Best Online MPA Programs

Search Colleges


If you want to lead a nonprofit organization, and are interested in serving your community, you may want to consider pursuing an online master’s in public administration degree (MPA). In an MPA program, you can develop business and leadership skills, and prepare for a variety of career opportunities in the public sector.

MPA students learn how to manage all aspects of an executive organization. They study advanced finance and accounting, policy design and implementation, and leadership and ethics. Beyond mastering these core concepts, students may choose to specialize in a disciplinary subfield, such as emergency management, health and human services, information technology, or nonprofit management.

Below, we have ranked the best online master’s in public administration programs in the country. Each of the schools on our list offers students a comprehensive education in the acute leadership and administrative skills needed to pursue a career as a top executive in public administration. Our list identifies each school’s relative academic strengths, learning goals, and innovative courses, and introduces students to the online classroom experience. If you are interested in the field, and value the convenience of the online format, be sure to take a look at these top online master’s in public administration programs.

2016 Online Education Trends Report: Learn how online programs are changing the face of higher education.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

 2/590.26%Chapel Hill, NC


The online Master of Public Administration program at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill delivers core curriculum courses in professional communication, financial and human resource management, organizational theory, data analysis and evaluation, among other varied electives designed to build public service leadership skills. To supplement the online coursework, the online MPA program at UNC School of Government requires students to complete a professional practicum at a local public agency or nonprofit.

Upon enrollment, students are given instructions on how to access their online classes via the Sakai LMS. In addition to the convenience of online coursework available to e-learners worldwide, students in UNC's online MPA program may participate in real-time video conferencing to join classes and access lectures from their home computer, laptop or mobile device. MPA candidates enjoy small class sizes and are encouraged to interact and collaborate with peers via online chats and social forums.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Johns Hopkins University

 5/593.08%Baltimore, MD


Johns Hopkins University currently offers a partially online Master of Arts in Public Management; this program will be available 100% online as of Summer 2015. The degree program comprises 12 courses in policy analysis and evaluation, financial management, public policy and administration, among other topics, and requires a capstone course demonstrating practical, real-world skills learned throughout the course to complete the degree. Graduates are prepared for jobs across government, private and nonprofit sectors.

Online students enrolled in JHU's Master of Arts in Public Management use Blackboard to access courses, participate in group assignments and join discussion boards. Students are automatically signed up for an online orientation upon enrollment, to familiarize themselves with the e-learning platform. In addition to the flexibility online learning provides, distance learners at JHU have applauded the high levels of interaction that online coursework incorporates into each class; many online students have stated they learn "…as much from their classmates as they do from their instructors and assignments."

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

University of Illinois at Springfield

 2/548.68%Springfield, IL


The online Master of Public Administration at the University of Illinois - Springfield is geared toward professionals working in the field who are looking to advance their careers and build a stronger foundation in public administration foundational subjects, including analytical tools, budgets, finances and human resource management. Starting fall semester 2015, students enrolling in the online MPA at UIS are required to satisfy 36 course credit hours in basic core competency in the order in which they are provided; they must also complete a capstone course. Full-time students typically finish the degree in two years.

Distance learners at UIS use Blackboard to access all coursework and interact with instructors and peers. Staff at the university's traditional on-campus departments are well-versed in online learning tools and can assist all students with gaining online access to the library, registrar, financial aid and career services. Online courses are delivered through streaming video, and students may access a wide variety of other online support tools, including online tutoring software, IT workshops and cloud-based storage options.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Indiana University – Bloomington

 3/577.64%Bloomington, IN


The online Master of Public Affairs at Indiana State University - Bloomington is a combination of the Master of Public Administration and the Master of Public Policy. While completing the 48-credit-hour program, students study globalization, organizational management and strategic analysis and action, among other topics relevant to public administration professionals. MPA candidates are also required to complete an experiential component to complete the degree, which may include an internship, research program or prior experience.

Online MPA coursework at is delivered through Oncourse learning platform. Distance learners are afforded the flexibility of a fully online program, including downloadable PDFs of course materials, video-based lectures and fully integrated communication tools for interaction between faculty and peers.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Northeastern University

 5/581.62%Boston, MA


Students enrolled in Northeastern University's fully online Master of Public Administration are administered the same courses, resources and tools as those in the on-campus program. Online students are prepared for both public- and private-sector jobs in management and leadership through rigorous coursework comprised of 42 credit hours, including required core classes and an elective curriculum of the student's choice. Part-time distance learners may complete the MPA program in three to seven years, while full-time students may finish the degree in just two years.

