The Master of Public Administration degree is quickly becoming a standard for professionals who want to advance to high positions of authority in public service. And while many professionals today are starting their careers with an MPA, the pressure to earn higher credentials is also on for workers well into their career. For public administration officials who are already advanced in their careers, but want to solidify their credentials with a degree, the Executive Master of Public Administration degree is a unique approach to graduate education.
Executive MPA programs are offered in an accelerated, low-residency format that makes it convenient for working professionals to earn their MPA. There are many ways of doing an executive program; some are fully online, while others have all coursework on campus in intensive, short courses (often a weekend or week-long residency). Many are built on a hybrid model, in which students may attend on-campus once a week for lecture and discussion, while all coursework is done online. Whatever the format, the Value Colleges Best Value ranking of the best Executive MPA programs is focused on programs that make a difference.
Methodology: Ranking the Best Executive MPA Programs
To rank the best Executive Master of Public Administration programs, Value Colleges researched accredited MPA programs that are explicitly designed for mid-career and advanced professionals in public administration. Some are explicitly called Executive MPAs, while other programs have other names. Programs were then ranked according to:
- Average Alumni Salary (current College Scorecard data)
- Cost (current IPEDS data)
- Niche Student Reviews
- U.S. News & World Report Public Affairs ranking
These four equally-weighted factors help prospective students determine their potential return on investment, and have confidence that they are choosing programs with real job market results.
Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University’s online Executive Master of Public Administration program is perfect for those who need flexibility. This program requires one week of residency per year, adding up to two weeks in residency. Otherwise, this program is 100% online. This rigorous program culminates in a capstone project. Students can choose from three different tracks: Homeland Security, Nonprofit Management, and Public Management. All three tracks help students strengthen their problem-solving skills while gaining real-world experience. For an in-depth Executive Master of Public Administration with plenty of options, look into Texas A&M University.
Texas A&M University is one of the most widely-recognized schools in the US. A degree with the Texas A&M name can open career doors. As the first public university in the State of Texas, A&M leads the way in innovation and research. This school doesn’t cut corners. Whether students learn online or in a classroom, they get the full academic experience. With a combination of new ideas and rich tradition, Texas A&M makes helps students move forward.
University of California Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley offers a hybrid Master of Public Affairs program designed for mid-career professionals and delivered in a one-year executive format. Most MPA students at Berkeley are ready for career advancement, leadership skill development, and promotion opportunities. This one-year program offers flexibility. More importantly, it offers skill development and critical thinking opportunities. Students work individually and with groups to solve job-related problems. This program stands out among other Executive MPA programs because students learn from top researchers and practitioners in the field.
As part of the University of California system, UC Berkeley has a long history of growth and development. Students here are not afraid to embrace change and speak up for justice. Since 1887, this school has provided research and scientific advancement. From health and nutrition to climate science, Berkeley leads the way. As a result of these cutting-edge advancements, students enjoy lots of academic resources.
University of Maryland
The University of Maryland offers four Master’s programs for Public Administration students, from their MPP program to their Executive Master of Public Administration program, UM develops leadership skills. Students learn how to examine evidence, discover best practices, and become innovators in their field. These programs start with general knowledge. Then, they move on to specialized skills. This combination of generalization and specialization means that graduates are poised for career growth. They have the mental flexibility that they need to move forward. For deep and varied Executive MPA programs, look into the University of Maryland.
The University of Maryland is one of the nation’s most prominent public research universities. This school encourages the entrepreneurial spirit in its students. Students learn how to approach problems from different angles. They also receive encouragement to forge their own career paths. As the flagship university of the UM system, this school has lots of options and state of the art resources, such as access to lots of internship and career opportunities in public administration.
University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania’s Executive Master of Public Administration program was created for mid-career professionals. Those who want to expand their opportunities and move forward in their career find this program helpful. This hybrid program combines online time with classroom time. If you need some flexibility but also prefer classroom learning, then the University of Pennsylvania will provide the best of both worlds. The EMPA program takes a hands-on, practical approach. Students learn from professionals in the field, getting the most relevant and up-to-date information. This Executive Master of Public Administration helps students maintain their current careers while building important connections.
The University of Pennsylvania has a reputation for quality academics. In fact, this Ivy League school has provided challenging classes since before the Declaration of Independence was signed. UPenn was the first official university in the United States. As one can imagine, this school has a rich history of traditions. It also has a history of innovative research and invention. As a whole, UPenn provides a combination of new esteemed education and new opportunities.
