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If you are curious whether earning a master's in public administration online degree could help you transform your organization, advance your career, or qualify for a new job, this guide may help. Below, you can learn more about online MPA programs, application and degree requirements, and available courses and degree concentrations. Additionally, you can learn more about the careers graduates may qualify for with an online MPA.

What Are the Best Online Master's in Public Administration Programs of 2021? Here Are Our Top 10:

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Rank School Location
1 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC
2 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL
3 University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA
4 Northwestern University Evanston, IL
5 Villanova University Villanova, PA
6 Florida International University Miami, FL
7 Texas A & M University-College Station College Station, TX
8 San Diego State University San Diego, CA
9 Pennsylvania State University-World Campus University Park, PA
10 Texas A & M International University Laredo, TX

A master's in public administration can help you advance your public service career by qualifying you for a leadership or management position. For instance, an MPA degree-holder can become a city planner, government analyst or program manager, or nonprofit administrator. These professionals work at the local, state, and federal levels of government; for nonprofit organizations; and in industries such as healthcare and emergency management. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, urban and regional planners earn a median annual salary of $73,050. These positions are expected to experience 11% growth from 2018-2028.

How We Rank Schools

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you will make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering school rankings that are transparent, inclusive, and relevant for online students.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our Ranking Methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

2021 Best Accredited Online Master's in Public Administration Programs

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Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 89%

Program Overview

UNC-Chapel Hill's master of public administration degree helps students gain the tools necessary to succeed within local and state-level administrations. The program features case studies and requires students to complete a hands-on, community service practicum.

The curriculum features core courses, electives, and a portfolio. Required classes include organization theory, communication, and public service leadership. Participants can choose from electives like city and county management and grant writing and evaluation. Students may select concentrations in public management, local government, public health, or nonprofit management. An optional in-person immersion offers the opportunity to interact with classmates and faculty.

UNC-Chapel Hill is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Public Administration
School Status: Public
Tuition: $1,209 per credit
Credit Requirements: 45 credits
Program Length: 2-3 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: GRE, LSAT, or GMAT required

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2

University of Central Florida

Orlando, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 73%

Program Overview

Based in Orlando, UCF's online master of public administration program focuses on strategic planning, public policy, and financial and organizational management. The curriculum incorporates real-world service experiences to develop leadership skills. Learners interested in the nonprofit space also have the option to earn a simultaneous master of nonprofit management.

Core courses include public budgeting, strategic planning, and human resource management. Students select electives to customize the program, and a capstone project completes the degree.

UCF is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Its MPA program is accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Public Administration
School Status: Public
Tuition: $327 per credit (in-state); $1,152 per credit (out-of-state)
Credit Requirements: 42 credits
Program Length: 2-3 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: GRE or GMAT required

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3

University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA Graduation Rate: 92%

Program Overview

The online master of public administration from USC's Sol Price School of Public Policy prepares graduates to assume management and leadership roles in the modern political environment. The program connects cutting-edge research to policy and management practice.

Core courses cover topics like essential statistics for public management, public and nonprofit organizational behavior, and economics for public policy. Learners also select 16 credits of elective classes. Students participate in two on-campus residencies and must complete a capstone. In addition to optional internships, enrollees may also add two certificate options.

USC is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Public Administration
School Status: Private
Tuition: $1,995 per credit
Credit Requirements: 40 credits
Program Length: 12-24 months
Format: Online with two on-campus residencies
Instruction Style: Synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum recommended
Standardized Tests: GMAT or GRE required for applicants without at least five years of professional experience

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4

Northwestern University

Evanston, IL Graduation Rate: 95%

Program Overview

Located in Evanston, Illinois, Northwestern's master's in public policy and administration program covers the analytical and administrative sides of policy. This approach provides graduates with the tools necessary to drive change at the local, national, and international levels.

Students can enroll on a part-time basis or full-time basis. Participants complete nine core classes, learning about research methods, elements of public policy and administration, and ethics and leadership. Participants also dedicate three courses to a specialization, choosing from public administration, public policy, global policy, global health, or data analytics. To finish the program, students complete a capstone project or thesis.

Northwestern is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master's in Public Policy and Administration
School Status: Private
Tuition: $11,669 per quarter
Credit Requirements: 13 courses
Program Length: 1-2 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous and synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum specified
Standardized Tests: Not required

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5

Villanova University

Villanova, PA Graduation Rate: 91%

Program Overview

Villanova's online master of public administration prepares students to become ethical, inclusive, and creative public service leaders. Taught by an engaged and experienced faculty, the graduate program offers an innovative and practical curriculum, community partnerships, and a vibrant alumni network.

