An online Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree provides a broad range of rewarding career options. An MPA degree is the accepted professional credential for public service professionals seeking to advance to middle- and upper-level management positions.
Individuals with a Master of Public Administration degree gain the skill set required to become an effective and highly in-demand leader, with the flexibility to move between government and non-governmental careers. Individuals with a Master of Public Administration degree have opportunities to make an impact on the issues and problems affecting the general public.
According to the notable PublicServiceCareers.org, the MPA degree offers the highest level of education needed for careers in the profession. Earning an MPA degree opens doors to a wide variety of career options—in government, public management, health and human services, and other public or nonprofit organizations.
With many of the 500,000-plus federal employees preparing for retirement, the need for emerging leaders in the public sector will be increasing. The expected job growth of public service career professional is 14% through 2018.
In today’s increasingly global world, institutions of higher learning recognize the need for creating public leaders of today and tomorrow—leaders adequately prepared and astutely skilled to tackle frontiers of public leadership not yet formed. A strong Master of Public Administration degree program advances the development of public leaders.
The online Master of Public Administration programs vary significantly across the colleges and universities providing them. Some of the MPA programs offer a general course of study based on NASPAA (National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration) standards. Others offer specific areas of concentration and/or specialization. Some online MPA programs focus on practical application, others focus on theory, and still other online MPA programs create a balance of the two.
Online Master of Public Administration Degree Program Ranking Guidelines
We selected the online Master of Public Administration programs based on the quality of the program, the types of courses offered, the faculty, rankings, awards, and reputation, including the school’s reputation for effectively providing online degree programs.
1. University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)
Founded in 1880, the University of Southern California (USC) enrolls more international students than any other U.S. university.
One of the world’s leading private research universities, USC offers extensive opportunities for internships and study abroad. Located in downtown Los Angeles, the school has a strong tradition of integrating liberal and professional education and nurturing a commitment of public service.
Established in 1929, the MPA program at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy is one of the oldest and most recognized programs of its kind in the United States. The online MPA program connects cutting-edge research to the practice of public policy and management. The program strives to prepare leaders for all levels of government, as well as for public service and nonprofits. The MPA program prepares students to create passionate solutions to difficult leadership, financial, human resource, and project/program management problems.
Beyond the core courses, online MPA students may select the Local Government, Nonprofit Management, or Public Management specialization as part of their study.
The Master in Public Administration program at USC has received NASPAA accreditation.
USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy was ranked #6 overall among 262 schools of public affairs, as well as #5 in public management, #4 in city management, and #7 in nonprofit management by U.S. News & World Report, all in 2012. USC was also ranked #24 in the 2013 edition of the Best Colleges in National Universities list by U.S. News & World Report, and was listed in the 2013 edition of Best 377 Colleges by Princeton Review.
2. Indiana University (Bloomington, IN)
Indiana University-Bloomington (IU), established in 1820, is the flagship campus of Indiana University’s eight institutions. IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs is the nation’s largest school of public affairs.
The Master of Public Affairs program prepares students for management and policy roles in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Students learn to work well with teams of professionals and effectively communicate and work with colleagues.
Some of the areas of concentration are Local Government Management, Public Financial Administration, Nonprofit Management, and Policy Analysis.
The Master of Public Affairs program comprises 48 credit hours. The Master of Public Affairs degree program has received accreditation from NASPAA.
The Master of Public Affairs degree program includes core classes such as:
- Statistical Analysis for Effective Decision-Making
- Public Management Economics
- Public Management
- Public Financing and Budgeting
- Law and Public Affairs
- Capstone in Public and Environmental Affairs
IU was ranked #3 in the 2012 Public Management Administration list, and #83 in the 2013 edition of Best Colleges in National Universities, by U.S. News & World Report. The university is ranked #58 among research universities by Forbes.
3. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC)
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), a public research university situated in North Carolina’s famed Research Triangle, is the core institution of the University of North Carolina and the second largest university in North Carolina.
UNC provides its undergraduates with a liberal arts education. The university offers both online and traditional degree programs and provides over 70 bachelor degrees, 100+ master degrees, and 74 doctoral degrees. UNC has more than 29,000 students.