University of Utah
The University of Utah’s Executive Master of Public Administration program has grown and changed over the years. As government policy and available technology evolve, so does this program. Faculty and staff here refuse to let education become stagnant. However, some things will always remain the same. For example, this EMPA program still engages and challenges its students. It still pushes students to become their best selves. Most importantly, it still fosters empathy, integrity, and leadership. After more than 40 years of existence, this university’s executive MPA programs still prepare students for government and nonprofit careers all over the country.
The University of Utah doesn’t want students to wait until graduation before they succeed. Rather, this school gives students the tools and encouragement that they’ll need to start succeeding right away. Therefore, students here can gain confidence and sharpen their skills. By the time they graduate, students can feel ready to enter the workforce with renewed energy. At the University of Utah, students are challenged, invigorated, and celebrated for their own achievements. That’s part of the reason why the University of Utah ranks among the top 100 universities in the world.
University of Colorado Denver
The University of Colorado’s Executive Master of Public Administration program can be completed either online or in the classroom. Whether students want to go into the public sector or work with a nonprofit organization, this program helps them gain the knowledge and the skills that they’ll need to make it happen. Some MPA programs work best for students who already work in Public Administration. Now, this program does help current Public Administration professionals build their knowledge. However, it’s also a great program for those who want to change their careers from a different field of work. On the whole, this Executive Master of Public Administration provides both flexibility and deep skill building.
CU Denver offers a thriving city campus. Students have plenty of access to internships and networking connections. The school combines classroom-based theoretical knowledge with real-world learning opportunities. This university values diversity. In fact, 47% of their undergraduate students are students of color. The University of Colorado challenges students, preparing them for career success. Students get a dynamic education that turns them into leaders. For internship opportunities, The University of Colorado has plenty of resources. This school awards more than 700 students internships every year.
Georgetown University offers a hybrid Executive Master of Public Administration program: a combination of classroom time and online classes. If you want a blend of flexibility and face-to-face learning, this program has what you need. This 16-month program has a rigorous curriculum. It blends general and specialized knowledge. It also emphasizes ethics in decision-making. Students learn how to tackle problems from lots of different angles. Since they deal with realistic examples in the classroom, they’ll have no problem when they face these examples in their careers. Among Executive MPA programs, this one stands out for its quality.
Georgetown University places students directly in Washington DC. For Public Administration programs, this means that they get to be right in the middle of the action. Georgetown students are among the first to know about major changes because those changes happen in their neighborhood. Georgetown is also quick to implement new teaching methods and technologies into the classroom, often before other universities make those changes. Furthermore, students surround themselves with history. They get a unique combination of past, present, and future in their educations.
Baruch College (CUNY)
Baruch College offer an Executive Master of Public Administration program meant for current professionals who have at least 3 years of management experience. Either way, classes are flexible. The EMPA program, for example, holds all of its classes on Saturdays. This means that working professionals won’t have to interrupt their lives. Classes focus on current events and issues. Students learn leadership skills and how to make relevant decisions. As a result, these MPA and Executive MPA programs teach the most relevant skills.
Baruch College has one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse student bodies in the world. With so many different worldviews, the school helps students develop unique points of view. Students learn to collaborate with one another and gain important perspectives. This public research university offers important resources to students. Online students enjoy just as many resources and just as much academic rigor as in-classroom students. Baruch College’s location makes it ideal for many students. The campus is within a short distance of wall street, midtown, and lots of major businesses and nonprofits. As a result, students find no shortage of internship and networking opportunities.
Arizona State University
Arizona State University offers an online Executive Master of Public Administration program. However, the program does include three face-to-face sessions in Arizona and Washington DC. This program was designed for those who already have five to seven years of public and nonprofit leadership experience. The online program does provide a lot of flexibility. However, it’s still a challenging program. It depends and widens the knowledge that students will already have, and it culminates in an applied project at the end of the year. This Executive Master of Public Administration provides a rigorous experience.
Arizona State University is one of the most innovative schools in the world. Hiring recruiters, especially those from innovative fields, recognize the University of Arizona name. This school teaches students how to become lifelong learners, which is especially important for those in leadership. Those who graduate from this school feel confident and prepared. Students learn from highly accomplished and experienced teachers.
University of Washington
The University of Washington offers a hybrid Executive Master of Public Administration program. Students combine online and on-campus classes. Faculty and staff understand that EMPA students already have busy lives. That’s why this program remains as flexible as possible for working professionals. This program is an accelerated one, taking place in 18 months. Those who want speed and challenge really enjoy this program. This Executive Master of Public Administration combines theory with practicality, helping students gain the skills that they need.
