Best Online Master’s in Public Administration Programs

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Online MPA Programs

An online master's in public administration (MPA) prepares graduates for leadership roles in government agencies and nonprofits. Graduates can pursue roles such as city administrator, policy analyst, community services manager, and fundraising manager. In addition to public sector careers, MPA graduates can also work in the private sector.

Online public administration master's programs prioritize flexibility, appealing to working professionals balancing school with their career. During an online MPA program, graduate students gain specialized training in areas like public management, policy studies, justice administration, and public finance.

This article introduces the best MPA online programs. It also includes information on MPA career paths, common courses, and scholarships for MPA students.

Students Questions About MPA Programs

What is public administration?

Public administration examines the management of public sector organizations, including executive and legislative government functions.

How long does it take to earn a master's in public administration?

Earning an MPA degree generally takes two years of full-time study. An accelerated online master's in public administration program may take less time.

Can I earn a master's in public administration online?

Yes, many universities offer online MPA programs. Working professionals may prefer an online program's flexibility.

What level of degree do I need to get started teaching in public administration?

Secondary schools may hire public administration teachers with a master's degree. Postsecondary jobs, such as public administration professor, typically require a doctorate.

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Career and Salary Outlook for MPA Graduates

MPA graduates can work in the public and private sector, applying their administrative training in leadership positions. Professionals with an MPA can hold executive roles such as mayor or city administrator. They may also work as policy analysts, social services managers, and government analysts. In the private sector, an MPA can help professionals pursue roles such as compliance officer, training and development manager, and government relations manager.

This section introduces some common career paths for MPA graduates, including median salaries and projected job growth. In addition to the following careers, graduates can consider various other professional opportunities.

  • Social and Community Service Managers

    Social and community service managers oversee nonprofit, public sector, and other social services programs. They manage staff, identify community needs for new programs, and measure the effectiveness of current programs. Social and community service managers also plan outreach activities and apply for grants to keep their organizations running.
  • Public Relations and Fundraising Managers

    Public relations and fundraising managers help organizations raise awareness of their causes and build relationships with donors. Public relations managers conduct outreach operations and build a positive public image for their organization. Fundraising managers create strategies to raise money, contact donors, and oversee events to gain donations.
  • Top Executives

    Top executives manage organizations, including government offices. For example, mayors, governors, and other government administrators act as executives. They manage budgets, run programs, and determine resource allocation. Top executives also develop and implement public policies to reach their goals. Some public sector executives take office through elections, while others receive appointments.
  • Training and Development Managers

    These professionals oversee an organization's training needs. They implement programs to enhance knowledge and skills while making sure employee training programs meet the organization's goals. Training and development managers also manage budgets, train instructors, and update training programs.
CareerMedian Annual SalaryProjected Growth Rate (2019-2029)
Social and Community Service Managers$67,15017%
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers$116,1809%
Top Executives$104,6904%
Training and Development Managers$113,3507%

Source: BLS

Accreditation for Public Administration Degrees

Accredited schools and programs meet the highest standards for educating students and granting degrees. Accreditation benefits degree-seekers in several ways. For instance, only students at accredited schools qualify for federal financial aid. Many schools also only accept degrees and transfer credits from accredited institutions. Additionally, many employers prefer to hire professionals with an accredited MPA degree.

In addition to researching accredited universities, prospective students can research accredited MPA programs. The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) grants accreditation to public administration programs. Many of the best MPA online programs hold NASPAA accreditation.

Courses in a Public Administration Master's Program

MPA courses build strong analytical and problem-solving skills. Students learn how to manage the public policy process, oversee a public sector budget, and analyze government policy effectiveness. During an online master's in public administration, graduate students also strengthen their management and leadership skills.

Many programs incorporate a capstone project or internship to give students real-world experience. Learners may also specialize their studies by choosing a concentration in areas such as community development, local government management, or nonprofit management.

This section introduces courses commonly found in online MPA programs. While each program offers different core courses and electives, the following classes represent common options.

  • Public Administration Foundations

    Many MPA programs begin with an introductory course examining key public policy concepts and issues. Learners study the diverse roles that administrators play in government, public administration ethics, and comparative public administration. The course also covers core topics such as public management and the differences between governmental and nonprofit administrations.
  • Public Policy

    In this course, learners examine the public policy process, including the development and implementation of new policies. The course covers the interplay of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches throughout the public policy process. Topics may also include public policy evaluation, barriers to introducing policies, and bureaucracy's role in the public policy process.
  • Administrative Law

    In administrative law courses, MPA students examine the role of the legal system in public administration. Topics may include the regulatory process, statutory analysis, and liability for government officials. Learners also explore the rule-making process, legal investigations, and the administrator's role in applying the law.
  • Nonprofit Resource Development

    This course covers key topics in nonprofit resource development, including fundraising, public relations, and philanthropy. Students learn how to build relationships and promote strong resource development in a nonprofit setting.
  • City Management

    In this course, students prepare for local government roles. Learners study topics like city organizational structures, the political foundations of local government, and municipal management. Depending on the program, students may examine case studies, meet with local government managers, and complete projects.

Featured Online Management Programs

Find a program that meets your affordability, flexibility, and education needs through an accredited, online school.

Financial Aid

Graduate students can use financial aid to help pay for their degree. For most applicants, filling out the FAFSA represents the first step for receiving financial aid. Federal student aid programs, including student loans and work-study programs, fund graduate students. Many other forms of financial aid, including institutional and private aid, may also require students to submit the FAFSA.

Online MPA programs can help degree-seekers save money. Some online programs offer tuition discounts for fully online learners. Additionally, an online degree's flexibility helps working professionals continue to earn money while earning their degree.