With courses ranging from management and leadership to public policy analysis and project evaluation, the Master of Public Administration online degree program at UNC trains leaders for local, state, and federal governments and nonprofit organizations.
In January of 2013, UNC began offering its MPA program online. The school’s Master of Public Administration program is accredited by NASPAA.
The MPA degree program provided by UNC was ranked #23 nationally out of 277 accredited schools of public affairs by U.S. News & World Report, in 2012.
4. University of Colorado Denver (Denver, CO)
The University of Colorado Denver (UCD), located in downtown Denver, along with the Anschutz Medical Campus, is part of the University of Colorado’s four-campus system under the direction of The Regents of University of Colorado. The Denver campus, founded in 1912, provides over 130 accredited degree programs.
The online Master of Public Administration program at UCD requires 36 credit hours (or 39 credit hours, if a student does not have work experience in the public or nonprofit arenas). Students complete six core courses, five elective courses, and a capstone course. They must also complete a client-based capstone project or a two-semester thesis.
Students pursuing the MPA degree completely online can complete the general MPA or study concentrations in Nonprofit Management or Homeland Defense.
UCD’s Master of Public Administration degree program received accreditation from NASPAA.
The MPA program at the UCD was ranked #29 out of 277 accredited schools of public affairs nationally by U.S. News & World Report, in 2012. The University of Colorado was also ranked #34 on Forbes Magazine‘s public colleges list.
5. University of Nebraska Omaha (Omaha, NE)
The University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO) was founded in 1908 as a private, coeducational college by the Presbyterian Theological Seminary. The institution was established to provide “sound learning and practical education” to anyone seeking higher education. Accessibility is a commitment which continues to be an essential part of the school’s vision for the future.
UNO became part of Nebraska’s higher learning system in 1968, and has become the state’s premier metropolitan research university, offering nationally recognized bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.
UNO’s School of Public Administration, College of Public Affairs & Community Service, provides the online Master of Public Administration program. All MPA students are required to take seven core courses. The Capstone Project is the required ending course to complete the MPA degree, unless students select the thesis option.
Students in the online Master of Public Administration program at UNO have five concentration options:
- Aviation Administration
- Local Government
- Nonprofit Management
- Public Management
- Public Works Administration
The online MPA curriculum also allows for one area of specialization: the Criminology and Criminal Justice Specialization.
The Master of Public Administration program at UNO has received accreditation from NASPAA.
UNO’s MPA program was ranked #33 nationally out of 277 accredited schools of public affairs by U.S. News & World Report, in 2012.
6. University of Illinois Springfield (Springfield, IL)
The University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) is located in the Illinois state capital. The university was established in 1969 as Sangamon State University by the Illinois General Assembly, and became a part of the University of Illinois system in 1995. UIS offers 44 degree-granting programs at the undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral levels.
The Master of Public Administration online program at UIS covers subjects such as:
- Budget and finance
- Policy analysis
- Organizational behavior
- Quantitative and statistical analysis
- Human resource management
- Program evaluation
The MPA online program emphasizes ethical behavior, as well as an appreciation for the basic values and processes of American democracy.
In addition to the online MPA program, a nonprofit management certificate, a certificate in homeland security, and a joint-degree in MPA/MPH are also available online.
The Master’s of Public Administration program at UIS has received accreditation from NASPAA.
UIS has been ranked the #2 public regional university in the Midwest Region in the 2013 edition of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report. The school was ranked #4 in the same category for the previous three years: 2010, 2011, and 2012. The MPA program at UIS was also ranked #87 nationally out of 277 accredited schools of public affairs by U.S. News & World Report, in 2012.
7. Villanova University (Villanova, PA)
Villanova is a coeducational, Roman Catholic institution, founded in 1842 by the Order of Saint Augustine. The university, located on Philadephia’s famed “main line,” provides a wide array of undergraduate and graduate degree via the Villanova School of Business, the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing, and the Villanova School of Law.
Villanova’s online Master of Public Administration program features a video-based, e-learning system, which utilizes recognized scholars and practitioners to help students develop their analytical, decision-making, management, and leadership skills, providing them with the knowledge needed to influence organizational change, develop programs, and solve problems.
The online MPA program entails 36 credit earned through 12 classes.
The Master’s of Public Administration program at Villanova has received NASPAA accreditation.
