Online Master’s Programs in Public Administration

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Updated on: 09/19/2018

If you’re interested in a high-impact role in leadership or management, a career in public administration might be a good next step. With a master’s in public administration (MPA), you can pursue a professional career that can have a big impact on a large number of people. A public administrator gains a nuanced understanding of the interrelationship between government and the private sector, skills that are essential to anyone who wishes to work in a managerial or administrative position or in fields that can drive positive change. Find out what you’ll learn in an MPA program and which schools offer the best online master’s in public administration degrees.

Best Online Master's in Public Administration 2018-2019

Get Seal Methodology


Best Online Master’s in Public Administration 2018-2019

Deciding which college to go to is no easy task, so ACO evaluated more than 3,500 colleges to give you the information you need to make the search more manageable. Our 2018 college rankings are based on statistical data from trusted sources, eligibility criteria and various ranking factors

Data Sources: Eligibility Criteria:
  • Each college must be accredited
  • Each college must be a not-for-profit institution
  • Each college must be located in a state (US territories and Washington DC were excluded)
  • Each college must have at least one online program 1
  • Each college must have a maximum four-year tuition of $25,000 or a maximum two-year tuition of $5,000
Ranking Factors:
  • Affordability
  • Quality
  • Flexibility
  • Program

Several individual data points were objectively evaluated to calculate a score for each ranking factor listed above. For affordability, the most impactful data points were tuition2 and grants; for quality, graduation and acceptance rates; for flexibility, part-time enrollment options; and for program, degrees granted in that specific program area. Each score was then weighted, with affordability being the most highly weighted factor for all ACO rankings.

1 Best Vocational Programs included data for both online and campus programs.

2 Both in-state and out-of-state tuition rates were used in our methodology; however, our rankings tool currently only displays in-state rates.

  • A dash in our Rankings Tool indicates IPEDS data was not available.
  • Tuition displayed in in-state and per year unless stated otherwise.
2-Year Schools

Since a public administration master’s is a multi-disciplinary field that covers a wide range of topics, a good master’s in public administration program will offer a wide variety of courses yet a clear path to specific jobs. To rank the best online MPA programs, we use data from the Department of Education, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDs) and each university's own published materials. All of these schools are fully accredited.

Rank School Name Location Tuition Financial Aid Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate # of Online Programs Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Belhaven University Jackson, Mississippi $10,080 100% 43% 51% 1 Yes Yes Yes

With over 30 online degree offerings, Belhaven University has an online Master Public Administration program that requires 36 credit hours for graduation. This Christian liberal arts institution boasts a comprehensive MPA program that prepares graduates for work in both the public and private sectors. Belhaven offers a general track and a concentration in Human Resources, both of which are available online. Distance learners take required courses such as Public and Administrative Law, Economics and Public Policy, Organizational Behavior and Ethics and Society. Master's students must also complete a Capstone project. For admission, students should have a baccalaureate degree with a 2.5 cumulative GPA. Incoming students can transfer a maximum of 6 credit hours of accredited graduate coursework toward their MPA degree, provided the courses have a "B" grade or higher. Those who do not meet the standard admission requirements can receive admission on a conditional basis. Online students can take advantage of Belhaven's Center for Career and Calling, which helps learners practice their faith while in school, find internships and explore future career options through workshops and career fairs.

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2 Indiana University-Bloomington Bloomington, Indiana $8,695 55% 79% 80% 1 Yes Yes Yes

Offered through Indiana University's School of Public and Environmental Affairs, the Master of Public Administration degree is a 48-credit hour online program consisting of core courses, advanced electives and an "experiential component." The experiential component is typically an internship but may be waived for students with prior professional work experience. IU offers specialty areas in Public Management, Nonprofit Management, Financial Management, Policy Analysis or Public Budgeting. Master's students choose a specialty area to help determine their elective courses. Online students also work with the faculty director to configure a degree program, using at least 6 electives, that best fits their professional goals. Popular electives for online students include Seminar in Revenue Theory and Administration, Public Program Management and Contracting, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector, Benefit-Cost Analysis and Public Policy Process. Applicants submit a personal statement, professional resume and contact information for 3 recommenders. The department also requires interested students to submit two essays answering questions on the department admissions website. GRE or GMAT scores are optional and not required for admission to IU.

