Best Online Bachelor’s in Public Administration 2021

by Genevieve Carlton

Updated August 12, 2022 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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An online bachelor's program in public administration trains students for fulfilling careers in public service, business, and the nonprofit sector.

Public administration majors work in urban development, homeland security, social services, and communications. By combining a focus on government with administrative training, the degree builds strong decision-making, analytical, and leadership skills. Earning a bachelor's in public administration online may appeal to busy students and working professionals seeking career advancement.

This page ranks the best bachelor's in public administration online programs for 2021. Prospective students can use this ranking to find the right fit for their interests, budget, and career goals. This article also introduces public administration degree concentrations and graduation requirements, as well as the different career paths graduates can pursue.

The Best Online Public Administration Programs

  1. Florida International University

    Miami, FL



    Based in Miami, Florida International University offers more than 40 online degrees, including a fully online bachelor’s of public administration. The school’s bachelor of arts in public administration prepares students to take on a variety of public policy and administration jobs. Although distance students complete coursework at their convenience, they still receive regular guidance from a personal success coach and live feedback from their instructors. Students also collaborate with peers on group work and projects.

    Students in the online program take 60 major credit hours and 60 general education credit hours. Core requirements for the major include public sector budgeting, policy development and implementation, and global city management. Students complete their studies with an integrative seminar in public administration in which they analyze a real-world public policy or problem within the field.

  2. Northern Arizona University

    Flagstaff, AZ



    In addition to its main campus in Flagstaff, Arizona, Northern Arizona University offers more than 120 online and hybrid degrees. The school’s online bachelor’s in public administration allows students to earn their degree entirely online. Students can pursue a bachelor of applied science, bachelor of arts, or bachelor of interdisciplinary studies in this field, and each degree differs slightly in math, science, and humanities requirements. Whatever degree students pursue, they must complete 120 credit hours. Students can also pursue a minor in public administration, completing 18 credit hours of subject-related coursework.

    During their studies, students at NAU take required courses, such as ethics, policy, and administration; public policy formation and strategies; and organizational theory and application. They then choose additional major courses, such as managing change in 21st-century organizations and conflict resolution and mediation in the public sector. The program also offers an optional internship component, giving students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the field.

  3. Troy University

    Troy, AL



    Troy University, based in Troy, Alabama, offers a unique political science program that allows students to pursue a concentration in either American politics and public administration or international politics. The school’s online bachelor’s with a concentration in American politics and public administration prepares students to work in government, law, nonprofit organizations, and business. It also prepares students to pursue graduate-level studies in areas such as public administration, law, and journalism.

    Students earning a public policy degree online typically complete the 120-hour program in four years. The major itself requires 36 hours of coursework. Required courses include world politics, political theory, and the art of political science research. Students choose a concentration course on one of the three government branches — legislative, executive, or judicial — and take three additional courses exploring subjects such as women in politics, southern politics, and African-American politics.

  4. Roger Williams University

    Bristol, RI



    Roger Williams University boasts a low teacher-to-student ratio and affordable tuition rates. In addition to its two campuses — one oceanside campus in Bristol, Rhode Island and another in the state’s capital city — the school also offers a selection of online degrees through its School of Continuing Studies. The bachelor of science in public administration is one such degree. Students at RWU can also earn a minor in public administration.

    The online program requires a total of 120 credits, 27 of which involve required major courses while an additional nine involve elective courses related to public administration. Required courses include city management, public finance administration, and American government and politics. Students enjoy access to academic advisors and a support staff to help them navigate the path toward graduation. Students can also receive credits for life experience.

  5. Central Methodist University-College of Graduate and Extended Studies

    Fayette, MO



    Despite its affiliation with the United Methodist Church, Central Methodist University welcomes students of all faiths and backgrounds. With its primary campus in Fayette, Missouri, the school boasts additional campus locations across the state. Students pursuing a bachelor’s in public administration can do so on the school’s partner campuses in Park Hills or Union, Missouri, or entirely online.

    Students at CMU can earn a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science in public administration. Either way, the degree requires 120 hours of coursework split between general education and major coursework. Students complete 36 hours of courses related to public administration, exploring topics like the economics of public policy, group processes, and public policy analysis. They also take courses like urban and rural sociology and law in American society. Students may complete an internship or field experience requirement. All courses run for eight or 16 weeks.

  6. California Baptist University

    Riverside, CA



    Based in Riverside, California, California Baptist University offers online degrees designed for working professionals. CBU Online features a year-round semester system that helps students graduate faster. The school also boasts a generous transfer system, honoring credits earned at community colleges or other accredited institutions. Because all CBU programs integrate Christian beliefs and views into the curriculum, the school’s online public administration bachelor degree applies Christian perspectives to the study of public service.

