Comprehensive review of online MPA programs (most are NASPAA accredited)

Deciding to enroll in an Online MPA program is a big decision, especially for those already employed within government, public administration, public relations, or a related field. Public administration has various implementations in businesses, non-profit organizations, and public service organizations that can potentially provide for lifelong, satisfying careers. A Master of Public Administration can help put you in a more qualified position for career opportunities in the public administration sector.

When you are searching for the right online MPA program, you may find that the choices can be overwhelming, since there are a multitude of options available. Should I do an Online MPA? MPP? What accreditation is there for MPA programs? How long are MPA programs and what do they cost?

Getting Started Finding the Right School and Program

Before we get started, let's quickly answer those questions: For accreditation, you should learn about the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration. View online NASPAA accredited MPA programs here. MPA programs vary in length (typically 1-3 year programs) and vary greatly in cost. See our list of online MPA programs for detailed information on tuition, scholarship opportunities, program length, and program overviews.

Here are the most common types of online MPA programs:

  • Online Master of Public Administration (MPA)
  • Online Master of Public Policy (MPP)
  • Online Master of Public Affairs (MPAff)
  • Online Master of Public Relations (MPR)
  • Online Master of Political Science (MPS)
  • Online Executive MPA
  • Accelerated MPA
  • Online MPA for NGO's and Non-Profits

Click here to view all of the available MPA programs online, or click to jump to the ranking list of some of the top online MPA programs we've reviewed.

Researching Schools With Our List of Reviewed Online MPA Programs

Our goal is to provide you with support during this process and provide reliable and researched results that you can count on. Our experts have scrutinized the various Online MPA programs available to assist you in choosing the right university.

We took different marks into consideration when making this list, including:

  • The reputation of the university
  • The basic requirements of each university for acceptance
  • Tuition costs
  • Accreditation, particularily if the MPA program is NASPAA accredited

There are several different factors that come into play when choosing a degree program, including the reliability of the degree program, the costs, and the amount of time it takes to complete. As with any significant decision, you should weigh your options and speak with multiple programs to figure out which is the best fit for you and your goals.

Browse some of the top online MPA programs below to get a good idea of your choices prior to enrolling. As with any rankings list, this is a subjective list (though we did our best!), and you can view our methodology below.

Consider a Featured Online MPA Program


American University – Online MPA and MPAP

Online MPA Program at American UniversityAmerican University’s online MPA is 100% online and NASPAA Accredited. American University’s campus is based in the heart of politics, in Washington DC, and works to bring the campus experience to you online. The school offers an online Master of Public Administration and Policy, which combined the nationally recognized MPA and MPP into one credential.

Costs, Length, & Credit Hour Requirements

  • Scholarship: An Online Merit Scholarship of $10,000 is available to accepted applicants who meet eligibility requirements
  • Program Length: Graduate with your MPAP in as few as 24 months
  • Accreditation: Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA)
  • Learn More

University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill – Online MPA

UNC's Online MPA ProgramUNC – Chapel Hill’s Online MPA degree program is ranked among the best 25 public administration programs in the nation. This program seeks to prepare learners leadership roles in both governmental and business positions. Through this online degree program, students can learn and prepare for leadership positions in various sectors of local government, national government, small businesses, and major well-known businesses.

Costs, Length, & Credit Hour Requirements

  • Tuition: Ask representative
  • Program Length: 45 credit hours, 2 years or less
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA)
  • Learn More

University of Southern California – Online MPA

Online MPA Program at USCThe Online MPA program at Southern California integrates the necessary elements of all related discipline to help provide a great understanding of leadership and management that is needed in public administration. Since public administration is a multidisciplinary topic, this university caters to the need for a diverse, yet structure curriculum.

  • Tuition: $1,666 per credit hour
  • Program Length: 2-3 years
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA)
  • Learn More

Texas A & M University – Online Executive Master of Public Service and Administration

Texas A & M University claims that a degree from their university can set learners apart from the rest in the working world. This online degree program offered by this school requires a 2 week residency within the 2 year program period. It also allows for students to choose from 3 different tracks – Homeland Security, Non-Profit Management, or Public Management.

  • Tuition: Costs vary – School advises prospects to call for a recent quote.
  • Program Length: 39 credit hours, 2+ years
  • Accreditation: The National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA)

Website

University of Colorado – Denver – Online MPA

UCD provides students within an Online MPA program that allows for them to continue working or managing a busy family life. This university offers reasonable options for in-state and out of state students, which is a great option for students from across the country.