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3 St. Joseph's College-New York Brooklyn, New York $16,182 95% 67% 69% 1 Yes No Yes

Established in 1916, St Joseph's College New York is a liberal arts institution with approximately 4,700 students. Online students at SJC can pursue a Master of Science in Human Services Leadership. The degree consists of 30 credit hours, or 10 courses, and teaches students the essential historical, political and financial components of the modern Human Services industry. Incoming students may be eligible to transfer up to 6 credits from another accredited graduate program pending approval of the department chair. Prospective students for this program must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Competitive applicants have documented, full-time work experience in the field that displays specialized training and reflects their ability to handle important responsibilities. Applications should include a current resume with descriptions of previous and current employment and a list of one's responsibilities in those roles. Additionally, interested students should submit their official transcripts and letters of recommendation from both an academic source and a professional source. SJC also requires that all prospective students participate in an interview as part of the admissions process.

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4 Park University Parkville, Missouri $8,025 49% 85% 27% 1 Yes Yes Yes

Accredited by the Council for Business Schools and Programs, Park University is host to an online program to complete a Master of Public Administration. The degree requires 36 credit hours in classes such as Research and Analysis, Public Affairs Methodology and Ethical Foundations of Authority and Responsibility. Students will select concentrations in disaster and emergency management, global governance, management information systems, project management, public management or criminal justice. You must pass all coursework with a minimum 3.0 grade average. Those with work experience are eligible to waive the requirement for an internship. Online learners can access the Academic Support Center, which connects students to citation tools, peer mentors, tutoring services and resources for stress management. In order to qualify for this option you must possess an undergraduate 2.75 grade average, as well as submit a resume. Graduates enter roles as city managers, police commissioners, urban planners or elected officials.

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5 University of Illinois at Springfield Springfield, Illinois $8,624 85% 65% 52% 1 Yes Yes Yes

In order to receive a Master of Public Administration at the University of Illinois in Springfield, students must fulfill 36 credit hours with a grade B or higher. While exploring subjects such as human resources, public policy and organization dynamics you will become equipped to enter managerial roles within the fields of social services, administrative law and public financial management. Classes are executed in an online format through the web platform Blackboard Learn. Prospective students must hold a minimum 2.5 GPA and be able to navigate computer spreadsheet applications. Applications will also include GRE scores, a resume and a statement of goals demonstrating competent writing skills. Once admitted, you will be connected with an academic adviser to assist in creating your plan of study. The Department of Public Administration encourages learners to connect with the Career Development Center or join the American Society for Public Administration for networking and employment opportunities.

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6 Northern Michigan University Marquette, Michigan $7,904 82% 76% 52% 1 Yes Yes Yes

Students can specialize in criminal justice, human resources, government or public management at Northern Michigan University's fully online program to complete a Master of Public Administration. Depending on academic and professional history, you will satisfy 34-36 credit hours with a minimum 3.0 grade average, along with fulfillment of a capstone project, in order to graduate. Those with 1 or more years of field-related work experience aren't required to complete an internship. Core and elective curriculum familiarizes enrollees with grant writing, municipal management, nonprofit agency evaluation and the politics of higher education. Applications must include evidence of a 3.0 GPA in undergraduate work, transcripts and a resume or cover letter. Once registered, online learners can post their resumes and search for jobs through Cat Career Tracks/Handshake. You can also receive academic assistance by making an appointment at the Virtual Advising Center or submitting assignments to online tutoring services for feedback.

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7 Lindenwood University Saint Charles, Missouri $15,672 96% 55% 51% 1 Yes Yes Yes

Lindenwood University is host to a 100% online Master of Public Administration. The program, which is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and approved by the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, delivers online courses through the learning platform Canvas. In order to graduate, students must maintain a 3.0 grade average while satisfying 36 credits hours in core curriculum covering public finance and economic analysis, as well as elective classes including management information systems and leadership theory. While enrolled you can take advantage of resources such as Career Services to assist in job exploration and resume writing as you enter into managerial roles at government entities or international organizations. Enrollees also have access to the online Writing Center and tutoring services through the web application Smarthinking. Prospective students will include a resume and letter of intent in their application. There are school-funded scholarships and grants to help cut down on costs.