Required courses cover topics like public administration theory and human capital management. Elective course options include administrative communication, city management, and fundraising. Students may also pursue graduate certification in public administration, nonprofit management, or city management as a degree specialization or standalone credential.

Villanova is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Its MPA program holds accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Public Administration
School Status: Private
Tuition: $950 per credit
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum specified
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

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6

Florida International University

Miami, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 58%

Program Overview

FIU's master of public administration degree helps online students prepare for or advance in careers related to public affairs, public service, or public policy. The program provides students with a foundation in technical, analytical, and leadership skills.

Core MPA courses include public finance and the budgetary process, smart governance, quantitative applications, and human resources management. Alongside electives, students may add certification programs and an optional internship.

Miami-based FIU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Its MPA program boasts accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Public Administration
School Status: Public
Tuition: $380 per credit (in-state); $520 per credit (out-of-state)
Credit Requirements: 42 credits
Program Length: 2-3 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum specified
Standardized Tests: GRE, GMAT, or LSAT required for students with a GPA below 3.25 over their last 60 credits of upper-division coursework

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7

Texas A & M University-College Station

College Station, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 82%

Program Overview

Texas A&M's online executive master of public service and administrative degree (EMPSA) only admits participants with at least five years of public service experience. The program offers three specialized tracks: homeland security, nonprofit enterprises, and public management.

All EMPSA majors must take foundational classes in public service, economic analysis, and program evaluation in public and nonprofit organizations. While completing their culminating capstone project, learners work with Texas A&M's industry and government partners. Students must also spend two weeks on campus as part of the program.

Texas A&M is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Executive Master of Public Service and Administration
School Status: Public
Tuition: $5,021 per semester (nine credits, in-state); $10,811 per semester (nine credits, out-of-state)
Credit Requirements: 39 credits
Program Length: 2-3 years
Format: Online with two one-week residencies
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.2 minimum preferred
Standardized Tests: GRE or GMAT recommended

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8

San Diego State University

San Diego, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 74%

Program Overview

Offered to experienced managers in government and nonprofit agencies, SDSU's online master of public administration focuses on urban planning, criminal justice, and related fields.

Students take two accelerated courses in each two-month module. Classes include methods of analysis, scope of public administration, public financial management, and administrative theory. In a final capstone research course, students develop an applied research project detailing a challenge at their place of employment. They present their research to a panel of professional practitioners and faculty.

SDSU is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Public Administration
School Status: Public
Tuition: $551 per credit
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 16 months
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: GRE/GMAT requirements waived through 2021

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9

Pennsylvania State University-World Campus

University Park, PA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 71%

Program Overview

Located in University Park, Penn State World Campus offers an online master of public administration that helps students strengthen their leadership and professional skills.

Core course topics include research methods, government fiscal decision-making, and human resources in the public and nonprofit sectors. Elective courses focus on areas such as homeland security, public budgeting and financial management, and state-local government and administration. Students without at least two years of relevant work experience must participate in an internship. The program also offers two optional online graduate certificates.

Penn State World Campus is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Its MPA program is accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Public Administration
School Status: Public
Tuition: $924 per credit
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: GRE or GMAT may be required, depending on an applicant's GPA

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10

Texas A & M International University

Laredo, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 46%

Program Overview

TAMIU's online master of public administration program targets midcareer professionals in the government and nonprofit sectors, as well as individuals seeking to enter this field. The program teaches students the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to assume leadership and management roles in a culturally diverse society.

Core requirements include a survey of public administration and public affairs, a class in administrative ethics, and an internship for students without work experience. Participants select electives based on their interests. The degree concludes with a project course and a comprehensive examination.

Based in Laredo, TAMIU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Its MPA program holds accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Public Administration
School Status: Public
Tuition: $4,582 per semester (in-state); $10,468 per semester (out-of-state)
Credit Requirements: 42 credits
Program Length: 2-3 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum specified
Standardized Tests: Not required

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11

American University

Washington, DC Graduation Rate: 80%

Program Overview

Located in Washington, D.C., American University's online master of arts in public administration and policy prepares graduates to pursue advanced public service careers. Instructors are experts in their field and work to mentor and guide students through the learning process.

The curriculum consists of 12 three-credit courses, and courses each last eight weeks. Classes include public managerial economics, quantitative methods, legal issues in public administration, and foundations of policy analysis. The program culminates in a capstone course.

American University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. This public administration and policy programs is accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Public Administration and Policy
School Status: Private
Tuition: $1,812 per credit (fall and spring); $1,583 per credit (summer)
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum specified
Standardized Tests: GRE or LSAT requirement waived through fall 2021

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12

Texas Tech University

Lubbock, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 59%

Program Overview

TTU's online master of public administration program covers important professional knowledge and skills-based competencies, preparing students for management careers in public or nonprofit organizations.

