Starting in the mid 2010's, universities started bringing their campus based MPA program online. Nearly every university uses their campus-based MPA curriculum as the foundation for online, and use a learning management system to deliver the lectures, coursework, and assessments.
Highly regarded colleges have online MPA programs. Employers are confident that an online MPA program can equip you for management in numerous in local, state, and federal government as well as qualify you for similar careers in the private sector in the same way a campus-based program would.
Why Consider Studying Entirely Online?
An online master's program offers flexibility for students who might also be working professionals and/or have a family, allowing the coursework to fit into your schedule. This web-based convenience is also great for self-starters. Review some of the best online MPA programs or view MPA programs by state.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are currently more than 1.2 million students taking graduate coursework online. The cost varies from one school to another, but there are some that charge a flat tuition, which can benefit out-of-state students, who would otherwise likely pay higher tuition. There are technology fees, too, that should be taken into account.
Online Degrees Can Save You Time
There is a lesser need to worry about traveling to campus, saving both time and money, and the curriculum is likely to be as strict as physically attending on a campus, including the time to earn your masters, usually two to three years and typically requiring between 36 and 42 credits.
Online Universities with MPA Programs
The number of accredited online colleges and universities has been consistently increasing. The accreditation means the educational delivery approach does not make much difference to most employers, especially with the online and physical classroom setting mirroring one another. Accreditation also affects course credit transfer-ability, and student eligibility for federal financial aid.
Consider a Featured Online MPA Program
|School and Online Program Information||Is Online?||Level||Program Info|
Master of Public Administration and Policy (Online)
✔ NASPAA Accredited
Graduate with your MPAP in 24 months. Top-ranked school for public affairs. View website.
|Johns Hopkins University AAP
MS in Government, MS in Public Management
✔ Online and On Campus
Master, Graduate Certificate
Many public administration related programs in Government, Global Security Studies, NGO, Public Management, Data Analytics and Policy, and more. View website.
Master of Public Administration
Complete in just 2 years. Choose from 3 unique program tracks: Leadership, Healthcare Management, Individualized. View website.
|University of North Carolina
Master of Public Administration Online
✔ MPA @ UNC
GRE Waivers available. Complete in as few as 18 months, includes a Practical Work Experience practicum at a public service organization. View website.
Why a Master's of Public Administration?
A Master's in Public Administration is the gateway to the next level as a public servant. It equips you with the necessary skills and knowledge to play an important role in the daily operations of government. Upon completion, you would have an understanding on not only management but also how certain public institutions function and can meaningfully impact a community.
Consider Specific Program Areas
However, Master’s in Public Administration also extends beyond the public sector. Leadership skills and the problem-solving learned also apply to the private and nonprofit sector. Many online MPA programs allow you to zero-in on a certain subject, leading to a proficiency in budgeting, public health, policy-making, and criminal justice.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the recipient of a master’s degree can earn a median weekly salary of $1,434, which is about $200 more than those with a bachelor’s degree and $12,300 more per year.
Typical Online Coursework & Format for the Online MPA
Like any masters program, there are required classes. Ethics, law, and management are common classes that are required at many institutions, but it does vary from one to another. The number of required classes usually is six. The most common is an introductory class to an MPA program that would teach the fundamentals of public administration and management.
Public and Non Profit
Others vary on the type of MPA program. Many of those that cater toward public sector and nonprofit professions lean in on community building, while those that have several tracts or are for professionals aspiring for federal or international work likely include budgeting and data analysis.
In coursework, the setups can vary, but generally, you would regularly log in to a learning portal where you can access the syllabus, contact professors and classmates, track classroom progress, and access course materials. Depending on the class setup, lectures can be online for viewing when you are available.
However, just because the classes are online, don’t think the workload is lighter. Spending 15 to 20 hours a week doing classwork is typical. Over time, you would likely study and research real world problems and solutions catered toward your specific tract.
Accelerated MPA Options
For a program that is fast-tracked for completion in under two years, expect accelerated courses (or modules) that are two at a time with a final research course for you to develop a project. Some schools require the final presentation to a panel of professionals and faculty to be in person.