Villanova’s online MPA program was ranked #97 nationally out of 277 accredited schools of public affairs in 2012 by U.S. News & World Report, while the university as a whole is ranked #1 in the 2013 edition of that magazine’s Best Colleges in Regional Universities (North). Villanova is also included in the 2013 edition of Best 377 Colleges by Princeton Review.
8. University of Baltimore (Baltimore, MD)
The University of Baltimore (UB), founded in 1925, is a public institution offering undergraduate, graduate, and professional education in downtown Baltimore. In 1988, the university became part of the University System of Maryland.
UB offers numerous undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree programs and several joint degree programs focusing on business, law, public affairs, and the arts and sciences.
The Master of Public Administration online program at the University of Baltimore, which is presented by the Schaefer Center for Public Policy, is a two-year, 42-credit program that can be completed entirely online through the web-MPA program.
Students in the Master of Public Administration program can choose from among four specializations:
- Public Policy and Administration
- Health Care Policy and Administration
- Budgeting and Fiscal Administration
- Public and Nonprofit Management
UB also offers a dual JD/MP degree, in which students obtain both degrees with 18–21 fewer credits than needed to obtain the two degrees independently.
The College of Public Affairs’s Master of Public Administration program has received accreditation from NASPAA.
UB’s College of Public Affairs is ranked #73 nationally in 2013 edition of Best Grad Schools by U.S. News & World Report.
9. University of San Francisco (San Francisco, CA)
The University of San Francisco (USF), established in 1855 by a small group of Jesuit priests, became the first university in the city of San Francisco. The Jesuit values of the school continue to put a strong focus on social justice, commitment to service, diverse governance, and ethical responsibility.
USF has five schools: the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Education, the School of Law, the School of Management, and the School of Nursing and Health Professions. All are powered by a dual emphasis on academic rigor and social justice.
The Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good is dedicated to inspiring and preparing USF students to pursue lives and careers of ethical public service and the common good.
In the Master’s in Public Administration online degree program, USF students learn to develop their managerial skills, apply management theory, enhance their understanding of ethical practices in the public sector, and build their competencies in planning, organizing, staffing, and evaluating the work of public agencies. USF’s Master degree in Public Administration program includes 39 credits.
NASPAA provides accreditation for the Master of Public Administration program at USF’s School of Management.
The Public Affairs grad school was ranked #121 nationally out of 277 accredited schools of public affairs, and the university overall was ranked #106 among the nation’s Best National Universities, by U.S. News & World Report in 2013. USF is also cited as one of the Best 377 Colleges by Princeton Review in 2013, and was included among the country’s top 50 universities by Washington Monthly in 2011.
10. Penn State World Campus (State College, PA)
Pennsylvania State University’s University Park campus—located in the town of State College, and better known as “Penn State”—is the flagship campus of the Pennsylvania State University system.
Penn State World Campus is the university’s online campus. Penn State World Campus has partnered with Penn State’s School of Public Affairs to offer an online MPA program.
The online Master of Public Administration program helps students manage more effectively and promote positive change in the public and nonprofit sectors.
Besides combining theoretical and applied concepts, the MPA curriculum at Penn State covers subjects such as finance, organizational governance, and administration, while also providing “real-world” experiences for the novice administrator. The Master in Public Administration degree includes 36 credits.
Many MPA graduates work as administrators for government agencies, larger corporations in the public and private sectors, community organizations, or in a number of other areas such as tribal politics, charities, criminal justice, and academia.
NASPAA has accredited Penn State’s Master of Public Administration program.
Penn State is ranked in the Top 25 for its online undergraduate and graduate programs, and #19 for its online graduate business program, in the 2013 Best Online Education Program Rankings of America’s Best Colleges, by U.S. News & World Report. Penn State is also included the 2013 edition of Best 377 Colleges by Princeton Review.
11. Marist College (Poughkeepsie, NY)
Marist College, chartered in 1929, is a small, private, liberal arts college located on the east bank of the Hudson River about half way between New York City and Albany.
The college offers more than 60 bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. Marist’s online learning includes courses, certificates, and bachelor’s and master’s degree programs via their iLearn distance learning system.
