An online master’s in public administration degree prepares graduates for careers in all sectors of public service and leadership. Professionals trained in public administration are qualified to help shape and implement policy in a variety of organizations.
As part of their curriculum, most schools introduce students to a variety of software programs and information systems used to manage records, maintain policy updates and perform online research. Students enrolled in an online public administration degree can also become familiar with several other programs and services through supplemental certificates and workshops. These will broaden your skill set and further prepare you for positions in the field.
Below, we’ve ranked the top 25 online master’s in public administration (MPA) programs. As part of our ranking, we’ve also provided a detailed overview of each school’s program highlights and online learning environment. With nationally renowned faculty members and well-rounded curriculums, these schools prepare graduates for successful careers in a variety of public arenas. If you’re a prospective student considering an online MPA program, begin your research by reviewing our list of top colleges.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||Cost||Address & Contact Info||School Links||Acclaim for Online Programs||School Description|
|1||University of Southern California||Los Angeles||$$$$$||University Park|
Los Angeles, CA 90089
USC opened its doors in 1880 as a small liberal arts college with 53 students. Today, the institution ranks among the country's top universities, serving more than 44,000 learners with a variety of academic programs. USC's Sol Price School of Public Policy offers a 40-credit master's in public administration online, making it easy for distance students to build and strengthen their managerial skills completing 40 credits The program comprises 40 credits, except for students with fewer than two years of relevant work experience, who have to complete an additional one-credit internship seminar.
The MPA program helps students develop their managerial skills in two fundamental areas – analytics, and institutions and organizations. Students take courses that cover subjects such as human behavior in public organizations, economics of public policy, performance management, and public financial management and budgeting. The program requires students to complete two residencies during the program and a capstone project prior to graduation. USC holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission, and the Sol Price School of Public Policy holds accreditation from the Network of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration.
|2||University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||Chapel Hill||$$$$$||103 South Bldg Cb 9100|
Chapel Hill, NC 27599
Founded in 1789, UNC is the country's oldest public university. UNC's renowned School of Government has provided world-class academic programs for more than 80 years, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees online and on campus. The School of Government's web-based offerings include an online public administration master's program that holds accreditation from the Network of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration. The 45-credit MPA features five concentration options: local government, public management, nonprofit management, public health, and international relations.
Major coursework explores public service leadership, organization theory, public administration institutions and values, and public financial management. Prior to graduation, MPA candidates must complete a 400-hour service practicum in their home area. Program applicants are expected to submit scores from a graduate admission test, such as the GRE or Law School Admission Test. A top-ranked national university, UNC holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
|3||University of Illinois at Springfield||Springfield||$$$$$||One University Plaza|
Springfield, IL 62703-5407
Originally known as Sangamon State University, UIS became a part of the University of Illinois system in 1995. The school currently enrolls close to 5,000 students and offers more than 50 undergraduate and graduate programs, including a master's degree in public administration. Developed by the university's College of Public Affairs and Administration, the 36-credit online MPA program holds accreditation from the Network of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration. The curriculum includes 21 credit hours of core public administration coursework in subjects like organization dynamics, public policy for managers, human resource management, and budget and finance.
Applicants must demonstrate a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.5. Those who do not meet this requirement should submit recent GRE scores. Students can transfer up to six credit hours with a grade of "C" from accredited institutions. The University of Illinois Springfield holds Higher Learning Commission accreditation and ranks among the top universities in the Midwest.
|4||Northwestern University||Evanston||$$$$$||633 Clark St|
Evanston, IL 60208
Northwestern got its start in 1851, serving 10 students in a one-building campus. Today, the university enrolls over 21,000 learners and offers more than 190 programs, including a partially online master's in public policy and administration (MPPA). The university's School of Professional Studies allows candidates to pursue the MPPA on a part-time basis, or enroll in the one-year accelerated program. Consisting of 13 courses, the curriculum includes nine core classes, three elective courses, and a capstone class or thesis project.
The cohort-based accelerated program features three concentration options: public policy, public administration, and global policy. The part-time program offers two additional concentrations in global health and data analytics for public policy specializations. All students must complete nine core MPPA courses, which cover topics such as program evaluation and policy analysis, fundamentals of public administration, and ethics and leadership. Northwestern University holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission accreditation.
|5||Johns Hopkins University||Baltimore||$$$$$||525 North Wolfe Street|
Baltimore, MD 21205
Often considered to be the nation's first research institution, Johns Hopkins dates back to 1876. The renowned Baltimore university offers more than 260 academic programs, including an online master's in public management from the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. The program holds membership in the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration. Master of arts candidates take a total of 12 courses, completing 15 core curriculum credits, 18 elective credits, and a three-credit capstone course.
