Civil service has always been one of the most reliable occupations, traditionally offering qualified professionals a career marked by job stability, reasonable pay, and good benefits. In other words, not the most thrilling or dynamic jobs – no kids says “I want to be comptroller when I grow up!” – but long careers that can maintain a solid middle-class life and retirement.
Featured Online MPA Programs
- Ashford University – Master of Public Administration
- Capella University – Master of Public Administration
- Kaplan University – Master of Public Administration
Why Get an Online Master of Public Administration Degree?
Like other occupations, though, public administration is more competitive than ever. Civil service professionals who want to move up the ladder into higher levels of management and leadership need the credentials to set them apart and qualify them for the job. That’s why the Master of Public Administration has become one of the most in-demand degrees today, and why online MPA programs are proliferating at colleges and universities.
Online programs provide all the knowledge and skills necessary for leadership in public administration, with the convenience of online coursework. Working adults do not need to leave their careers, take time off, or even commute to a campus to earn their degree. The best online master of public administration programs make use of a working professional’s experience, and can provide skills and knowledge that students can apply to their current jobs immediately – while they’re preparing for their next. That’s why Best Master’s Programs has made this definitive ranking of the Top 25 Online Master of Public Administration Programs.
Methodology: Ranking the Best Online Master of Public Administration Degree Programs
To rank the best master’s in public administration online programs, BMP editors began with a thorough search of accredited MPA programs offered in a fully online or hybrid format in the US. From that initial research, we ranked programs according to 4 factors:
- Reputation (U.S. News Public Affairs ranking)
- Student Reviews (Niche.com)
- Cost (IPEDS data)
- Alumni Salary (College Scorecard data)
This cross-section of criteria helps students feel certain that their program will provide the best of all situations – excellent education, job market-recognition, and a strong return on investment.
1. Texas A&M University – College Station, TX
Texas A&M University’s Executive Master of Public Service and Administration (EMPSA) is one of the online Master’s in Public Administration programs that is completely 100% online. This non thesis program has three tracks from which the Aggie student can choose. They are Homeland Security, Nonprofit Management, or Public Management. Texas A&M’s program can be completed in as little as two to three years.
The Master of Public Service and Administration degree at the Bush School of Government and Public Service is accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA). Texas A&M is ranked #1 in Texas by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. This program is for working adults who wish to strengthen their public service leadership skills, sound decision making, and critical investigation.
Degree: Executive Master of Public Service and Administration
2. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers a MPA program which develops students to become public service leaders. The mission of the program is to provide students with an understanding of the importance of transparent accountability, professional and ethical behavior, respect and equity.
Students will develop skills to analyze the processes within an organizations and find way to make effective changes. Students gain a better understanding of collaboration and relationship building to create effective leadership. They will learn the ethical and legal impacts on social equity and diversity. Students learn to analyze current social, economic, and political situations while understanding the history of public administration and service. They learn how to create and organize writing and presentations in a valuable and meaningful way. Students gain a foundation in constitutional and fundamental law that controls public administration and policy. They learn the theory and use of research to handle human resource management challenges and liabilities.
3. University of Southern California – Los Angeles, CA
One of the nation’s best Master’s in Public Administration online programs, at the University of Southern California, comes from the Sol Price School of Public Policy. This multidisciplinary program blends the areas of politics, social and economic leadership in today’s world. The program at University of Southern California uses innovative technology with research to prepare students for the changing world of public administration. They are given the ability to make reasonable and effective decisions and create worthy policy.
This MPA program gives students a different perspective on management issues while providing a strong foundation in the history of policy. Upon graduation from the program, students will have a deeper understanding of policy implications on management decisions. In the world of public administration, the appropriate person in the right place provides effective impacts on making real change. Students can find employment in jobs like a city planner, resource management, and healthcare reform.
4. Villanova University – Villanova, PA
Villanova University’s online Master of Public Administration programs have earned national recognition. Villanova believes their mission is to groom students to be successful in the public sector while maintaining ethics, knowledge and encouraging diversity. Students benefit from broader understanding of strategy, sound decision-making, and efficient management.
Students gain a broader understanding of the structure of organizations and how they work together. Students are given tools to review data and utilize research to make better and more ethical decisions. Upon graduation, students will be able to coordinate the best practices from other organizations and make decisions about resource concerns. They will understand the importance of sound financial and budgetary management.
