The Best Online Master’s in Public Administration Programs

by TBS Staff
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An online master's in public administration allows graduates to work on important issues affecting the general public.

Professionals passionate about social welfare and creating change in public service should consider earning an online MPA degree. This degree can lead to middle and upper management positions in the governmental, private, and nonprofit sectors. Public service careers may also qualify professionals for student loan forgiveness after 120 payments.

This degree does not limit professionals to a particular sector. Common specializations include financial management, healthcare management, international development, and urban affairs. Industries with the highest levels of employment include enterprise management, technical consulting services, and local governments.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), over 2.2 million managers work in this field, earning a median annual salary of $104,690. The top-paying states for these professionals include New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. States with the highest levels of employment include California, Texas, and New York.

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

An online master's in public administration is an interdisciplinary degree that offers a humanistic approach to management, preparing graduates for executive administration and policy analyst roles. The best online MPA programs incorporate economics, political science, law, and sociology courses. Students learn to analyze both qualitative and quantitative data, serve diverse populations, and manage resources.

Schools that offer an online master's in public administration often prefer candidates with a relevant bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. The best applicants also have experience in relevant industries or leadership positions.

The best MPA programs help students develop knowledge and skills in human relations, policy formation, economic analysis, and data analytics. Learners also develop soft skills like problem-solving and decision-making.

Featured Online MPA Programs

The Best Online Master’s in Public Administration Programs

University of Central Florida true View School Profile $$ Orlando, FL 73% 39% 57% The University of Central Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded in 1963, UCF confers more than 17,000 degrees each year.

UCF offers an online master of public administration degree program. Sample courses include public budgeting, public financial management, human resource management, and public organization management.

Students must complete 42 credits to graduate.

Applicants must earn a bachelor's degree with a GPA of at least 3.0. The application requires transcripts, three letters of recommendation, resume, and a goal statement.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill true View School Profile $$ Chapel Hill, NC 89% 27% 14% The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded in 1789, UNC represents the oldest public university in the U.S.

UNC offers an online master of public administration degree program with five concentrations, including public health, international relations, and nonprofit management. Sample courses include organization theory, public service leadership, professional communication, and human resource management.

Students must complete 45 credits to graduate.

Applicants must submit transcripts showing completion of a bachelor's degree, a statement of purpose, a resume, three letters of recommendation, and GRE, LSAT, or GMAT scores, or an approved waiver.

University of Southern California true View School Profile Los Angeles, CA 92% 29% 18% The University of Southern California is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission (WSCUC).

USC taught 53 students during its first semester in 1880. Today, more than 48,000 students learn through USC each year.

USC offers students the chance to earn a masters of public administration online in one to two years. Faculty teach courses live, and the program includes two on-campus residencies.

Students must complete 40 credits to graduate.

Applicants must include transcripts, a resume, a statement of purpose, three letters of recommendation, and GRE/GMAT scores or an approved waiter. USC prefers applications with a GPA of at least 3.0.

Florida International University View School Profile $ Miami, FL 58% 34% 65% Florida International University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded in 1965, FIU welcomed more than 5,000 students during its first year.

FIU offers an online master of public administration program. Courses include quantitative applications, smart governance, public finance and budgetary process, and leadership & decision making.

Students must complete 42 credits and maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 to graduate.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree. The application requires three letters of recommendation, a resume, a three-page essay, and GRE, GMAT, or LSAT scores or approved waiver.

Northwestern University View School Profile Evanston, IL 95% 21% 3% Northwestern University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Established in 1850, Northwestern's first classes began in 1855 with just 10 students.

Northwestern offers an online master in public policy and administration degree program with five specializations. Students can complete the program in just one year. Courses include public organization theory and management, ethics and leadership, and program evaluation and policy analysis.

Students must complete 13 units to graduate, including a capstone class or independent thesis.

Applicants must submit transcripts, a statement of purpose, a resume, two references, and a writing sample.

Texas A & M University-College Station View School Profile $$$ College Station, TX 82% 32% 8% Texas A&M University - College Station is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded in 1876, Texas A&M represents the very first public university in the state of Texas.

Texas A&M offers an online executive master of public service and administration with three tracks: homeland security, nonprofit management, or public management. This program includes two week-long residencies. Students can complete the program in two to three years.

Students must complete 39 credits to graduate.

Applicants must earn a bachelor's degree and at least five years of full-time public service experience, three of which must be at mid- to upper-level. The application requires transcripts, a resume, a statement of purpose, and three letters of recommendation.