The University of Washington is one of the most well-respected public universities. This school focuses on impacting people, both on a local level and across the globe. It specializes in turning theoretical ideas into practical changes. In the classroom, this means that students learn how to take their studies directly into their careers. Students become critical thinkers, which equips them for leadership roles.
University of Connecticut
The University of Connecticut offers a hybrid MPA Fellows Program. Designed for working professionals, this executive-style program helps students who want career advancement. This program emphasizes decision-making and approaching tough questions. Students gain confidence in management and analytics. This two-year program provides a fair amount of flexibility, and the small class sizes mean that students get plenty of one-on-one attention. For Executive MPA programs that combine challenge with flexibility, look into the University of Connecticut.
The University of Connecticut helps students approach problems from different angles. Faculty and staff here recognize that students will enter challenging environments after graduation. UCONN prepares students to thrive in those environments. This school also values diversity. It encourages students to learn from different viewpoints and gain insight from their peers.
Columbia University’s on-campus Executive Master of Public Administration program prepares students to make a difference in economics, politics, and nonprofit organizations. This program helps students become better leaders and take their careers to the next level. Students get to strengthen their organization skills, decision-making skills, confidence, and more. For those who already have leadership experience and want to move forward, this program provides just the right amount of challenge. However, it also provides flexibility. This Executive Master of Public Administration can help students achieve the right balance.
Columbia University is one of the most important research institutions in the US. Students who want to make a difference find themselves at home here. This university recognizes that it has a lot of resources. It leverages those resources to help students succeed and make the most of what they have. This school has been around for more than 250 years. In those years, it has provided challenging academics, high standards, and innovation.
Ohio University’s hybrid Executive Master of Public Administration program helps students upgrade their skills. This program provides enough flexibility to help students balance their school lives with their work and home lives. It prepares students to make a difference in public policy, healthcare, and private organizations. Classes emphasize real-world problems and prepare students to tackle these issues in their own careers. Among Executive MPA programs, this one helps students succeed while combining online and in-classroom experiences.
Ohio University wants students to find success in their careers. More than that, it wants students to feel empowered to make a difference. Students here find ways to help other people within their day-to-day lives. Its on-campus classes and its online classes have the same level of challenge and quality. As the oldest university in the state, it has a long history of excellent education.
When you are looking for Executive MPA programs, the program at American University is a good choice for your goals. The Key Executive Leadership MPA program is an on-campus degree that focuses on leadership in government. The degree program recognizes the importance of your role in federal government work, and also provides the skills you need to work as a leader at the state or local level.
American University is the third-ranked school on U.S. News for the Key Executive Leadership MPA program. It has a high rank due to the faculty’s experience as scholars and professionals, as well as the school’s focus on action learning. It provides an opportunity to gain hands-on experience with a mutual learning environment and projects that require teamwork and active participation. It also encourages students to apply the principles they learn in the classroom to their work environment for practical knowledge and experience.
Florida International University
The Executive Master of Public Administration from Florida International University offers an opportunity for students to work in government roles at the state and federal level. The hybrid degree program allows students to work on a strategy to fit their education into a busy work schedule. The hybrid program offers online courses and face-to-face classes on Saturdays so students can work on their classes when they have time. It combines self-study and online learning with traditional learning to help you succeed.
Florida International University is a NASPAA accredited program that takes only 16 months to complete. Since it is an accelerated program, students are able to obtain their degree without wasting time. The program has a large faculty to give students various perspectives to help with critical thinking and analytical skills that will assist with their leadership roles when working in government or a non-profit organization.
University of Missouri Kansas City
The on-campus EMPA program at the University of Missouri Kansas City focuses on providing students with the leadership skills they need to succeed in their career. It teaches effective communication and problem analysis to ensure that students are able to gather and evaluate information before making decisions. It also focuses on helping students understand the role of ethics in governance.
The on-campus EMPA program at the University of Missouri Kansas City stands out for their encouragement to attend EMPA workshops. Students are encouraged to participate in seminars, programs, and workshops that increase their understanding and knowledge of their field. While students must attend four workshops to complete their degree, the school offers multiple options and opportunities and allows students to attend as many events as they prefer to gain further hands-on experience and knowledge.
