 months, but must be completed within three years of the learner’s enrollment date.
PLC learners participate from around the globe with:
- 62% of participants are from Canada
- 4% fromLatin America & Caribbean
- 5% from Africa
- 4% from the Middle East & North Africa
- 9% from Europe and Central Asia
- 6% South Asia
- 10% from East Asia.
Learners range from ages 21-78. This allows learners to to engage in intergenerational learning and makes the learning environment suitable for people at different stages of their careers.
What requirements are there to enroll in the Public Leadership Credential?
According to the HKS admissions website, in order to enroll in PLC program, learners must meet the following requirements:
- They have completed a bachelor’s degree.
- They have at least five years of work experience.
- They are proficient in English.
- They are available to commit an estimated 10 to 12 hours per week to coursework, including a required weekly live video conference with other enrolled learners around the world.
There are no standardized test requirements, including the GRE and TOEFL, needed to enroll in the Public Leadership Credential.
Harvard PLC vs Harvard Mid-Career MPA
Harvard PLC learners receive a certificate that can be listed on their resume. The credential showcases your employer that you have attained valuable skills in public policy, ethics, leadership, and decision-making. However, it is not a diploma equivalent to a masters degree. With that said, Harvard Kennedy School offers a one year Mid-Career Masters in Public Administration (MC/MPA) for established professionals.
In order to apply for the MC/MPA, you must have a minimum of 7 years of full-time work experience by the year you would enroll in the program. With that said, competitive candidates for the Mid-Career MPA usually have approximately 12 years of professional experience.
The MC/MPA is a full-time graduate degree that requires you to attend Harvard Kennedy School in-person. The program begins with an immersive five-week summer program followed by two semesters at the Kennedy School totaling 32 credits.
Many professionals looking to go back to school find the Mid-Career MPA appealing because of its flexibility. Mid-Career learners have the opportunity to build their own study plan and choose from a large range of courses to develop the skills they need to take the next steps in their careers.
One of the major benefits of the PLC is it serves as a pathway to the MC/MPA Masters Program. If accepted to the MC/MPA program through the PLC pathway, PLC courses can be counted towards three of the eight required courses to complete the Masters program. This means a Mid-Career student will have the option to complete the program’s mandatory summer program and then decide to spend the Fall or Spring Semester on campus completing their degree. Although this means the student will spend less time on campus, the total tuition cost is less than the traditional MC/MPA pathway.
How much is the Harvard Public Leadership credential?
Tuition for the PLC program is $6,470. This includes all six core courses ($995 each) and the required capstone course ($500). It is important to note that Harvard Kennedy School does not provide financial aid, scholarships, discounts, or payment plans for PLC courses. Additionally, HKS does not provide federal student aid or GI Bill benefits for PLC.
As mentioned prior, one of the major benefits of the Public Leadership Credential is that it allows you to apply for an accelerated version of the Mid-Career Master in Public Administration. As a result, tuition cost for the MC/MPA program via the PLC pathway is less than the traditional pathway. There is also a PLC pathway to enrolling in Harvard Extension School’s Master of Liberal Arts in the government program.
Who is a good fit for the Public Leadership Credential?
The Public Leadership Credential is a good fit for anyone looking to grow their skill set in public policy, leadership, and data analysis in order to advance public good and make an immediate impact in their community. According to the Harvard PLC website, learners and alumni come from a variety of backgrounds, but some of the most popular professions include program directors, city managers, policy analyst, analyst.
The credential is designed for busy professionals, so the program is a particularly good fit for individuals looking to continue working a full-time job or those who may not have the ability to attend classes in-person on Havard’s Cambridge Campus.
The PLC is also a great opportunity for potential Mid-Career Master in Public Administration applicants who want to use the PLC pathway to reduce their time on campus as a Mid-Career student (often due to family or financial responsibilities) or reduce the cost of attaining their master’s degree.
What are the pros and cons of the Public Leadership Credential?
Pros of the Harvard PLC:
- New skills to serve your community and grow professionally: PLC’s curriculum provides learners with a tangible skill set in decision-making, ethics, and leadership that can help you move to the next level in your career as a public leader.
- A Harvard credential on your resume: Although it is a certificate, the PLC credential will serve as an asset on your resume. The credential can be attractive to employers and a great conversation starter to discuss the unique skill set you bring to your team.
- A taste of the HKS curriculum: PLC allows you to try out the HKS curriculum before committing to a full-time in-person masters degree program. Many of our clients expressed that the Public Leadership Credential curriculum reaffirmed their desire to pursue a Masters in Public Administration at HKS.
- A pathway to Mid-Career Program: As mentioned earlier, the PLC can serve as an accelerated and more affordable pathway to attaining your Mid-Career Masters in Public Administration at Harvard Kennedy School.
- Continue your education while working full-time: Not everyone can take off a year from work and relocate to Cambridge to attend Harvard Kennedy School. The PLC program is fully-online and designed for busy professionals. By enrolling in the PLC, you can learn from HKS faculty and develop your public policy skills from the comfort of your own home.
- A global community of current learners and alumni: Group discussions and activities are a core part of the PLC curriculum. The program will allow you to meet leaders from across the globe and grow your network. In addition, once you complete the PLC, you will become a part of a large alumni network. Alumni have access to a variety of HKS alumni events, shared interest groups, a monthly newsletter, support from The HKS Office of Career Services, eligibility to serve on the HKS Alumni Board, and additional professional learning opportunities.
Cons of the Harvard PLC:
- Cost of the program: The program is nearly $7,000. This could be a lot of money for an individual working in public service, the targeted audience of the program. As mentioned earlier, HKS does not provide financial aid or payment plans for the program which could serve as a barrier for some people. Some PLC enrollees receive funding from their employers for continuing education or a professional development stipend to supplement all or some of the program’s cost. If you are considering the credential, it is worth asking your employer about continuing education benefits. Ultimately, it is important to weigh the cost and benefit of the PLC for your individual situation.
- Significant time commitment: Although the PLC program is designed for busy, working professionals, it is still a significant time commitment. The program requires approximately 10-12 hours of coursework and studying per week. This is equivalent to a part-time job and could be difficult to balance with other life responsibilities. Before enrolling in a program, you should consider whether the time commitment is feasible with your current professional and personal life.
- PLC is not a diploma: It is important to recognize it is not a diploma or equivalent to a masters degree. The future of work is changing and more workplaces are understanding the values of certificates and credentials. However, some workplaces may not see the inherent value of a credential in the same way they view a formal master’s degree. For this reason, if you are considering the PLC, it is important to think about how it fits into your career trajectory and how you plan to market the credential to employers in your field.
Is the Public Leadership Credential worth it?
Choosing to pursue the Public Leadership Credential at Harvard Kennedy School is a very personal decision. The program helps professionals gain valuable skills in public policy and learn from Harvard faculty from anywhere in the world. It can also serve as a pathway to the full-time masters program at HKS. With that said, it is a time commitment and a financial investment.
As you decide whether to pursue the Public Leadership Credential and other graduate programs, The Art of Applying® is here to help you develop a game plan for admission to your dream school. Tell us about yourself and your application process here.