Core course requirements include public budgeting, administrative ethics and leadership, and public policy analysis. Learners also complete an internship. Students select an emphasis in public management, nonprofit management, or environmental policy and administration. Students may also pursue a dual JD/MPA.

Lubbock-based TTU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Its MPA program holds accreditation through the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Public Administration
School Status: Public
Tuition: $4,675 per semester
Credit Requirements: 42 credit hours
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum specified
Standardized Tests: GRE, LSAT, or GMAT required

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13

Georgia College & State University

Milledgeville, GA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 64%

Program Overview

The online master of public administration degree offered by Georgia College prepares graduates to assume leadership positions within government agencies, nonprofits, and housing and community development organizations.

Core courses delve into topics related to public personnel management, administrative ethics, and policy analysis. The program concludes with a capstone project or a thesis. Electives allow students to specialize in areas that align with their interests and career goals.

Milledgeville-based Georgia College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Its MPA program is accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Public Administration
School Status: Public
Tuition: $338 per credit
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 4 semesters
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.75 minimum required
Standardized Tests: GRE, MAT, or GMAT required for students with a GPA from 2.75-2.99

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14

California State University-Northridge

Northridge, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 54%

Program Overview

Working in partnership with various Los Angeles County agencies, cities, and counties, CSUN's online master of public administration program trains students to serve as public sector professionals at all levels of government.

Core courses cover topics like organizational theory and human behavior, public budgeting and financial administration, and ethics and professionalism. Students select a concentration in health administration, nonprofit sector management, or public sector management and leadership. The program concludes with a graduate project.

CSUN is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Public Administration
School Status: Public
Tuition: $775 per credit
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online/hybrid
Instruction Style: Synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: GRE optional

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15

University of Louisiana at Monroe

Monroe, LA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 44%

Program Overview

ULM's online master of public administration degree may appeal to professionals already working in the field, as well as individuals interested in starting a career in public administration.

Core courses include analysis of political and administration data, ethics and public administration, and public budgeting and finance. Students select from one of six concentrations, including administration of education, administration of justice, or nonprofit management. Students without at least two years of related experience also need to complete an internship.

ULM is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Public Administration
School Status: Public
Tuition: $500 per credit
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 12 months
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.75 minimum required
Standardized Tests: GRE or LSAT required

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Online Master's in Public Administration Program Overview

Earning a master's in public administration online prepares graduates for careers in federal, state, and local government or at nonprofit organizations. Some programs qualify graduates to enter public service, while others help experienced professionals advance their careers. A master's degree in this field enables graduates to hold a leadership position or land a job in a specialized area, such as budgeting, fundraising, procurement, or human resources.

Online MPA programs cover leadership and management challenges relevant to the public sector. Course topics include budgeting and financial strategies, ethical issues, law, and public policy formulation and implementation. Most programs aim to equip graduates with the skills needed to manage and evaluate government or nonprofit programs, employees, and budgets.

Graduates of online MPA programs can serve as leaders in private or nonprofit organizations and as government officials. Some pursue a management specialization, such as healthcare, finance, information technology, or human resources.

Common Master's in Public Administration Degree Courses

Fundamentals of Public Administration

This course traces the evolution of public administration as a profession and introduces the basic skills that public administrators, nonprofit leaders, and public policy analysts require in their positions. Students explore theories, practices, and methods of modern public administration. They also examine ways public administrators confront contemporary issues and challenges.

Budgeting and Financial Management

This course examines budgeting processes at the local, state, and local levels and how expenditures define governmental priorities. Topics include evaluation of revenue streams, budgeting tools, and budget creation. Students may also learn about nonprofit financial management, government procurement processes, tax regulations, debt financing, and financial valuation.

Human Resources Management

Students learn about critical human resource functions, such as recruitment and hiring, employee compensation and benefits, workforce development, retention, and discipline as they apply to the public sector or a nonprofit organization. This course explores current trends and issues, such as motivation, diversity, and legal constraints.

Organizational Theory

To prepare for organizational leadership roles, students analyze the characteristics of effective organizations and the personal, interpersonal, and group factors that impact organizational behavior. Topics include decision-making structures, managing conflict, and motivational strategies.

Public Policy

This course introduces the policymaking process and explores the fundamentals of policy formulation, implementation, and analysis. Students analyze current policy debates and issues, learn about the role of public administrators in policy implementation, and explore tools and strategies for policy analysis.

