Best Master’s in Public Administration Programs

January 10, 2023 | Admin

Masters in Public Administration
Best master's in public administration programs badge

For most people, a degree in public administration prepares them to work with the government. Whether it is at the federal, state, or local level, anyone with a degree in public administration has the knowledge and expertise to help with government policies. That is not all; a public administration graduate can also work both in the non-profit or private sectors with different types of work to fulfill.

Generally, a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree prepares students to be great agents of change in their communities. Regardless of where someone chooses to work, either in the public or private sectors, a public administration degree is instrumental in bringing change and development. While some people believe that working at the federal government is the ultimate goal, a degree in public administration also prepares people to be the right candidates for political positions like city mayors.

Best Public Administration Schools

Rank School Location
1University of WyomingLaramie, Wyoming
2San Diego State UniversitySan Diego, California
3University of North CarolinaChapel Hill, North Carolina
4University of MontanaMissoula, Montana
5Texas Tech UniversityLubbock, Texas

Why should someone study public administration today? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a significant portion of public administrators is preparing for retirement. They will be leaving behind a large gap in the workforce, vacancies, and opportunities for those with a degree in public administration to fill. Plus, the projection is that students striving to fill leadership positions will demand careers in public administration in the next two years.

A degree in public administration also offers graduates the opportunity to grow. Typically, apart from the personal fulfillment you get by earning this degree, it also prepares you to get jobs at different levels. Since the goal of every career one pursues is to earn a higher salary, a master’s degree in public administration offers a similar position. However, just like in most employment fields, getting a job with a degree in public administration is not easy.

Top Master’s of Public Administration Programs


University of Wyoming

  • Laramie, Wyoming
  • Graduation Rate: 54%

The University of Wyoming offers an online Masters in Public Administration. Students without two years of professional experience must complete an internship. This interdisciplinary program gives students a well-rounded education in the field.

School Overview

Tuition per year: $5,581 in-state; $18,151 non-resident
Visit School Website

San Diego State University

  • San Diego, California
  • Graduation Rate: 83%

San Diego State University takes the top spot on our list due to its affordability and the quality of its Masters in Public Administration (MPA) program. This program can be completed over the Internet, with the exception of two short on-campus residencies at the beginning and end of the 16-month course of study. It is designed for professionals working in non-profits or government agencies.

School Overview

Tuition per year: $7,510 in-state; $19,390 non-resident
Visit School Website

University of North Carolina

  • Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • Graduation Rate: 91%

The University of North Carolina offers many excellent online master’s programs, including a Masters in Public Administration. Students can choose from several specializations, including public management, local government, public health, international relations, and more. This program takes 45 credits to complete, so most students will complete it in 18-24 months.

School Overview

Tuition per year: $8,980 in-state; $36,159 non-resident
Visit School Website

University of Montana

  • Missoula, Montana
  • Graduation Rate: 42%

The University of Montana has a top Master’s degree in Public Administration that can be completed over the Internet. This program requires students to complete a final portfolio project to graduate. Students can concentrate in Non-Profit Administration or design their own concentration.

School Overview

Tuition per year: $7,354 in-state; $26,218 non-resident
Visit School Website

Texas Tech University

  • Lubbock, Texas
  • Graduation Rate: 60%

Texas Tech University features the leading MPA program in the state. This degree can be completed in its entirety over the Internet. Students can concentrate in nonprofit management, healthcare administration, public management, and environmental policy and administration.

School Overview

Tuition per year: $9,300 in-state; $19,260 non-resident
Visit School Website

Indiana University

  • Bloomington, Indiana
  • Graduation Rate: 76%

Indiana University is one of the leading public universities in the nation, and its Masters in Public Administration is particularly highly rated. This degree can be completed entirely over the Internet, though students can also participate in an optional one-week on-campus experience. This program requires an internship, which ensures that students get practical experience before they graduate.

School Overview

Tuition per year: $10,947 in-state; $36,512 non-resident
Visit School Website

University of Missouri

  • Columbia, Missouri
  • Graduation Rate: 68%

The University of Missouri has a top online Master of Public Affairs program. This program can be completed in two years of part-time study. All online students pay in-state tuition, no matter where they live.

