The Best Online Master’s in Public Administration Programs

by Reese Lopez, Kate Swed
• 4 min read
reviewed by TBS Rankings Team
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Online MPA Programs

Public administration focuses on the management and operations of public institutions, including government agencies, nonprofits, and healthcare organizations. An online master's in public administration gives students the skills and knowledge to pursue advanced management careers in this field.

All master's in public administration programs require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college. Most do not call for a specific academic background. Once enrolled, learners study topics like public policy, organizational management, and public finance.

Our guide to online master's in public administration degrees includes information on tuition rates, typical classes, and professional specialization options.

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Questions About Public Administration Degrees


How long does it take to get a public administration degree?

Degree-completion times vary among schools and programs. However, full-time learners can typically complete master's degrees in two years.

What is a public administration salary?

Public administration salaries vary widely by industry. For example, social and community services managers earn a median $74,000 annually. Public relations and fundraising managers earn $119,860.

How much does a master's degree increase your salary?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports bachelor's degree-holders earn a median weekly salary of $1,305, while master's degree-holders earn $1,545.

Why Get a Master's Degree in Public Administration?

An online master's in public administration builds advanced knowledge in administrative and management practices. The degree applies to a variety of fields, including government services, healthcare, and nonprofit management. Earning a master's degree can help candidates increase their career options and salary potential.

Public administration graduates can move into many different management roles that feature above-average salaries. For example, administrative services managers at government agencies earn a median $99,290 annually.

Many colleges let students earn their master's in public administration online. These programs cater to working professionals, using flexible formats that make it easier to balance work and school obligations.

Featured Online Public Administration Programs

How Much Does a Master's in Public Administration Cost?

Master's degrees cost an average of $66,340, according to EducationData.org. However, tuition rates for online master's in public administration programs vary by factors like enrollment format, program length, and school type. Public colleges generally charge lower tuition than private colleges. Accelerated programs may cost less overall since they require fewer semesters to complete.

Learners who enroll in online master's in public administration programs do not pay for campus housing or meal plans. An online format also lets them choose the most affordable program in any location.

Additional Online Student Fees

Online learners should budget for additional fees that cover technology costs, tech support, and other online resources. They may also need to pay for standard education expenses, like books, class supplies, and graduation fees.

Some master's in public administration online programs use a hybrid format that combines campus and online classes. In these programs, students typically cover transportation and lodging costs. Graduates may need to pay fees to obtain professional licenses or certifications.

How Much Do Public Administration Majors Make?

Earning a public administration master's degree online prepares graduates for many careers with high salary potential. Many graduates pursue administrative and management positions in government agencies and nonprofits. Some public administration graduates work as urban and regional planners. These professionals earn a median $78,500 annually.

While some careers in public administration only require a bachelor's degree, earning a master's can help candidates pursue higher-paying careers. Public administrators can also increase their career options and salary potential by earning specialized professional certifications.

Courses in Public Administration

An online master's in public administration program builds specialized knowledge in the operation and management of public institutions and organizations. Degree-seekers study topics like organizational behavior, public policy, and finance. Many programs emphasize the role of research in shaping public policy and administration.

The following list features three classes commonly found in public administration programs. Keep in mind that not every school offers every class listed here. Specific content and class titles vary among programs. However, this list offers a general idea of what to expect when pursuing a public administration master's degree online.

Specializations for Public Administration

Public administration intersects with many types of public organizations. Accordingly, programs commonly offer specializations that build advanced knowledge in specific areas of public administration. Also known as concentrations or tracks, specializations help students customize their education to fit their professional interests and career goals.

Programs with specialization options usually offer a core curriculum along with a selection of specialization classes. If programs do not offer specific concentrations, students can often choose elective classes that relate to their field of interest.

This list highlights three specialization options commonly found in online master's in public administration programs.

How to Become an Administrative Manager

Most careers in public administration and administrative management require at least a bachelor's degree. More advanced positions may require a master's degree, particularly for jobs with significant management responsibilities.

