The Master of Public Administration degree appeals to a wide variety of individuals, whether they have recently completed their undergraduate studies and are looking for their next move or have been working in the sector for some time and hope to expand their career prospects. The MPA degree is often pursued by civil servants who want obtain a leadership position related to their current role.
It is also a pathway taken by those looking to change their career entirely. Today’s job market is competitive, and a master’s degree can be valuable. It can help better position you for increased pay, promotions, and greater recognition. For employers, a master’s shows that you can see the bigger picture, identify the subtle connections between events, and work within an analytical framework. 
There are a wide variety of roles that can open up to you with a master’s in public administration. A few roles graduates often pursue include:
Master’s graduates can also continue into doctoral study, which could lead to research and teaching roles. Among graduates of Master of Public Administration degree programs, 44% work in government after six months, and 25% work in non-governmental organizations. Another 20% work in the private sector, and 4% pursue higher education. Learn More
As the public administration sector is continually changing and developing, an increasing number of graduates — around 20% — are opting to work within the private sector.  This is due to the increased share of private sector careers available throughout the United States, although this will vary depending on where you live.  However, while many job roles only require a bachelor’s degree, many employers prefer candidates to have an MPA degree.  
The career you pursue will likely be influenced by a number of factors, including what interests you, the difference you’re looking to make in society, and the opportunities in your area. Salary is also a consideration, and there are many well-paying public service jobs. Below are some public service jobs along with their upper range salaries, according to PublicServiceCareers.org: 
When exploring public administration degrees, you will find that many programs begin with a core curriculum. There is then further opportunity to specialize and concentrate your study, and some offer opportunities for work experience.
A typical public administration degree program involves coursework that covers areas such as: 
This work equips students with the organizational, human resources, and budgeting skills required for a career in public services.
Areas of focus can include management, policy analysis, and leadership. It is important to consider how the specialization options can impact your career. For example, if your program is particularly focused on policy analysis, you might study courses that are related closely to statistics and analysis. Your key projects may also relate to the application of policy analysis methods with contextual issues.
If your focus is on management, you will likely cover topics including:
You may also have to complete a project, either group or individual, in which you spend time working in or researching a managerial work environment. If you have already held a career in public service, this type of MPA degree may be best suited to you. It will equip you with the skills in higher level leadership and management.
If you hope to follow the leadership pathway, the core curriculum will likely be dedicated to covering political processes and decision-making. You will explore individual and group leadership, expanding your own skill set through research and practical opportunities. Your program may also include a thesis or advanced policy simulation, in which you can use your knowledge to produce a high-quality final project on a focused topic.
Studying for your master’s degree may include field work or practical explorations to see public administration in action. It will also include a combination of group work discussion and presentations, lectures, and seminars. Case studies that explore key contextual problems will be used extensively.
The public administration sector dates back to ancient Greece when it became important to put in place laws that helped serve the public and created an efficient, fair society. While the philosopher Plato was among the first to develop the concept of democracy, it was the Romans that elevated democracy through administrative hierarchies, similar to present-day democracy. 
The Master of Public Administration degree was first introduced in 1913 when the University of Michigan’s political science department created the qualification in order to counteract the inefficiency and corruption within the government. The goal, through this research bureau, was to introduce “practical work” to the government. It has since grown in popularity as a degree choice, with many universities across America now offering this program.  
The modern history of public administration is tied and directed largely by those who involved in education. The first two major textbooks, by L.D. White and W.F. Willoughby, helped establish orthodox public administration in the mid-1920s and were revised and rewritten through the 1930s. 
The 40s, following World War II, students and professors of the subject began questioning some of the industry’s core mechanics, which they had found to be inadequate to address their efforts during the war. This led to a more modern, outcome-driven philosophy of public administration that valued results and the scientific method. 
Public administration is an ever-changing and evolving sector, responsive to the changing needs and demands of the community, individuals, and society overall. Public administrators in the United States have a growing influence over public policy, law, and other aspects of the population’s daily lives. As such, a master’s degree in public administration can be dynamic, challenging, and engaging.
Public administration is the implementation of government policies.  The study of public administration looks at the process of creating, interpreting, applying, and effecting the law honestly, economically, and efficiently.
The curriculum usually takes an interdisciplinary approach to teach skills and techniques to lead, implement policies, solve problems, and improve efficiency within an organization or government. While this degree prepares students to work for all levels of government and nonprofit organizations, it can be flexible enough to apply in the private sector. A public administration master’s degree is designed for professionals who want to develop management and implementation skills needed to take on leadership roles in public service.