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8 Central Michigan University Mount Pleasant, Michigan $12,232 81% 72% 59% 1 Yes Yes Yes

The hybrid program for earning a Master of Public Administration at Central Michigan University offers students opportunities that extend beyond the classroom. For example, you can participate in management simulations through the Transnational Initiative on Governance Research and Education Network, which is a project sponsored by the Seoul Metropolitan Government in South Korea. Program admissions calls for a minimum 2.8 GPA in undergraduate studies, 3 reference letters, a resume, personal essay and satisfaction of a statistics or research methods class. Once enrolled, you must maintain a 3.0 grade average while working through 37 credits in Strategic Leadership, Grant Writing and Management, Public Service Competencies and Public Policy Process. Online classes are accessed through the web platform Blackboard Learn and the Online Resource Center provides a number of resources to assist in navigating the virtual classroom. Additionally, online learners can utilize academic advising, career guidance, the library and counseling services.

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9 Texas A & M University-College Station College Station, Texas $5,784 54% 67% 81% 1 No Yes Yes

Students pursuing concentrations in homeland security, nonprofit management or public management can apply to Texas A&M University to pursue an Executive Master of Public Service and Administration degree. Accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration, the program lasts for around 2-3 years and includes 39 credit hours in core and elective topics such as economic analysis, policy design and quantitative methods. All coursework is available in an online format. However, students are expected to engage in 2 weeklong campus visits during the summer semesters. You will also need to pass a capstone class by working with a government or nonprofit agency to complete a public administration project. Prospective students will submit transcripts, a resume, a statement of purpose and GRE or GMAT scores. The Bush School of Government & Public Services works with online learners to place jobs and create networking opportunities. Alumni have found positions within the U.S. Department of State, Central Intelligence Agency and American Heart Association.

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10 University of Nebraska at Omaha Omaha, Nebraska $4,649 49% 86% 50% 1 Yes Yes Yes

Campus faculty at the University of Nebraska Omaha also instruct online courses for students interested in completing a Master of Public Administration through distance education. Over the span of 2 years, you will satisfy 39 total credit hours by taking just 2 classes per semester. Core curriculum looks into decision-making, policy implementation and nonprofit budgeting. Electives are based off of concentrations such as emergency management, criminology, aviation or local government. In order to qualify for the program, as well as complete the graduate degree, you must possess a 3.0 grade average. Non-resident online learners are eligible for the Advantage Scholarship, which is funded by a collaboration between the School of Public Administration and the College of Public Affairs Community Service. Additional supports include access to academic advising, career resources and library services. Prospective students will submit work experience, a statement of purpose, 2 references, transcripts, a resume and GRE scores.

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11 Troy University Troy, Alabama $7,146 57% 91% 39% 1 Yes Yes Yes

There is a range of career opportunities for graduates of Troy University's Master of Public Administration program. Alumni enter into positions of grant writing, research, policy analysis and health care administration. Coursework, which is implemented in both hybrid and online formats, involves 36 credits of core and elective curriculum exploring professional ethics, government budgeting and organizational behavior. You can specialize in international administration, public management, health administration, nonprofit management, public human resources or national security affairs. A 3.0 GPA must be maintained in order to graduate and students without prior professional experience will also need to complete an internship. Supports such as the Writing Center and Career Services are available on campus and online. You can stay updated on program news by subscribing to the school's MPA newsletter, which introduces incoming students and showcases networking opportunities. Admissions eligibility is dependent on undergraduate GPA, work history and test scores.

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12 Sam Houston State University Huntsville, Texas $5,139 25% 72% 56% 1 Yes Yes Yes

Sam Houston State University's fully online Master of Public Administration emphasizes disaster and emergency management. The degree calls for 36 credit hours in curriculum such as Organizational Theory and Behavior, Disaster Resilience and Decision Making in Public Administration. Students without prior work experience will be required to complete an internship. Applications must include transcripts, a resume, writing sample, statement of purpose and 2 letters of reference. If your undergraduate grade average is lower than a 3.0, you must also submit GRE scores. Classes are delivered through the learning platform Blackboard Learn and you can utilize 24/7 technical support on the weekdays. Additionally, online learners have access to free tutoring, a writing center and peer mentors. Career Services will walk you through mock interviews, career inventories and networking opportunities as you prepare to enter or advance in the workforce. Graduates take on leadership positions at service and government agencies.