Penn State World Campus View School Profile $$$$ University Park, PA 71% 48% 100% Pennsylvania State University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Founded in 1855, Penn State began as one of the first colleges of agricultural science in the country.

Penn State offers an online master of public administration degree. Courses explore topics like organizational behavior, public organization and management, and human resources in the public and nonprofit sectors. Students without at least 2 years of professional work experience must also complete an internship.

Students must complete 36 credits to graduate.

Applicants must obtain a bachelor's degree. The application requires transcripts, three references, a resume, and a personal statement.

San Diego State University View School Profile $$ San Diego, CA 74% 28% 47% San Diego State University is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission (WSCUC).

Founded in 1897, SDSU currently teaches more than 36,000 students.

SDSU offers an online master of public administration degree that students can complete in just 16 months. Courses include quantitative approaches, public financial management, and administrative theory. Students without sufficient professional experience also need to complete an internship.

Students must complete 36 units to graduate.

Applicants must submit transcripts, two letters of recommendation, a resume, and a statement of purpose.

California State University-San Bernardino View School Profile $ San Bernardino, CA 57% 35% 27% California State University - San Bernardino is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission (WSCUC).

Founded in 1965, CSUSB offers 70 degree programs to about 20,000 students.

CSUSB offers an online master of public administration degree program. Students must complete an on-campus comprehensive exam at the end of the program. Sample courses include program evaluation, comparative public administration, public financial management, and emergency management.

Applicants must earn a bachelor's degree with a GPA of at least 3.0 earned in the last 60 credits.

Georgia College & State University View School Profile $$$$ Milledgeville, GA 64% 44% 25% Georgia College & State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded in 1889, Georgia College currently teaches nearly 6,000 students.

Georgia College offers an online master of public administration degree program. Sample courses include policy analysis, quantitative techniques, public finance and budgeting, and public personnel management.

Students must complete 36 credits to graduate.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with at least a 2.75, a resume, and GRE, MAT, or GMAT scores unless waived. GCSU accepts up to 9 hours of transfer credit.

University of West Georgia View School Profile $$$ Carrollton, GA 42% 59% 59% Texas A&M University - College Station is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded in 1906, UWG currently teaches more than 13,400 in over 85 programs.

UWG offers a 100% online master of public administration degree program. Courses include public organizational theory, administrative law and procedures, and public human resource management.

Students must complete 36 credits to graduate.

Applicants must submit transcripts showing at least a 2.5 GPA, GRE scores or an approved waiver, two letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a resume.

Texas A & M International University View School Profile Laredo, TX 46% 34% 47% Texas A&M International University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Initially known as Laredo State University, TAMIU earned its current name in 1993.

TAMIU offers an online master of public administration degree program. Courses include organization theory, administrative law, administrative ethics, and program evaluation.

Students must complete 42 credits and maintain a GPA of 3.0 to graduate.

Applicants must obtain a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0. The application process requires transcripts, an essay, and an interview.

American University View School Profile Washington, DC 80% 45% 7% American University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Chartered in 1893, American didn't open until 1915 with an initial enrollment of just 28 students.

AU offers an online master of public administration and policy degree program that students can complete in just 2 years. Courses last 8 weeks each and explore topics like organizational analysis, quantitative methods, project management, and public managerial economics.

Students must complete 36 credits to graduate.

Applicants must obtain a bachelor's degree. The application requires transcripts and GRE or LSAT scores or an approved waiver.

University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh View School Profile $$ Oshkosh, WI 53% 43% 11% The University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1871, UW - Oshkosh currently teaches more than 8,700 students in more than 200 areas of study.

UW - Oshkosh offers an online master of public administration degree program with three optional concentrations: health agency administration, nonprofit management and leadership, and fire and emergency administration and management.

Students must complete 36 credits to graduate.

Applicants must complete a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 2.75. The application requires transcripts, a statement of professional goals and objectives, a resume, an essay, and three letters of recommendation.

California State University-Northridge View School Profile $ Northridge, CA 54% 30% 51% California State University - Northridge is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission (WSCUC).

Founded in 1958, CSUN confers more than 11,000 degrees each year.

CSUN offers an online master of public administration degree program with concentrations like health administration, non-profit sector management, public sector management and leadership. Core courses include ethics and professionalism, public budgeting and financial administration, and organization theory and human behavior.

Students must complete 36 credits to graduate.

Applicants must complete a bachelor's degree with a GPA of at least 3.0 and must also pass a writing proficiency exam. CSUN considers applicants with a GPA less than 3.0 with at least two years of professional experience and submit three letters of reference.