  • Tuition: $625 per credit hour
  • Program Length: 1 1/2 – 2 years
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

Website

University of Central Florida – Online MPA

UCF’s Online MPA program is designed to cater to future non-profit and public servants. This program seeks to increase overall leadership and management skills for individuals on this track, and is a great choice for students that want to get the most out of their degree program.

  • Tuition: $15,525 (in-state students) & $50,150 (out of state students) including fees
  • Program Length: 42 credit hours, 2+ years
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) & Networks of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration

Website

University of Illinois – Springfield – Online MPA

The University of Illinois-Springfield sets itself apart from other universities in that it drives focus away from standard educational experiences. This university wants to provide the Online MPA program to students that want to design their own schedule to fit their lifestyles.

  • Tuition: $675 per credit hour, not including fees
  • Program Length: 40 credit hours, 2 years on average
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission & North Central Association of Colleges and Schools

Website

Villanova University – Online MPA

The goal of Villanova University’s Online MPA program is to prepare and create effective leaders and managers in non-profit and public service organizations. Students that want to know the ins and outs of ethics and how they are properly applied in the public setting are great candidates for this university.

  • Tuition: $925 per credit hour plus fees
  • Program Length: 2+ years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools

Website

Pennsylvania State University – Online MPA

Penn State has recognized the need for knowledgeable and reputable leaders in the public sector. In response to this need, this university has provided a reliable and relevant MPA program to truly test the skills of students involved. If you want a challenging degree program that is worth the effort, than definitely consider Penn State for your Online MPA program.

  • Tuition: Full-time $9856 per semester
  • Program Length: 36 credit hours, 2 years on average
  • Accreditation: National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA)

Website

University of Missouri – Columbia – Online Master of Public Affairs

This university focuses on the interdisciplinary approach to training great leaders for non-profit and public entities. Using a blend of research and public service capacity, this university provides students with different perspectives that can provide for a great foundation for leadership positions.

  • Tuition: $13,431 total, not including fees
  • Program Length: 33 credit hours, 1 1/2 – 2 years
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission & Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration

Website

Northeastern University – Online MPA

Northeastern University claims that their Online MPA program is no different in consistency than their standard in-person program. This university has worked hard to ensure that their Online MPA program meets national standards, and provides students with everything needed to be knowledgeable and valid professionals in public service.

  • Tuition: $54,390 total, not including fees
  • Program Length: 42 credit hours, 2+ years
  • Accreditation: Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA)

Website

Our Methodology
Determining a “top online programs list” can be a very subjective determination. As with anything, you are responsible and should do your own homework on any program you consider for your online MPA. We asked the following questions when determining this list: Is the MPA program online? Does the university utilize the same faculty for the online MPA as they do for their on-campus MPA? What is the focus? Are there multiple tracks? How long has the MPA program been in existence? What is the program length and tuition costs? What is the brand equity of the university? Is the program accredited? How usable is the website? Is the information on the website helpful for a prospective student?

This list is subject to change, and likely will throughout the year. As universities continue to grow their online presence, more could be added to this list.

When Researching Online MPA Programs: Learn About NASPAA Accreditation

If you want to pursue a carer in public administration, you might be wondering where you should pursue your MPA? How can you be sure that the school you are attending will provide a quality education with a good shot at getting a job in your field? After you have your degree, how can you keep up with recent developments and meet other public administration professionals? Like most career fields, public administration has a professional association that ensures the quality of MPA programs and provides opportunities to network and continue professional development. The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) provides these services and is a trusted source of information about MPA programs.

What is NASPAA Accreditation?

The NASPAA is the world-recognized accrediting agency for masters degree programs in public administration, public policy, public affairs, non profit and related fields. The accreditation process requires MPA programs to engage in a self-study, evaluating itself against established standards and its own mission statement. Accreditation ensures that MPA programs are continuously tracking and improving their performance by pursuing their missions and goals, engaging with stakeholders, gathering data on performance metrics, and assessing student learning.

Why the NASPAA?

The NASPAA offers a global standard of excellence in public affairs education. It provides a rigorous system of accountability for MPA programs, which protects both students and their future employers. By providing a set of measurable standards and a way to hold colleges to those standards, the public administration field can focus on the quality of individuals holding a degree rather than making guesses about the quality of the degree itself. NASPAA accredits over 300 MPA programs, making it the largest and most recognized standard in the field.