School Overview

Tuition per year: $10,477 in-state; $28,348 non-resident
Visit School Website

University of North Dakota

  • Grand Forks, North Dakota
  • Graduation Rate: 55%

The University of North Dakota offers a leading online MPA degree. This program takes two years to complete on a part-time schedule. Students can choose between a Social Entrepreneurship track or a Health Administration track.

School Overview

Tuition per year: $9,736 in-state; $15,895 non-resident
Visit School Website

Kansas State University

  • Manhattan, Kansas
  • Graduation Rate: 63%

Kansas State University has a unique and innovative Masters in Public Administration. This degree can be completed mostly over the Internet but does require some in-person coursework. Students can complete this program in five semesters of full-time study.

School Overview

Tuition per year: $10,440 in-state; $26,316 non-resident
Visit School Website

Texas A&M University

  • College Station, Texas
  • Graduation Rate: 80%

Texas A&M University is known for being a leader in online education, and its online MPA program is particularly notable. The Online Executive Master of Public Service and Administration program requires a one-week residency twice during the online degree program. The NASPAA accredited program delivers an innovative applied capstone experience. Tracks are available in Homeland Security, Non-Profit Management, and Public Management.

School Overview

Tuition per year: $12,153 in-state; $38,602 non-resident
Visit School Website

Kent State University

  • Kent, Ohio
  • Graduation Rate: 55%

Kent State University offers a fully online Masters in Public Administration that can be completed in two years. Students must complete a capstone project in order to graduate. Students without relevant professional experience must also complete an internship.

School Overview

Tuition per year: $10,602 in-state; $19,478 non-resident
Visit School Website

University of Delaware

  • Newark, Delaware
  • Graduation Rate: 81%

The University of Delaware is one of the lesser-known schools on this list, but its MPA program is top-notch. This fully online program can be completed in two and a half years. Students must complete a capstone project to graduate.

School Overview

Tuition per year: $14,280 in-state; $35,710 non-resident
Visit School Website

Ohio University

  • Athens, Ohio
  • Graduation Rate: 62%

Ohio University may not get the acclaim of Ohio State, but it does have a more highly ranked online MPA program. Students can choose from specializations in crisis and emergency management, public leadership and management, nonprofit management, and state and local government management. This program takes two years to complete.

School Overview

Tuition per year: $12,612 in-state; $22,406 non-resident
Visit School Website

Clemson University

  • Clemson, South Carolina
  • Graduation Rate: 81%

Clemson University offers the leading Masters in Public Administration in the South. There are five specializations available: emergency management, homeland defense and security, non-profit management, or local and state government. This synchronous online program culminates in either a comprehensive exam or a capstone project. Students without at least five years of experience are encouraged but not required to complete an internship.

*To calculate tuition cost, visit https://www.clemson.edu/finance/student-financials/tuition-fees/index.html and click on the “online” tab to get to the cost per program.

School Overview

Tuition per year (estimate): $21,414 (full time); $14,304 (part time)*
Visit School Website

Virginia Commonwealth University

  • Richmond, Virginia
  • Graduation Rate: 61%

Virginia Commonwealth University has an elite online MPA program. Both students with professional experience and those without are accepted, though students without experience must complete an internship. This degree requires 36 credits to complete.

School Overview

Tuition per year: $14,596 in-state; $35,904 non-resident
Visit School Website

University of Pittsburgh

  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Graduation Rate: 81%

The University of Pittsburgh offers a unique Masters in Public Administration that is aimed at experienced professionals. Applicants must have at least five years of experience to be considered. This program is designed to be completed on a part-time schedule.

School Overview

Tuition per year: $19,718 in-state; $33,746 non-resident
Visit School Website

Seton Hall University

  • South Orange, New Jersey
  • Graduation Rate: 64%

Seton Hall University in New Jersey has an excellent online MPA program. This program is aimed at students who plan to work in the non-profit sector. Students finish this program with a practicum, internship, or research seminar.