    Upon completing the school’s general education requirements, the bachelor of arts in public administration requires 48 units of coursework, which students typically complete in around 16 months. Required courses include administrative law and bureaucracy, contemporary issues in public administration, and executive leadership and management in the public sector. Students also take a career and professional development capstone course that helps them create a professional portfolio, apply to graduate programs, and assess long-term career interests.

  7. University of Maryland-University College

    Adelphi, MD



    Unique among public administration programs, the University of Maryland - University College’s online bachelor of science in public safety administration prepares students to take on leadership roles in organizations that manage corporate and homeland security emergencies. Students learn about emergency management systems and how to collaborate with other public agencies to ensure public safety, preparing for careers in homeland security, fire service administration, and emergency management. Outside of coursework, students can join the school’s International Association of Emergency Managers chapter to learn about relevant jobs, certifications, and professional development opportunities.

    The school, based in Adelphi, Maryland, offers all its major courses online and a few through a hybrid format. Required public safety administration courses explore subjects like contemporary public safety practices, public safety administration ethics, and decision making. In total, the degree requires 120 credits; students can transfer up to 90 credits from other accredited institutions.

  8. National University

    La Jolla, CA



    In addition to courses on its main campus in La Jolla, California, National University offers over 90 fully online degrees for working professionals. The school’s online bachelor of public administration offers a unique opportunity for undergraduate students to transition into the school’s master of public administration program while earning their bachelor’s degree. Students within six courses of graduation may take two master’s-level courses during their final semester of undergraduate studies to start their transition into the MPA program. Veteran-founded, the school offers discounted tuition rates to military personnel and their children.

    The bachelor’s degree requires 180 quarter units. Students complete 12 required courses exploring topics such as public policy development, adaptive leadership in change, and government and nonprofit accounting. Students also complete a senior research project under the direction of a faculty member.

  9. Park University

    Parkville, MO



    Although Park University started at its flagship campus in Parkville, Missouri, it now offers classes on more than 40 satellite campuses and through its global online programs. The school offers a unique online public administration degree that boasts five concentration options: business relations, criminal justice, fire service management, homeland security, and public service. Students can also earn a minor in public administration. Because the program serves a high percentage of veteran students, many of the courses feature a blended format to fulfill VA guidelines that require 60% face-to-face instruction.

    Whatever concentration students pursue, the degree requires 45 hours of public administration coursework. Mandatory classes explore subjects like state and local government, capitalism and societal issues, and administrative law. For their concentration, students take specialized courses like small business management, criminal justice and the community, emergency management, geography of terrorism, and comparative political systems. All concentrations require a senior project.

  10. Columbia College

    Columbia, MO



    Columbia College, a nonprofit school that boasts affordable and honest tuition rates, offers nearly a dozen online programs. Students can earn their bachelor of arts in public administration through the school’s online college or in-person at its campus in Columbia, Missouri. The school also offers a bachelor of science in public administration through a face-to-face program on its Columbia campus.

    Students earning an online public administration degree take courses such as methods of public decision making, American public policy, and public human resource administration. Students also complete an internship at a local government office or nonprofit organization, logging 45 hours of work per enrolled credit hour (typically three credit hours for BA candidates). Before graduating, students take a senior seminar in political science and public administration in which they create a research project and write a final paper.

Best Online Bachelor's

Online Public Administration Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

Here at, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

Featured Online Public Administration Programs

What Is an Online Bachelor's in Public Administration Degree?

Online bachelor's programs in public administration prepare majors for entry-level careers in the government, nonprofit, and private sectors. During a public administration degree, enrollees explore the policymaking process and local, state, and federal government agencies.

Public administration majors also learn about the nonprofit sector and gain valuable skills for careers in public relations, communications, regulatory analysis, or financial management. Many colleges offer specializations such as nonprofit management, emergency management, and public policy analysis to prepare graduates for specific career paths.

In addition to major coursework, undergraduates can choose electives, a minor, and internships. The blend of project-based assignments, research projects, and experiential learning prepares students for the workforce. Graduates interested in continuing their education can enroll in master's in public administration programs or doctoral programs in public administration.

Skills Taught to Public Administration Majors

Soft Skills

  • Communication
  • Organization
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving

Hard Skills

  • Public policy analysis
  • Program evaluation
  • Project management
  • Team management
  • Program implementation

What's the Difference Between a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science in Public Administration?

Some colleges offer bachelor of arts (BA) and bachelor of science (BS) degrees in public administration. Both majors introduce undergraduates to core topics in government and public service administration. With either degree, graduates can pursue civil service and nonprofit careers or continue on to master's degrees in public administration.

However, BA and BS degrees typically have different graduation requirements. In a BA program, majors take more humanities and foreign language courses. A BS program includes more social science and natural science classes.