Online MPA coursework at Northeastern must be completed according to weekly deadlines, delivered through the Blackboard learning platform. E-learners have a multitude of high-tech tools at their disposal, including discussion boards, multimedia lectures available through Articulate Presenter, streaming video lectures and podcasts combined with printable lecture transcriptions in Adobe PDF format.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

California State University – Long Beach

 2/565.17%Long Beach, CA

The online Master of Public Administration at California State University-Long Beach is designed for students already employed in the public administration field. Distance learners are required to satisfy 39 units and may complete the program in as little as 24 months. Candidates are provided the opportunity to expand on core concepts, including research, development, budgeting, surveying and communication skills, among others, to potentially increase professional opportunities and encourage advancement.

Through CSU Long Beach's distance learning program, students receive a comprehensive, extended education in public administration, using interactive learning tools and with round-the-clock access to faculty and peer communication. Mentors and special support coordinators are assigned to online students to help guide them through the online learning interface.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Villanova University

 5/589.37%Villanova, PA

Villanova University's online Master of Public Administration degree program is designed to build skills needed to lead and manage teams, develop programming and public planning strategies and make effective decisions. Online MPA candidates must complete 12 required classes in core curriculum for a total of 36 credit hours, in addition to passing a final exam, which demonstrates the knowledge, skills and abilities learned during the course of their degree. Full-time students enrolled in consecutive terms may earn their degree in about two years.

Online MPA distance learners at Villanova can enjoy increased flexibility, completing assignments on their own schedule. Virtual learning for this program is video-based, incorporating live, interactive, instructor-led courses, real-time discussion forums, downloadable course lectures and digital animations and simulations. Students receive 24/7 IT support and customer service for any technical issues and are assigned a designated program representative to assist with meeting individual requirements and setting learning objectives.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

University of Colorado – Denver

 2/539.96%Denver, CO

Colorado-Denver's online master's in public administration program empowers students with the knowledge, skills, and ethics they need to lead in public governance or nonprofit organizations. The program accommodates students' lifestyles and schedules, and gives them the freedom to design programs tailored to fit their professional goals. Students can choose to concentrate in gender-based violence or environmental policy, management, and law. They can also participate in community leadership programs that provide valuable hands-on experience. Distance learners are expected to complete capstone projects in which they work with a public agency or nonprofit organization to present solutions to a problem; students then defend their work and research findings before a panel of professors.

Pursuers of a master's in public administration online must complete a minimum of 36 hours of graduate work with a total grade point average of “B" or better to graduate. Most students take nine to 12 credit hours per semester. Out-of-state students looking to enroll in the online program will pay less than the non-resident tuition rate.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Marist College

 5/578.19%Poughkeepsie, NY

The online Master of Public Administration at Marist College offers full-time or part-time classes in fully online, hybrid or traditional on-campus course delivery. The MPA program incorporates both theoretical and practical coursework to prepare candidates for a career in public and non-profit organization management. Students are required to complete 42 credit hours and may select a concentration in public management, ethical leadership or health administration.

Marist College offers its online MPA via asynchronous curriculum on the iLearn platform, which features comprehensive distance learning tools to cultivate a collaborative educational experience. Students are encouraged to take advantage of a variety of communication methods in order to access assignments and interact with instructors and peers, including online discussion forums, group chats and designated virtual "office hours."

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

DePaul University

 5/571.21%Chicago, IL

DePaul University's online Master of Public Administration provides a broad education to those seeking a career in the public sector. MPA candidates at DePaul may select from one of three specialty concentrations: public management, international public management and metropolitan planning and urban affairs. Students are required to complete 52 total course credits, including a combination of core and concentration-specific curriculum. For this program, DePaul University adopts a "cross-sectoral" approach to learning, which incorporates professional skills needed for both domestic and global sectors of public administration.

Online MPA students at DePaul complete their degree both asynchronously via Desire2Learn course management system and synchronously with live streaming video and audio technology. E-learners are encouraged to contribute to the highly interactive virtual learning community, taking advantage of DePaul's online communication network and social media tools, including discussion boards, online quizzes, communal work spaces and document sharing.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

California State University – Northridge

 2/546.76%Northridge, CA

California State University - Northridge's online Master of Public Administration is ideal for students who are either currently employed in the field of public administration or seeking a mid-career change. The online MPA program at CSUN offers concentrations in health administration, nonprofit sector management, public sector management and leadership, as well as an MPA cohort for executives.

