For all other development careers, I would endorse the ID program with gusto. Yes, a PhD program has its benefits, but the opportunity cost in terms of alternative experience (and foregone earnings!) is enormous. A PhD makes you a one-trick pony. An MPA or MPA/ID plus three or four years of work experience makes you a handy jack of all development trades.
It is great advise- just one thing in terms of the benefits, I wouldn't count too much on the following;
Job placement has been outstanding, especially if you are interested in working for one of the IFIs (international financial institutions like the World Bank or IADB). The ID brand is exceptionally strong there. I think this is a reflection of great screening and selection of students, but also a superb network and a terrific environment and teaching.
But is Harvard’s MPAID program the ‘best development curriculum in the world’. I give some alternatives below;
1- Princeton’s MPAID
2- Columbia's MPA in Program in Economic Policy Management. The Director of the program is an eminent economist, Guillermo Calvo.
The program, which started in 1992 as a cooperative effort of Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), Graduate School of Business, and Department of Economics, draws upon the considerable faculty and other resources of these and other divisions of the University. In addition, the program has operated as a partnership with the World Bank. Funding for 15 students is granted by the Joint Japan / World Bank Graduate Scholarship Program. Students who successfully complete all requirements of the Program in Economic Policy Management will be awarded the degree of Master of Public Administration (MPA) from the school.
3. Williams College MPA in Development Economics
The Center for Development Economics (CDE) at Williams College offers an intensive, one academic year, master's degree program designed for economists from low and middle-income countries who have some practical experience. The goal of the program is to provide students with a thorough understanding of the development process, emphasizing analytical techniques helpful to policymakers. The result is an effective mix of theory and policy application that enables students to be more objective in their home environment.
So what are the other similar programs? Dani Rodrik may want to comment on the Columbia program- I understand he was involved in starting that program?