In previous generations, a job in public service was based on patronage, nepotism, and sometimes actual talent, but in the 21st century, every occupational sector is several times more competitive than it used to be. That’s why a master’s in public administration and policy is becoming a new standard for ambitious professionals who want to move into positions of authority in civil service. The leadership skills learned in an MPA program help professionals take on the complexities and challenges of modern government.
Of course, many prospective MPA students are already seasoned professionals in the field, having worked their way from entry-level positions to management. Without a master’s, though, advancement opportunities may be limited. It’s for these working professionals that online MPA programs were created. An online MPA degree gives busy adults the opportunity to earn the credentials they need for promotion while keeping their job and incorporating their learning into their current jobs. With an online Master of Public Administration, civil service professionals can take the next step in their career, and with the VC Best Values ranking, they can do it knowing their degree will pay off.
Methodology: Ranking the Best Value Master’s in Public Administration Online
To rank the best online Master of Public Administration programs in the US, Value Colleges editors research accredited MPA programs (including NASPAA programs) offering fully online and hybrid degrees. From there, we ranked programs according to four main criteria:
- U.S. News Public Affairs ranking
- Niche Student Reviews
- Current IPEDS tuition rates
- Average Alumni Salary (from College Scorecard)
This cross-section of factors helps prospective students see that the program they’re choosing is not only high in quality and convenience, but will have a solid ROI and a real positive impact on their career.
University of North Carolina
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s online Master of Public Administration degree prepares graduates to take a leadership role in public service. The degree program focuses on the core studies a student needs for public management and related services. That allows students to take an active role in their career and work in a leadership position. Students can obtain their MPA online, on-campus, or through a hybrid program based on their goals and situation.
The University of North Carolina stands out for its rigorous curriculum and return on investment. Roughly 98 percent of students graduate with an MPA and have a job placement shortly after completing their degree. The program is ranked second by U.S. News for the Local Government specialization within public administration, so it gives students who plan to work in their local government the skills they need to handle the challenges of working as a leader within a community.
Villanova University’s Masters in Public Administration online program focuses on core competencies in leadership, management, and strategic planning. The degree program prepares students to take on a leadership role in government, as well as non-profit organizations. The training allows students to focus on their goals as a public servant. The online program is innovative and interactive to ensure students gain the skills they need to handle challenges as a leader in state, local, or federal government positions, as well as non-profit organizations.
The way Villanova University stands out from other programs is its focus on excellence. The school offers two specialized certifications within the MPA program: City Management and Nonprofit Management. Students can obtain the certification to help focus on a specific career path. The Masters in Public Administration is also NASPAA accredited and meets the high standards set for student education. It ensures that the students have the skills they need to move forward with a career as a public servant.
Indiana University Bloomington
Indiana University Bloomington’s online MPA programs help students accomplish their goals for their career. The degree program focuses on the concerns of working professionals and caters to the challenges of working around a busy schedule. It is fully online and allows students to work when they have time. The degree program has a high rating with U.S. News for their focus on Public Affairs, and is ideal for students who want to work in a position that requires specialized skills in public affairs.
A key way Indiana University Bloomington stands apart from other programs is their accomplished faculty members. The online program allows students to learn from leading researchers and practitioners in public administration who have experience as a public servant or in a non-profit organization. The personal experience of the faculty makes the online classes dynamic and provides case studies to help students understand the role of a leader in government or non-profit positions.
University of Southern California
The online MPA degree from the University of Southern California is an ideal option if you already work as a public servant or want take on a leadership position in government. The online degree program focuses on local government management, urban planning, and public financial management. The MPA program was ranked number three by U.S. News for Public Affairs due to their rigorous education in topics and specialties related to public affairs and government. The degree program is fully online and allows students to focus on their goals.
The University of Southern California stands apart from other programs by providing accredited education to students. It is ranked 5th by U.S. News for veteran education and has a high rank for their Public Affairs specialization in public administration. The program is accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration, so it meets the standards set by the accreditation committee for their degree program. The rigorous education combined with excellent veteran services allows students to focus on their goals for their career.
Rutgers University Newark
The Masters in Public Administration online from Rutgers University Newark offers a rigorous education for students who want to work in government or non-profit organizations. The degree program provides a strong foundation in the skills you need to work in local, state or federal government positions. It also provides students with the education to handle challenges within a non-profit organization. The rigorous coursework is fully online and students can work on the degree when it fits their schedule.
