Best Online Master's Degrees in Public Administration (MPA)

Learn about online Master's in Public Administration (MPA) degree programs, including common courses, in-person requirements, and admissions information. Also, explore possible career paths with an online MPA degree. Schools offering Public Administration degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Best Online Master's Programs in Public Administration (MPA)

When choosing the top schools with online master's degrees in public administration, we took into account program cost, flexibility, length, and the offered concentration areas. The list below features the best online master's degree in the field of public administration.

1. Indiana University-Bloomington

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Bloomington, IN $10,564

Indiana University-Bloomington offers an online Master of Public Affairs (MPA) degree program that includes the study of public administration and public policy. This 48-credit-hour program features core coursework in the following subjects:

  • Public management
  • Public finance
  • Law and public affairs
  • Statistical analysis

Students also choose their own elective classes so that they are able to match their coursework with their career goals. Along with online classes, students must also complete an experiential component, which could be an internship, a group or independent research project, or credit for past volunteer or work experience that is related to public administration. There is also an optional, on-campus component called the O'Neill Online Week that consists of a course for credit, a public project, and opportunities for online students to meet their peers and faculty in-person. For the 2019-2020 academic year online, in-state MPA students paid $619 per credit hour, while out-of-state MPA students paid $1,268.

2. Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Winona, MN $9,000

At Saint Mary's University of Minnesota, students can earn a Master of Arts in Public Administration (MAPA) degree in only 2 years with 36 total credits needed. This 100% online program features core courses in strategic leadership, data analysis, and nonprofit administration. Students can also choose a specialization focus in either government or nonprofits. A final capstone course consists of a research project that centers on nonprofit or public administration. The MAPA program has fall, spring, and summer dates, and the price per credit for all students is $625.

3. Roger Williams University

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Bristol, RI $15,386

Roger Williams University has an online Master of Public Administration degree program that requires 36 credits and is specifically for those employed with government agencies or nonprofits or those who wish to pursue a public service career. This online program allows students to choose a concentration in one of the following areas:

  • Public Management
  • Healthcare Administration

Along with elective courses within their concentration, students take core courses in public policy, budgeting, and personnel management. Online classes feature a 16-week format. Students are also required to complete an internship, which could take place at the local or federal level, or a research course. A final capstone course that requires a guided research project must be completed as well. For the 2019-2020 year, all students paid $626 per credit for this online MPA program.

4. Texas A & M University-College Station

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
College Station, TX $9,812

Texas A & M University-College Station offers an online Executive Master of Public Service and Administration (EMPSA) degree program that allows students to choose one of the following specialty areas:

  • Homeland Security
  • Nonprofit Management
  • Public Management

This is a 39-credit hour program that consists of core classes in public service and policy, quantitative methods, and program evaluation. Students are required to attend 2 week-long residency experiences during the summer months. Additionally, students must complete a final capstone project that gives them the opportunity to work closely with a nonprofit or government agency. During the 2019-2020 school year, resident students paid $3,711 for a 9-credit-hour load.

5. East Carolina University

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Greenville, NC $7,485

The Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree program at East Carolina University can mostly be completed in an online format with one third of required courses offered online. Students must earn 45 credits with core classes in policy analysis, HR management, and public budgeting. Also required is an internship in the field of public administration; however, this can be waived if the student has significant public administration professional experience. A final professional paper that consist of research into a public policy or management problem is required as well. Resident online students paid $249 per credit and non-resident online students paid $893 for the 2019-2020 year.

