Policy administrators create, implement, and manage the strategies and plans of organizations, both public and private, ensuring that they are effective and in accordance with current laws and guidelines. An online degree in public policy provides a comprehensive understanding of fundamental political and business-related skills, from team management and financial analysis to public accountability and ethical concerns. The field of public policy and administration is complex and encompasses many sectors and industries, making it possible to craft a degree that fits your interests and career goals while preparing you for positions in all levels of government, large corporations, or nonprofit organizations.

What are the best public administration programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:

Rank School Location
1 Arizona State University Scottsdale, AZ
2 Regent University Virginia Beach, VA
3 SUNY Empire State College Saratoga Springs, NY

Because an online bachelor's in public policy and administration is preparation for management positions, a number of paths are available. Those who want to work in the public sector might consider a career as social and community service managers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this field is projected to grow 10% in the next seven years.

Choosing a Program

Public policy and administration requires an interdisciplinary skill set that combines business strategy and management with a deep understanding of government regulations. There are many options for specializations to fit your interests, including public health, nonprofit fundraising, international political regulations, homeland security, criminal justice, and private-sector business relationships, among many others.

While advancement in these positions may require further education and experience, an online bachelor's in public policy and administration offers a strong foundation. Core topics include policy development and implementation, administrative law, public sector finance, team leadership, and public service values. A traditional aspect of social science and business degrees are co-educational and professional experiences, such as internships and conference participation. And because public administrators often work or lead teams, group work is often incorporated in the structure of the online classroom through synchronous discussions and other interactions.

2020 Best Accredited Online Bachelor's in Public Administration Programs

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Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1

Arizona State University

Scottsdale, AZ Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 48%

Distance learners at ASU can pursue a general public service and public policy BS or a public service and public policy bachelor's degree with an emergency management and homeland security concentration. Both tracks share core coursework that covers topics like public service ethics, economics and public policy, and public service in the 21st century.

Degree-seekers can take advantage of helpful resources like career-planning guides and a mentor network. These services help 89% of undergraduate alumni find a job within 180 days of graduating.

Applicants must possess a high school diploma and meet one of three admission requirements, such as holding a minimum 3.0 high school GPA. Other application materials include FAFSA results and standardized test scores. The ASU Scholarship Portal allows students to apply for numerous financial aid opportunities.

2

Regent University

Virginia Beach, VA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 59%

Students at Regent can pursue two bachelor's degrees in government: a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of science in professional studies. The BS degree emphasizes business leadership, professional writing, and leading teams. Both programs feature a Christ-centered curriculum and prepare graduates for careers in public service and public administration.

Approximately 86% of alumni who earned a bachelor's degree in government attained a positive education or career outcome within one year of earning their degree. Students can research job openings and internship opportunities on the school's career services website.

Students interested in enrolling in an online bachelor's program must submit transcripts and fill out a questionnaire. Distance learners pay the same per-semester tuition rate as on-campus students. Additionally, Regent offers many institutional aid options, such as up to $9,000 per year in merit-based scholarships.

3

SUNY Empire State College

Saratoga Springs, NY Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 26%

ESC's bachelor's in public affairs program offers multiple degree tracks, including BA, BS, and BPS options, that prepare learners to pursue entry-level work or a graduate-level education. Courses in the major curriculum include modern political theory, public sector ethics, and the history of social welfare. Students also complete general education coursework in the humanities.

Distance learners at ESC can access interest inventories, internship opportunities, resume guidance, and job postings. Students with disabilities can take advantage of specialized resources, including service programs and a dedicated job board.

ESC accepts GED scores and does not require recommendation letters or standardized test scores. New York state residents can apply for the full-tuition Excelsior Scholarship.

What Can I Expect from an Online Bachelor's in Public Policy and Administration Program?

Below is an overview of what coursework and specializations you can expect from degrees in public administration online programs. Note that these are guidelines only, and you should discuss your educational needs and goals with a school's academic and enrollment advisor.

CONCENTRATIONS OFFERED FOR AN ONLINE BACHELOR'S DEGREE IN PUBLIC POLICY AND ADMINISTRATION

Concentration Description Careers this concentration prepares for
Disaster Preparedness & Emergency Management These professionals plan and implement guidelines that help alleviate the consequences of natural and human-made emergencies, from forest fires and hurricanes to social disasters and acts of terrorism. Coursework includes disaster recover, hazard mitigation, and business continuation. Internships are usually a requirement for this concentration. Emergency Manager; City Planner; Security Administrator
Public Health Policy As the field of healthcare changes, skilled professionals are needed to respond to new regulations, technological evolution, rising costs, and the increase in patient numbers. This concentration prepares graduates for positions in hospitals, clinics, and government organizations, among others. Registered Nurse; Public Health Advocate; Community Organizer
Public Service As a generalist track, graduates are prepared for a variety of careers in the public and not-for-profit sectors. Students learn governmental and fiscal policies and best practices in team management and community advocacy and organization. Law Enforcement; Fundraiser; City/County Manager

CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE BACHELOR'S DEGREE IN PUBLIC POLICY AND ADMINISTRATION

Below are courses generally found in online bachelor's in public policy and administration programs. This section outlines the general degree curriculum, but it is always best to look at a school's specific requirements before applying.