Professionals in this field typically hold degrees in business or public administration. At the master's level, candidates often perform specialized internships or practicum experiences that build hands-on skills.

Typical duties for administrative managers vary among industries. In general, these professionals oversee operations for organizations of all types. Their common daily responsibilities may include supervising other staff members and assessing organizational policies and procedures. They may also set departmental goals and deadlines.

The Best Online Master's in Public Administration Programs

#1 Online College in Illinois

Northwestern University

School Information
Location Evanston, Illinois
Admission Rate 9%
Graduation Rate 94%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 2% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Private

Concentrations Available: Public administration, global policy, global health, data analytics for public policy

Accredited By: Higher Learning Commission

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

Offered fully online or in person, Northwestern's master's in public policy and administration teaches skills for enacting change. Learners can complete the flexible program on an extended part-time basis, or they can choose the one-year accelerated track. 

Northwestern's core curriculum requires courses in elements of public finance and budgeting; fundamentals of public administration; and scope and theory of public policy. All degree-seekers complete either a final research paper or capstone project. 

To apply, students submit an online application, a statement of purpose, resume, recommendations, and writing sample, plus a $75 fee. 

Available Scholarships: N/A

#2 Online College in California

University of Southern California

School Information
Location Los Angeles, California
Admission Rate 11%
Graduation Rate 92%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 17% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Private

Concentrations Available: Public policy, city and county management, nonprofit management and policy

Accredited By: Western Association of Schools and Colleges 

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

With two in-person residencies and a capstone experience, USC's master's in public administration online focuses on two key subject areas:

  • Institutions and organizations 
  • Analytics

Students travel to the Los Angeles-based campus for the two intensive residency sessions. 

Degree-seekers can complete USC's 40-credit program in six terms. The curriculum includes coursework in fundamentals of public administration, essential statistics for public management, and economics for public policy. 

Applicants must submit an online application with transcripts, a resume, a statement of purpose, and GRE or GMAT scores. 

Available Scholarships: Dean's Merit Scholarship

#3 Online College in North Carolina

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

School Information
Location Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Admission Rate 23%
Graduation Rate 91%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 12% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Public

Concentrations Available: Local government, public management, nonprofit management, public health, international relations

Accredited By: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

At UNC-Chapel Hill, students pursuing an online master's in public administration can take advantage of optional on-campus immersion events. Highly customizable, the 45-credit program features interactive coursework that encourages networking. 

Degree-seekers at UNC-Chapel Hill take courses in organization theory, professional communication, and public financial management. Students also complete a practicum and applied research requirement. 

Applicants must submit an online application, along with a resume, statement of purpose, and GRE or GMAT scores. UNC-Chapel hill charges a $95 application fee. 

Available Scholarships: Young Professionals in Foreign Policy Scholarship

#4 Online College in Florida

University of Central Florida

School Information
Location Orlando, Florida
Admission Rate 44%
Graduation Rate 72%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 59% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Public

Concentrations Available: N/A

Accredited By: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? No

With a physical campus in Orlando, Florida, UCF hosts a 42-credit online master of public administration (MPA). Offered through the College of Community Innovation and Education, the online MPA degree emphasizes leadership skills. 

Degree-seekers can study fully online, on campus, or choose a hybrid approach. Course requirements include public administration in the policy process and public budgeting. Learners also complete a capstone. The program encourages an internship experience. 

Applicants need to submit a resume, statement of interest, recommendations, and undergraduate transcripts with a preferred GPA of 3.0. 

Available Scholarships: Feldheim Nonprofit Management Endowed Scholarship

#5 Online College in Texas

Texas A & M University-College Station

School Information
Location College Station, Texas
Admission Rate 58%
Graduation Rate 82%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 14% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Public

Concentrations Available: Homeland security, nonprofit management, public management

Accredited By: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? No

At Texas A&M, the online executive master of public service and administration requires 39 credits and 2-3 years of study. 