Prospective students must hold a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. Applicants who have previously completed graduate-level coursework at an accredited institution may qualify for advanced standing status. Advanced standing candidates may waive up to two courses in the program. Distance learners may begin their studies in the fall, spring, or summer semesters. Johns Hopkins University holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and ranks among the top national universities.
|6||Golden Gate University - San Francisco||San Francisco||$$$$$||536 Mission Street|
San Francisco, CA 94105-2968
GGU first began offering an evening law school program in 1901. Today, students can choose from more than 80 undergraduate- and graduate-level options, including an executive master's in public administration online (EMPA). The 36-credit program offers concentration areas in judicial administration, law enforcement and security, and urban innovations. Distance learners can also pursue the general study track, which does not include a concentration. The program's accelerated format allows candidates to complete the EMPA in as few as 18 months.
Major courses address concepts in public policy analysis and program evaluation, personnel management and labor relations, budgeting and financial management, and public enterprise management. The program culminates in a capstone project, in which students research, develop, and defend a public policy paper. Golden Gate University holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission. The university is a member of the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration.
|7||American University||Washington||$$$$$||4400 Massachusetts Ave NW|
Washington, DC 20016-8001
American University boasts a student body of 12,000 individuals and offers more than 160 programs. The university's School of Public Affairs administers a 36-credit online master's in public policy and administration (MPAP) which can be completed in as few as 24 months. The MPAP curriculum blends courses from American University's master of public administration and master of public policy programs, both of which hold accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration.
Major courses examine subjects such as public managerial economics, organizational analysis, managing human assets, and leadership in a changing workplace. Learners gain high-demand skills in project management, risk assessment, and statistical analysis. Prior to graduation, MPAP candidates complete a capstone course in which they develop an administrative project or perform policy analysis for a real-world client. American University holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
|8||Rutgers University||New Brunswick||$$$$$||83 Somerset St|
New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1281
Established as a law school in 1908, Rutgers University Newark has evolved to become a full-fledged university with 32 schools and colleges. Rutgers' School of Public Affairs and Administration was the first U.S. school of its kind to receive accreditation from the International Commission on Accreditation of Public Administration Education and Training. The university's top-ranked MPA program is available in a web-based format, allowing distance learners to earn a master's degree in public administration online.
The 42-credit curriculum features concentrations in finance and budgeting management, healthcare administration, nonprofit management, and public and nonprofit performance management. Students complete 33 credits of core coursework and nine credits in their chosen concentration. The core MPA curriculum includes classes in technology and public administration, managing public organizations, public budgeting systems, and public policy process. Rutgers University Newark holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
|9||Texas A&M University||College Station||$$$$$||805 Rudder Tower|
College Station, TX 77843-1244
Founded in 1876, Texas A&M University is the Lone Star State's oldest public university. The institution's Bush School of Government and Public Service offers a 39-credit online executive master of public service and administration (EMPSA) with three tracks: homeland security, nonprofit management, and public management. Known as one of the best online public management and leadership programs in the nation, the EMPSA curriculum holds accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration.
The 18-credit core curriculum introduces topics in public policy formation, program evaluation in public and nonprofit organizations, and economic analysis. While all required coursework is available online, students must attend a one-week residency on campus each year. Candidates with a graduate certificate in one of the concentration areas may transfer up to 12 credits from their certificate program toward the EMPSA degree. The university holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
|10||Liberty University||Lynchburg||$$$$$||1971 University Blvd|
Lynchburg, VA 24515
Initially established as Lynchburg Baptist College in 1971, Liberty enrolled 154 students during its initial year. Today, the university serves more than 12,600 students through 550 programs, including an online master's in criminal justice-public administration. Presented through the Helms School of Government, the 36-credit program takes 1.5 years to complete. Classes follow an eight-week delivery schedule, and students can transfer up to 50% of the required program credits from another accredited institution.