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13 Stephen F Austin State University Nacogdoches, Texas $4,896 64% 62% 46% 1 Yes Yes Yes

Working professionals looking to advance into managerial or leadership roles can work through 36 credits of online coursework to receive a Master of Public Administration at Stephen F. Austin State University. Prospective applicants must possess an overall undergraduate GPA of 2.5, as well as a 2.8 average in their most recent 60 credit hours. Applications need to include GRE scores, a resume, 2 letters of recommendation and a personal essay. Students will become competent in public administration methods, law and procedure, professional ethics and financial management. If you do not have field-related work experience, you will also have an opportunity to complete an internship. Curriculum is delivered through the learning platform Brightspace and the web conferencing tool ZOOM. You can access tutorials and technical support to help in navigating the virtual classroom. Student Services links online learners to a variety of supports including information on proctoring centers, academic advising, tutoring services and career guidance.

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14 Arkansas State University Jonesboro, Arkansas $4,626 70% 70% 41% 1 No Yes Yes

Students interested in earning a Master of Public Administration can do so in a fully online format at Arkansas State University. Over the course of 18-24 months, you will fulfill 36 credit hours in classes such as Public Budgeting and Finance, Human Resources Management and Techniques of Research. Additionally, graduation requires the completion of 300 internship hours and the passing of a comprehensive exam. In order to participate in these 2 items students must hold a 3.0 GPA. This grade average is also necessary for program admissions. Applicants will submit 3 letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose. Once accepted, online learners access coursework through the web platform Blackboard Learn. All students are connected with a teaching assistant who is qualified to assist in field-related questions and concerns. You can also utilize the library, which includes the option to chat with a librarian 24/7. Residents and non-residents pay the same tuition rates.

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15 Tarleton State University Stephenville, Texas $3,672 50% 50% 47% 1 Yes Yes Yes

In as little as 18 months, students at Tarleton State University can receive a Master of Public Administration via fully online studies. The degree, which is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, includes 36 credit hours in curriculum covering human resource management, public policy, budgeting and government relations. You must maintain a 3.0 grade average in all coursework, which is accessed through the learning platform Blackboard Learn. Academic advisers guide online learners through registration and financial aid options by means of phone appointments. As you near graduation, Career Services can connect you to career events, as well as assist in professional dress, resume writing and interview skill development. Program eligibility calls for a 2.5 GPA in prior academics and submission of a 600-word essay outlining your educational goals. There are a number of scholarship opportunities specific to graduate students to help cut down on costs.

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16 University of Idaho Moscow, Idaho $6,460 89% 76% 60% 1 Yes Yes Yes

Students pursuing advanced positions as logistics managers, public relations specialists, survey researchers or urban planners can enroll in the University of Idaho's online program for earning a Master of Public Administration. In order to qualify you must demonstrate a 3.0 grade average in undergraduate coursework, as well as submit 3 letters of recommendation and GRE scores. This GPA is to be maintained throughout graduate studies. Students will explore topics such as budgeting, research methods and government law while fulfilling the 36 credit hours needed for graduation. If you don't already have professional public administration experience, you will also be expected to complete an internship. Career Services are available to assist online learners in exploring interests, preparing a resume and finding networking opportunities. The program is housed in the school's College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, which awards over a million dollars in scholarships to its students every year.

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17 Wayland Baptist University Plainview, Texas $10,620 87% 100% 32% 1 Yes Yes Yes

Wayland Baptist University is a Christian-based learning institution spanning 14 campuses, as well as providing opportunities for online studies. Students who work, serve in the military or seek more flexibility in their schedules can opt for distance education to earn a Master of Public Administration. You will select a specialization in home security and emergency management, alternative dispute resolution, government administration or justice administration. All tracks, which can be completed in 18 months, include 18 credits of emphasis-specific coursework and 18 credits of core classes. Curriculum is implemented through Blackboard Learn and explores public finance, professional ethics and research methods. There are tutorials to assist online learners in navigating the virtual classroom. You will also have access to library databases. Applicants holding a 3.0 grade average for their last 60 credit hours of undergraduate studies are guaranteed admission, while those with a 2.7-2.9 GPA must provide a writing sample to be considered.