History of the NASPAA

The NASPAA was formed in 1970, building on the foundation set by the earlier Council on Graduate Education for Public Administration (CGEPA). It started as a subgroup of the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA). In 1977, it became its own independent entity, but continues to be headquartered at the ASPA. It receives funds off and on from USAID, and is currently funded through private grants and membership fees. It has been functioning as an accrediting body since 1980 . In 2009, the NASPAA opened its membership to non-US programs, changing the “N” in its name from National to Network to recognize its global reach.

What Does the NASPAA Do?

The NASPAA is first and foremost an accrediting body, ensuring the quality of public service educational programs. In addition, the NASPAA is a professional association, providing professional development workshops and conferences for working professionals who have completed their MPA and wish to keep up with the most recent scholarship and advance their careers in the field. The NASPAA is also a valuable resource for students seeking to find a quality MPA program, offering datasets and simulations to help them find a school that is right for them.

Standards and Guidance of the NASPAA

The NASPAA updated their standards in 2019. MPA programs must meet these standards to be accredited. The seven standards are:

  1. The program is managed strategically, including having a mission statement, setting goals and expectations for student learning, and collecting and reporting performance information on the program.
  2. The program’s governance matches its mission, including an appropriate administrative infrastructure and adequate faculty governance.
  3. The faculty are appropriate to the mission, including faculty qualifications, diversity, and scholarship.
  4. The program serves students, including recruitment practices, admission criteria, support services, and student diversity.
  5. The program’s curriculum includes core competencies that reflect its mission and values public service. These competencies are clearly defined and students learn to apply them through experiential learning.
  6. The program has the financial and physical resources needed to pursue its mission.
  7. The program communicates its mission, accomplishments, and student outcomes with the public and stakeholders.

Mission of the NASPAA

The mission of the NASPAA is to “ensure excellence in education and training for public service and to promote the ideal of public service.” In support of its mission, the NASPAA formed the Institute for Innovative Teaching and Learning for Public Service to promote experiential learning in MPA programs. In 2020, the NASPAA is preparing to launch a platform to provide access to case studies and simulations to its member institutions.

How Do Schools / Programs Become a NASPAA Member?

Before a school can apply for NASPAA accreditation, it must first meet four precondition criteria:

  • The host university must be already be accredited by a regional, national, or international agency.
  • The mission of the program should emphasize the values of public service.
  • The program must grant a master’s degree whose primary focus is on training professionals for leadership in public service.
  • The program requires 36 to 48 credit hours to ensure significant interaction between faculty and students.

Once these criteria are met, a school or program applying for accreditation will submit a Self Study Report demonstrating that they meet the NASPAA standards.

Statistics to Know About the NASPAA

  • 317 Member Institutions
  • 25 Countries Represented
  • Over 23,000 students attend NASPAA accredited institutions

Why Consider a NASPAA Accredited MPA Program?

To gain accreditation, a college or university must demonstrate that its MPA program delivers on what it promises students and follows best practices in the field. A degree from an accredited institution will be recognized as valid and useful by governments, employers, and other universities if you decide to pursue additional education. Students should hesitate before enrolling in a non-accredited institution, as there is little guarantee of quality or that their degree will be seen as valid in the job market.

5 Online MPA Programs that are NASPAA Accredited

University of Ohio Online MPA Program

The MPA program at the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University is focused on helping students gain expertise in the field and the skills to lead. It is a fully online program with four areas of concentration:

  • Crisis and Emergency Management
  • Public Leadership and Management
  • Non-Profit Management
  • State and Local Government

In addition to learning core concepts like public budgeting, program evaluation, and strategic leadership, students at Ohio will practice essential skills such as effective communication and resource management. This focus on enabling students to be able to win the contest of ideas makes Ohio a good place to go to pair passion with competence.

Courses you might take

  • Organizational Leadership: How organizations are understood in public administration.
  • Public Budgeting: The principles and politics of tax policy and revenue decisions
  • Public Human Resource Management: Introduction to the management and leadership skills needed for the public sector workforce.
  • Nonprofit Leadership and Governance: An introduction to the nonprofit sector and its role in society.
  • Crisis and Emergency Planning: How to avert crises through risk assessment and continuity planning, and be resilient and recover when crises strike.
  • Civic Innovation and Citizen Engagement: Explore innovative practices that engage marginalized groups through case studies.

Admissions standards and requirements for this program

Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. No GRE or GMAT is required. You just need to submit a resume, letter of intent, and three letters of recommendation. The program is full time, there is no part-time option.