5. Arizona State University – Tempe, AZ
Arizona State University’s Executive MPA is an online program that take about 19 months to complete. This program is a blended program between the McCain Institute for International Leadership and Arizona State’s School of Public Affairs. Students applying for this program should have at least five years of experience in leadership. Students can only take one course at a time online to allow them to have more control over their time and schedule.
The degree program works to expand an executive leaders’ ability to make sound decisions and lead effectively. Students will network and expose themselves to others in the same of similar fields of work. This program appeals to international and national applicants, so students have the ability to create deep relationships. Arizona State University has numerous research areas to allow students to focus on using research to address global concerns.
Degree: Executive MPA
6. University of Colorado Denver
University of Colorado Denver Master of Public Administration online programs are for students who have a desire to provide more value to their current job function. Students gain a foundation in public administration and its impact on serving the public. Students learn the history of policy and democracy and how it has implications in today’s world.
Students will dig deeper into core aspects of how policy is created and implemented. They will become skilled at resolving conflicts through utilizing negotiation tools. Students will develop effective tools to help manage people in which they come into contact. They also learn the value of research and develop methods to analyze the data and use it to guide effective decision making. At the completion of the program, students should see the value of ethical decision making in leadership. Students will gain a foundation in finances and how to make the best budgetary decisions.
7. Northeastern University – Boston, MA
Northeastern University offers a Master of Public Administration that allows students to develop skills that will enable them to be better public assistants. Students build a strong foundation in evaluating policy, research methodology, and written and oral communication. Northeastern University’s mission is to prepare students to address the needs of the local community.
Students will become advocates for the public by maintaining integrity when making decisions for society. Students develop an appreciation for citizen diversity and are better able to be inclusive. Students are well-informed about proper design of programming and have a stronger interest in effective use of skills and applying ethical practices. In addition, students learn proper budgeting skills and integrate it into effective use of resources and sound management decisions. Students will receive hands on experience with professional interactions, internships and projects within groups.
8. American University – Washington, DC
American University offers an online Master of Public Administration degree from their School of Public Affairs. The Master of Public Administration and Policy gives students critical skills to prepare them for careers in all public and governmental sectors. Students gain the knowledge to address administrative concerns by analyzing proven solutions and applying them when addressing management of an organization. Students will understand the structure and culture of organizations and how to effectively use resources.
Students will be given a broad foundation in the historical political and legal policies of organizations and how those policies have far reaching impacts today. They are taught to study and create new policies and programs within the current organizational framework. They learn the methodology of statistical data and the benefits of that data on an organization. Students are required to participate in public policy practicum. The practicum provides students an understanding of ethical and legal aspects of the policy within organizations.
Degree: Master of Public Administration and Policy
9. Rutgers University Newark – Newark, NJ
Rutgers University Newark’s online MPA degree programs, from the School of Public Affairs and Administration, make 100% of the program available online, allowing students to gain an understanding of key elements in a flexible environment on their schedule. This program gives students context around public administration while studying the data research and methods. Students understand how to manage their human resources effectively and understand the framework of an organization. Students learn the importance of proper budgeting and good use of finances. At the end of the program, students are able to put what they learned to the test with a project based in the real world of public administration.
Rugters University is one of the oldest institutions in the US, one of the 9 colleges founded before the American Revolution. But Rutgers has never rested on its laurels – for more than two and a half centuries it has innovated and developed, helping shape New Jersey and the whole northeastern region. Rutgers Newarks is home to one of the nation’s best business schools, and the School of Public Affairs is a model of civic education.
10. University of Central Florida – Orlando, FL
University of Central Florida’s Master’s in Public Administration online programs are designed cultivate more competent leaders in public service. Students will focus on organizational and financial management, as well as strategic planning. Students will utilize real world situations to create partnerships and improve management skills.
Central Florida has two degree options thanks to a partnership with the criminal justice department and the management program. Upon graduating from this program, students can find employment as managers in a city, as an administrative service manager, a director of education, a city planner, program analysts, leadership in a non profit organization, or as an education administrator.
11. University of Nebraska Omaha
University of Nebraska Omaha offers a Master’s degree in Public Administration this program provides students access to opportunities to make a difference in the community. The University of Nebraska’s mission is to increase public service by informing students how to manage organizations in an ethical and effective way. Students in this program can find employment in health care, community and international development.