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18 California State University-Dominguez Hills Carson, California $6,738 70% 48% 40% 1 Yes Yes Yes

At California State University in Dominguez Hills, students can finish a master's degree in public administration through fully online studies. Concentrations in criminal justice policy, health care policy and nonprofit management are delivered in 8-week classes, while an emphasis in public management is offered in a 12-week format. All pathways take about 2 years to satisfy 36 credits in coursework such as Public Budgeting, Foundations of Ethical Administration and Quantitative Methods in Public Administration. A 3.0 grade point average is required for both admissions and graduation. Prospective students will also submit a resume and personal statement. Upon enrollment, you will receive an orientation and ongoing technical support for navigating your virtual classroom on the web platform Blackboard Learn. It is also suggested that learners join the Graduate Society of Public Administration for peer support and networking opportunities. Graduates advance into managerial and leadership positions within the public, nonprofit and government sectors, or continue on to pursue a doctoral degree.

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19 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, North Carolina $9,643 41% 27% 91% 1 No Yes Yes

The online option to work toward a Master of Public Administration at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill allows students to specialize in international relations, local government, nonprofit management, public management or public health. Over the span of 18 months, you will attend live classes through the web platform 2U and access additional coursework at your own convenience. Degree completion entails the passing of 45 credits in core and elective curriculum. Students will also participate in a field experience and create an MPA portfolio. From beginning to end, there are teams in place to support learners in enrollment, advising, career exploration and job placement. Additionally, your tuition includes a WeWork membership, which grants you access to amenity-filled workspaces throughout the world. Applications need to include evidence of a 3.0 GPA in undergraduate work, 3 letters of recommendation, a resume, a statement of purpose and GRE, LSAT or GMAT scores.

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20 San Diego State University San Diego, California $6,738 23% 35% 70% 1 No Yes Yes

Professionals with management experience in urban planning, criminal justice or administrative roles are eligible for admission to San Diego State University's Master of Public Administration program. Curriculum is implemented through online coursework in an accelerated 16-month format but students are required to visit campus twice. Graduation requires the passing of 36 credits with a 3.0 GPA, as well as completion of an applied research project, which is presented to professionals and faculty in the final academic term. Classes familiarize learners with administrative theory, financial management and policy development. The School of Public Affairs will work with all enrollees to assist in networking, job placement and professional growth. Applications must include evidence of a 3.0 grade average in undergraduate work, GRE scores, 2 reference letters, a resume and a statement of purpose. Once registered you can utilize academic advising, the library and the learning platform Blackboard Learn.

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21 Texas A & M International University Laredo, Texas $3,350 22% 53% 45% 1 Yes Yes Yes

Prospective applicants wishing to enroll in Texas A&M International University's online program for a master's degree in public administration must meet 3 out of 4 admissions criteria. These include a 3.0 GPA in undergraduate studies, minimum 3 years of managerial experience, demonstration of competency through a statement of purpose or adequate completion of the interview process. Over the course of 2 years, admitted students will satisfy 42 credit hours of core and elective curriculum in topics of ethics, organizational theory and administrative law. Depending on work history, learners will also be required to complete a field experience or a summer project. In order to graduate, you must satisfy all coursework with a 3.0 GPA, as well as pass comprehensive examinations. The Writing Center, Career Services and tutoring supports are available to assist online learners throughout their studies. The MPA degree is accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration.

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22 National University La Jolla, California $11,232 4% - 50% 1 Yes Yes Yes

National University's online option to complete a Master of Public Administration allows students to specialize in human resource management or organizational leadership. Regardless of pathway, you will work through 36 quarter units in classes covering Urban Planning and Redevelopment, Ethics and Public Personnel Policy. An additional 18 quarter units will look into concentration-specific topics such as employee benefits, outsourcing and power dynamics. Students can access curriculum at any time of day through the web platform Blackboard Learn. In order to qualify for the program you must possess a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.5 GPA. The veteran-founded learning institution grants military members and their families a tuition discount. Also provided are a number of supports including library access, math tutoring services, writing assistance, career guidance and technical help for navigating online courses. Graduates will be equipped to handle grant writing, budgeting and community relations within nonprofit organizations and government entities.

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23 Georgia College Milledgeville, Georgia $5,187 9% 85% 62% 1 Yes Yes Yes

The online Master of Public Administration at Georgia College involves the completion of 36 credit hours in classes exploring finance and budgeting, research methods and professional ethics. Students will also select an emphasis from offerings such as Political Geography, Managerial Economics and Communications Theory in Management. All work, including a Capstone Project, must be satisfied with a 3.0 GPA. An applicant possessing this grade point average in undergraduate studies is not required to submit GRE, GMAT or MAT scores. Courses, which are spread out over 4 semesters, are implemented in a real-time format through the learning platforms WebEx and Desire-2-Learn. As students near the end of their degree, they can utilize Career Connection and InterviewStream, 2 online tools to assist in networking and interview preparation. Alumni of the program have entered the workforce as county managers, directors of social service agencies, city police chiefs and health care administrators.