  • Introduction to Public Administration: A common course in these programs, it prepares students for advanced coursework by introducing fundamental topics and skills in the development and importance of modern government operations at the local, state, and national levels. This is a useful class for the academic and professional development of all public policy administrators.
  • Administrative Leadership & Behavior: Public policy administrators are expected to have strong leadership skills, and this course prepares graduates for management and other organizational leadership positions. By diagnosing human and group behavior, students analyze and solve problems in an organization or a community, including motivating people to work towards positive change.
  • The American Government: This course introduces the political culture of the United States, including constitutional laws, structural guidelines, current trends in policy development, and conflict and consensus in the electoral system. A strong understanding of how our government functions is useful for nearly every position in this field.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN PUBLIC POLICY AND ADMINISTRATION?

A online bachelor's degree in public policy is 120 credit hours or more, and includes general education requirements, major core classes, and courses in general electives and/or concentration areas. Internships are usually another requirement for this degree, and many programs offer opportunities through partner organizations. Students may also complete this requirement in their local community. Online programs usually have flexible transfer policies, and distance learners can often transfer many of their degree hours from community colleges or other institutions of higher education.

Because public policy and administration requires strong interpersonal skills, a cohort learning model may be implemented in the degree through group discussions and projects. However, distance learning also requires students to work independently, so finding a program with a combination of learning styles is an important feature to consider as you locate schools that best suit your needs.

Accreditation for Online Public Policy and Administration Programs

When looking at potential colleges and universities, it is important to ensure the institution is accredited. Accreditation guarantees the quality of an education and how well the degree is received by potential employers. The best online bachelor's in public policy and administration have both national and regional accreditation. National accreditation is granted by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). This is the most popular form of accreditation, and it is impossible for a school to grant any academic degree without it.

While it is rarely the case that a college or university receives accreditation from only the DOE or CHEA, the two are not the same. The DOE is a government organization, whose stamp of approval is needed for schools to receive federal aid. The CHEA is a private institution that establishes another set of academic and professional standards, most of which concur with DOE stipulations. For more information, explore the DOE's and CHEA's websites.

Regional accreditation, though not as well-known, is equally as important, and ensures your degree is recognized by the state in which the school resides. Granted by one of seven national organizations, this level of recognition is important to employers, since many deal more closely with state regulations and policies than they do with national mandates. Finally, there is professional recognition in the field, which can come from a number of private organizations, including the Association for Public Policy and Management and the American Society for Public Administration.

What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Public Policy and Administration Degree?

CAREER PATHS

An online degree in public policy leads to a large number of diverse career paths that deal with government policies and their financial, cultural, and political impact on communities in the United States and abroad. Professionals in these fields are leaders who work with and motivate others. They also work within current laws and regulations to design and implement creative solutions to challenges facing their organizations.

Fundraiser

Usually employed by nonprofit organizations and government agencies, fundraisers create events and campaigns to raise money, goods, and services. They also work with designers to create materials that raise awareness and promote an organization's mission and needs.

Median Annual Salary - $54,130
Projected Growth Rate - 9%

Health Educator and Community Health Worker

These professionals promote wellness through education and other forms of individual and community engagement. They collect data in order to develop and implement strategies towards these goals.

Median Annual Salary - $44,390
Projected Growth Rate - 13%

Emergency Management Director

Professionals in this management position prepare and implement procedures to respond to natural disasters and other kinds of emergencies. They also work with government and other public officials to ensure these plans are effective.

Median Annual Salary - $70,500
Projected Growth Rate - 6%

EDUCATIONAL PATHS

For many career fields, a higher level of education usually means opportunities for advancement and higher salaries. According to the 2015 salary survey published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), individuals employed in the “Public Administration and Social Service Professions” category experienced a 21% increase in salary after gaining a master's degree. While official academic recognition is not the only factor, pursuing a graduate education opens more opportunities for professional development.

  • City Management & Urban Policy: Also known as city or urban planning, students in this master's degree design and create architecture and infrastructure in an urban setting while considering the environmental and quality of life implications.
  • Public Policy Analysis: Students in these programs use research and statistical methods to evaluate the impact of government or an organization's policy and procedures.
  • Homeland Security: These master's programs involve issues of public security at the national and international level. Course topics include public health preparedness, information security, and agricultural biosecurity, among others.

Employment Outlook for Bachelor's in Public Policy and Administration Graduates

BACHELOR'S IN PUBLIC POLICY AND ADMINISTRATION SALARY

Careers in public policy and administration are expected to grow over the next seven years, as projected by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Below is median salaries for emergency management directors across the top five sectors. Current data suggests that employment in private companies and organizations yield higher salaries overall, though this does not factor the differences in job growth across these industries. Additionally, the numbers below do not take into account overtime, which is often required of employees in these industries.

PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

Membership in one or more of these professional organizations grants access to networking opportunities, professional and academic resources, conference participation, and up-to-date research and literature. These organizations also frequently hold seminars, webinars, and other events for professional skill development, with the opportunity to gain certification in specific areas. For example, the Association for Public Policy and Analysis & Management holds a yearly “boot camp” designed to give undergraduate students a comprehensive crash course on current challenges and developments in the field.

Financing Your Online Bachelor's in Public Policy and Administration Program

Loans are a popular choice to finance a higher education, but it is not the only option. By completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you can find a variety of other methods that will help you avoid debt, including grants and scholarships through national organizations. Additionally, the field of public policy and administration is closely connected to service and advocacy, and a number of award opportunities are available at the state and local levels of government for those willing to serve in those communities. Financial assistance, including work-study positions, and paid internships, are also usually offered by individual colleges and universities.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

Completing the FAFSA is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.

FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE STUDENTS

Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.