School Overview

Tuition per year: $43,780
Visit School Website

DePaul University

  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Graduation Rate: 73%

DePaul University offers the leading Masters in Public Administration in Illinois, though the program’s online delivery means that it can be completed from anywhere. Part-time students can complete this degree in two years. Specializations are available in international public management, domestic public management, emergency management, and metropolitan and urban affairs.

School Overview

Tuition per year: $41,202
Visit School Website

American University

  • Washington, D.C., United States
  • Graduation Rate: 81%

American University in Washington D.C. has one of the top online MPA programs in the region. This program takes two years to complete. It provides students with a well-rounded general education in the field.

School Overview

Tuition per year: $49,889
Visit School Website

Johns Hopkins University

  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • Graduation Rate: 92%

Johns Hopkins University is one of the most prestigious institutions in the country, so it’s no surprise that its MPA program makes this list. This online program requires a year and a half to two years to complete. Students must complete a capstone project before graduation.

School Overview

Tuition per year: $55,350
Visit School Website

Villanova University

  • Villanova, Pennsylvania
  • Graduation Rate: 86%

Villanova University offers an elite Masters in Public Administration degree that can be completed over the Internet. This program requires 36 credits of work for graduation, which takes most students two years. Students must pass a final comprehensive exam to graduate.

School Overview

Tuition per year: $52,578
Visit School Website

Northwestern University

  • Evanston, Illinois
  • Graduation Rate: 95%

Northwestern University offers a Masters in Public Administration that can be completed entirely online or through a blend of online and on-campus instruction. There are several concentrations available, including data analytics for global health, public policy, and public administration. Students can choose to complete either a thesis or a capstone project before graduation. Course tuition is charged a la carte, per course.

School Overview

Tuition per program: $48,000
Visit School Website

University of Miami

  • Florida
  • Graduation Rate: 81%

The University of Miami has a unique online MPA program. Students take one seven-week course at a time. 36 credits are required for graduation.

School Overview

Tuition per year: $51,930
Visit School Website

University of Southern California

  • Los Angeles, California
  • Graduation Rate: 92%

The University of Southern California has a leading online Masters in Public Administration. This program does require students to complete two residencies at USC’s campus in Los Angeles. Students who do not have at least two years of relevant experience under their belts must complete an internship and an internship course.

School Overview

Tuition per year: $58,195
Visit School Website

University of San Francisco

  • San Francisco, California
  • Graduation Rate: 71%

The University of San Francisco is a small private institution with a powerhouse MPA program. This program prefers that students have two years of professional experience, though it is not required. Internships are required in this program. Students can choose to concentrate in Health Services Administration.

School Overview

Tuition per year: $50,282
Visit School Website

Our Ranking Methodology

Our formula utilized two different statistics to rank the schools in this list. First of all, we considered each school’s yearly tuition. Public universities usually charge different rates for in-state and non-resident students, but we only considered the in-state rate in this situation. We also looked at each school’s graduation rate. To come up with each school’s rating, we took the yearly tuition rate and added a multiplier that is equal to the percentage of enrolled students who failed to graduate. E.g. School A has a yearly tuition charge of $15,000 and a graduation rate of 80%. School A’s rating would be 18,000 (15,000 x 120%).

Public Administration Expert Q&A

Richard Greggory Johnson III is a tenured Full Professor and Department Chair for the Department of Public and Nonprofit Administration, School of Management, University of San Francisco. He is also Director of the Business Minor in the School of Management as well.

What drew you to the field of public administration?
I was an Urban Studies Major in college and public administration were apart of the major.  So I fell in love with public administration because of it’s presence in my college major. 

What are some of the burgeoning areas of the field?
Social Equity is blowing up in my field and it is very exciting! The Social Equity Leadership Conference will occur June 8 to 10, 2022 and will be attended by professionals and students interested in equity matters. 

What is the most common career and/or employer for public administration graduates? 
There are many careers in public administration such as the public sector, including Federal, State and Local agencies.  Or a person gets a Ph.D. in public administration and becomes a professor and/or scholar.  The options are endless. 

What do you most enjoy about the field of public administration?
I love that the field is about public service and helping our national community. 