Rank School Name Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
6 Arizona State University-Downtown Phoenix Phoenix, AZ $12,134
7 University of South Dakota Vermillion, ND $6,835
8 University of Missouri-Columbia Columbia, MS $10,017
9 Wichita State University Wichita, KS $6,904
10 Georgia College & State University Milledgeville, GA $7,206
11 Kent State University at Kent Kent, OH $11,536
12 Ohio University-Main Campus Athens, OH $9,720
13 Marywood University Scranton, PA $11,300
14 Gannon University Erie, PA $19,220
15 The University of Montana Missoula, MT $6,505
16 University of North Dakota Grand Forks, ND $9,697
17 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL $8,872
18 Murray State University Murray, KY $9,114
19 University of Idaho Moscow, ID $9,352
20 University of North Carolina Wilmington Wilmington, NC $7,367
21 Old Dominion University Norfolk, VA $12,552
22 Southeast Missouri State University Cape Girardeau, MO $5,680
23 St. Joseph's College-Long Island Patchogue, NY $18,802
24 Regent University Virginia Beach, VA $16,179
25 Eastern Kentucky University Richmond, KY $10,570
26 University of Nebraska at Omaha Omaha, NE $6,592
27 Indiana State University Terre Haute, IN $7,616
28 Sam Houston State University Huntsville, TX $7,791
29 Texas Tech University Lubbock, TX $8,015
30 University of Colorado Colorado Springs Colorado Springs, CO $13,206
31 Troy University Troy, AL $8,506
32 Aurora University Aurora, IL $12,600
33 Sul Ross State University Alpine, TX $2,850
34 California Baptist University Riverside, CA $14,130
35 DePaul University Chicago, IL $19,422
36 Lindenwood University Saint Charles, MO $17,600
37 The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Edinburg, TX $6,889
38 Southern Utah University Cedar City, TX $8,338
39 The University of Texas at Arlington Arlington, TX $9,672
40 University of Nevada-Las Vegas Las Vegas, NV $5,934
41 Arkansas State University-Main Campus Jonesboro, AR $6,210
42 Ball State University Muncie, IN $9,392
43 University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus Pittsburgh, PA $23,696
44 University of Mary Bismarck, ND $15,630
45 Central Michigan University Mount Pleasant, MI $13,804
46 Seton Hall University South Orange, NJ $23,422
47 Concordia University-Chicago Chicago, IL $9,180
48 University of North Carolina at Pembroke Pembroke, NC $6,418
49 University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Oshkosh, WI $8,839
50 Marist College Poughkeepsie, NY $14,500

All statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition based on 2018-2019 school year

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

Overview of Online Master's Programs in Public Administration (MPA)

Master's degrees in public administration are concerned with the study of managing and developing government agencies and nonprofit organizations. These programs include the examination of public policy, leadership skills, and administration.

Credits

The number of exact credits needed to earn an online MPA varies by university. However, most programs require students to earn around 36 to 48 credits.

Length

Generally, students can earn their online MPA degree in about 2 to 3 years. Many programs offer part-time attendance options so that students can work and complete their online MPA at the same time.

Other Degree Requirements

Along with coursework, online MPA programs sometimes require additional in-person or research elements.

Internship or Residency

Usually, online MPA programs require or make optional an internship experience. If a student chooses not to complete an internship, a research project is required in its place. Other programs have optional or required week-long residency courses or experiences that could include a public policy or service project.

Capstone

Most MPA programs also require a final capstone course. Typically, this capstone consists of an extensive research project that focuses on one aspect of public administration or a project that is completed in connection with a private, government, or nonprofit agency. The purpose of the capstone is to demonstrate the skills and knowledge the student has learned over the course of their MPA program

Concentration Areas

Many online MPA programs offer students the opportunity to specialize in a specific area of public administration. These concentrations require that students complete a set number of classes within their chosen area along with core courses. Below are some of the common concentration areas offered in online MPA programs.

  • Healthcare Administration - This specialty area focuses on healthcare organizations, management, and administration. Students take classes on health informatics, healthcare policy, and common issues in healthcare administration.
  • Public Management - This is a wide-ranging concentration that centers on the management of different kinds of public and nonprofit organizations. Students study such concepts as leadership, ethical management, and budgeting.
  • Nonprofit Management - This area solely focuses on the realm of nonprofits and how to effectively manage and lead these types of organizations. Students take classes on nonprofit development, fundraising, leading nonprofits, and fiscal management.

Other uncommon areas of concentration include homeland security, ethical leadership, international relations, and economic development.

Common Courses in Online MPA Programs

Although the curriculum of online MPA programs is unique to each program, there are some common classes that make up the core coursework of many programs. Below, you can get an in-depth look at what you might learn in an MPA program.

Public Budgeting and Finance

This is a course that covers budgeting and finance topics specifically related to government institutions and other types of agencies. Students learn how the budgets of government entities function, where revenue comes from, and how intergovernmental agencies coordinate on fiscal issues. Political and other influences on budgets is also discussed.

Quantitative Methods for Public Administration

This class teaches students how to use statistical modeling, data collection/analysis, and regression and variance modeling to address policy and public administration issues. Students also learn how to use quantitative methods to evaluate different public policies and their effectiveness.