University of South Dakota
The Executive Master of Public Administration from the University of South Dakota is an online program designed for professionals who work in public administration to learn leadership skills and tools to assist with their career aspirations. The program focuses on effective communication, leadership, and innovation to help students understand their role as a leader. It also ensures that students are prepared to keep up with innovations and societal changes that may impact their organization or their role in government.
The University of South Dakota offers a fully online program that allows students to work at their own pace. It puts a heavy emphasis on the value of communication in a modern work environment due to the rapid changes caused by greater diversity and technological advances. Since communication plays a key role in leadership, the program places an emphasis on the role of communication in decision making and analytics, as well as management and leadership.
New York University
The EMPA for Global Policy Leaders from New York University is a program designed for professionals who plan to work on a global scale. The rapid changes to technology impact governance and leadership. The EMPA program focuses on the role of leaders in promoting inter-governmental cooperation and effective policy when working on an international level. The on-campus program recognizes the challenges of balancing differences in culture, language, and government policies with global goals.
New York University’s EMPA program focuses on the global aspects of public administration. It takes an international approach to governance and policy, which allows leaders to balance the interests of multiple cultures and groups. The degree program offers two scholarships for students attending the university. One scholarship focuses on students from the United States and the United Kingdom while the other focuses on students from Africa, Asia-Pacific, or Latin America. A total of four students are given scholarships through the Global EMPA program each year.
Syracuse University offers an Executive MPA program that allows students to work in public policy and global management. The degree program focuses on evidence-based analysis and critical thinking, as well as communication and management. Students have the opportunity to complete the degree in 12 months or to add an internship to the program and complete it in 18 months. Students can determine their preferences for their degree program based on their level of hands-on experience and their goals for their career.
Syracuse University is the top-ranked school by U.S. News for its Public Management and Leadership concentration in the EMPA program. It is also the second-ranked school by U.S. News for the Nonprofit Management concentration and the Public Finance and Budgeting concentration. The high ranking for the on-campus program stems from the rigorous curriculum and the standards of excellence set by the school to ensure students are prepared for their career.
College of Charleston
The College of Charleston offers an Executive MPA hybrid program that works with professionals who want to adjust their career path or improve their leadership skills. The Executive MPA program requires students to attend classes on-campus on intermittent Saturdays and provides online classes to help students work around their schedules. The program ensures that students are able to complete the degree without interfering with their work schedule. The program takes an applied focus approach to education and gives students hands-on experience by learning from adjuncts who are professionals in their field and workshops that allow students to build contacts.
The College of Charleston is the only college in South Carolina to offer an Executive MPA program. The degree program helps students connect with professional mentors via workshops and training sessions, which allows students to gain internships and hands-on experience in public administration. As the only program in South Carolina, it is a good choice if you want to study in the state and focus on building your career.
University of Texas at Tyler
The University of Texas at Tyler offers an Executive Health Care Administration MPA program designed to help healthcare professionals develop their leadership skills. The degree program requires students to attend a five-day intensive week to start off their semester and then they complete their coursework online. As a hybrid program, it offers greater flexibility to students who are working in the healthcare industry and have complex schedules that limit their availability for traditional classes.
The University of Texas at Tyler stands out for its excellent faculty members. The faculty teaching in the Executive Health Care Administration MPA program consists of professionals who have worked as CEOs, COOs, and CFOs of private or public companies. The school also has faculty who worked in hospital marketing, strategic planning, and health policy analytics. Due to the diverse range of the faculty’s experience, students get a well-rounded view of their subjects and prepare for careers in different fields within the healthcare industry.
Portland State University
The on-campus Executive Master of Public Administration program at Portland State University prepares students to handle the challenges of working in public service. It recognizes the role of leaders when it relates to the government and provides students with the skills they need to make decisions for public policy. The degree program also focuses on teaching students to master different competencies to become effective leaders.
Portland State University differs from other programs by focusing on a peer-to-peer learning environment. It brings students together with alumni, teachers, peers, and leaders to learn from a diverse group of professionals. That focus on peer-to-peer learning teaches teamwork and leadership to help students grasp the skills they need for their career in government or nongovernment positions.
Golden Gate University
Golden Gate University offers Executive MPA programs that help students take on leadership roles in their community and government. The accelerated programs focus on real-world experience and help students understand how to apply their leadership skills in the workplace. It is designed to help students who are already working and may plan to improve their career opportunities.
Golden Gate University offers three types of programs. Students can study the fully online degree program, the traditional on-campus program, or the hybrid program. The online program offers the greatest level of flexibility, but you will need to prepare for self-study to keep up with the classwork. The traditional on-campus program allows students to work directly with professors and peers to obtain their degree and gain experience. The hybrid program combines the self-study of an online program with the support and classroom experience of a traditional class. Students can select the learning environment that fits their schedule and learning style.