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24 University of Central Florida Orlando, Florida $6,916 43% 50% 73% 2 Yes Yes Yes

Students interested in pursuing positions as city planners, program analysts or directors of education can enroll in the University of Central Florida's hybrid or online Master of Public Administration program. The degree is accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration and entails 42 credit hours of core, elective and capstone coursework. Curriculum includes classes such as Analytical Techniques for Public Administration and Strategic Planning and Management, which must be passed with an 80% or higher. Prospective students will need to submit proof of a 3.0 GPA in undergraduate work, 3 reference letters, a resume and a personal goal statement. To support your academic journey, the school provides a number of online resources including career services, peer tutoring, a writing center and academic advising. Knights Online acquaints learners with distance education and those enrolling in 100% online coursework receive waivers for a number of campus fees.

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25 Bellevue University Bellevue, Nebraska $9,810 62% - 32% 1 Yes No Yes

Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, Bellevue University offers a fully online option to receive a Master of Public Administration. The program is offered in an accelerated cohort model, allowing a group of students to move through 4 terms of coursework together. During this time, you will need to complete 36 credit hours with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Curriculum covers topics such as communication, organizational effectiveness, policy development and leadership. In order to graduate, you will also need to complete a funding project. Interested students must possess a 2.5 grade average in the most recent 60 credits applied toward their undergraduate degree. Once enrolled, you can take advantage of free online tutoring services, which are offered through Skype or Adobe Connect. There is 24/7 technical assistance for navigating the virtual classroom, as well as library access. Career Services assists in networking and interview tools for entering or advancing positions at government or nonprofit agencies.

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26 Delaware State University Dover, Delaware $5,160 66% 41% 44% 1 No Yes Yes School website
27 Indiana State University Terre Haute, Indiana $7,128 68% 86% 41% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
28 University of Montana Missoula, Montana $4,135 52% 92% 53% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
29 Jacksonville State University Jacksonville, Alabama $8,904 61% 53% 34% 2 Yes Yes Yes School website
30 California State University-Northridge Northridge, California $6,738 57% 48% 54% 1 No Yes Yes School website
31 University of Missouri Columbia, Missouri $8,462 64% 75% 71% 1 No Yes Yes School website
32 University of South Florida-Main Campus Tampa, Florida $8,350 69% 47% 71% 1 No Yes Yes School website
33 Southern Utah University Cedar City, Utah $7,280 82% 72% 43% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
34 The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Edinburg, Texas $5,439 42% 64% 48% 1 No Yes Yes School website
35 Southern University and A & M College Baton Rouge, Louisiana $5,336 34% 99% 41% 1 No Yes Yes School website
36 East Carolina University Greenville, North Carolina $4,656 42% 70% 61% 1 No Yes Yes School website
37 Kent State University at Kent Kent, Ohio $11,090 79% 85% 58% 1 No Yes Yes School website
38 Florida International University Miami, Florida $8,912 44% 50% 60% 1 No Yes Yes School website
39 Eastern Kentucky University Richmond, Kentucky $9,450 51% 86% 45% 1 No Yes Yes School website
40 University of North Dakota Grand Forks, North Dakota $7,185 54% 84% 57% 1 No Yes Yes School website
41 The University of Texas at Arlington Arlington, Texas $7,141 48% 70% 47% 1 No Yes Yes School website
42 University of Colorado Colorado Springs Colorado Springs, Colorado $9,983 46% 93% 50% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
43 Sul Ross State University Alpine, Texas $4,560 32% 92% 31% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
44 Texas Southern University Houston, Texas $1,600 39% 51% 20% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
45 University of Louisiana at Monroe Monroe, Louisiana $6,490 62% 76% 41% 1 No Yes Yes School website
46 University of West Georgia Carrollton, Georgia $3,996 10% 59% 44% 1 No Yes Yes School website
47 Old Dominion University Norfolk, Virginia $8,736 65% 85% 55% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
48 Murray State University Murray, Kentucky $10,968 71% 85% 53% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
49 University of North Carolina at Pembroke Pembroke, North Carolina $3,639 38% 74% 36% 1 No Yes Yes School website
50 Pennsylvania State University-Worldwide Middletown, Pennsylvania $19,812 54% 85% 69% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website

What Can I Learn in an Online Master's in Public Administration Program?