Getting to know your professors and classmates might be more of a challenge since the communication is largely digital. Online forums and social media are frequent ways that you would converse with classmates on studies and projects, but it would likely take a proactive approach to meet your professors.
What Areas of Specialization Are There For An Online MPA?
An MPA program covers many facets of government, so several offer specific focuses designed for those who know what they want to do after graduation. Some of these specializations can appear on your degree while others are only catered tracks to one’s goals. The titles vary from one program to another, but there are topics that are found consistently.
Management and Public Policy
In management and policy topics in government, a public management specialization prepares you to serve as an administrator in local, state, or federal government. A public policy specialization hones in on decision- and policy-making and public policy solutions. International relations equips you for diplomacy.
Health specialization can help you identify and deliver services to the population as well as policy approaches to public health. This is an area that could apply to non-governmental careers, too. Specializations in finance and budgeting, human resources and organizational analysis, and data analytics are also specializations that can apply to the private sector. Some programs even offer specific tracts for nonprofits and the private sector.
The scope of many specializations can vary by program. Some extend to studying on a global scale while others are catered for a local and/or national level, so pay attention when searching for the right program for you.
Several Schools with Online MPA
Located in Boston, Mass., Northeastern University’s MPA program, is the longest-running program of its kind in New England. Accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration, the premier accrediting in public service education, the university offers its wide network of alumni, employers, and experts and boasts faculty such Michael Dukakis, former governor of Massachusetts and the 1988 Democratic nominee for president of the United States. The program prides itself on the experience of topics such as policy analysis and program evaluation. You can also add a graduate certificate at no additional cost, in one of five areas: Nonprofit Sector, Philanthropy and Social Change, Data Analytics and Urban Analytics, Policy Analysis, and Urban Studies.
University of Southern California Price
Located in Los Angeles, the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy was ranked third for best public affairs schools by U.S. News & World Report for 2020, and its MPA program is accredited by NASPAA. You have the option to choose a certificate in City/County Management or Public Policy to increase your knowledge and skills in your desired field, and the program boasts its students will be ready to develop strategies to act locally and impact global change and evaluate, develop, and implement local, state, or federal policy upon graduating, which can be achieved in as few as 24 months. A bachelor’s degree is required. Coursework readings and assignments can be read and completed from anywhere with the school’s online platform.
Located in Villanova, Penn., the online MPA program at Villanova University offers the same curriculum, faculty and degree as the on-campus program. Accredited by NASPAA, the program prides itself on its students developing a firm foundation of core competencies with a focus on strategic planning and management, readying students to lead at all levels of government and in the nonprofit sector. MPA students have the option to pursue a graduate certificate as a specialization within their degree or as a standalone credential in Public Administration, City Management, or Nonprofit Management.
What Can You Do With a MPA Degree?
A Master’s in Public Administration is a portal to not only working in government at a local, state, or federal level but also in the private sector. Specific roles vary depending on what the focus of your degree is, so it is important to have a career path in mind.
In the public sector, an MPA opens doors to leadership roles in most branches of government, including city managers, planning, education, health, parks and recreation, and law enforcement. You can manage a team and work toward change and improving the quality of life.
Your placement largely depends on your MPA studies. As a government administrator you oversee a branch that includes staff and budget and building a relationship with a community. In a healthcare track, you could help shepherd local healthcare needs. Tracks could also lead you in law enforcement policy, governmental budgeting, or human resources management. The federal government provides employees high job security, and those with a master’s degree can start in a salary tier that pays between $44,000 and $58,000.
In the private sector, companies need the skills you acquire while earning an MPA, especially those that contract or consult with government agencies. Like the public sector, private sector businesses need people who can properly manage their operations and meet goals. A public relations focus would help an entity effectively communicate with a community and possibly collaborate with others.
In nonprofits, there is a need for those who can most efficiently raise money and run their organization. Effective outreach, managing volunteers, and developing programs are some of the important skills needed. Other roles in the private sector include news reporters for newsrooms that want people who understand the inner workings of government and can best analyze it.
A masters degree also can allow you to enter doctorate level programs in public administration, which opens the highest levels of a career trajectory.