This program has six areas from which students can choose. Emergency management offers information in response and recovery. Health care administration gives students a foundation to manage hospitals or other organizations. Local government is critical to public services in areas like transportation, the environment, and utilities. Students can gain employment as a policy analyst, city manager, or planner. Nonprofit management students gain the knowledge to lead ethically. Public Management students learn competencies important for administrative leaders across all industries, such as proper budgeting. Policy students receive a strong base in policy processes and skills in policy analysis and evaluation, strategic research and planning.
12. University of Delaware – Newark, DE
University of Delaware’s Master of Public Administration online programs provide an interdisciplinary blend to address solutions to current problems in society. This program gives a foundational knowledge of policy and hands on management. Students learn to create meaningful solutions to make a change for the entire community. This flexible program provides students the opportunity to study methods of best practices and learn strategies to create new policies and make sounds decisions.
Students learn current and innovative research methodology to address the current needs in public service. They gain new skills to manage organizations through everyday challenges. Students become instruments of change by creating solutions with verifiable and proven solutions. Students understand the financial and administrative impacts of sound decisions. Students develop analytical skills and use problem solving to make valuable decisions. As the local community grows, so does the demand for ethical leadership.
13. San Diego State University
San Diego State University’s competitive online Master of Public Administration degree program that can be completed in 16 months. The program is rigorously paced for individuals currently working in management roles in urban planning, administration, or criminal justice industries. Students can take the faster track program which is six modules that are two months each. The program ends with a capstone instead of a thesis.
Students will gain a broad foundation in theory, research methodology, finance, policy and personnel administration. They also study urban government, employee relations, comparative administrations. This program gives students the skills they need for employment in government, consulting firms, organizations and private sector.
14. University of Baltimore
University of Baltimore’s online Master of Public Administration degree program is rigorous with the convenience of taking classes from home. This MPA program has six specializations in public policy and administration, health-care policy administration, fiscal administration, negotiations with conflict management, global and human security affairs, and public and nonprofit management. Students use organizational theory and effective management practices to resolve issues.
Students learn how to study policy and the methods administrators use to implement new policy. Students take a deeper look at recruitment and selection, training and development, motivation, compensation, and labor relations. Students learn the complexity and implications of legal and ethical decisions on the democratic policy process. Students gain an understanding of the history of socio-political patterns of governance and how they shaped the law and ethics.
15. CUNY John Jay College – New York, NY
CUNY John Jay College’s online Master of Public Administration degree includes a concentration in Inspection and Oversight. The online Master of Public Administration programs provided by John Jay College of Criminal Justice gives students training that’s specific to inspection and oversight. This program gives students a foundation in the issues confronting organizations in compliance, misconduct and forensic accountancy. Students take a deeper look at concerns such as abuse, corruption, and investigative techniques.
Students gain an understanding of assessments, audits, and investigations from a human resources perspective. They learn the proper way to prepare investigative reports regarding violations of policies and laws on workplace safety, employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation, fraud, abuse, and waste. They will learn skills to fact find, investigate, document and complaint assessment. They will take a deeper look at ethics in public service. Students will analyze ethical issues with real world case studies and critical incidents. They will understand the value of a code of ethics and other policies designed to ensure public officials and employees fulfill their fiduciary obligations to the public.
Degree: MPA – Inspection and Oversight
16. Florida International University – Miami, FL
Florida International University offers an online MPA from the Steven J Green School of International and Public Affairs. Most of the program’s courses are taught by full time FIU Public Administration professors. FIU’s MPA program is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA). Students have access to FIU’s extensive Career Services Department which gives students the tools and skills to have a competitive edge when seeking employment. The Department of Public Administration has its own Career Development Coordinator.
Students gave a foundation in the political, social and economic impacts on public administration. They learn how to analyze policy and plan better programming. Students learn how to better manage human resources and work within policy guidelines. The gain a basic understanding of finance and the budget process and how to stay within a budget. They gain leadership skills and learn how to make better and more sound decisions. Students learn the benefits of accountability and applying data found as a result of research.
17. University of San Francisco
University of San Francisco’s online Master of Public Administration degree program provides students with a flexible learning experience. USF readies students for public leadership roles with advanced coursework while continuing to research the most effective means to reach the most vulnerable members of the community.
USF believes that all people should receive social justice. The program maintains integrity and accountability while pursuing academics excellence in all programs. Students will learn to become compassionate and effective leaders who address management problems in a humane manner. Students elicit ethical change and effective interactions between government and public sectors. Students learn how to blend instruction, research, and service to participate in a collaborative learning environment.