Marist College View School Profile Poughkeepsie, NY 83% 53% 27% Marist College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Founded in 1905, Marist currently teaches over 6,000 students.

Marist offers an online master of public administration degree program with concentrations like ethical leadership, analytics, nonprofit management, and healthcare administration. Core courses include public budgeting, administrative law, and organizational theory and change.

Students must complete 39-42 credits to graduate.

Applicants must earn a bachelor's degree. The application requires transcripts, a resume, and GRE score or an approved waiver,

Texas Tech University View School Profile $$$ Lubbock, TX 59% 45% 50% Texas Tech University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded in 1923, Texas Tech welcomed a class of 914 during its first year.

Texas Tech offers an online master of public administration degree program taught primarily through live online classes that meet in the evenings, with some asynchronous courses offered too. Concentrations include public management, nonprofit management, and environmental policy and administration.

Students must complete 42 credits to graduate.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree. The application requires transcripts, GRE/GMAT/LSAT scores, two letters of recommendation, and a resume.

Jacksonville State University View School Profile $$ Jacksonville, AL 42% 64% 68% Jacksonville State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded in 1883 as a state teacher's college, JSU currently offers more than 95 degree programs.

JSU offers 100% online courses for its master of public administration degree program. Concentrations include education, criminal justice, emergency management, and political science.

Students must complete 39 credits to graduate.

Applicants must already hold a bachelor's degree. The application requires transcripts.

Villanova University View School Profile Villanova, PA 91% 43% 25% Villanova University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Founded in 1842, Villanova teaches more than 10,000 students across six colleges.

Villanova offers a 100% online master of public administration degree program. Courses include public administration theory, leadership ethics, financial management, and applied data analysis.

Students must complete 36 credits to graduate.

Applicants must submit transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a resume, a statement of goals, and an essay.

Valdosta State University View School Profile $$ Valdosta, GA 42% 62% 51% Valdosta State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Opened in 1913, VSU currently teaches more than 10,000 students in over 100 degree programs.

VSU offers an online master of public administration degree program with three concentrations: public sector management, public sector human resource management, and public policy.

Students must complete 36 credits to graduate.

The application requires transcripts showing completion of a bachelor's degree, GMAT/MAT/GRE scores, a resume, a career goal statement, and three letters of recommendation.

University of Delaware View School Profile $$$ Newark, DE 81% 47% 12% The University of Delaware is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Established in 1743, UD boasts several signers of the Declaration of Independence among its very students.

UD offers an online master of public administration degree program that students can complete in 30 months. Courses include contemporary issues in global society, performance management and program evaluation, and information technology & management in public & nonprofit sectors.

Students must complete 36 credits to graduate.

Applicants must submit transcripts showing a GPA of 3.0, a resume, a GRE score (unless the resume shows at least three years of professional experience), three letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.

Tarleton State University View School Profile $$ Stephenville, TX 46% 56% 15% Tarleton State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Part of the A&M System and founded in 1899, Tarleton currently teaches over 13,000 students.

Tarleton offers an online master of public administration that students can earn in as few as 18 months. Courses explore topics like intergovernmental relations, organizational behavior, budgeting and finance, and public policy.

Students must complete 36 credits to graduate.

Applicants must submit transcripts, GRE, GMAT, or MAT scores, and an essay.

University of Louisiana at Monroe View School Profile $ Monroe, LA 44% 40% 34% The University of Louisiana at Monroe is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded in 1931, ULM began as Ouachita Parish Junior College and underwent numerous name changes until finally earning its current name in 1999.

ULM offers an online master in public administration degree program that students can complete in just 12 months. The program includes five concentrations, such as administration of health, administration of education, and public management.

Students must complete 36 credits to graduate.

ULM prefers applicants with an undergraduate GPA of 2.75 or specific GRE/GMAT scores. The application requires transcripts and GRE/GMAT scores.

Arkansas State University View School Profile $$ Jonesboro, AR 48% 51% 56% Arkansas State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Established in 1909, A-State currently teaches more than 14,000 students.

A-State offers an online masters of public administration in public management degree program that students can complete in as few as 18 months. Courses include public budgeting and finance, grant writing and administration, and administrative ethics.

Students must complete 36 credits to graduate.

Applicants must first earn a bachelor's degree with a GPA of at least 3.2. The application requires transcripts, three letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose.

University of North Carolina Wilmington View School Profile $$$ Wilmington, NC 73% 46% 47% The University of North Carolina Wilmington is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded in 1946, Wilmington currently teaches more than 18,000 students.