What advice do you give to aspiring public administration students?
My advice would be to get some type of internship or a mentoring opportunity. 

What advice do you give to graduating public administration students?
My advice would be to use your professors and mentors as a resource for expended career development. 

What personal qualities or academic strengths make someone a good fit for public administration?
ETHICAL LEADERSHIP is number one on the list!!

What do students find most challenging about public administration?
I believe that pay is always displayed as a challenge compared to the private sector. 

Are there any common misconceptions about the field of public administration?
The number one misconception is just one of branding as people really may not know anything about the field.

MPA Curriculum

Suppose you’re interested in learning about policy development and implementation, social justice, good governance, and serving the public with good effect; you may consider taking a course in public administration. 

Public administration involves the implementation of government policies at national, state, and local levels. It focuses explicitly on upholding civil society through public service, achievable by managing and enforcing government operations executed in the public interest. These may include public program growth, public policy, and public finance. 

Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) is a degree at master’s level that focuses on public affairs and prepares graduates for careers in leadership positions in local, federal, state jurisdiction levels, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). MPA majorly focuses on instilling administration skills in its graduates and making them ready for career opportunities in nonprofit sectors, public sectors, and private sectors.

The MPA program was first established in 1914 at the University of Michigan in the Department of Political Science. During this time, the program helped eradicate corruption and promote efficiency in municipal governments. 

 Many people often relate MPA to MPP (Master’s in Public Policy). While there’s a very significant overlap between the two, there’s a significant difference too. For instance, MPP majorly looks at analyzing and designing new policies, while MPA focuses on implementing the strategies.

Unlike some degrees designed to help graduates venture into business or academia, a Master’s in Public Administration is mostly considered a noble course with just cause. The program looks forward to preparing students for leadership in all government and nonprofit sectors. It’s most suitable if you have a passion for serving others and will open your door to several career opportunities within your interests. For instance, you can specialize in healthcare during your course and later pursue a health administration career with a government or nonprofit organization.

Public administrators are vital in society, and they make very crucial decisions. Public administration classes range from financial management and budgeting to policy and research. Its courses also include critical thinking, writing, and research. All these skills are significant assets to everyone serving in the administration field in any sector, making an MPA degree a great choice if you’re thinking of serving the public at any level.

Similarly, MPA is a terminal degree; hence you don’t have to acquire further education to advance your career. Attaining an MPA degree is enough. Most national and international policymakers worldwide and public sector leaders are holders of an MPA degree.

Also, MPA benefits your interpersonal interactions since some of its core courses will equip you with valuable soft skills. The abilities like critical thinking, strong communication, fundraising abilities, analytical skills, and deductive reasoning are all unique features that you can get from studying the degree. As a result, public administration graduates can transform their town, state, or country through better decisions and insights.

The MPA program is quite broad. Its curriculum often comprises features from MBA and MPP. As a result, you’ll most probably learn several management topics such as strategy, human resource management, and finance, with a focus on government and nonprofit organizations. Similarly, public policy courses, such as economics and policy analysis, may also be included.

The programs are interdisciplinary and may include classes in sociology, law, economics, political science, and anthropology. 

The MPA program allows for specialization, and you can choose a single course and specialize. For instance, if you’re aspiring for a financial aid career, you can choose to specialize in a course in financial management. However, the program has core courses that cut across in general. These include decision making, statistics, research methods, problem-solving, management concepts, and ethics. 

Other classes you may take depending on your specialization include public finance, program implementation, microeconomics, information systems, and policy formulation. 

The prerequisites you’ll have to meet to get a graduate certificate in MPA degree depends on the university or college you want to enroll in and whether you’re at an entry-level or mid-career level. However, here are some of the basics that may cut across or apply to most schools.

  • MPA is a professional degree. As a result, you’ll need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college to enroll.
  • Several graduate schools may require that you take a Graduate Records Exam (GRE) before you apply.
  • On several occasions, the degree takes two years of full-time study to complete. However, this duration may extend more depending on the mode of study you choose (for example, part-time or online). Similarly, the duration may reduce some executive degrees meant for mid-career professionals, which may take up to a year.