Marist’s Master of Public Administration program is especially relevant for health care, criminal justice, and human service professionals and those interested in public sector and nonprofit administration.
The online MPH program covers the legal, political, social and ethical context of administration regarding pertinent process and theories. Students learn how to effectively use an array of management and administrative techniques. The online MPH program provides the skills required to effectively manage public and nonprofits.
Students can take their electives in one of three focus areas:
- Ethical leadership
- Public management
- Healthcare administration
Marist College is ranked #8 among Regional Universities (North) by U.S. News & World Report in the 2013 edition of their annual Best Colleges report. The school is also listed in the 2013 edition of the Best 377 Colleges by Princeton Review.
12. University of North Dakota (Grand Forks, ND)
University of North Dakota (UND) is located on the Red River of the North, which forms the border between North Dakota and Minnesota, not far from the Canadian border. The university, which was founded in 1883, is the oldest and largest university in the state.
UND offers more than 200 fields of study, from baccalaureate through doctoral and professional degrees.
The online Master of Public Administration degree at the UND School of Business and Public Administration provides a Health Administration track for students interested in health-related careers. The online MPA degree at UND requires 35 credits. Students also may pursue a fully online graduate certificate in Health Administration, Public Administration, Policy Analysis, or Social Entrepreneurship.
The Master of Public Administration program at the UND has received accreditation from NASPAA.
UND is included in the 2013 edition of Best 377 Colleges by Princeton Review. The MPA program was listed among nationally accredited schools of public affairs by U.S. News & World Report, in 2012.
13. Florida Institute of Technology (Melbourne, FL)
Florida Institute of Technology, also known as Florida Tech, is a private, research university situated near the Kennedy Space Center and Florida Tech Research Park. The university has five academic divisions with strong emphases on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Florida Tech consistently ranks among the best national doctorate-granting universities in the United States.
Florida Tech’s Master degree in Public Administration program thoroughly covers the ethical and sociological behavior within public organizations. The core competencies of Florida Tech’s online MPA program include teamwork, leadership, decision-making, communication, ethics, and diversity. The MPA program involves 36 completed credits.
Graduates from the Florida Tech Master of Public Administration program work for federal, state, and local government agencies, including the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), NASA (national Aeronautics and Space Administration), the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), and the SBA (Small Business Administration), as well as non-profit organizations.
Florida Tech has been ranked a Tier 1 Best National University, and has also been included on the Top Online Education honor roll list for bachelor’s and graduate programs, by U.S. News & World Report. The university has also been rated one of the nation’s best schools in the Fiske Guide to Colleges, as well as being named a “best buy” in Barron’s Best Buys in College Education and one of the Southeast’s best universities by Princeton Review.
14. Walden University (Minneapolis, MN)
Walden University, established in 1970, is a private, for-profit university and a leading provider of distance learning in the United States. The school is part of a network of campus- and online-based universities owned by Laureate Education, Inc. Walden University focuses on relevant, actionable learning.
Walden University consists of five colleges offering more than 60 online degree programs and over 300 specializations and concentrations. The school also provides online certificates, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in a variety of subjects.
Students in the online Master of Public Administration degree program learn effective ways to balance budgets, develop and negotiate contracts, manage conflict, and build community partnerships.
In addition to a general Master of Public Administration degree, students can earn the MPA degree in 11 different specializations, including Terrorism, Mediation and Peace, Emergency Management, and Homeland Security Policy and Coordination.
15. Post University (Waterbury, CT)
Post University, founded in 1890 and located about halfway between Danbury and Hartford, is a small university providing on-campus and online undergraduate and graduate degrees in an array of subjects.
Post University provides accelerated online degree programs and professional certificates. An early leader in online education, Post became the first college in Connecticut and in New England to provide accredited, accelerated degree programs fully online.
Unlike some online MPA Degree programs which focus almost exclusively on the public sector, the program at Post integrates its MBA curriculum into its online Master of Public Administration degree program to help students enhance their executive administration skills and make an immediate difference in their roles.
Students in the MPA online degree program learn to use business knowledge, planning techniques, and decision tools to lead and manage change in organizations. The program covers how global, national, regional, and local trends affect and shape innovation in government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and public sector programs.