The fully online MPA at Cal State Northridge depends on a weekly virtual meeting schedule to deliver coursework and offer communal and collaborative interaction. Through CSUN's virtual learning management system, students have the opportunity to access web-based video lectures, download supplemental materials and connect via the university's various social media platforms. Distance learners receive academic and technical support from dedicated departments across CSUN's Tseng College.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

University of San Francisco

 5/570.46%San Francisco, CA

The online Master of Public Administration at University of San Francisco engages students and faculty in a collaborative virtual environment. Students complete coursework in both core foundation topics and a concentration or specialty of their choosing. They may obtain their degree in as little as 24 months.

Faculty-student interaction is at the center of the online learning experience at USF. The faculty, online and on-campus, is dedicated to being fully accessible to their students through discussion boards and chat features via the university's virtual course delivery system, as well as through a variety of multimedia tools and technology resources.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Nova Southeastern University

 4/546.11%Fort Lauderdale, FL

Nova Southeastern's online master's in public administration program prepares students to meet the challenges and needs that public sector, nonprofits, and the government encounters in today's dynamic world. The university designed its program and curriculum around emerging theory, employee surveys, and focus groups with professional administrators. The result is a modernized and relevant training program for administrative professionals.

Nova's MPA program has five different start times throughout the year (August, October, January, March, and May), and can be completed in just 21 months. Students pursuing a master's of public administration online complete core courses, select a specialization, and then finish a capstone project. Course offerings range from ethics in the public sector to cross-cultural perspectives in nonprofits to emergency management in governance. Distance learners can pursue specializations in criminal justice, disaster and emergency management, state and local administration, and nonprofit/non-government agencies. For capstone projects, students work with a public agency or nonprofit. Among the school's distinguished faculty members, Dr. Jack Pinkowski particularly stands out, and he was voted Florida's Public Administration Educator of the Year in 2013.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

California State University – San Bernardino

 2/547.96%San Bernardino, CA

Admission to the online Master of Public Administration at Cal State University - San Bernardino is rolling, enabling students to enroll at the start of any term throughout the year. This MPA program is intended for students with prior experience in public administration who are looking to advance their careers in the field. Students are required to complete 48 course credit units, as well as a comprehensive exam course. Graduates are prepared to strengthen core skills in communication, management and decision-making, among other professional abilities.

Students receive assignments and perform all course correspondence through Blackboard. As part of this 100% online program, faculty and students interact using video conferencing tools and through CSU's extensive intranet system. IT support is available 24/7 for e-learners; students also have direct access to academic advisors and career support specialists.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

University of Missouri – Columbia

 2/569.48%Columbia, MO

The online Master of Public Affairs at University of Missouri - Columbia is designed to expand skills in specialized areas of public affairs, such as ethical leadership, economic analysis and social entrepreneurship. The online MPA program comprises 33 course credit hours over nine-week-long terms. Intended for students with three to five years of experience in the workforce, graduates of UM Columbia's online MPA are prepared for high-level careers in public, private and nonprofit management.

UM Columbia's online MPA program uses Blackboard to deliver assignments and supplemental course materials. Through this virtual learning platform, students access grades, participate in group discussions, communicate with instructors and chat with fellow students. Lectures are recorded and shared online via Tegrity, providing distance students with an in-class experience in real-time.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice

 2/538.57%New York, NY

The Master of Public Administration: Inspector General at CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice is a unique program that prepares students for a career in the specialized fields of inspection and oversight. This MPA program comprises 42 credit hours over two to three years, including a mixture of foundational and elective courses, a capstone seminar and mandatory attendance at fall and spring on-campus conferences. Curriculum follows a cohort structure, requiring students to complete courses in a particular order. Graduates are prepared for positions in which they evaluate the performance of other public and nonprofit organizations.

Online MPA students at CUNY are assigned a dedicated academic advisor upon enrollment. E-learners are provided with the same comprehensive educational resources within CUNY's virtual classroom as their on-campus counterparts, including online access to the Lloyd Sealy Library, financial aid opportunities and career support services.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

University of North Dakota

 2/555.49%Grand Forks, ND

University of North Dakota's fully online Master of Public Administration provides real-time, weekly coursework in the evenings to working professionals looking for a convenient and flexible learning option to earn their degree. Students are required to complete 36 credit hours in subjects like ethics, public policy and management theories. The online MPA program accepts applications during fall, spring and summer semesters and typically takes two years to complete.