Rutgers University Newark differs from other schools by offering a fully online MPA program that allows students to focus on their area of interest. Students can follow through with their degree by selecting one of four concentrations. You can specialize in Healthcare Administration, Budgeting and Financial Management, Nonprofit Management, or Public and Nonprofit Performance Management. The options give students a clear focus for their career and allow them to obtain a job that fits their interests.
The Master of Public Administration and Policy from American University is an online degree program that offers the skills and training students need to take a leadership position in government. The degree program focuses on critical thinking skills and analytical skills to ensure students can make decisions and apply the theories associated with leadership, management, and human resource systems. The program prepares students for the challenges associated with the legal and political system, which allows them to focus on accomplishing the goals of their position in a non-profit organization or in government.
American University is one of the top-rated schools for their Master of Public Administration and Policy degree program. It has a high rank for Public Affairs and sets a high standard for students. When students complete the degree, 96% move onto a career in their field or a graduate degree program within six months. The degree program helps students accomplish their goals by preparing them to handle a leadership role and through the Public Policy Practicum they complete before graduation.
University of Missouri
The University of Missouri online MPA degree is designed to teach students the leadership skills they need for their career. The school recognizes that students may work in the private, public, or non-profit sectors when moving into a career, so it focuses on skills that apply to all three sectors. It also provides a strong foundation in critical thinking and analytics to keep up with changing goals within public service due to advances in technology and changes to public interests.
The University of Missouri differs from other programs by offering hands-on experience before students start working in their field. It offers internships to get students ready for their career and to network with professionals in their local communities. It also requires students to complete capstone projects to improve their knowledge and skills. By providing hands-on experience, the degree program ensures that students know how to handle challenges within their field before they move forward with a career.
San Diego State University
The online MPA degree from San Diego State University is a hybrid online program designed for students who want to work in public service or non-profit organizations. As a hybrid program, students will need to attend two campus experiences to complete their degree. The remaining coursework is online and offers classes in two-month modules. The program focuses on the needs of working professionals and recognizes that you may need to work around a busy schedule. As an online program, you are able to work when it fits your schedule.
San Diego State University’s MPA program stands out for their fast-track process. Since the classes are completed in two-month modules, students are able to complete the degree in 16 months. It also allows students the hands-on experience they need with a capstone project for applied research. Students present the results of their project to a panel of working professionals and faculty at the second on-campus program to complete their degree.
University of Nebraska Omaha
The University of Nebraska Omaha offers an online MPA program that allows students to work in non-profit organizations, government, and private organizations. The degree program allows students to select from six concentrations, which provides a strong foundation in those areas of study. By focusing on a concentration, students have the skills they need for a career in their chosen field. The school also offers a specialization in Criminology and Criminal Justice if students want to add specialized training to their degree program.
The University of Nebraska Omaha was the first to receive NASPAA accreditation for an online MPA program. The degree program started in 2000 and remains accredited for their focus on excellence and skill. The degree program does offer an Advantage Scholarship to help students who live out-of-state, but it requires students to attend an on-campus orientation before starting the online classes. The orientation is the only on-campus event required for the degree program.
University of Baltimore
The University of Baltimore offers a fully online Master of Public Administration degree program that allows students to focus on their career goals. The degree program allows students to work around their schedule and recognizes that working adults may have limited time for their studies. It is a self-study program that helps students work on their goals. The school also offers a hybrid program with on-campus classes on weekends and online classes for other times, so students have options to work around their schedule.
The University of Baltimore is NASPAA accredited and is one of the top-ranked schools MPA students. The online degree program sets the same rigorous standards as the on-campus program and students learn from skilled professionals and faculty. The program also requires an internship for most students to gain hands-on experience. The internship may be waived for students who work in public administration fields. Students can specialize in two concentrations, which offers opportunities for their career goals.
University of Delaware
The University of Delaware offers a Master of Public Administration degree program that focuses on leadership and management. The online MPA degree recognizes that leadership is essential for the challenges of changing societal standards. As the nation grows and changes, a leader must balance experience with solutions to keep up with the needs of their communities or the non-profit organization. The degree program from the University of Delaware focuses on developing leadership and management skills that prepare students for their role as a leader.
The University of Delaware takes an interdisciplinary approach to its MPA program. Students learn from leaders in different areas of public service to ensure they have a well-rounded view of the role they play in government and their community. The program highlights the role of research, theory, and experience in leadership. It uses case studies to help students understand the impact of modern solutions to address changes in society and standards.
