Great for anyone interested in public service or promoting social welfare, a Masters in Public Administration Online (MPA Online) leads to various upper management careers. Those who earn an MPA end up working in many different industries, including public, private, and nonprofit organizations.
Some potential careers come with high salaries and a strong job outlook. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that urban and regional planners earn a median salary of $74,350, and projections show an 11% job growth rate from 2019-2029. Like other professionals, urban and regional planners require at least a master’s degree. Fortunately, students can complete their MPA entirely online, and some learners choose to earn their degree part-time as they continue working. This resource explores online MPA programs and includes potential career outcomes, industry resources, and what to expect from an online degree.
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While accredited online MPA programs meet a specific set of academic standards, colleges and universities structure their programs. Based on numerous factors, including program outcomes, degree requirements, and prestige, we’ve determined that these are the best online MPA programs.
A degree’s cost continues to rise, but some programs — particularly online programs — offer affordable MPA degrees. After reviewing various online MPA programs, we’ve determined that these are the most affordable online masters in public administration degrees.
An online master’s in public administration covers various public problems, teaching students to find creative, ethical solutions supported by data. However, with many concentrations and degree types available, the specifics of an online MPA could vary from student to student.
Types of Online Master’s in Public Administration Admission Degrees
While many public administration learners choose an MPA, some schools also offer a master of science or master of arts in public administration. Each option covers similar materials, though career outcomes can vary.
An online MPA teaches students to become organizational leaders. This option is best for those who want to lead nonprofits, join politics, or serve public organizations.
An online master of arts in public administration focuses heavily on research. Anyone interested in research careers might prefer a master of arts.
An online master of science in public administration embraces quantitative practices and experience. This option is best for anyone interested in fields like public finance.
EMPA Vs. MPA
While most universities offer the master’s in public administration as an MPA degree, some universities offer it as an online executive MPA program. The main difference between MPA degrees and executive MPA degree is that the EMPA program focuses mainly on public administration leadership aspects. These programs are designed for executives expected to have significant professional experience in public administration or a closely related field.
One of the best ways to seek niche jobs in the public administration domain is to specialize in a sub-field of the subject. Here are some examples of focus areas students can consider:
Global Strategic Communication
A focus on Global Strategic Communication is suitable for those motivated by a sense of purpose. Through thorough and purposeful communication, this program equips students with the required tools and abilities to assist in the resolution of the world’s most critical issues. Students in this program will study how to communicate successfully across cultural and geographic boundaries in order to provide solutions to global concerns such as climate change and immigration. They will learn to deal with global issues by using strategic interpersonal communication skills and cultural awareness. The University of Florida is one institution that offers this specialization.
Public Interest Communication
Public interest communication has emerged as an interdisciplinary, systems-level profession with strategic benefits that transcend far beyond an organization’s communications position. Students who pursue this concentration will master the skills, methods, concepts, and procedures required to form movements and promote good social change through strategic communication tactics. This multidisciplinary program combines academic and practical work, drawing on practice and scholarship in public relations and journalism, advertising, and marketing research, as well as sociology, political science, anthropology, and neuroscience. Students can consider the University of Florida when opting for this concentration.
Online Master’s in Public Administration Admission Requirements
Every school sets its requirements for an online MPA program, though most accredited schools set similar requirements. While specific requirements vary by institution, some common admission requirements include the following.
All online master’s in public administration programs require at least a bachelor’s degree. Some schools prefer candidates with a bachelor’s in a field related to public administration.
Some online programs want applicants to demonstrate relevant professional experience. Regardless of requirements, a strong resume/CV could help applicants stand out.
Letters of Recommendation
Online MPA programs require at least two letters of recommendation. These should come from previous college professors or current professional supervisors.
Many programs require an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher, though other schools set no requirements. However, high GPAs could improve a candidate’s chance of getting admitted and securing financial aid.
The Graduate Readiness Exam (GRE) is a standardized test that colleges use to evaluate applicants. This requirement is becoming less common, though some schools still require minimum GRE scores.