Post University’s highly interactive classes are offered in eight-week modules, six times a year, enabling students to complete the online Master of Public Administration degree in less time without sacrificing quality.
16. DeVry University (Downers Grove, IL)
DeVry University—founded in 1931, with headquarters near Chicago—is a division of DeVry, Inc., a proprietary institution of higher learning.
DeVry University is a private, for-profit institution with more than 80,000 students. The school has over 95 locations across North America and also provides online education. Students can obtain graduate degrees online, onsite or a mix of both through 8-week sessions offered six times per year.
The Master’s of Public Administration program, offered through DeVry University’s Keller Graduate School of Management, requires 45 credit hours. Keller’s specialized Master of Public Administration degree program emphasizes practical applications.
Students in the MPA program are required to choose one of three areas of emphasis:
- Healthcare Management
- Government Management
- Nonprofit Management
DeVry’s online bachelor program is ranked #61 among the Best Online Bachelors Program by U.S. News & World Report, in 2013.
17. Upper Iowa University (Fayette, IA)
Upper Iowa University (UIU), founded in 1857, is located in a rural community in the northeastern corner of the state. The fully accredited private university has numerous learning centers in the U.S., online programs, and centers in Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore.
Several of UIU’s U.S. locations are located on military bases to better serve active military personnel and civilians in the area. Because of the numerous locations, military personnel can easily shift the format through which they pursue their education depending on whether they are based in the United States or deployed overseas.
The Master of Public Administration online degree program at UIU offers a General Studies degree, as well as a degree with an emphasis on Government Administration, Health and Human Services, Emergency Management and Homeland Security, Nonprofit Organizations, or Public Personnel Management. The online MPA degree requires 42 credits of graduate coursework.
The program has a mission to provide a diverse population of adult learners with an opportunity to develop the analytical, administrative, leadership, and managerial skills required to promote the public good and strengthen the core democratic values via service in government agencies and nonprofits.
18. Strayer University (Manassas, VA)
Strayer University, established in 1892 as Strayer’s Business College, is an accredited network of more than 90 campuses throughout 20+ U.S. states.
The school has evolved over the years to provide diploma, certificate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs in a broad selection of subjects. In December of 2011, the university acquired the Jack Welch Management Institute, which provides a fully online Executive MBA program.
Students can take a combination of online and on-campus courses. However, over 50% of the students enrolled take all of their courses online. Strayer University is a GoArmyEd, NCPDLP, and Air University ABC school.
The university’s online MPA program offers students the theory and practice needed to succeed in the management and operation of government and nonprofit agencies, nongovernmental organizations, political offices, lobbying and consulting firms, and activist organizations.
The MPA online program covers the structures, processes, and functions of the executive branch agencies of local, state, and national governments and of the nonprofit sector. Students learn about the methods, models, processes, and concepts of public policy analysis, and develop skills to apply analytical techniques.
The program covers methodologies for designing evaluation studies, gathering data, and evaluating and disseminating findings.
19. Kaplan University (Chicago, IL)
Kaplan University, a part of the Kaplan Higher Education Corp., is headquartered in the largest of the Quad Cities along the Mississippi River, with numerous locations across the United States. The university provides an array of online and traditional undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as certificates and diplomas.
Kaplan’s Master of Public Administration online degree program provides practicing and inspiring administrators the important management skills required to provide effective leadership in a wide variety of public service fields. The program covers subjects such as leadership in the public sector, human resource management in the public sector, and finance and the administration of public funds.
The MPA online degree program includes intensive study in areas such as:
- Criminal Justice
- General MPA
- Health Care Management
- Governmental Management
- Fire Science and Emergency Services
20. Capella University (Minneapolis, MN)
Capella University, established in 1993 and a subsidiary of the publicly traded Capella Education Company, is an accredited online university.
Capella University Online offers more than 130 graduate and undergraduate specializations and close to 50 online degree programs. The university provides certificates, bachelor’s, master’s, education specialist, and doctoral degree programs.
The online Master degree in of Public Administration program, grounded in national public administration curriculum standards, focuses on building public value through establishing collaborative networks, improving professional communication skills, promoting ethical performance standards, and creating and achieving solutions to the challenges of public protection, policy, and governance.
Students can choose to study for the online Master of Public Administration degree with a program concentration focus.