California State University Long Beach
California State University at Long Beach, or Cal State Long Beach, offers a distance learning MPA program that addresses the needs and goals of working adults. It recognizes that you may have a busy schedule and takes measures to help you reach your career goals. The online MPA degree takes 24 months to complete and allow students to work at their own pace.
CSU Long Beach stands out for their focus on quality education online. The degree program recognizes the challenges of self-study and helps students accomplish their goals by assigning a special support coordinator to make the process of completing the paperwork easy for students. As a fully-online program, it allows students to work around their schedule and take classes in six-week courses.
University of San Francisco
The online MPA program from the University of San Francisco offers students a flexible learning environment that is designed around working professionals. It focuses on teaching leadership skills as it applies to government and non-profit organizations. The degree program only requires students to finish 13 courses for their degree and it provides students with the skills they need to move forward with their career.
The University of San Francisco stands apart from other programs by offering a fully online program with only 13 courses. It does not require students to provide their GRE scores or take the test, though it does recommend the test for aspiring students. The degree program helps students focus on their career in government, non-profit work, or related fields. By focusing on leadership, students are able to handle the challenges of working in their local or state government, as well as working in federal government roles.
Marist College offers a Masters in Public Administration online degree program Additionally; the online MPA programs are available as a hybrid format on their Poughkeepsie, NYC, and Albany, NY locations. Students opt for one of the following MPA concentrations — Analytics, Public Management, Nonprofit Management, Ethical Leadership, and Healthcare Administration. Degree graduates complete 39-42 degree units (depending on the concentration) as full-time or part-time students. Coursework is delivered in 8-week mini-semesters.
Marist College is a private institution of higher education that was established in 1929. In addition to the school’s suburban campus in Poughkeepsie, there is a satellite branch in Italy and more than 25 study centers in foreign countries. Marist’s recent master plan campus development projects have created one of the most beautiful university campuses in New England. Marist College is located along the majestic Hudson River, about 90 minutes north of New York City.
University of Texas at Arlington
The College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs offers the University of Texas at Arlington’s online Master of Public Administration degree program with NASPAA accreditation (The Commission on Peer Review & Accreditation). Students graduate prepared for careers in local, regional, state or the federal government, the private sector or the military. UT Arlington offers a 39-credit unit accelerated online MPA degree program that allows for working learners the flexibility to complete the program.
The University of Texas at Arlington is located halfway between the cities of Fort Worth and Dallas. UT Arlington is a member school of the University of Texas. The University of Texas at Arlington, with a student enrollment of nearly 42,000, is the 4th largest institution of higher learning in the state of Texas. Some of Texas’ biggest attractions are located within a few miles — AT&T Stadium, 6 Flags, and the Globe Life Grounds.
University of Miami
The University of Miami offers a Masters in Public Administration online degree program that can be completed in just two years. Coursework includes Ethics, Personnel, Budgeting, Political Analysis, and Digital Governance. Students complete twelve courses, one course at a time for a total of 36 credit units. UMOnline’s MPA degree program offers working professionals flexibility and convenience and several unique networking opportunities throughout the 24-month program. The University of Miami has received NASPAA accreditation (Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration).
The University of Miami was established in 1925. UM is a public research institution of higher education whose football team won five national championships in the last 25 years. Notable alumni include Sly Stallone and singer Grace Slick. UM is organized into nine graduate and undergraduate schools/colleges. US News & World Report recognizes the University of Miami among the upper echelon of national universities.
Northern Illinois University
Northern Illinois University’s online MPA degree offers a specialty in Local Government Management that requires students to complete 40 credit units. NIU’s Masters in Public Administration online program’s coursework includes local government classes like Leadership, Economic Development, Administration and Local & Metropolitan Government. US News recognizes NIU’s MPA Local Government degree program among the top five in the country.
Northern Illinois University is a research institution of higher education that was established in 1895 as a normal teaching school. NIU operates with its main campus in DeKalb, IL and satellite branches in Rockford, Oregon, Naperville, Chicago, and Hoffman Estates. The school’s nearly 95- acre campus is home to more than 20,000 students studying for degrees offered by seven schools/colleges. US News recognizes NIU’s Public Affairs programs among the top schools in the nation.
University of North Dakota
The University of North Dakota offers on-campus and online MPA programs that typically take two years and 34-credit to complete. UND’s online Master of Public Administration prepares students for the challenging issues faced in nonprofit and government agencies that include public policy, ethics, leadership, and management. US News recognizes UND’s MPA degree program among the top 25 non-MBA graduate business degrees in the nation. Graduates find rewarding careers as consultants, administrators, human resource directors, or nonprofit managers.