Related Master's in Public Administration Degree Concentrations

Nonprofit Management

This concentration prepares students for leadership roles at nonprofit organizations and public service agencies. Students gain skills in areas such as board development, human resources, budgeting and financial management, fundraising, marketing and communication, volunteer management, and strategic planning.

Public Policy

This specialization prepares public administrators to analyze policy needs and create innovative policy solutions to meet those needs. Courses explore factors that impact policymaking and teach the analytical, leadership, and practical skills needed to design, implement, evaluate, and modify public policy.

Human Resources Management

Students wishing to specialize in human resources develop advanced expertise in areas such as workforce development, compensation strategies, recruitment and retention, and human resource planning. Courses in this specialization explore relevant laws, policies, and regulations, as well as the impact of market factors and labor relations.

Healthcare Administration

Students prepare for leadership positions as healthcare administrators. They learn to manage the fiscal and administrative challenges facing the public and private healthcare organizations. Graduates gain expertise in areas such as budgeting, human resources, and strategic planning for healthcare organizations.

City Management

Students in this specialization learn public administration theories, methods, and skills that are specifically relevant to urban planning and management. This specialization prepares graduates to work as urban planners and administrators, oversee service delivery systems, and coordinate services with other levels of government.

Online Master's in Public Administration Admission Requirements

  • Bachelor's Degree

    All MPA programs require applicants to hold an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution, although most do not require a specific major. Some programs expect students to demonstrate successful completion of specific undergraduate prerequisites, such as economics, government, and/or statistics classes.

  • Minimum GPA

    Applicants must submit transcripts, and some programs require a specific minimum GPA — typically 3.0. GPA requirements vary by program, and many institutions waive GPA requirements for experienced professionals or for individuals with other qualifications, such as high test scores.

  • Work Experience

    Programs geared toward working professionals typically require several years of government or nonprofit work experience. Not all programs require work experience, and some that do may waive this requirement for students who complete a relevant internship. Most MPA program applications require submission of a resume.

  • Letters of Recommendation

    Many online MPA programs require individuals to submit two or three letters of recommendation from persons familiar with the applicant's work. Be sure to check application guidelines to see if your program requires recommendations and whether they must come from academic or professional references (or both).

  • Standardized Tests

    Many online MPA programs require applicants to submit GRE scores, although this requirement varies by program. Schools frequently waive GRE scores for applicants with relevant work experience and/or high GPAs. In some cases, applicants may submit GMAT or LSAT scores in place of GRE scores.


Online Master's in Public Administration Career Paths

MPA graduates typically pursue public service or nonprofit careers, working as program managers, agency administrators, policy analysts, budget analysts, nonprofit administrators, and healthcare administrators. These positions usually do not require licensure. MPA degree-holders often qualify for career advancement at their current place of employment. Alternatively, this degree can also help you change careers and/or get your first job in a government agency or nonprofit organization.

Master's in public administration programs emphasize leadership and management skills. As a result, graduates often qualify for senior-level positions. However, to pursue an executive-level position, conduct research, or teach at the college level, it may be necessary to earn a doctorate.

Related Careers

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I do with a master's in public administration?

MPA programs teach students the leadership, administrative, and analytical skills needed to drive positive change at the organizational, local, state, or federal level. Students develop skills in financial management, human resource management, and strategic planning. They also practice applying these skills to practical situations. This degree can prepare you to change jobs or advance your career.

What jobs can I get with an MPA?

With an MPA, you can qualify for a job in the public, private, or nonprofit sector. Graduates work as policy analysts, program managers, and budget analysts. They can also hold positions as leaders at all levels of government, in private companies, and in nonprofit organizations. Degree-holders serve as city managers, state agency heads, and nonprofit administrators, for example.

What is an MPA good for?

This degree hones your management, communication, and analytical skills. It can qualify you for positions with greater responsibility and input. Most MPA programs require students to apply their skills through research or client-based capstone projects. Such requirements can help you demonstrate your skills and abilities to employers.

Which is better: an MPA or an MBA?

MBA and MPA degrees require similar coursework and teach many of the same skills. Both degrees prepare graduates for leadership positions. If you plan to work in the private sector for a business or for-profit corporation, an MBA may be the better choice. However, an MPA provides better preparation for individuals planning to pursue a career in government, social services, or the nonprofit sector.

Why get a master's in public administration?

Effective leadership and management skills are essential in organizations of all types. An MPA can help you tackle the challenges faced by your organization by equipping you with fundamental public administration skills, such as competencies related to financial management, human resource management, and policy analysis. If you enjoy finding ways to make programs work better for people, an MPA can help.

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Additional Reading and Resources

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