Most PA master’s degrees take an interdisciplinary approach. It focuses on governance and policy issues. Coursework covers key administrative areas such as policy, leadership, ethics, and budgeting.
Most Master of Public Administration degrees will take around two years to complete.
MPA degree programs typically require between 36 and 48 credit hours.
Tuition for an online MPA degree can range from $29,000 to $73,000, while an average program costs about $45,000.
Generally there are supplementary costs apart from tuition. The tuition does not usually include the cost of books or additional fees. These additional costs will vary from program to program.
The largest provider of student financial aid in the nation is the Federal Student Aid office in the U.S. Department of Education. It provides college-level or career school students with loans,
grants, and work-study funds. You can apply for federal financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as FAFSA.
There are numerous other scholarships available, but you will need to research which opportunities you’re qualified to pursue. Many states, associations, websites, and businesses award scholarships based on specific criteria. Be sure to do your research and apply for any scholarships you’re qualified to be awarded. 
Start with a cost-benefit analysis based on the price of the degree and the potential ROI. Weigh the full cost against the positive outcomes you expect as a graduate, which may include a boost in earning potential, upward mobility, or job satisfaction.
While a majority of online MPA programs do not require prerequisite coursework before getting started, a few programs do require an academic history in classes related to American government and policy. Be sure to check with your program of interest.
In most cases, you do not need a specific undergraduate degree to qualify for the MPA program.
Most MPA programs do not require GRE/GMAT scores for admission. For schools that do require GRE/GMAT, this can usually be waived if you have already completed a Ph.D. or JD degree or have at least five years of professional work experience. In some cases, if your undergraduate GPA is less than required, the school may request a GRE/GMAT score.
All MPAs require an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited university or internationally equivalent bachelor’s degree for admission. In terms of professional background, it varies between schools. Some programs require work or volunteer experience in public service as a demonstration of commitment to serving the public, while other programs prefer but do not require this.
Not necessarily. Most programs welcome students who are entering or switching to the field with no prior experience in this field.
Absolutely, there are many online MPA programs that do not require work experience. You should expect to write additional essays to provide information about your skills and talents that work experience would have otherwise demonstrated. Be sure to confirm with the university you are considering.
Because most MPA programs do not require personal interviews for admission, the program admissions committee gets to know you, your passion for public service, and your readiness for graduate studies through these personal statements.
Usually MPA programs require at least two letters of recommendation. These references can come from people who are, or have been, in a position to evaluate your work in an academic or professional setting. Letters of recommendation should come from supervisors, current or former employers, professors, or mentors. Personal recommendations are usually not preferred or even accepted.
Many institutions offer MPA degrees online.
Most institutions do not indicate on the degree that it was earned online.
Yes, typically schools follow the same curriculum for their online programs as they do for their campus-based programs.
In an asynchronous program, the student does not have to log in to attend class at specific times — a big plus for many online graduate students. Synchronous coursework has to be completed within a set timeframe. This is typically done for group projects, seminars, presentations, and other learning initiatives that require multiple attendees. The elements of asynchronous and synchronous learning in your online program depend on the professor and class itself. Once you enroll, reach out to teachers for specifics, but remember that the curriculum may be divided into these two subsets.
When considering an MPA degree, key attributes you should look for can be categorized into two types:
No — attaining a management/senior positions is not guaranteed through the completion of a master’s degree. These positions often require many years of experience and a significant level of career achievement. However, an advanced degree can help you develop the necessary knowledge and skills required for these positions and also prove your dedication to the field.
A general MPA program provides students a comprehensive learning experience. You may touch on different specializations in small doses, rounding off your education. General MPA programs usually focus on key management topics. On the other hand, picking a concentration will help give you an advantage in that specific discipline.
Some concentrations offered include nonprofit management, public leadership and management, public health, and urban management.
Look for an MPA online curriculum that suits your needs. Pick one that has a specialization that aligns with your career goals if you know what you want to do. Find a curriculum that also fits your schedule or helps you get closer to certification or career advancement.
Typical core courses focus on topics such as:
Every program has its own set of core courses. Review each course description and determine if they are of interest and can support your goals. If you choose a program with a concentration, there may be specific courses required to complete the concentration.
Based on NASPAA’s accreditation standards, a master’s degree program’s primary focus is to prepare students to be leaders, managers, and analysts in public affairs, public administration, and public policy.  The five core competencies that MPA programs should demonstrate include: leading and managing in public governance; participating in and contributing to the policy process; analyzing, synthesizing, thinking critically, solving problems and making decisions; articulating and applying a public service perspective; and communicating and interacting productively with a diverse and changing workforce and citizenry. 