The University of North Dakota is North Dakota’s flagship institution of higher learning that was established in 1883. The school’s 550-acre urban campus is located in Grand Forks and home to the largest library in North Dakota. US News recognizes UND among the top two hundred national universities. UND was founded 6 years before North Dakota and, as such, holds the distinction as the oldest university in the state of North Dakota and a member school of the North Dakota University system.
University of Illinois Springfield
The University of Illinois Springfield’s Department of Public Administration offers a Masters in Public Administration online degree program that requires the completion of 36 credit units. UI Springfield offers a transfer credit policy. Coursework includes Budgeting, Public Policy, Decision Making, Tools of Analysis, and Organization Dynamics, among others. UI Springfield’s MPA online degree program requires a culminating capstone project to graduate. The submission of GRE exam scores remains optional. Online students are required to submit a narrative detailing their preference for the online learning format.
The University of Illinois Springfield is a public institution of higher learning that was established in 1969 as the Sangamon State University. UI Springfield became a member school of the University of Illinois system in the mid-1990s. UI Springfield offers nearly 50 undergraduate/graduate degree programs, and a doctoral program in Public Administration.
California State University San Bernardino
California State University San Bernardino’s Master of Public Administration degree program can be completed entirely online, with instruction from the highly respected Jack Brown College of Business and Public Administration. CSUSB’s online MPA degree program offers degree candidates five areas of concentration — a Certificate in Public Procurement, Leadership, Cybersecurity, Public Financial Management and an MPA/MSW dual degree. CSUSB’s online MPA program has received NASPAA accreditation (The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration). CSUSB’s MPA program requires the completion of 48 credit units.
CSU San Bernardino was established in 1965 and is currently a member of the California State University system. The school operates with two campuses — a suburban campus in San Bernardino and a rural campus in Palm Desert. Students are awarded degrees from six schools/colleges. CSU San Bernardino’s Jack Brown College of Business and Public Administration is recognized among the most innovative colleges in the country.
Clemson University offers a Masters in Public Administration online degree program that has received national program status. Most students signing on for their live classes are working public administration specialists or nonprofit professionals. Students are required to complete 42 credit hours, which includes a capstone project or a comprehensive final exam. Coursework includes Financial Management, Data Analysis, Public Policy, Research Methodologies, Personnel, and Leadership, among others. Electives are available in the areas of emergency management, homeland security, sustainability, nonprofit management, and state/local government.
Clemson University was established in 1889 as the result of the Morrill Land Act; making Clemson a land grant and sea grant university. The school holds the distinction of having the 2nd largest student enrollments in the state. US News recognizes Clemson University among the top 25 public national institutions of higher education.
California State University Dominguez Hills
California State University Dominguez Hills’ College of Business Administration & Public Policy offers a Masters in Public Administration online and on-campus degree program. Cal State Dominguez Hills’ online MPA programs allow students to explore the field of public administration from a multi-disciplinary approach, which includes research methodologies. Students opt for one of four specializations — Public Management, Health Care Policy & Administration, Criminal Justice Administration, and Nonprofit Management. CSUDH’s classes are delivered in 8-week mini-semesters, except for the Public Management specialty which offers 12-week formats.
CSU Dominguez Hills was established in 1960. The school’s student population of nearly 15,000 students is considered one of the most ethnically diverse in the nation. CSU Dominguez Hills operates with five schools/colleges that offer nearly 100-degree programs. Highlight — Washington Monthly magazine recognizes CSUDH’s MPA programs among the top in the country.
Florida Gulf Coast University
Florida Gulf Coast University’s Department of Political Science & Public Administration offers a Masters in Public Administration online degree program with two specialty concentrations –Environmental Policy & Planning Concentration and Public Leadership & Management Concentration. FGCU’s online MPA degree program has received NASPAA accreditation (The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration). Students graduate prepared for leadership positions in the government or nonprofit sectors and as critical thinking, problem-solvers.
Florida Gulf Coast University was established in 1991 and is a member school of the State University System of Florida. FGCU’s 750+-acre campus is home to more than 15,000 students studying from six schools/colleges. FGCU has set aside hundreds of acres for the preservation of the environment. Highlight- The school maintains a marine research lab in Bonita Springs and a solar field that partially generates several buildings on campus.