The curriculum includes 18 credit hours of core criminal justice coursework, 12 credit hours of public administration courses, and six credits of thesis research or elective coursework. All learners complete core courses in public administration fundamentals, public policy analysis, management of public sector organizations, and the politics and strategies of economic development. The university holds accreditation from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and ranks among the top online graduate programs in criminal justice.
|11||Brandman University||Irvine||$$$$$||16355 Laguna Canyon Road|
Irvine, CA 92618
Founded in 1958 as a branch of Chapman University, Brandman was established to meet the unique needs of working professionals. With an average student age of 36, the university continues to provide adult learners with flexible, accessible academic programs. Brandman's online public administration master's program is highly customizable, allowing students to pursue a specialized focus area through elective coursework. Potential emphasis areas include organizational leadership, health administration, entrepreneurship, and finance. In total, the 36-credit curriculum includes 27 credits of core public administration coursework and nine elective credits.
The versatile core curriculum explores diverse topics from financial reporting and labor relations to collective bargaining, public policy analysis, and organizational dynamics. During a final capstone course, candidates develop and present an ethical and effective solution to a problem or challenge in the public administration arena. Brandman University holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.
|12||Villanova University||Villanova||$$$$$||800 Lancaster Avenue|
Villanova, PA 19085-1699
Located in Pennsylvania, Villanova was established in 1842 as an all-male institution. Now a coeducational university, the school serves roughly 11,000 individuals and offers a variety of degrees, including an online public administration master's program. Villanova's MPA curriculum holds accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration, and the university holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Consisting of 36 credit hours,the MPA curriculum is evenly divided between required coursework and electives. All students must take courses in applied data analysis, financial management, human capital management, leadership ethics, organization theory, and public administration theory. Prior to graduation, distance learners are required to pass a comprehensive exam. Students may also choose to earn a graduate certificate in either nonprofit management or city management as they complete their MPA.
|13||The University of West Florida||Pensacola||$$$$$||11000 University Parkway|
Pensacola, FL 32514-5750
UWF began as an upper-division school in 1963 and now offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in many different disciplines. Distance learners can pursue UWF's online master of science in administration (MSA) with a specialization in public administration, completing 36 credit hours in total. The program's 21-credit core curriculum examines public service ethics, the political economy of public administration, public service human resource management, and public budgeting.
In addition to core coursework, MSA candidates must complete a certificate in either leadership in public service and nonprofit administration or acquisition and contract administration. Each certificate consists of nine credits. Prior to graduation, learners also complete an administrative capstone course. Applicants with an undergraduate GPA of 3.25 or higher are not required to submit graduate admission exam scores. The University of West Florida holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
|14||Florida International University||Miami||$$$$$||11200 S. W. 8 Street|
Miami, FL 33199
Despite its humble beginnings in an abandoned airfield, FIU boasts a 344-acre campus and a 57,000-strong student body. The university's Stephen J. Green School of International and Public Affairs offers a 42-credit master's in public administration online accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration. The 24-credit core curriculum surveys topics in policy analysis, program planning, public finance and the budgetary process, and the political, social and economic contexts of public administration.
Distance learners can also choose a specialization, focusing on areas such as homeland security and emergency management, nonprofit and community development, or comparative and international public administration. While applicants are expected to provide graduate admission exam scores, prospective students with a 3.25 undergraduate GPA, 18 graduate-level credits, or significant administrative work may request a waiver. Florida International University holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
|15||University of Colorado Denver - Anschutz Medical Campus||Denver||$$$$$||1380 Lawrence Street, Lawrence Street Center, Suite 1400|
Denver, CO 80217-3364
Once an extension campus of the University of Colorado, CU Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus now operates as an independent institution. The university's School of Public Affairs offers an online public administration master's program accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration. Students may pursue a standard MPA with no specialization or select an academic focus related to their professional goals and interests. Possible specialization areas include state and local government; environmental policy, management, and law; and disasters, hazards, and emergency management.
While the MPA curriculum consists of 36 semester hours, candidates without significant work experience in the public or nonprofit sectors must complete an additional three-credit internship. Regardless of specialization or experience, all students complete 21 credits of core coursework, 12 credits of elective courses, and a three-credit capstone course. The university holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
|16||California State University - Long Beach||Long Beach||$$$$$||1250 Bellflower Blvd|
Long Beach, CA 90840-0115
Founded in 1949 as the Los Angeles-Orange County State College, CSULB began with only 160 students. Today, the university serves over 37,000 graduate and undergraduate students. The university's Graduate Center for Public Policy and Administration allows distance learners to earn a master's degree in public administration online in as few as 22 months. Consisting of 39 semester units, the program holds accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration.
