A Master in Public Administration degree focuses on management positions in the government and non-profit groups. Frequently, this degree is misinterpreted with the more popular Master in Business Administration (MBA), which is geared toward private companies. Educational courses will include management subjects from an MBA curriculum (human resource, finance, supply chain, etc.) along with public policy issues and economics.
What is the Online MPA?
The online MPA degree features a similar curriculum that you would find at most graduate schools, with an expectation to complete the program in two years. Online accessibility makes it easier to jump into accelerated degrees that can be finished in as little as 12 months.
Accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) is important to establish the quality of education in an online environment. This requires programs offered by schools to be checked by the organization on a routine basis (five years or less) to observe if standards are still being met.
Why Consider Studying Entirely Online?
Technological advancement has made studying for an online degree a better experience. Students are able to pick the exact courses that they need to fulfill degree requirements. Watching classroom lectures and completing assignments are done at the student's convenience and does not require in-person attendance. Discussions and interactions with professors other students are simpler with message boards and chat software when available, eliminating the usually limited office hours to receive needed educational aid.
Freedom in the online environment does require students to be self-disciplined in learning these subjects on their own. It may be wise to create a schedule or set a number of hours per week to focus on coursework and avoid procrastination. Again, the curriculum should have NASPAA accreditation.
Consider Featured Online MPA Programs
Typical Online Coursework & Format for the Online MPA
Coursework largely depends on the university chosen and what the student decides to specialize in. The curriculum usually takes two years to complete. Accelerated opportunities can range from 12 to 18 months.
As expected, core courses will focus on management roles of the specialized degree. Subjects can include economics, research, statistics, ethics, information systems, public finance, policy implementation, and program evaluation.
What Areas of Study / Specialization are there for an Online MPA?
Students have the opportunity to either specialize under a specific career path or to have more general roles in administration, management, and leadership. This could include analyzing and implementing policy under education and health care.
Social service would have a focus on improving crime and poverty in local communities. Environmental policy would look at sustainable practices and waste management to create a greener and healthier community.
Another factor when looking into specialization is the work level desired. There are opportunities in local, state, and federal government and with non-profit organizations. Here are three schools that offer a Master of Public Administration online and are accredited by NASPAA:
Columbia University – Online MPA
Degrees can be completed in just under two years. Students must be registered as full-time as most of the required courses are offered during the day. Over 90% of students were employed in public, private, and non-profit sectors according to the school’s research of student data six months after graduation.
Students pick one of the following concentrations to go with the core curriculum that is separated into policy-making, economics, quantitative analysis, management, and professional development:
- Economic and Political Development
- Energy and Environment
- Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy
- International Finance and Economic Polity
- International Security Policy
- Urban and Social Policy
When completing the core curriculum, students need to select one course inside the politics of policymaking, economics, management, financial management, and one required and one elective of professional development, along with a course in quantitative analysis, a capstone workshop, and an internship. The most flexibility comes in deciding a management course, where there is analysis of organizations in the public sector or specific studies in social impact, sustainability, and entrepreneurial. The following is a list of policy concentrations, and one of them are picked to go along the core courses.
Each specialization of an MPA includes three courses that will coincide with the policy concentration:
- Advanced Policy and Economic Analysis
- Data Analytics and Quantitative Analysis
- Gender and Public Policy
- International Organization and United Nations Studies
- International Conflict Resolution
- Regional Specializations
- Technology, Media, and Communications
Tuition for the upcoming 2019-20 academic year would end up being $57,476, with other fees such as medical insurance and student activities. Note that total would just be for one year and the degree takes approximately 21 months to complete.
In order to graduate with a degree, 54 total credits will need to have been completed with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. They recommend those seeking out the MPA to have a Bachelor’s degree and already have about 3-5 years of related work in the field.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
For those looking for an even quicker process through an MPA program, UNC’s curriculum can be completed in 18 months with 27 credit hours. Their subjects are broken up into Local Government, Public Management, Nonprofit Management, Public Health, and International Relations. The US News and World Report ranks UNC as the second-best MPA program nationally. Here are some of the core courses they offer online:
- Organization Theory
- Public Service Leadership
- PA Analysis and Evaluation
- Professional Communications
- Human Resource Management
- Public Financial Management
- Law for Public Administration
The fundamental core classes will enrich students with what they need to know about public administration. For example, the social, ethical, and political values that need to be considered when creating rules and regulations. Understand how government is organized and the hierarchy of the roles involved. Get an idea of how to conduct policy research and how to effectively skim through data collection and evaluation and creating reports on those findings. Other basics include how to present yourself in a professional manner, an overview of the human resource department, budgeting and evaluating revenue and taxes, and reading cases over administrative and public ethics laws.