Students in a master’s in public administration program can gain expertise in areas such as policy analysis, statistics, economics, finance, sociology, accounting, management and more. Master’s in public administration students learn practical solutions to real-world problems, not just theory. Through internships and capstone projects, master’s in public administration students become competitive in the workforce. Many pursue specializations such as human resources management, nonprofit management, health care administration, criminal justice jobs and other high-level administrative jobs.

What common courses are offered in a master’s in public administration program?

While every program might offer slightly different variations on the same topics, here are examples of courses you will find in an online master’s in public administration program.

Public Administration Theory

This course explores the tension between bureaucracy-democracy and theories about the nature and development of public administration in the United States.

Financial Management

This course will offer the skills and ability to analyze an organization’s budget and provide alternative courses of action in financial decision making. Topics include the budgetary process, revenue policy, financial controls, debt management and capital budgeting.

Leadership Ethics

This course examines assumptions implicit in various organizational designs with highlights including the importance of fidelity to value-based decision making.

Urban Politics and Government

The study of city and suburban governments in metropolitan areas, with special emphasis devoted to such topics as governmental form, city-suburb relations, race and ethnic relations and economic change.

Effective Nonprofit Management

Examination of nonprofit civic and political involvement, ethics and accountability, leadership and board development, human resource practices, financial management and performance measure, philanthropy and fundraising, volunteer management and marketing and communications.

Managing Public Networks

Explores theories of federalism, intergovernmental relations, intergovernmental and intersectoral networks, collaborative decision-making approaches and negotiating skills.

Effective City Management

Learn how to relate better to the community, promote its future and work with the governing body. Discover ways to create an organizational climate of excellence while overseeing the delivery of services, conducting relations with other governments and maintaining personal effectiveness.

What exams or projects should I expect?

Most master’s in public administration programs require a capstone course toward the end of the MPA studies, which draws upon the sum of a student’s learning in the program. While each program may structure their capstone course project differently, many take the form of independent research study, and others focus on team collaboration. The results of the capstone project can be used in a professional portfolio.

To graduate, students must take The MPA Comprehensive Exam, a multi-hour test, typically taken on one day, which will cover a comprehensive set of questions dating back to the very first courses a student takes when beginning the degree. It will cover general theories, as well as practical concepts and techniques of public administration.

What specializations are available in a master’s in public administration program?

Under the master’s in public administration program umbrella, there are numerous specializations that students can pursue depending on their interests. Here are several of the most common specializations, all within the master’s in public administration degree:

Public Management Specialization

This is for students who wish to work as managers in public and nonprofit sectors. It provides skills in administration, budgeting and finance, as well as communications, information systems, law, leadership, personnel and policy analysis. All of these subjects and skills are necessary for management in local, state and federal agencies, as well as leadership in the nonprofit sector.

Public Health Administration

A master’s in public administration degree also translates well to those who want to work in policy administration within the healthcare field, whether that be through community health organizations or government bodies like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Topics covered will include health information systems, legal issues related to healthcare delivery, quality of care concepts, hospital administration, and large picture issues and problems in healthcare.

Nonprofit Management

For those students who are passionate about the nonprofit sector, a master’s in public administration degree offers the skills and experience to launch into this important, impactful field. Students will expect to take such classes as civic engagement in governance, financial management of nonprofits, nonprofit management and leadership and philanthropy.

What Can I do with a Master’s in Public Administration Degree?

A master’s in public administration degree is a versatile degree that translates across a wide variety of careers from administrative leadership roles within government agencies to emergency management. Here are some examples of careers available within the master’s in public administration degree:

City Manager

The city manager in every town is the executive officer of a city, who implements and oversees policies drafted by the city council. The city manager reports to the mayor and city council and is in charge of all of the city’s administrative business. They supervise city departments, manage city budgets and research key issues to advise the mayor and city council. Students interested in pursuing this career should be sure to find a program with courses in public finance, policy analysis, non-profit administration, as well as legal and political issues and personnel supervision.

Financial Manager

Nonprofit organizations and numerous government agencies need financial managers to strategize, develop and manage an organization’s long-term financial goals. Students who wish to pursue this career should look for MPA programs with concentrations or courses in financial management, public financial administration, economics and quantitative analysis, economic development and financial policy.