North Carolina Central University
North Carolina Central University offers an Executive Master of Public Administration program that works around the schedule of working professionals. It recognizes that students are working in the public or private sector and may need flexible hours to work on their degree. It is a hybrid program that combines online classes with weekend classes to help students complete their degree in 18 months.
North Carolina Central University’s EMPA program stands out for its mandatory trip abroad. Students spend two weeks abroad to gain a global perspective and learn in a different environment. Since the program focuses on leadership as it applies to government at the local, state, and federal level, it gives students experiences that help with their professional goals. Studying abroad plays a role in the process by teaching students to handle differences in culture and language when it relates to public policies.
Southern University and A&M College
The Executive MPA program at Southern University and A&M College is designed to work with professionals who have management experience and want to adjust their career path to work in the public sector. It recognizes that students may have supervisory experience from different sectors and roles, so it provides the core skills and knowledge students need to take on a leadership role in government. Students learn to apply their leadership and management skills to different aspects of local, state, and federal government careers.
Southern University and A&M College stands out from other schools and EMPA programs by focusing on the role of management in public service. It requires students to have at least two years of experience in a middle to an upper management position within the public sector to set a strong foundation in public service before you start the program. It uses your experience to build on your leadership skills.
Should I Get an Executive MPA vs MBA?
A common comparison for business graduate students is a MPA vs MBA. MPA (Master of Public Administration) and MBA (Master of Business Administration) degrees will both educate students on a wide range of business practices. MBAs are common degrees that are pursued by graduate students because the curriculum will cover topics such as finance, law, marketing, and management techniques. When professionals are unsure of what types of organizations they want to work for, they often choose to pursue a MBA. The MBA is more adaptable and will prepare the graduate for business administration jobs.
However, civil service workers benefit more from an executive MPA. The MPA better prepares the student for public administration careers. Essentially, MBAs are better for private sector jobs while MPAs are preferred for careers with public and non-profit organizations. When looking at MPA vs MBA, the student should decide whether he or she wishes to manage either a private organization or a public organization. With a degree in public administration, the graduate will have the knowledge on how to draft and enact policies that will improve communities.
Examples of executive MPA job titles include non-profit director, non-profit program director, budget coordinator, human resources manager, and project coordinator. On the other hand, MBA job careers include administrative services manager, product manager, financial manager, and marketing manager.
Will an Executive MPA Make Me Better at My Job?
Government administrator jobs will greatly benefit from an executive MPA. The skills taught through graduate-level public administrator courses assist with molding ethical and knowledgeable leaders. For individuals looking for careers in public policy, the MPA program will fine-tune skills such as best business practices, accounting, budgeting, policy research and development, and making strategic decisions.
Graduates of executive MPA programs will also have made contacts through their schooling. By attending networking events, they will have gained new professional contacts. Furthermore, most companies will require a master’s degree for promotions. To advance to senior level positions, an executive MPA may be needed. Aspiring politicians also often choose to secure an executive MPA degree. Many careers in public policy involve analyzing the needs of a community and developing policies that address public issues in a fiscally responsible manner.
Professional goals for executive MPA degree holders will include improving social conditions by providing public services. While a MBA will focus more on profit margins, MPA degrees include courses that emphasize integrity and abiding by a strict ethical code.
Can an Executive MPA Help Me Get Private Sector Jobs?
A common question of prospective students is “What can you do with an MPA degree?” For the majority of graduate students, they will move onto civil service jobs. However, public service jobs have salaries that are managed by government funding. Conversely, private sector careers have more potential for higher salaries since the government does not control them. It is not unusual for government employees to gain relevant public administrator experience before moving onto public administration jobs in private sector companies.
With an executive MPA, the graduate has learned key communication and management skills. MPA courses also teach quantitative skills to enable the student to learn how to analyze statistics, manage budgets, and summarize critical data. These assets can make MPA graduates an attractive candidate to recruiters looking to fill private sector jobs. Potential private sector careers are human resources manager, consultant, and corporate responsibility manager.
Public administration jobs in private sector will still utilize skills gained from civil service jobs. Examples of relevant job experience include lobbying and private contracting. Businesses will like that the MPA graduate has been taught to make socially responsible decisions. Types of companies that can benefit from a MPA new hire include educational testing facilities, pharmaceuticals, and healthcare agencies.