Kent State University
Kent State University offers a Masters in Public Administration online degree program that has received accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA). KSU’s online MPA degree program can be completed in as little as two years, with the completion of 36 graduate credit units. The degree program from KSU also requires a culminating capstone experience and an internship for students without real-time practice public administration experience. Students utilize the distance learning system Blackboard Learn to join live chats, PowerPoint presentations, videos and discussion groups throughout the course.
Kent State University is a member school of the University System of Ohio. The school was established in 1910. KSU is a public institution of higher learning and stands among the largest universities in the region with more than 33,000 students studying on its eight campuses.
Eastern Kentucky University
Eastern Kentucky University offers a Masters in Public Administration online degree program that offers students four areas of specialty — Homeland Security, Occupational Safety, General Public Administration, and Emergency Management. Eastern Kentucky University’s MPA degree program has received accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA). EKU offers specialized tuition rates for students who are active military members. US News recognizes EKU among the top institutions of higher learning to offer distance learning post-secondary education.
Eastern Kentucky University was established in 1874 as Central University. EKU operates from its Richmond main campus along with satellite campuses in Manchester, Hazard, Lancaster, and Corbin. The school offers more than 40-degree programs through its distance-learning platform. Highlight — US News recognizes EKU as one of the top regional institutions of higher education in the Southern part of the country and ranks the graduate Public Affairs degree program the 158th best in the nation.
Who Should Get an MPA?
Have you ever asked– Should I get a Masters in Public Administration degree? If so, read on to learn how a Public Administration degree can benefit a public administrator’s career.
Civil service professionals often choose to advance their careers (and earning power) by completing an online Masters of Public Administration degree while working full-time. By earning a Public Administration Masters degree, civil service professionals learn the skills required to become the next generation’s public, governmental and nonprofit administrative leaders.
An online Public Administration degree program prepares graduates to enter the workforce in the public and nonprofit sectors as a Policy Maker, an Education Administrator, an Urban Planner, and/or a Political Consultant. These additional leadership responsibilities typically increase the earnings of those who have graduated from a Public Administration Masters degree program online — sometimes up to 50% more than those without the MPA degree.
It is noted that many Public Administration degree holders become flexible, adaptable professionals and are able to apply their MPA skills and talents to many different careers, such as broadcasting, policy analysis, and political research. MPA graduates work for technology giants in the area of international management.
Do I Have to Take the GRE?
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a standardized exam that is used by many graduate & business degree programs as a way to determine the acceptability of an applicant’s application. Essentially, the GRE acts as an industry agreed-on yardstick that determines graduate school admissions standards across the country.
Yet, as insightful as a GRE test score can be, many online Masters of Public Administration degree programs have recently chosen to waive the GRE requirement if the applicant has relevant public administration experience. Some graduate schools have simply waived the GRE score requirement altogether. The GRE waiver conditions will vary from school to school, so it is prudent to confirm the requirements of each preferred school.
Online MPA programs – no GRE required – are offered by some of the finest institutions of higher education in the country, should the degree applicant meet the GRE waiver requirements, if any. However, it is important to note that some graduate schools may require applicants to sit for the school’s admissions exam instead.
How Much Should an Online MPA Cost?
There are many distance-learning Masters of Public Administration degree programs from which to choose. The online MPA programs vary in price based upon the school, the school’s accreditation, and the program’s curriculum & program opportunities.
When searching for affordable online MPA programs, be certain to consider the knowledge & competitive advantage you will gain, the increased earnings potential, and the improved career opportunities. Affordability is only one factor – quality is crucial.
If you are currently researching MPA programs to attend, be certain to choose the program and school that best matches your career objectives. By selecting an appropriate MPA degree program or school, a student can minimize the amount of debt they incur.
Generally speaking, smaller, lesser-known institutions of higher education (and public universities) tend to offer more affordable online MPA programs within the MPA education marketplace.
Many of these innovative, affordable online MPA programs offer ways to reduce, or even eliminate, tuition fees. Students can mitigate and defer expenses by a) determining their eligibility regarding the industry/school scholarships & fellowships, b) transferring the most previously earned credits as possible, and c) applying for student financial aid through the school and state/federal government. Many working professionals can also get their tuition paid by their employers through tuition-reimbursement plans.
The average cost of an online Masters of Public Administration degree per year ranges from $10,000 to $20,000. Although it is important to note that there are still some schools that offer MPA degree programs that cost less than $10K/year and, some offer programs that cost more than $20K/year.
Master of Public Administration degree holders are prepared to be the change they wish to see for the world. The former Secretary/General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon holds a Master’s of Public Administration degree.