Coursework for UND's online MPA is conducted through "live" streaming video classes. As part of the fully-online degree, students are able to make use of a variety of academic support tools to supplement the virtual classroom, including advanced Web-conferencing technology, SmarThinking online tutoring services, career guidance, online access to the UND library and round-the-clock tech support via the NDUS Help Desk.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

University of Nebraska at Omaha

 2/544.62%Omaha, NE

The University of Nebraska at Omaha's online Master of Public Administration offers students a diverse selection of concentrations and specialties to choose from, including: public management, nonprofit and local government subjects. The online MPA comprises 39 credit hours and a capstone project; full-time students are typically able to complete the program in two years and one semester. Depending on individual concentration or specialty, students are required to complete core and mid-level coursework before focusing on specialized areas of interest.

Online MPA students at UNO participate in asynchronous coursework through the Blackboard course delivery system. UNO also subscribes to a number of other education-based portals and learning systems, including gMAV and MAVLink, both offering mobile apps for on-the-go student access; and MAVSync and MAVTrack, which offer interactive support and networking opportunities between faculty, students and education-oriented organizations.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Concordia University – Wisconsin

 4/561.19%Mequon, WI

Concordia University's online MPA program provides a Christian-focused curriculum for students looking to work in organizational administration. Concordia provides maximum flexibility to students: individualized programs start at your convenience, and students are not required to submit GMAT or GRE scores.

Concordia emphasizes Christ-centered ethics, morality, and thought-leadership in all of its courses. Students seeking to earn a master's in public administration online can take classes in intergovernmental relations and business ethics, and are required to complete a 120-hour internship at an approved business site. Students are encouraged to design their programs of study to match their career ambitions. Concordia also features online student success advisors to help distance learners acclimate to the program. The attentiveness, flexibility, world-class faculty, and emphasis on Christianity make Concordia a stand-out choice for students looking to pursue their MPA online.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Belhaven University

 3/550.21%Jackson, MS

Belhaven's online master's in public administration program prepares working professionals for leadership and management roles within governmental and nonprofit agencies. Belhaven's teachings are grounded in Christian principles, and the school's faculty augments their students' professional and personal growth.

Students working toward a master's of public administration online take 12 courses, which are offered in eight-week segments. They must complete a research capstone project, and they can also pursue a concentration in human resources. The program is designed to be completed in two years; transfer credits and previous work experience may allow students to complete their degree in even less time. Financial aid and VA/military benefits are available for all distance learners.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Troy University

 2/534.98%Troy, AL

Troy's online master's in public administration program focuses on developing ethical, committed leaders who can effectively serve in the public's interest. Graduates must complete a 12-course, 36-credit hour curriculum. Students may transfer in up to 12 credits. All distance learners choose a concentration for their MPA, and can take a variety of classes, from organizational behavior to managing the public workforce. Students may need to complete an internship if they have not worked for at least one year in an administrative capacity. A capstone project is also required.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

University of Baltimore

 2/542.94%Baltimore, MD

The University of Baltimore's online master's in public administration degree uses the same academic calendar as the onsite program does. Students can pursue specializations that best serve their career goals. Popular classes include negotiations and conflict management, urban politics, and globalization and social change. The 42-credit program can be completed in two years.

The University of Baltimore emphasizes a collaborative environment for distance learners, and classes feature plenty of opportunities for interactions between faculty members and other students. Baltimore's online MPA program provides an excellent foundation for those aspiring to managerial positions in public administration.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Sam Houston State University

 2/553.06%Huntsville, TX

The online master's in public administration degree program at SHU gives students the opportunity to learn from renowned professors and network with other professionals in the program. The school has created an interactive, engaging online learning environment, and professors are able to provide individualized attention to distance learners.

Students pursuing a master's in public administration online must complete 36 credit hours and a comprehensive exam to graduate. Distance learners who do not have full-time professional experience are also required to complete an additional three-credit hour internship. There are three enrollment times (fall, spring, and summer) available to maximize flexibility for students. Students may specialize in disaster and emergency management. The school's online MPA program prepares students for leadership roles in governmental and nonprofit positions at the local, state, and federal level.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Barry University

 4/535.96%Miami, FL

Barry's online master's in public administration program prepares students for career advancement in public service and nonprofit administration. The faculty fosters a sense for social justice and leadership in students amidst a spirit of collaboration.