There are also 15 credits for elective credits, which explore specific roles a little more directly. This includes tasks such as city and county management, finance in government and nonprofits, sharpening grant writing skills and the evaluation process, managing economic development, and utilizing technology available to you in order to conduct surveys or research social media to engage with the local community.
UNC-Chapel Hill offers some classes that are linked with other universities, such as the American University School of International Service and George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. Ideally, students coming into the program will have a firm grasp on US government and how it functions. There is an introductory course offered for free through the universityâ€™s School of Government once an enrollment deposit has been made.
Applications require a $90 fee along with a $250 non-refundable enrollment deposit in order to reserve your spot in the online MPA program. As of 2018-19, tuition was listed at $1,209 per credit hour. This adds up to nearly $55,000 a year for the average student.
The online program offers live classes with 15 students in the group. For those in the area or near a designated site, opportunities for physical meetings with faculty and classmates are available to discuss course content our public issues that are relevant. There is also the ability to get in-person experience when and where available.
University of Southern California
USC Price offers an online Master of Public Administration that is taught by full-time faculty members. Each course will be taught live and face-to-face with the other students, with coursework being available each week that can be completed at convenience.
The curriculum remains the same for on-campus and online students — the key topics are policy and program evaluation, public financial management, and organizational behavior. Separated into essentially two parts, students develop the skills needed for various public management jobs, and then these skills are put to the test in real-life situations.
Here are the courses required under the categories of institutions and organizations, professional integration, and required analytics. These add up to 24 total units:
- Fundamentals of Public Administration
- Human Behavior in Public Organizations
- Professional Residency in Public Administration
- Capstone Residency in Public Administration
- Capstone in Public Administration
- Essential Statistics for Public Management
- Economics for Public Policy
- Public Financial Management and Budgeting
Also broken up in three categories are electives, which 16 units will ultimately be needed to fulfill.
- Performance Management
- Collaborative Governance
- Strategic Planning in the Public Sector
- Program and Policy Evaluation
- Foundations of Policy Analysis
- Seminar in the Administration of Local Government
- Public Policy Formulation and Implementation
- The Nonprofit Sector and Philanthropy
- Urban Planning and Social Policy
For those that have less than two years of full-time work experience in the area, an additional internship seminar is required, which is worth one unit. A Bachelor’s degree is required for admission as well as compatible GRE/GMAT scores (which are waived if there are five or more years of related work and the degree had a GPA of 3.0 or higher).
Upcoming tuition rate at the university for the 2019-20 academic year is $1,928 per unit. With 40 credits needed for an MPA, that would equate to roughly $77,120 in cost. Application fee is $90 unless the early decision deadline is met, where it is waived.
Notable faculty includes William Leach, an associate professor for program and policy evaluation and collaborative governance. His background includes using over $1 million of research funding provided by the National Science Foundation and has given policy advice to state and federal agencies.
Professors teach public management, strategic planning, and human resources.
What Can You Do with an MPA Degree?
Court, Municipal, and License Clerks
These careers center around the background tasks in a court of law or an agency. Court clerk duties include preparing cases for a judge and reviewing documents that are submitted in court. Municipal clerks record minutes of council meetings and create the agenda for it, and can prepare any city ordinances or proclamations that need to be delivered. License clerks verify the information for those applying for licenses and permits and issues them, also collecting the fees associated with them.
Interviewers for Government Programs
Gather the information for those that are seeking government-assisted programs, such as public housing, unemployment aid, and welfare. This includes explaining the ground rules for eligibility, be it in handouts or answering any questions they may have. Determine if applicants are eligible for whatever program they sign up for and make sure the information is accurate.
Emergency Management Directors
For those wanting to assist in managing crisis and disaster efforts, this opportunity specifically plans, directs, and prepares how the city operates at these times. Anytime tornadic activity or a hurricane is approaching, does the city have protocol in place when disaster strikes? What happens if there are any hazardous mechanical failures such as a nuclear power plant meltdown?