What to Expect From a Public Administration Major

Public administration majors study government, public policy, program evaluation, and policy implementation. Enrollees build strong organizational management and leadership skills. Each degree-seeker selects a specialization or electives to customize their degrees. Many programs also incorporate internships to add an experiential learning component.

Public Administration Bachelor's Degree Concentrations

During a bachelor's in public administration online degree, each enrollee selects a concentration. These specializations prepare graduates for career paths in government, business, and the nonprofit sector.

Nonprofit Management

A nonprofit management concentration trains undergraduates in nonprofit leadership, fundraising, program development, and nonprofit financial management. Majors also study grant writing, staff management, and program evaluation. The concentration prepares graduates for careers in the nonprofit sector, including social services and community development.

Public and Business Administration

Undergrads interested in private sector careers or think tanks and lobbying organizations can choose a concentration in public and business administration. This subfield emphasizes business administration skills, including strategic leadership, organizational management, and financial management.

Public Policy

A public policy concentration applies analytical skills to government programs and policies. Students learn to evaluate public policies with modern research methods, including qualitative and quantitative data. Students also explore developing, implementing, and revising public policies at different levels. Graduates work as policy analysts, legislative assistants, and compliance managers.

Legislative, Executive, or Judicial Branch

Public administration majors can focus their studies on the different branches of the federal, state and local governments. During these programs, enrollees examine the functions of government and how the different branches collaborate. Graduates can work as legislative assistants, civil service workers, and case administrators.

Emergency Management

Government agencies play a central role in disaster planning and emergency management. Undergraduates learn to create emergency response plans, respond during emergencies, and mitigate the harm caused by natural or human-made disasters. The concentration leads to opportunities in federal emergency management departments, local public health organizations, and disaster response agencies.

Homeland Security

Public administrators staff the nation's homeland security agencies to protect national security. Degree-seekers study national security threats, including terrorism, cybersecurity, and national disasters. They also learn about homeland security organizations. Graduates can pursue work in crisis management, immigration, and intelligence roles.

Public Administration Curriculum

During a bachelor's in public administration online, undergrads take classes in public fiscal management, policy analysis, and policy implementation. Common courses for public administration majors include:

  • Political theory
  • Policy development and implementation
  • Public fiscal management
  • Public policy analysis
  • Executive leadership in the public sector

Choosing an Online Program

Prospective students considering a bachelor's in public administration online should evaluate factors such as cost, program length, delivery method, and specialization options to find a program that suits their unique needs. Other factors like internship options, alumni networks, and career goals can also help students narrow their choices.

Applicants should always choose accredited online colleges. The National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration grants accreditation to public administration programs.

Public Administration Careers

A public administration degree prepares graduates for government, nonprofit, and private sector employment. Undergraduates often complete internships to develop practical experience. As a versatile degree that strengthens leadership, decision-making, and analytical skills, public administration majors can pursue careers in human resources, public relations, nonprofit management, and community services.

Earning potential for public administration careers varies depending on the role and the candidate's experience. However, many roles in public administration pay above-average salaries, as demonstrated by the following information.

Public Administration Careers
Career Median Annual Salary (2020)
Compensation and Benefits Managers $125,130
Human Resources Managers $121,220
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers $118,430
Top Executives $107,680
Medical and Health Services Managers $104,280
Administrative Service Managers $98,890
Postsecondary Education Administrators $97,500
Social and Community Service Managers $69,600
Public Relations Specialists $62,810
Real Estate, and Community Association Managers $59,660

Common Questions About Bachelor's Degrees in Public Administration Online

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

A bachelor's degree in public administration prepares graduates for careers in local, state, and federal government. Common employers include social services agencies, city management departments, and nonprofit organizations.

What's the Difference Between Public Administration and Political Science?

A public administration degree emphasizes management within organizations, while a political science degree analyzes and researches political organizations. Both public administration and political science majors study American government and political institutions.

What's the Difference Between Public Administration and Business Administration?

Both public administration and business administration emphasize leadership skills, organizational management, and data analysis. Public administration majors focus on public and nonprofit sector roles, while business administration majors focus on private enterprises.

What's the Difference Between Public and Private Administration?

Public administration refers to government and public service careers, including employment in publicly funded nonprofit organizations. In contrast, private administration refers to private businesses.

Portrait of Genevieve Carlton

Genevieve Carlton

Genevieve Carlton holds a Ph.D. in history from Northwestern University. After earning her doctorate in early modern European history, Carlton worked as an assistant professor of history at the University of Louisville, where she developed new courses on the history of science, Renaissance Italy, and the witch trials. Carlton has published five peer-reviewed articles in top presses and a monograph with the University of Chicago Press. She also earned tenure with a unanimous vote before relocating to Seattle. Learn more about Carlton's work at

Header Image Credit: SDI Productions | Getty Images

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