Using a cohort-based educational model, the program features courses in a sequential, accelerated format. The 24-unit core curriculum surveys concepts in government budgeting and finance, public sector personnel administration, foundations of public policy and administration, and organizational theory and behavior. One of the top-ranked public schools in the western U.S., CSULB holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.
|17||Nova Southeastern University||Fort Lauderdale||$$$$$||3301 College Ave|
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33314-7796
Each year, roughly 21,000 students attend classes at NSU's Fort Lauderdale campus or enroll in one of the university's distance education programs. NSU's H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship offers a career-focused master's in public administration online with concentrations in criminal justice, nonprofit/non-governmental organizations, and state and local administration. Accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration, the curriculum consists of 39 credits and includes one weekend residency on campus. Most students complete the program in 21 months.
Regardless of their chosen concentration, all MPA candidates complete 24 core credits. Courses explore topics such as entrepreneurial governance, public and nonprofit strategic management, administrative law and ethics in the public sector, and public policy analysis. Prior to graduation, students must complete a capstone course, internship, or practicum experience. Nova Southeastern University holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
|18||University of Central Florida||Orlando||$$$$$||4000 Central Florida Blvd|
Orlando, FL 32816
Established in 1963, UCF is one of the nation's largest universities. The institution offers 220 undergraduate and graduate degrees, including an online public administration master's program. Presented through UCF's College of Community Innovation and Education, the 42-credit MPA program holds accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration.
Candidates complete 30 credit hours of core MPA coursework in public financial management, public administration in the policy process, strategic planning and management, and analytical techniques for public administration. Learners must also fulfill a 12-credit elective requirement before completing a capstone course in advanced public administration concepts and applications. The university also offers two dual degree options, allowing students to earn degrees in nonprofit management and criminal justice as they complete MPA coursework. Known as one of the country's top public schools, UCF is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
|19||The University of Texas in Arlington||Arlington||$$$$$||701 S. Nedderman Dr.|
Arlington, TX 76013
Established in 1895 as a small private school for primary- and secondary-level students, UTA is now one of the Lone Star State's largest universities. Distance learners can earn a master's in public administration online through UTA's College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs in only 24 months of part-time study. The 39-credit MPA program holds accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration.
Students pursuing an MPA can simultaneously earn a graduate certificate in either urban nonprofit management or public budgeting and financial management. The core curriculum includes classes in public and nonprofit human resources law, ethics in public service, intergovernmental relations, and public budgeting. Students with less than one year of professional experience in the public sector must complete a semester-long internship. UTA holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
|20||Pennsylvania State University - World Campus||University Park||$$$$$||128 Outreach Building|
University Park, PA 16802
Penn State World Campus partners with schools and colleges in the Penn State University system to deliver more than 150 distance education programs, including a master's degree in public administration online. The MPA program holds accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration and requires 36 credit hours in total. Students complete 18 core credits and 15 elective credits before developing a three-credit master's project.
Core MPA courses introduce concepts in governmental fiscal decision making, public organization and management, and public policy analysis. Candidates also explore human resource management in the public and nonprofit sectors. Learners who do not have at least two years of full-time relevant work experience must also complete a 300-hour internship. prior to graduation. Applicants with an undergraduate GPA lower than 3.0 should provide standardized graduate admission test scores. Penn State World Campus holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
|21||University of San Francisco||San Francisco||$$$$$||2130 Fulton St|
San Francisco, CA 94117-1080
Founded by Jesuits in 1855, USF boasts an 11,000-individual student body and a diverse array of academic programs. The university's School of Management offers an online public administration master's program accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration. Over the course of 39 credit hours, distance learners in select states explore advanced topics in policy analysis, public sector budgeting, leadership ethics, and economics and finance for public managers.