Eastern Kentucky University Online MPA Program

Eastern Kentucky offers both an in person and an online MPA program. The online program is highly flexible, with six starting dates through the year and accelerated 8 week terms. Students can earn occupational certificates in specialized areas while earning their degree. These include:

  • Community Development
  • Emergency Management and Disaster Resilience
  • Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Non-Profit Management

The other things that set Eastern Kentucky apart are personalized graduation plans an no campus visit required.

Courses you might take

  • Public Sector Leadership: Examines competing theories of leadership.
  • Policy Analysis and Program Evaluation: Learn quantitative and non-quantitative methods of analysis for public programs.
  • Community Development: Uses the concept of self-help to create and implement community development programs.
  • Grant Writing: Learn federal and foundation grant writing processes.

Admissions standards and requirements for this program

Applicants must have completed a bachelors degree with at least a 2.75 GPA. They need to have verbal and quantitative scores of 145 or higher on the GRE, and submit two letters of recommendation and a statement of career goals and purpose. Active duty military members get reduced tuition.

Arkansas State University Online MPA Program

At under $12,000, Arkansas State’s online MPA program is less expensive than most. It is designed for working professionals, with multiple start dates and an accelerated course option to finish in 18 months. The public management track specializes in law enforcement and public service careers, and there is a non-profit track as well. This program provides an accessible pathway to advancement and promotion for mid-career public servants.

Courses you might take

  • Administrative Leadership: Study of issues faced by first time managers as they work with citizens, politicians, and employees to get their work done.
  • Public Financial Management: Emphasizes financial planning and management in local government.
  • Public Policy Analysis and Evaluation: Learn a theoretical and technical framework to understand policy evaluation and analysis.
  • Administrative Behavior: Examines the patterns and administrative structures of public sector organizations.

Admissions standards and requirements for this program

To apply to the online MPA program, you need to have a bachelors degree with a minimum GPA of 3.2 and a C grade or higher in American Government, Principles of Economics, and Research Methods. Applicants submit a statement of purpose and three letters of recommendation. No GRE is required.

Northern Arizona University Online MPA Program

If you want to advance your career or expand your expertise in public policy amid the natural wonders or Arizona, then take a look at Northern Arizona University’s online MPA program. In addition to learning the standard MPA curriculum, NAU has an internship/fieldwork requirement. Past students have done internships with the Conconino County Search and Rescue, Arizona State Parks, and the Sonoran Institute. This regional focus allows for unique partnerships with Native Communities, providing unique opportunities for understanding tribal government.

Courses you might take

  • Public Management: Review current and classic concepts about management in the public sector.
  • American Indian Policies and Laws: Examines the development, politics, functioning, and legal aspects of American Indian policies and laws.
  • Ethics of Public Administration and Management: Explores the ethical context of public management at multiple levels.
  • Government Budgeting: Explore how governments use fiscal resources.

Admissions standards and requirements for this program

To apply to this program, you need to have completed a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit a writing sample, personal statement or essay, and three letters of recommendation. There is no GRE requirement.

Florida International University Online MPA Program

The Florida International University MPA program has a great reputation and has prepared thousands of graduate for careers in public service. It’s broad offering of courses includes several specialized certificates:

  • Public Finance and Procurement
  • Homeland Security and Emergency Management
  • Nonprofit and Community Development
  • Human Resource Management
  • International Public Administration
  • Urban Policy Innovations

Students who come to the program without existing experience in the field are able to do a public service internship to gain that experience before completing the program. FIU also offers a Career Services Department to ensure its graduates are competitive in the job market.

Courses you might take

  • Political, Social, & Economic Context of Public Administration: Examines the relationship between public organizations and their multifaceted environment.
  • Smart Governance: Explores the use of cyber technologies for organizational management and delivery of public services.
  • Leadership and Decision Making: Examines how effective leaders make decisions through case studies.
  • Homeland Security Risk Assessment1: Learn the technical framework to design and conduct risk assessments at the local, regional, and state levels.
  • Government and Minority Group Relations: Examines the clash between established organizational values and minority group values, with a survey of remedies for the problem.

Admissions standards and requirements for this program

Applicants to this program need to have completed a bachelors degree from an accredited institution. If their undergraduate GPA is below 3.25, applicants are required to take the GRE. The GRE requirement can be waived for students with prior graduate work or work experience. Applicants also submit a resume, essay, and three letters of recommendation. Students employed by the State of Florida may qualify for a tuition waiver.