Typically taken during the final semester of the program, capstone or portfolio courses allow you to demonstrate competency for public service by applying the knowledge and skills you have learned from the program. The approach to capstone differs by program. It can be:
Most capstone courses are supervised individually or on a small group basis to provide constructive guidance during the project.
The majority of MPA programs have a capstone requirement.
There are two types of accreditation to consider: programmatic and institutional.
Programmatic accreditations are administered by professionally oriented speciality bodies. The accrediting bodies judge a program’s educational quality based on a set standard. The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) is the most recognized accrediting agency in the public service field. Institutional accreditations are administered by regional agencies. They evaluate colleges and universities as a whole to ensure they meet certain standards of educational quality. The regional accrediting bodies that oversee higher education institutions in their areas are:
NASPAA stands for Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration. It’s a global membership organization of graduate education programs in public policy, affairs, and public administration. It also oversees the peer review process that accredits master’s degree programs in these fields from around the world. The Commission on Peer Review and
Accreditation (COPRA) is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). 
Not all MPA programs are NASPAA accredited, as submission for accreditation review is voluntary. Currently, 191 programs at 177 schools (59% of member institutions) are accredited.  The accreditation provides an indication of quality, as the program has been reviewed by industry professionals and has met a set of standards to ensure it will provide the knowledge needed for a student to succeed in the real-world environment. If you are considering an MPA program without NASPAA accreditation, you will need to perform extra due diligence in research to understand the outcomes of the non-accredited program and to ensure the program’s vision aligns to your goals.
The NASPAA’s accreditation process follows a set of standards and policies that can be found at their website. The five core competencies that MPA programs should demonstrate include: leading and managing in public governance; participating in and contributing to the policy process; analyzing, synthesizing, thinking critically, solving problems and making decisions; articulating and applying a public service perspective; and communicating and interacting productively with a diverse and changing workforce and citizenry. 
No. Program cost is not determined by whether or not it is NASPAA accredited.
As a graduate from an accredited program, your degree will remain accredited because the curriculum at the time of your graduation was accredited.
You do not need to have a certification/license to pursue a career in public service.
Yes, many universities offer certificate programs in public administration. Many are the same universities that offer a master’s in public administration.
Certificate programs provide foundational knowledge in select key topics or one specific topic within public administration. They are intended to complement your experience or master’s / professional studies. Certificate programs typically require four to five courses and usually provide students the opportunity to complete them within a year.
MPA graduates are found mainly in the public and nonprofit sectors, but there are also many in the private sector. Employment opportunities for candidates with an MPA include:
Annual salary can range from $40,000 to $140,000.
MPA graduates are found mainly in the public and nonprofit sectors such as federal agencies, municipal offices, service associations, hospitals, and public schools. There are also many in the private sector for organizations such as consulting firms, corporations, and investment groups.
As MPA graduates can fill various types of jobs, the overall field is predicted to see 6-10% growth from 2014 to 2024, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Urban and regional planners will see a 6% increase.  Administrative services managers will see an 8% increase.  Social and community service managers will see a 10% increase. 
While an MPA emphasizes the management and implementation of policies, an MPP typically emphasizes the research and evaluation of policies. Both programs have concentration options and usually can be completed in around two years. You should choose the degree that best supports your interests and career goals. There are also programs that blend the two curriculums. 
While both degrees emphasize management of organizations, each degree focuses on the application of business knowledge in different settings. The MPA focuses on management within public service sectors — mainly government and nonprofit. It’s intended for those with an interest in creating or implementing public policy. The MBA focuses on management in the private and public sectors, mainly of corporations. Both degrees have online delivery formats and most can be completed in as few as two years. You should choose the degree that best supports your interests and career goals.
The MPA focuses on management in public service sectors — mainly government and nonprofit organizations. It’s intended for those with an interest in creating or implementing public policy. The MHA focuses on management in healthcare organizations and corporations. Both degrees have online programs and most can be completed in as few as two years. There are MPA programs with concentrations in health administration if you want a bit of both curriculums.
SARA (State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement) applies only to distance education programs in the United States that cross state lines. This agreement is made between member states and establishes comparable postsecondary national standards for distance education courses.
Not every state is a SARA member. Through SARA, member states only have to receive authorization in their home state. Without SARA, schools in non-member states would have to receive authorization in their home state and the state of each of their online students. It’s not impossible, but not as simple. 
Every school has a department or team responsible for online education. This department can answer questions regarding compliance for your home state. Additionally, you can locate the school through SARA (if it is a SARA institution) to confirm compliance.