Top Online Master's in Public Administration Programs

The following list ranks the best public administration master's online degree programs. Students considering an online master's in public administration can use our ranking to identify the right fit to reach their professional goals.

true Penn State Worldwide $886.00 per-credit-hour 27 MPA Online

Among the world’s most prestigious schools, Penn State is renowned in numerous academic areas. Penn State World Campus maintains an excellent reputation, offering the best in interactive online classrooms. Penn has a well-established online master of public administration, a 36-credit degree that reflects the most relevant topics in the industry. Penn World Campus designed the MPA online with Penn State Harrisburg’s school of public affairs; this master of public administration online degree is most suited for those pursuing or advancing careers in public and private sectors, government administration, tribal politics, criminal justice, academia, and much more.

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true Indiana State University $427.00 per-credit-hour 27 Online MPA Degree

Widely considered a high return on investment, Indiana State University produces well-rounded, confident graduates. Among ISU’s many esteemed programs is the 36-credit, affordable master of public administration; this MPA online is geared for industry professionals who need flexibility in completing their degree. ISU’s MPA degree online is designed to enhance skills in policy implementation, ethical public service, organization leadership, financial advocacy, and much more. The online MPA degree culminates into a final capstone project, and depending on previous work experience, students may be required a 3 credit-hour internship.

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true Marist College $750.00 per-credit-hour 26 Online MPA Degree

Based in upstate New York, Marist College is a prestigious school with a highly selective admission process. Marist has a top-ranked online MPA program, widely considered one of the best in the field. Marist’s MPA program online can be customized in several industry areas; among these customization options include public management, nonprofit management, analytics, ethical leadership, or healthcare administration. MPA online candidates are only required to complete an internship if they are entering the program with less than three years’ work experience. Marist is known to have active, engaged alumni and expansive networking resources.

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true DePaul University $680.00 per-credit-hour 25 MPA Online

Among the nation’s most respected schools, DePaul University draws the best in academia. This top college has a large liberal arts and social sciences department, offering degrees for virtually any career interest. DePaul’s MPA online is designed for current or growing leaders in the public sector. Graduate students in the MPA program build skills in public finance, human resource management, public policy design, and much more. For further customization, MPA candidates can specialize their online degree in public management, emergency management, metropolitan and urban affairs, and international public management.

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true Arkansas State University $306.00 per-credit-hour 24 Online MPA

A highly diverse campus community, Arkansas State University has a high-achieving student body and faculty. A-State has a low-tuition online MPA degree, a program that can be completed within three months. Considered one of the best online MPA’s, this flexible degree track has a wide spectrum of course topics spanning U.S. government, economic issues, research, budgeting and finance, ethics, and more. MPA online students are encouraged to complete internships, as this provides the hands-on experiences in the industrial workplace. Arkansas State holds its students to high academic standards, and there are ample online guidance opportunities from faculty.

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Kent State University $663.00 per-credit-hour 24 Online MPA

A consistently high-ranked school, Kent State University has strong academics for virtually any student interest. KSU has an online master of public administration, a program that builds multiple skills in nonprofit management; the majority of students complete this affordable online MPA degree in two years. Kent has an engaged MPA alumni network, and 92% of these graduates have reported a high satisfaction rate with the program. Kent’s MPA degree online is designed for adult learners in need of flexibility.

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Arizona State University Online $1,052.00 per-credit-hour 24 Executive Online MPA

Consistently ranked among the best in academics, Arizona State University is a top-choice higher education around the world. ASU has a flexible executive online master of public administration, featuring internationally renowned faculty and the latest in online classroom technology; this degree requires three face-to-face visits in Phoenix and Washington D.C. where online EMPA cohorts gather for executive sessions. The executive MPA online attracts leaders in the industry, engaging in curricula such as negotiating in a global context, federal budgeting and tax policy, e-pubic administration, organizational behavior, and more.

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University of Missouri-Columbia $425.00 per-credit-hour 23 MPA Online

Founded in 1839, the University of Missouri is the largest college in the state, offering over 300 degree programs. Referred to as “Mizzou”, this top college has over 90 online programs available to distance-learners; among these programs is an online master’s degree in public affairs. MPA online degree students complete 33 credit-hours, with each course lasting nine-weeks; these courses cover topics in ethical leadership, collaborative governance, economic analysis, public policy strategy, and more. Upon graduation from the MPA program online, students typically advance to careers in social services, public health management, government relations, among other related settings.

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California State University Northridge $738.00 per-credit-hour 23 MPA Online

Serving an average 38,000 students, California State University Northridge is a progressive academic community. CSUN online has a wide range of degree programs, one of which is a master of public administration online; this affordable MPA is led by scholar-level faculty, many of whom are recent or current professionals in the field. Students enrolled in the MPA online complete courses such as intergovernmental relations, research methods, strategic planning, nonprofit finance, and related skill-building topics.

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University of North Dakota $976.00 per-credit-hour (non-resident) $404.06 (resident) 23 MPA Online Degree Program

Founded in 1883, University of North Dakota has over 225 degree programs and was recently ranked among U.S. News and World Report’s 25 most innovative colleges. UND online is increasingly popular, as it provides a number of affordable, flexible and affordable degree choices. UND has several online public administration degrees, both on a bachelor and graduate level. UND’s online students have the option of pursuing the online MPA alone, or in a combined JD/MPA; the JD/MPA is a 112-credit law degree, an excellent choice for students pursuing a law career in the public sector. UND’s MPA online degree has a curriculum based in research methods, political and policy analysis, health administration, and more.

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