UNCW offers an online executive master of public administration degree program. Students can complete the program in two to five years. Sample courses include ethics in public life, nonprofit resource development, nonprofit business law, and conflict resolution.

Students must complete 36 to 39 credits to graduate.

Applicants must obtain a bachelor's degree with a GPA of at least 3.0. The application requires transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a resume showing at least 5 years of professional work experience.

Online Master's in Public Administration Programs Ranking Guidelines

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

Our Methodology

Here at TheBestSchools.org, 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 AcademicInfluence.com, 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.

Choosing an Online MPA Program

Working students may prefer a 100% online degree, while others may enjoy a hybrid format, which requires up to 50% in-person attendance. It's important to take your personal and professional responsibilities into account when choosing a format for your online program.

What Can I Expect From an Online MPA Program?

An online master's in public administration prepares graduates to assess challenges facing the public and provide policy recommendations that foster positive change. Core courses emphasize policy research, economics, and statistical analysis. Universities usually also offer specializations, which can help students prove their expertise in a competitive job market.

Public Administration Curriculum

  • Microeconomics: This course helps students understand how markets affect global relationships and how professionals can respond to various economic conditions. Topics include economic theory, market structure, and government regulation.
  • Policy-making: This course examines government at the national, state, and local levels. Students also learn strategies for balancing policy objectives and organizational politics to foster change. Other course objectives include describing the role of policy analysis in the decision-making process and identifying areas for improvement.
  • Public Management: This course explores the bureaucracy of political processes, issues in public management, and strategies for managing organizations. Course objectives include analyzing the impact of ethical practices in public administration and assessing theories and techniques related to public organizational management.

Careers in Public Administration

An online master's in public administration covers topics related to government and business, including economic development, political science, public policy, and leadership. As such, this advanced interdisciplinary degree prepares graduates for careers in many industries.

Read on to learn more about three specific careers in public administration.

true General and Operations Managers
Median Salary (2019): $100,930 Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 9%

General and operations managers work with employees and other management leaders to ensure that businesses function efficiently. These leaders often control budgets, develop strategies for improvement, and reinforce organizational policies. Other responsibilities include hiring new employees and creating effective training procedures.

Candidates must have at least a bachelor's degree and leadership experience. However, employers value applicants with advanced degrees, especially for upper-level management positions. The best applicants understand resource allocation, human resource modeling, and production methods. Relevant skills include active listening, coordination, social perceptiveness, and public speaking.

true Urban and Regional Planners
Median Salary (2019): $74,350 Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 11%

Urban and regional planners create proposals to establish communities, provide avenues for land or structure revitalization, and accommodate population growth. These professionals often collaborate with developers, public officials, and other stakeholders regarding land use and planning. Other duties include gathering and analyzing data, reviewing site plans, assessing feasibility of plans, and maintaining compliance with zoning.

The best candidates hold a master's degree from an accredited school. Employers favor candidates with professional experience in leadership or relevant industries. Currently, New Jersey is the only state that requires a license for this role.

true Legislators
Median Salary (2019): $24,670 Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 7%

Citizens elect legislators to develop laws and serve as members of legislative bodies. Duties include identifying national and local implications of legislation, processing bills that can become state law if approved, debating bills and amendments on the legislative floor, and conferring with colleagues on committee assignments.

The best legislators are aware of new developments in their areas of expertise, offer professional development support, and keep the public informed of policy changes. While no guidelines exist for educational requirements, candidates typically have extensive educational and professional experience.

Popular Questions about MPA Degrees

true What Is Public Administration?

Public administration is the management and organization of public programs, especially those designed to create positive change in communities. Succeeding in this field requires policy and decision-making skills.

true How Long Does It Take to Complete a Master's in Public Administration Program?

Full-time students can earn a degree in two years. Some programs may offer accelerated options, which allow students to earn their degrees in a shorter time frame.

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

A master's in public administration can lead to many different careers working in management or administration. Students should begin their career searches by identifying industries that spark their interests.

How Much Do You Make in Public Administration?

Salaries for advanced roles in public administration vary significantly. Learners should research data for specific job titles, geographic locations, and industries to determine accurate projections.

What Is a Master's in Public Administration?

The best MPA programs emphasize systematic investigation of organizational management and operations. This degree prepares graduates for management roles in both public and private industries.

What's the Difference Between an MBA and an MPA?

Both an MBA and a MPA prepare graduates for administrative roles. However, an MPA focuses on public affairs, while an MBA covers business management.

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