Best Online Bachelor’s in Public Administration 2021
Updated August 12, 2022
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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
Online Public Administration Programs Ranking Guidelines
We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.
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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.
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Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology
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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
- Interpersonal skills
- Critical thinking
- Problem solving
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Career||Median Annual Salary (2020)|
|Compensation and Benefits Managers||$125,130|
|Human Resources Managers||$121,220|
|Public Relations and Fundraising Managers||$118,430|
|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.
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 genevievecarlton.com.
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