18. University of South Florida – Tampa, FL
University of South Florida offers an online Master of Public Administration program. USF’s mission is to give every student a chance to strengthen his or her understanding, and participation in, public service. FSU utilizes community resources with real world application with class projects, internships, and developing mutually beneficial relationships with practitioners. FSU enables students to take on professional and management roles at the local, state, and national levels.
The MPA program at USF gives students a pride in the community and spirit to develop the skills to behave with an ethical mindset, embrace diversity, respect differences and empower students with a sense of accountability and responsibility as public servants. USF MPA students develop and apply managerial skills, hone analytical decision-making skills, and broaden their capacity to understand, address, and resolve real world problems.
19. Marist College – Poughkeepsie, NY
Marist College’s online Master of Public Administration degree program is one of the top-ranked in the nation. Students of Marist College have the ability to select from one of five concentrations within the online MPA program. Each concentration prepares the students to become leaders in the world of public administration. The course work gives in depth and real world best practices along with leading research for each area of study.
The Public Management MPA Concentration prepares students for managerial roles and enhances their strategic planning skills to lead organizations regardless of focus or mission. The Ethical Leadership MPA Concentration looks at modern critical leadership issues within organizations. Students will gain a better understanding of the role of ethics within the public sector. The Healthcare Administration MPA Concentration focuses on the unique challenges caused by extensive regulation, reimbursement and profitability difficulties, and managing a highly educated and diverse workforce. The Nonprofit Management MPA Concentration focuses on nonprofit agencies and their unique challenges with mission, governance, funding, and staffing. The Analytics MPA Concentration focuses on managing data resources, as well as data and database modeling.
20. University of Texas Arlington
University of Texas Arlington’s Master’s in Public Administration online programs give students knowledge and skills for management careers in public services. This program focuses on the challenges faced by managers in urban areas. UTA offers an internship program providing students an opportunity to spend a semester gaining professional experience.
Students will gain a foundation in public administration as it relates to democracy, values, dynamics of an organization, and politics. They will learn how to explain the role of public administration and address areas where government reform is needed. They will understand intergovernmental relations, organizational dynamics and behavior, personnel issues, and budgeting. They will understand the role of and need for public ethics. They will learn to take a look at values and the need for sound ethical decision making. Students will become competent at creating guidelines and procedures that promote ethical behavior.
21. California State University, Long Beach
CSU Long Beach offers a Masters in Public Administration (MPA) program to give students broad knowledge of public administration blended with an understanding of administrative processes of government. Students will learn strategic planning in public organizations. They will take a deep look at the historical and current challenges facing urban government, including resources and the environment.
Students will learn ways to problem solve and manage in a difficult environment with resource and personnel limitations. They will be given a foundation in laws and regulations, including the power of regulations and corporations. They will take a look at taxation and eminent domain. Students will learn how to prepare solid documentation and improve their writing skills. They will enhance their analysis of data by learning to use better methods of evaluation.
22. Indiana University – Bloomington, IN
The School of Public and Environmental Affairs offers Indiana University’s online Master of Public Administration programs. This is a flexible program that allows students to work within their already busy schedules. Course work is available any time of the day or night that the student is available. The program at Indiana University is recognized as one of the best. Students will develop the skills to help them understand the issues facing society and work to correct them with policy changes.
Students will gain the fundamentals of public management, finance and budget, and legal matters. The program is divided into concentrations. Community and Economic Development focuses on improving quality of life in a sustainable manner. Energy focuses on the global energy crisis the world faces. Environmental Policy and Natural Resource Management combines knowledge of the environment with policy to make real changes. Health Policy focuses on governmental impacts on healthcare. Information Systems focuses on innovation as a way to make social and environmental changes. International Development focuses on challenges in developing countries. Policy Analysis focuses on an analytical approach to making policy changes. Sustainability and Sustainable Development focuses on strategies to make lasting changes for the future.
23. University of Illinois at Springfield
University of Illinois Illinois’ Master of Public Administration online programs give students the ability to obtain their degree through interactive learning in a flexible and diverse environment. University of Illinois uses current and innovative technology to allow students to access all resources without having to step foot on campus.
This MPA program provides two tracks from students can choose. The first allows students to focus on personnel, budgeting, policy analysis and program evaluation, or organizational change and development. The second provides students the option of studying administrative law, management information systems, environmental studies, public financial management, or human and social services. Students will gain experience in sound decision making, public policy, and the dynamics of organizations.