Public Management

In this course, students learn about the most important tools, means, and methods for managing public entities. A broad range of topics is usually covered, including HR management techniques, program evaluation, and decision-making methods. Students could also be introduced to larger concerns about public management, including theories about the role of public managers and the best way public agencies should be managed.

Public Policy

Public policy courses touch on how to make and implement policy agendas and how to evaluate the effectiveness of specific policies. Other related topics that could be covered include the role of regulations and laws in connection to policy and the means and whys for lobbying for policy at the political level.

Public Human Resource Management

This course takes a close look at HR management topics within the context of public agencies and governmental organizations. Students study specific HR concepts, such as employee recruitment methods, labor relations, employee benefits and compensation, and employee performance evaluation.

Prerequisites for Online MPA Programs

To apply to an online MPA program, you must already hold a bachelor's degree. Generally, MPA programs have no requirement about the type of undergraduate degree you need.

Admissions Materials

When applying to an online MPA program, you typically must submit the following materials:

  • Application and fee
  • Transcripts
  • Resume
  • 2-3 letters of recommendation

Most programs also require that you submit a personal statement that speaks to why you want to study public administration and how a master's degree program helps you fulfill your career goals.

GRE

A number of MPA programs do require that you submit GRE scores that are not older than 5 years. There are also many MPA programs that have no GRE requirement at all.

Professional Experience

A select few number of MPA programs may also require that you have professional experience in the public services. Some programs require about 5 years of experience in the field; however, many programs have no work or professional experience requirements.

Cost of Online MPA Programs

The total cost of an online MPA degree program includes the tuition per credit price as well as additional fees and expenses.

Tuition

Generally, the price per credit for online MPA programs can range from $250 to $1,300. However, $625 is about the average price per credit for many programs. That means that at $625 a credit, a 36-credit hour program would cost a total of $22,500. For many programs, the exact price per credit is based on residency status, with out-of-state students having to pay more than their in-state peers.

Fees

Universities tend to charge additional fees on top of the price per credit tuition rate. These fees could be one-time fees or fees that are charged each semester of study. Normally, fees can range from $15 to $300 or more. Some examples of fees are distance education fees, technology fees, lab fees, and registration fees.

Additional Costs

If an online MPA program requires residencies on-campus, then students are usually responsible for paying for accommodations, meals, and travel. Students should also factor in the cost of textbooks and other materials, such as a laptop or internet access, that are required for online coursework.

Accreditation for Online MPA Programs

MPA programs can receive accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA), which is the leading nonprofit organization that accredits master's degree programs in the field of public policy, public affairs, and public administration.

To earn accreditation from NASPAA, a program must meet the following criteria:

  • Must have a purpose of public service, clear program goals, and means for evaluation
  • Must have core qualified, diverse faculty
  • Must offer students support services and facilities
  • Must have a curriculum with core public service competencies

Career Options with an MPA

With an MPA degree, you will be able to pursue a variety of management jobs, including in the fields of HR, community service, and fundraising.

Human Resources (HR) Manager

HR managers are responsible for the administration of their employers' HR department. Their direct job duties include:

  • Recruiting employees and directing the hiring process
  • Managing employee pay, benefit, and compensation packages
  • Acting as a liaison between employees and management
  • Dealing with any disputes, disciplinary actions, or employee concerns

HR managers might also make decisions about the strategic plans of a company, recommending changes or new ideas about employees and how to use their skills and knowledge in the most efficient way.

Social and Community Service Manager

A social and community service manager is someone who works for an organization or agency that is focused on providing social services, such as a care facility, a religious organization, or a nonprofit organization. Social and community service managers work to develop and implement programs and services, evaluate if a program is effective, and manage employees.

Fundraising Manager

Fundraising managers are in charge of implementing a fundraising strategy and bringing in donations to their organization. They must interact with and find donors, create donation campaigns, plan fundraisers, and apply for grant opportunities.

Salary and Job Outlook Information

The chart below shows the salary and job outlook numbers for MPA-related careers.

Job Title Median Annual Salary (2018) Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028)
Human Resources (HR) Manager $113,300 7%
Social and Community Service Manager $65,320 13%
Public Relations and Fundraising Manager $114,800 8%

Salary information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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