While applicants do not need to provide standardized test scores, prospective students must hold at least two years of relevant full-time professional experience to be considered for admission. Candidates may transfer up to six graduate-level credits from another accredited school or program toward their MPA. USF holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.
|22||National University||La Jolla||$$$$$||11255 North Torrey Pines Road|
La Jolla, CA 92037-1011
Known for providing working professionals with flexible, web-based learning options, this San Diego institution houses five degree-granting schools. NU offers academic programs in more than 100 areas, including an online public administration master's program. Presented through NU's School of Professional Studies, the degree consists of 54 quarter units and features concentrations in human resource management an organizational leadership. All students complete 36 quarter credits of core MPA coursework and 18 quarter credits within their chosen concentration. Core classes examine public personnel policy, ethics, urban planning and redevelopment, financial management, and grant administration. The program culminates in a capstone project.
Distance learners may transfer up to 13.5 quarter credits earned at another accredited college or university toward their MPA. Courses follow a four-week delivery schedule and students complete one class every four-week period. National University holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.
|23||Indiana University - Bloomington||Bloomington||$$$$$||107 South Indiana Ave.|
Bloomington, IN 47405-7000
IU began as an all-male college in 1820, enrolling only 10 students. Today, the university serves close to 44,000 male and female learners through more than 500 programs. The university offers IU's O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs enjoys a world-class reputation, with U.S. News & World Report calling its public affairs degree the nation's top program of its kind. O'Neill's distance learning division allows learners to earn the same top-notch master's in public affairs online.
The 48-credit program holds accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration and includes an experiential component. Each student's academic and professional background determines the number of experiential learning credits they must complete. Candidates with significant experience may receive up to 12 credits. The curriculum also includes courses in public finance, law and public affairs, and public management economics, along with a capstone course in public and environmental affairs. IU holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
|24||California State University - Northridge||Northridge||$$$$$||18111 Nordhoff Street|
Northridge, CA 91330
Once a satellite campus of California State University Los Angeles, CSUN is now an independent institution comprised of nine colleges. The university's Tseng College for Graduate, International and Mid-career Education offers a 36-credit master's in public administration online with a public sector management and leadership (PSML) track.
Along with 15 core public administration units, candidates complete 18 units of PSML coursework, and a three-credit graduate project.The core curriculum includes classes in public sector labor relations, intergovernmental relations, strategic management, and approaches and methods in program evaluation. To fulfill the final graduate project requirement, students must complete an academic manuscript of publishable quality. Prospective students must demonstrate an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher, although candidates with lower GPAs and two years of public sector work experience may receive conditional admission. The university holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.
|25||The University of Texas - Rio Grande Valley||Edinburg||$$$$$||1201 W University Dr|
Edinburg, TX 78539-2999
UTRGV's Department of Public Affairs and Securities Studies offers a 36-credit online master's of public affairs program that requires only 12 months of study. Focusing on emerging real-world public affairs, the curriculum features practice-based courses and learning outcomes with immediate workplace applications. The accelerated program follows a seven-week course delivery schedule, with most classes presented in an asynchronous format.
MPA candidates explore subjects such as public finance administration, governmental information systems management, formulation of public policy, and public budgeting and finance. Prior to graduation, distance learners complete a capstone course on the history and future of public administration. Applicants must provide official transcripts demonstrating a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 and three letters of personal or professional recommendation. UTRGV holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Graduates from top MPA programs can pursue several career opportunities. Though master-level training exceeds the minimum requirement for many social and community service managers, advanced certification is useful on the job market and can help you find work soon after graduation. Though most students with an MPA want to work in public administration, many are also finding positions as political scientists. According to the BLS, jobs in the field are expected to grow by 21% by the year 2022, and the experience MPA holders get in school provides adequate preparation for most fieldwork.
Though an online MPA can lead to several career paths, employers in any field will want to see documented work experience accompanying your formal education. Those pursuing a career in public policy should consider taking an internship to build strong communication and other soft skills. Similarly, students interested in research-based occupations may want to develop their communication skills through a writing intensive or detailed study of computer management systems. Generally, employers hiring public administration professionals at all levels prefer candidates with significant field experience and professional training.
Though specific requirements vary job to job, certain positions within public administration may require additional certification. As an example, emergency management directors trained in public administration are also typically required to have years of work experience in their field of choice. Institutions with minimum work requirements, including most fire departments and crisis management agencies, often provide inclusive training programs for new hires to meet specific qualifications while on-the-job.
Ultimately, an MPA degree can prepare you for a range of positions in public administration and policy making. If you’re interested in working in the field, consider earning your MPA online. The online format allows you to pursue a rewarding and challenging career without disrupting your current professional or at-home obligations and can provide you with the training to jump into the job you’ve always wanted.