Online MPA: No GMAT or GRE Requirements
Prospective public administration students who want to avoid the GRE have options. Some schools, like Northeastern University, set no GRE requirements for their online MPA. Choosing these programs could save applicants time and energy. Here are some more universities that offer online MPA No GRE programs:
Online master’s in public administration programs that receive accreditation tend to offer many of the same courses. However, some programs also offer concentrations so that those specific course requirements could vary significantly from school to school. Regardless, future master’s in public administration can anticipate completing the following courses.
Public Personnel Administration: An important course for anyone interested in a government or public role, public personnel administration covers the recruitment, selection, and evaluation of personnel. This course also covers topics like compensation, training, and benefit. Public personnel administration directly applies to many human resources and leadership positions.
Administrative Theory: Administrative theory introduces the groundwork used for many public administration courses. Students explore many historical and current public administration theories, then evaluate the different uses for each theory. This course also includes extensive reading and research, two skills required for many public administration positions.
Public and Nonprofit Organizational Behavior: Organizational behavior provides students with a look at how individuals and systems behave within an organization. This course focuses specifically on public and nonprofit organizations, great for anyone interested in a leadership role.
Public Financial Management: An analytics-heavy course, public financial management applies financial management topics to nonprofits and public organizations. Topics include tax administration, financial analysis, and cost-benefit analysis. While not always required, this course prepares students for financial management careers, a niche career for MPA graduates.
Collaborative Governance: Collaborative governance deals with the process of implementing policies. The course teaches students to interact with public, private, and nonprofit stakeholders. Other topics include negotiating and policy design. Depending on the position graduates secure, collaborative governance could play a large role in day-to-day operations.
Choosing a Quality (and Accredited) Online MPA:
When looking at potential colleges and programs, students should look out for accreditation. Accreditation ensures the quality of a school and/or program. Prospective online MPA students should only apply to regionally accredited schools. Also, students should search for degrees that received programmatic accreditation from organizations like NASPAA. Choosing a degree with programmatic accreditation ensures that the coursework aligns with industry standards.
Accelerated MPA Programs Online
Accelerated MPA Programs OnlineMany online master’s in public administration students choose to study part-time to continue working. However, other students want to complete their graduate degrees as quickly as possible. An accelerated MPA program teaches the same materials as a regular program, only at a faster pace. These degrees usually take one year to complete, though students can anticipate an intensive course of study. Here are some universities that offer accelerated online MPA programs, including one-year online masters in public administration:
Free Online Master’s in Public Administration Programs
While uncommon, some students could enroll in a free online MPA program. These programs do not charge tuition rates to learners, making it an excellent way to earn a graduate degree. However, these rare programs are usually incredibly exclusive. Regardless, students who enter these programs enjoy quality degrees at no cost. While there aren’t any accredited free MPA programs, some courses are taken from previous years’ MPA programs and made available online. Here are some free courses from MPA programs:
Skills Gained in an Online Master’s in Public Administration Program
A public administration degree leads to many different careers in various industries. To prepare graduates for these many possibilities, schools teach an array of useful skills. These skills help graduates thrive in their future positions while preparing them to continue their education potentially.
Leadership: A master’s in public administration prepares students for leadership positions, so the programs teach valuable leadership skills. Leadership is used to oversee tasks and personnel, plan projects, and evaluate programs.
Analytics: Many courses in an online MPA program emphasize analytics. Analytics is used in many career outcomes as public, private, and nonprofit officials use censuses, studies, and sources to make decisions. Some career outcomes rely heavily on analytics.
Communication: Regardless of where students work, they must communicate with professionals in different fields. During an MPA program, students learn to communicate with personnel, lead employees, and explain their reasoning.
Research: Depending on the MPA program, students may conduct heavy amounts of research. Most professions require public administrators to research before creating new policies or planning projects.
Decision Making: As leaders in their field, MPA graduates are usually the ones to make the final decision on projects, hiring, or planning. MPA coursework teaches various skills that reinforce decision making, so graduates should feel confident in their decisions as a professional.
How to Pay for an MPA Degree
Master’s in public administration students, including those who study online, use various methods to pay for their degree. Before taking out student loans, many MPA students first secure grants, fellowships, financial aid, and scholarships.