Student pursuing a master's of public administration online must complete 36 credits to graduate; up to six credits are transferable from other accredited programs. A non-credit, no cost workshop is also required for students with an undergraduate GPA below 3.5, or those who have been out of school for more than four years. As part of the curriculum, students must complete a capstone project where they work with a graduate faculty mentor and a professional in their field to complete research relevant to their career goals.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

University of Texas – Pan American

 2/542.75%Edinburg, TX

The online Master of Public Administration at the University of Texas - Pan American comprises a mixture of comprehensive core and elective public administration courses in subjects like public policy analysis, grant writing and local government management. Through these 36 course credit hours, students are able to pursue a career in one of several types of government agencies, including non-profit, public and political administration.

Online MPA students at UTPA are provided with several key resources to complete their degree from anywhere in the world. Distance learners use Blackboard and ASSIST platforms to access coursework, connect with media technology used to deliver e-courses, securely view grades and financial information, use university library resources and connect with other students via social media and UTPA email. IT support is available 24/7 via the Help Desk at UTPA.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile

Graduates from online master’s in public administration programs have plenty of opportunities awaiting them after they finish school. The variety of skills students develop in MPA programs – leadership, critical thinking, communication, etc. – prepare degree holders for a variety of careers, in and out of public administration. There is no tried and true career path for MPA graduates; the strength of the degree is in its versatility. To give you an example of the kind of work that you’ll be prepared for after you finish your education, we’ve reviewed a few positions that MPA graduates may pursue.

  • Administrative Services Manager: Administrative services managers are responsible for coordinating an organization’s support services. They maintain facilities and supervise office employees. These managers may also establish goals for their staff and help direct and implement policy changes as necessary to increase departmental efficiency.
  • Political Scientist: Political scientists are experts in the complex inner-workings of political systems. They research how governments operate, examine public policies, and forecast political trends. Public administration and political science are interrelated disciplines, and it’s not unusual for an MPA program to offer a specialization in polisci.
  • Social and Community Service Manager: Social and community service managers supervise organizations and their attendant staff. They interact with stakeholders and human interest groups to identify and develop programs for the community. Managers may also act as public advocates for the programs and services they provide to a particular demographic or cultural group.
  • Emergency Management Director: Emergency management directors are responsible for planning and implementing programs designed to serve the public in an emergency or natural disaster. This position requires advanced research and analytical skills and people who can think quickly in a crisis. Emergency management directors are needed not only in government and public capacities, but also within private and nonprofit entities nationwide.
PositionMedian Annual SalaryProjected Growth Rate
Administrative Services Manager$83,7908%
Political Scientist$104,920-2%
Social and Community Service Manager$62,74010%
Emergency Management Director$64,3606%

The online format is ideal for preparing students to perform research in public administration. Online master’s in public administration degrees typically allow students to complete the bulk of their coursework without ever setting foot on campus. Students in this discipline explore case studies, trends in politics, and effective leadership methods, all of which can be studied effectively in a virtual learning environment. If you are looking to build a career in the field, and want to complete your degree relatively quickly and unobtrusively, consider pursuing a master’s of public administration online program.

Original Research

Best Online Master's in Psychology Degrees of 2015
Rank Name Location
1 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC
2 Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD
3 Marist College Poughkeepsie, NY
4 Clemson University Clemson, SC
5 Northeastern University Boston, MA
6 Villanova University Villanova, PA
7 University of South Florida Tampa, FL
8 California State University – Long Beach Long Beach, CA
9 Indiana University – Bloomington Bloomington, IN
10 CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice New York, NY
11 California State University – San Bernardino San Bernardino, CA
12 University of North Dakota Grand Forks, ND
13 University of Missouri – Columbia Columbia, MO
14 California State University – Northridge Northridge, CA
15 University of Illinois at Springfield Springfield, IL
16 University of Texas – Pan American Edinburg, TX
17 DePaul University Chicago, IL
18 Lindenwood University Saint Charles, MO
19 Valdosta State University Valdosta, GA
20 University of Nebraska at Omaha Omaha, NE
21 Florida Gulf Coast University Fort Myers, FL
22 University of San Francisco San Francisco, CA
23 California Baptist University Riverside, CA
24 Pennsylvania State University – Harrisburg Middletown, PA
25 Murray State University Murray, KY