Studying for an MPA degree is a noble choice if you understand it and you’re passionate about serving. However, remember to research the available schools, review the alumni’s experiences after graduation, and understand the opportunities that the degree may open for you.  

What Can You Do with an MPA

When you are walking or driving across the streets, you will likely notice well-maintained sidewalks, traffic signals, street lights, fire hydrants, and recreational fields. Additionally, you will notice water rarely runs out in your homes, constant electricity supply, and proper garbage collection and recycling. You drive along with residential areas and you will notice various utility work taking place. Public administrators do all these utility works. 

Individuals performing public administrative duties have to undergo a public administration course. As much as a bachelor’s degree in public administration will qualify you to perform public administration duties, advancing in the course could be more beneficial. Therefore, having a master’s degree in public administration will place you in leadership positions to ensure your city’s economic health. So, what kind of roles will you pursue after graduating with a master’s in public administration? 

Here are a few careers: 

  • City Manager: City managers have many responsibilities which mainly involve daily supervision of county or city activities. Master’s in public administration is significant in training and acquiring the necessary skills to manage city and county activities. As a city manager, which will be involved in various administrative tasks, including the formulation and implementation of public policies. 
  • Budget Manager: One other career that one could pursue after completing a master’s degree in public administration is a budget manager. This career will earn you a position in either state or federal government. As a budget manager, your central role would be to oversee public resources distribution to ensure they are efficiently and fairly distributed. 
  • Social Service Managers: Individuals who have a passion for social work could pursue a master’s degree in public administration. As a social service manager, you will be tasked with the coordination and overseeing of community programs. 
  • Public Administration Consultant: Public administration consultants play a vital role in the management of government institutions. They provide significant advice on the best ways of running and managing the operations of institutions. To pursue a career as a public administration consultant, one must obtain a master’s degree in public administration.
  • Tax Examiner: A master’s in public administration equips you with the necessary skills and knowledge required to be a tax examiner. The tax examiner ensures all citizens, organizations, and businesses remit all their taxes to the local, state, and federal governments as required by the law. Besides, they are responsible for the collection of tax overdue and conducting audits on businesses. 
  • Mayor: From various surveys, most public administration graduates’ dream job is to be elected as the city mayor. However, it is essential to note that the path to becoming a mayor is quite challenging and requires several years of experience. Besides, you must be able to pursue different administration programs, such as office administration programs
  • Policy Analyst: The policy analyst’s primary responsibility is to raise awareness of some public policy issues that influence a country’s social and political events. They research various policies by analyzing and evaluating current policies and making recommendations on areas of improvement. 

How Long Does It Take to Get a Master of Public Administration Degree?

Obtaining a bachelor’s degree in public administration would enable a fresh graduate to access various entry-level jobs. However, most professionals at the peak of their careers opt to pursue advanced graduate education to obtain high-level positions in their workplaces. In the past, pursuing lifelong education was quite tricky as it was expensive. However, the introduction of federal student aid is open for all students making advanced education programs less expensive. 

Most universities provide online master’s degree and on-campus programs, mainly focused on finance, program evaluation, and management. The course takes 2-3 years in most leading universities, depending on the school’s programs. MPA programs typically have regular introductory coursework, but in the final stages of the program, one is likely to concentrate on a field of their choice depending on the specific career they would love to pursue. Some of the possible concentrations in MPA include:

  • International Relations
  • Public Health, 
  • Non-Profit Management,
  • Local Government
  • Community and Economic Development
  • Criminal Justice 

What Is the Job Search Like After Graduating from an MPA Program? 

Successfully obtaining your master’s degree in public administration isn’t a direct ticket to landing a job. Unlike other public administration professionals attached to various institutions, recent graduates seeking fresh job opportunities might face job search challenges. According to a recent study by The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA), only less than 50% of MPA graduates end up working in federal and state government institutions. 

Additionally, close to 45% of the graduates are absorbed into private and nonprofit entities across the country, which indicates that close to 90% of the graduates go directly into the job market, with only 10% finding it difficult to find jobs immediately after graduation. Hence, a master’s in public administration is one such course that would directly land you a position in the job market once you step out of college. 