Featuring a pair of one-week residencies, the curriculum includes courses in foundations of public service, economic analysis, and public policy formation. The immersive residency experiences take place on campus in College Station, Texas. 

To qualify, applicants need five-plus years of experience working in public service. Application materials include a resume, statement of purpose, and GRE or GMAT scores, plus an $89 fee. Standardized tests are optional for those with a GPA of 3.2 or higher. 

Available Scholarships: The Bush School Online Student Scholarship

#6 Online College in Florida

University of Miami

School Information
Location Coral Gables, Florida
Admission Rate 27%
Graduation Rate 83%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Private

Concentrations Available: N/A

Accredited By: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

Students at UM can complete the 36-credit online master's in public administration in 24 months. With a focus on community, the program offers an optional in-person orientation, plus several on-campus events that learners can choose to attend. 

UM's curriculum includes 12 courses in subjects like organizational dynamics, budget and financial management and administration, and human resource management in public service. 

Applicants must submit transcripts, along with a resume, personal statement, and GRE or GMAT scores. 

Available Scholarships: University of Miami Merit-Based Scholarships

#7 Online College in Florida

Florida International University

School Information
Location Miami, Florida
Admission Rate 58%
Graduation Rate 63%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 68% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Public

Concentrations Available: Human resources management, public management, homeland security and emergency management, nonprofit and community development, comparative and international public administration, urban policy innovations, or an outside field

Accredited By: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? No

FIU's 42-credit master of public administration online offers seven concentration options. Students can benefit from an optional internship experience, plus a large alumni network. 

The program's core curriculum includes courses in smart governance, leadership and decision-making, and human resources management and policy. 

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and submit transcripts, along with a resume and essay. FIU requires GRE or GMAT scores for those with an undergraduate GPA lower than 3.25 in the last 60 credits. 

Available Scholarships: Mayor Henry Milander Public Service Scholarship

#8 Online College in California

San Diego State University

School Information
Location San Diego, California
Admission Rate 34%
Graduation Rate 73%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 50% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Public

Concentrations Available: N/A

Accredited By: Western Association of Schools and Colleges; Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

At SDSU, students can complete the 36-credit online master of public administration in as few as 16 months. The program features a cohort model, where degree-seekers participate in asynchronous courses. 

Core courses include scope of public administration, methods of analysis in public and urban affairs, and a capstone seminar in public affairs. 

Applicants need to submit undergraduate transcripts with a minimum GPA of 2.85. Additional materials include recommendation letters, an internship waiver for those with experience, a resume, and a statement of purpose. 

Available Scholarships: SDSU Aztec Scholarships

#9 Online College in New Mexico

University of the Southwest

School Information
Location Hobbs, New Mexico
Admission Rate 45%
Graduation Rate 32%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Private

Concentrations Available: N/A

Accredited By: Higher Learning Commission; International Accreditation Council for Business Education

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

USW offers a 12-month master of business administration (MBA) in public administration that takes place fully online. The MBA program includes alternative specializations in accounting, finance, healthcare administration, and data analytics and business intelligence. 

Required courses for the public administration concentration include public policy and government, fundraising for nonprofit organizations, and a capstone in organizational design and strategy. 

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. The application requires a 500-word essay and resume. 

Available Scholarships: N/A

#10 Online College in Pennsylvania

Villanova University

School Information
Location Villanova, Pennsylvania
Admission Rate 28%
Graduation Rate 90%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 23% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Private

Concentrations Available: Public administration, nonprofit management, city management

Accredited By: Middle States Commission on Higher Education; Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Villanova offers a fully online master's in public administration. Learners can complete the degree with 36 credit hours, which they earn over two years of study. 

Required courses at Villanova include public administration theory, leadership ethics, and applied data analysis. The program offers concentration options in the form of three graduate certificates. Degree-seekers finish the program with a capstone comprehensive examination. 

To apply, prospective students must submit transcripts, recommendations, a resume, and a 1-2 page essay. 

Available Scholarships: N/A 

Featured image credit: Sam Edwards, Getty Images

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