Techniques for Paying for Your Online MPA
Grants: Grants provide learners with free money, similar to how scholarships work. Students can secure grants through their school, a private institution, or the state or federal government.
Fellowships: Fellowships, such as the Byron Hanke Fellowship, provide funding for public administration students in exchange for work. Similar to internships, a fellowship helps students pay for their degrees while also gaining valuable experience.
Financial Aid: All graduate students should submit the Free Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA), a government program that helps students who demonstrate financial need pay for their degree. After completing the FAFSA, new learners automatically apply for financial aid, ranging from student loans to grants.
Scholarships for Online Master’s in Public Administration Students
Besides other grants, financial aid, and fellowships, online MPA students also use scholarships to help pay for their degree. Many scholarships only accept applicants who pursue a master’s degree in public administration, and some could finance a significant portion of a graduate degree.
Walter W. Mode ScholarshipWho Can Apply: Awarded through the American Society for Public Administration, the Walter W. Mode Scholarship awards $1,500 to an ASPA who demonstrates a commitment to public service. Amount: $1,500
Harry S. Truman Scholarship FoundationWho Can Apply: A comprehensive award that finances students’ education pursuing various degrees, the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation has extended over 3,000 awards to date. Amount: $30,000
Herbert Roback ScholarshipWho Can Apply: Named after a lifelong public servant, the Herbert Roback Scholarships awards one scholarship to a student pursuing a master’s degree in public administration, international affairs, public policy, or a related field. Amount: $7,500
Career and Salary Outlook for Online MBA Graduates
A master’s in public administration introduces a wide range of topics to prepare students for careers in private, public, and nonprofit organizations. As a result, potential career opportunities can vary.
Regardless of which direction they take their career, graduate public administration students can anticipate good wages and steady job growth. Some potential career and salary potentials for online MPA graduates include the following.
Urban and regional planners design and create communities in towns, cities, and metropolitan areas. These professionals work closely with public officials, conduct research, discuss potential projects with developers.
Some MPA graduates end up working as financial managers. Financial managers evaluate a business or organization’s financial health by conducting research, creating reports, and communicating with organizational leaders.
Certifications and Licenses for Public Administration Degrees
Fortunately for public administration students, many potential careers do not require any certification or license. However, those who are unsure of what to do with their career should consider becoming Certified Public Managers. Other career outcomes, such as financial managers, could benefit from niche certifications.
Certified Public Manager: A Certified Public Manager (CPM) is an individual who demonstrates excellence in their field. Aside from improving resumes and applications, the CPM certification qualifies individuals to join the American Academy of Certified Public Managers. To qualify, individuals must complete the CPM program.
Certified Government Financial Manager: Ideal for anyone interested in financial management, the CGFM certification proves competency in auditing, financial reporting, and controlling budgets at the local, state, and federal levels. Applicants need a degree and at least two years of relevant professional experience.
SHRM Certification: This organization is created for human resources professionals. The SHRM certification requires master’s degree graduates to complete at least one year of professional HR experience before applying. The certification helps professionals advance their careers and secure higher salaries.
What is an MPA Degree?
A master’s in public administration is a graduate degree that leads to careers in public policy, foreign affairs, and related roles.
Why get a master’s degree in public administration?
A master’s degree in public administration leads to various high-paying and high-growth positions, both in the private and public sectors.
Resources for Online Public Administration Students
Before completing an online MPA, students should consider joining a professional organization. These organizations provide members with various benefits, ranging from career boards to scholarship opportunities.
American Society for Public Administration: ASPA members serve as civil servants, elected officials, and industry thought leaders. Aside from networking, members gain access to professional development and various industry publications.
Government Finance Officers Association: Founded in 1906, GFOA serves over 20,000 public finance officials across North America. The association offers membership for current professionals and students, including public administration students.
National Academy of Public Administration: A non-partisan association dedicated to providing expert advice to government leaders, NAPA doesn’t offer membership. However, public administration professionals can connect with NAPA Fellows and gain valuable industry insights.
Alliance for Nonprofit Management: The Alliance for Nonprofit Management works to connect nonprofit professionals to promote social change. Members receive various industry discounts, access to educational opportunities, and plenty of networking opportunities.
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