Just like any other career, jobs in public administration require experience and expertise. One way of advancing in your career is through advanced education by obtaining a master’s degree in public administration. In most instances, the course takes 2-3 years to complete the program. With a master of public administration, you will be able to take up various leadership roles, including the city manager, budget manager, political analyst, social service manager, and public administration consultant. 

Common Career Paths for Someone with A Master’s in Public Administration 

Master’s in public administration is amongst the most sought master’s degree programs in colleges and universities.  Public administration programs equip professionals with the necessary skills required to serve communities by managing government and non-profit organizations to change communities and the individuals they lead positively. Even though a bachelor’s degree in public administration helps students find a career, a master’s enables professionals to advance quickly. 

MPA also opens up new career opportunities in different fields. Hence, as a public administrator, you are most likely to serve the government and non-profit organizations in various departments. The most likely departments include housing, transportation, public works, law enforcement and public safety, and disaster response, among other areas of interest. All these areas of interest lead to various career paths that one might choose to pursue. This article analyses some of the common career paths one might pursue after graduating with an MPA, the benefits of an MPA in your career, and an MPA holder’s career trajectory. 

How Will an MPA Help Your Career?

Studying for a master’s in public administration has several implications on your career. Managing an organization or serving the public can be quite challenging for a fresh graduate. However, an MPA enables the graduates to gain the required capabilities and resources that you might need to succeed in your career. 

Let’s take a look at how MPA will be beneficial to your career: 

  • MPA Enhances your Leadership and Management Skills: To effectively advance your career, you must develop your leadership and management capabilities. MPA degree mainly focuses on leadership and management roles, which will help you grow in your career. 
  • Build a Career Network: Postgraduate education allows you to network with students both nationally and internationally. This helps build your network, which might be beneficial when you are seeking new career opportunities. 
  • Ensures Career Flexibility: Obtaining a master’s in public administration opens up new career opportunities that you might explore. These new opportunities might come with new positions and higher salaries. 
  • You Will Gain Expertise in Different Topics: As a public administrator, you need to understand various public sector topics. A master’s in public administration allows you to understand and specialize in multiple areas, including health management, policymaking, public management, and international development. 

What Does Your Career Trajectory Look Like After You Graduate with an MPA? 

With the various resources and expensive nature of postgraduate education, a graduate has higher expectations once they step out of college. Some of these expectations, in most instances, might be unrealistic. Fortunately, for MPA graduates, they might explore several job openings after obtaining their master’s degree. Therefore, most people have a forward career trajectory as MPA advances them into various positions. 

Obtaining an MPA, especially for working professionals, might be quite challenging. However, the course has proved to be beneficial to graduates in the long-run. The MPA degree’s versatility provides several career opportunities to recent graduates. Besides, it places working professionals in various leadership positions, which help advance their careers. Well, if you were doubting the importance of an MPA, now you have a clear understanding. 

In Summary

Let us be honest; getting a job today is challenging. If you don’t get a job immediately after graduating, you may end up working in fields different from what you studied. While it may seem easier to get a job with an MPA degree, the truth is that it calls for unmatched expertise, experience, and a level of connection to land a well-paying job. For this reason, anyone looking to earn a master’s degree in public administration must be ready to hassle searching for a job.

Fortunately, with an MPA, the chances and opportunities to climb the hierarchy and seniority ladder in any position are high. And the end of it all means earning more than a counterpart with just a bachelor’s degree.  Besides, there is an increased need for public administrators in both the public and private sectors. Therefore, it is only right to say with an MPA; you are increasing room to advance your career.

Today, online learning is increasingly getting popular. That is why you can choose to either complete your MPA online or in-class. While either case offers a similar ultimate goal, the online option is more beneficial. For one, it offers unmatched convenience, flexibility, and relatively cheaper.  

Find the program that’s right for you

Whether you’re trying to start your career or make a big change, we can help you find the perfect school to help you reach your goals.

Woman in graduation cap and gown
Scroll to Top