24. DePaul University – Chicago, IL
DePaul University offers an online Master of Public Administration degree (MPA) that readies students for roles in leadership in public organizations. This programs’s proximity to the city allows connections to government and nonprofit organizations and the opportunity for a real world perspective on public service.
Students in this program will develop a greater understanding for finance and budget, as well as human resources. DePaul’s program provides a broader look at ethical organizational leadership and public policy. Students have four specializations from which they can choose: Emergency Management, Public Management, Metropolitan and Urban Affairs, and International Public Management. Students will develop a better understanding of the economics around public service. Students gain an appreciation for analyzing data and how to apply the results to public service improvement.
25. Old Dominion University – Norfolk, VA
Old Dominion University’s online Master of Public Administration degree allows students to access classes online from any place that is convenient. There isn’t a set meeting time, so students have flexibility to fit them into their schedule. ODU’s degree program has been NASPAA accredited by the Commission on Peer Review & Accreditation. This MPA program teaches students to use their experience to strengthen their skills and abilities.
Students gain a strong foundation in the process and procedures in public management processes, including tools for budgeting and personnel actions. They will understand organizational design and behavior. Students learn how to analyze policy and programs to determine where changes are needed. They explore the political, legal, and ethical ramifications of public administration. Upon graduation, students can find employment as city managers, planners, analysts, and consultants.
Why Earn a Master of Public Administration?
As an often-overlooked degree, many people may wonder what is MPA degree and what such a degree can do for them. The Master of Public Administration or MPA degree is a discipline that has a focus on non-profit and public sector administration and management. However, an MPA is also good for-profit businesses and initiatives as well.
What is MPA degree benefits? Altogether, the benefits of studying public administration are definitely strong. An MPA degree offers crucial management skills and flexibility. While the MPA focus is on public policy, nonprofits, and government organizations, those skills can translate to any for-profit company or business as well. An MPA puts applicants in a position to work in both the public and private sector seamlessly.
Applicants should keep in mind that MPA programs can vary greatly. The benefits of studying public administration will also depend on what MPA program the applicant chooses and where that program sits in the masters in public administration rankings.
For example, the top MPA programs in California may offer many benefits, but a track through a different program in the masters in public administration rankings can offer benefits suitable to a more local or immediate career path.
What’s the Difference Between an MPA and an MBA?
When looking into MPA programs, applicants will invariably also come across master of business administration or MBA degrees in the master of public administration rankings. Choosing between an MPA vs MBA degree can make a great difference depending on the applicant’s desires. Here is a look at the differences between the two of them.
Both the MPA and MBA are graduate degrees, and are interchangeable in some loose applications. Nevertheless, an MPA has a strong focus on the public and nonprofit sectors and their management and administration.
The MBA comes with a strong focus on business administration and management. In this way, the MBA works well for those with a strong interest in the private sector. The MBA curriculum will seek to give applicants a stronger grasp of marketing, finance, and other areas more beneficial to the private sector.
When it comes to MPA vs MBA, both degree paths offer benefits. Choosing between the two will depend on the career plan of the applicant. Both degrees can translate well to any business endeavors.
An applicant should know if they want to go into the public or private sectors. This will give the applicant the ability to make a more informed decision when looking at the master of public administration rankings.
Whether MPA vs MBA, an applicant will have to still find the program that fits their needs. For example, accelerated and one year MPA programs exist. Yet, that accelerated path isn’t always the best option for someone who needs more free time on a day-to-day basis to fulfill other duties.
What Do I Need to Apply for an MPA Program?
MPA admission requirements can vary, but to start with, applicants should already have their bachelors from a regionally accredited school or program. Some programs may require a specific GPA, usually at least 2.75. In some cases, the GPA requirement is higher, but any experience can also factor into the decision to accept an applicant.
Some MPA admissions will require a GRE score, but many will waive that requirement if the applicant meets certain other criteria. An applicant can also specifically search for masters in public policy online no GRE required programs or online MPA programs no GRE required. However, not just online MPA programs can waive GRE requirements.
MPA requirements can also dictate the applicant have credits in specific courses. The curriculum can often waive these requirements if the applicant takes the courses as part of their MPA degree program.
Since the requirements can vary a great deal between programs, applicants must spend some time ascertaining what program or school is the right fit for their needs and their qualifications. Also be sure to look for scholarships; because there is so much demand for civil service professionals, there are a number of MPA scholarships available.