Public Policy Analyst

This specialization is geared toward students who want to work in policy analysis positions in the public sector or the government to evaluate public programs or look at the impacts of public policies. Students interested in this career path may need to take such courses as health policy, research methods in urban and public policy, decision tools for policy analysis and public policy analysis.

Whatever specialization students choose to pursue, anyone can benefit from joining up with professional associations that offer resources, opportunities for networking and job insights such as the following:

American Society for Public Administration

The ASPA is highly recognized for public administration professionals. They host an annual conference with informational sessions and networking opportunities and publish books and periodicals on topics relevant to public administration.

Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management

The APPAM was originally founded at Duke University in 1979 as a way to connect analysts, scholars and policymakers at their annual conference. They promote research and education on topics of interest to public administration.

American Public Works Association

The APWA strives to connect professionals in higher level public service such as city managers, public works directors and transportation managers with one another.

How Much Can I Make with a Career in Public Administration?

Since public administration is such a broad field, there are a wide variety of career possibilities for those with an MPA. Here is a small selection of roles students can pursue, but they should keep in mind that each career may require a different specialization, additional experience or certification and that those differences in experience and education may translate to different salary potentials.

Career Lowest 10% Earned Annually Median Annual Salary Highest 10% Earned Annually Job Growth 2016-2026
Emergency Management Director Less than $38,270 $72,760 More than $141,620 +8%
Medical or Health Services Manager Less than $58,350 $98,350 More than $163,480 +20%
Administrative Services Manager Less than $52,750 $94,020 More than $160,000 +10%
Financial Manager Less than $66,480 $125,080 More than $208,000 +19%
Political Scientist Less than $56,150 $115,110 More than $161,890 +3%
Social and Community Services Manager Less than $39,730 $64,100 More than $109,990 +18%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

As you can see by the data above, there is a wide range of salaries available within the public administration field. However, most of these jobs show promising career and salary growth over time. According to a report by Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, of 253 master’s in public administration graduates in 2017, 33.3 percent work in the public sector, 42.3 percent work in the private sector and 21.7 percent work in the nonprofit sector.

Earning a master’s in public administration can make a difference in salary potential. Research from U.S. Census data show that individuals with a bachelor’s degree in public administration-related fields earn a median annual salary of $50,000, whereas the median for a master’s in public administration graduate is around $68,000.

Online Master’s in Public Administration Program Accreditation

The National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) is considered the most respected accrediting institution for online master’s in public administration programs to ensure excellence in education and public administration at the master’s level. Accredited programs have to demonstrate a contribution to the “knowledge, research and practice of public service” and produce measurable goals and outcomes. They must offer degrees in public policy, affairs or administration.

Institutions seeking accreditation for a master’s in public administration have to be in practice for four years first and must have a core of five full-time faculty members. The mission of the program must emphasize public service values, and the degree’s primary focus should be preparing students to be leaders, managers and analysts in related fields.

How to Pay for a Master’s in Public Administration Degree

Once a student has settled on a master’s in public administration program, it’s time to think about how to finance it. While each program will have its own guidelines for financial aid and grants, there are a few scholarships available to students pursuing MPA degrees or in related fields. Below are several scholarship and funding options for graduate students:

  • Fellowships and Grants

    Graduate students may be eligible for fellowships and grants in the field of public administration. The Foundation for Community Association Research awards the Byron Hanke Fellowship to graduate students who engage in research projects related to the development, management and governance of interest to communities and to their community association.

  • Public Administration Scholarships

    Graduate students may also be eligible for a scholarship from regional or national associations, as well as scholarships funded by specific universities. Some scholarship options to investigate include:

  • Government Finance Officers Association

    This organization provides several yearly scholarships to students pursuing degrees in programs that prepare them for government finance.

  • The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation

    The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation offers scholarships to up to 65 students per year pursuing a degree in public service.

  • The Open Society Foundation

    This foundation offers several scholarships each year to individuals who pursue degrees that meet with their values of “building vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens.”

  • VA Benefits

    Any veterans who are eligible for VA benefits through the post- 9/11 GI Bill, the Vocational Rehabilitation bill, Dependents Educational Assistance Bill, or the Montgomery GI Bill, can use these funds for master’s in public administration programs.

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