Your Complete Guide to

Master of Public Administration

Online Masters Degree
on February 7, 2024

Why We Love It

  • Great & Stable Pay
  • Advancement Opportunities
  • Love What You Do
  • Many Career Options

* The Why We Love It section is solely based on the opinion of's Editorial Team. Any salary & growth research or estimates should be referenced further at the Bureau of Labor and Statistics data published at for your specific desired career.

What is an MPA Degree?

We’ve all heard of an MBA, but what is an MPA?  While you may not be familiar with the degree, you have probably heard of some MPA holders, such as former US Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), and even journalist and author Bill O’Reilly.

A Master of Public Administration (MPA) is similar to a Master of Business Administration (MBA), but with a focus on public service and related issues.

It is designed to teach you to run a public organization, such as a government entity, with the same skill and knowledge as someone with an MBA would run a business in the private sector.  It could prepare you for a career in public affairs, nonprofit management, or even urban planning.

Getting a master’s in public administration will help keep you ahead of the trend, as we witnessed enormous changes and uncertainties during the novel pandemic, COVID-19. Also, the pandemic has led to changes in public administration globally, undeniably.

An MPA program will typically cover important public administration topics such as the following:

  • Microeconomics: How individuals and firms make decisions and interact with one another can influence things like minimum wage, welfare, and unemployment.
  • Accounting: Measuring, processing, and communicating financial information is important to any public administration job.
  • Public Finance: This deals with taxation and spending, deficits, and government intervention in the economy.
  • Public Management: Simply put, this is the implementation of government policy.
  • Statistics and Policy Analysis: Analyzing and drawing conclusions from data is the only way to make informed decisions in public policy.
  • Ethics: Accountability between the administration and the public is crucial to fostering the trust of the community.

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What Can You Do With a Master of Public Administration?

Your potential is limitless!

A director of economic development ensures that programs use their funds and services as efficiently as possible.  An urban planner accommodates population growth in a bustling metropolis.  A community relations manager ensures that at-risk children are getting all the help the government can provide.

A Master’s degree in Public Administration also provides all that is necessary for a career in international development. In this field, professionals get to work in developing countries, helping uplift communities through projects aimed at economic growth, improving education and health, and overall, governance-related projects.

These are only a few examples, and you don’t need to decide what you want to do right now.  An MPA could give you the tools you need to do countless jobs in public administration–and help countless people–so there’s no need to commit to a career before you even finish school.

Best Programs for Master of Public Administration

Here’s the best part: We’re going to give you the secrets to finding the best programs for adults, programs that could help you get your MPA degree faster and with as few headaches as possible.

We know planning for college can be confusing, and is dedicated to helping you find the right path for you so that you can complete your degree and start your new career as soon as possible.

Why We Love an MPA Degree

  1. Great pay:  An MPA could be your ticket to a comfortable government salary. In these tough economic times, right after a pandemic, having a career that pays well, is something worth considering, for sure.
  2. Advancement opportunities:  An MPA is useful in many different positions, so you can go where the growth potential is. Professions that offer career advancement lead to job satisfaction and financial stability in the long run and that is something we all should consider when making career choices.
  3. Love what you do:  A career in public administration can be very fulfilling, as you could have the opportunity to help many members of your community. Working in the field, you will find to be a personally rewarding experience.
  4. Always options:  The government isn’t getting any smaller, and an MPA is a great way to get into public sector work. During financial instabilities such as times like these, graduates in the field will always be in demand by the government, helping implement policies, navigating budget constraints, etc.

Online vs. Traditional Campus MPA Programs

Most people who think about going back to school for an MPA and getting their master’s degree never even get started. Getting a master’s degree will surely boost your career but there could be various entrance hurdles like exams and application fees,  that can discourage students from reentering or continuing education.

It can also be tough to make schoolwork around your schedule, especially for working and married individuals with work and family-related commitments.

That’s not really the case anymore.

With adult-friendly schools, there is really no reason not to go back to school anymore.  Online programs in general have become more common and it is no different for master’s programs in Public Administration. This makes it a convenient option for individuals who have otherwise busy schedules due to multiple commitments and responsibilities.

What makes a school adult-friendly?  Here are a few key attributes:

  • Adult-friendly schools are totally online.  Online learning is best for busy adults, who have to balance their ongoing education with work, kids, and everything else that comes with being a grownup. Further, with technological advancements, distance, and online learning have become a significant medium for education around the world. Pursuing an online MPA program will allow students to have the flexibility to fit their learning around their various other commitments.
  • Adult-friendly schools can offer accelerated programs, with ongoing enrollment.  What’s better than getting your MPA in two years?  Getting it in fourteen months.  With ongoing enrollment, you don’t have to wait until fall or spring to start on your new journey; many schools offer monthly enrollment periods, meaning you can start whenever it works for you.
  • Adult-friendly schools can offer more support than traditional schools.  This includes but is not limited to, career services, making it easier for you to begin your new career.  Because, at the end of the day, isn’t that why you’re going back to school?

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Admissions Requirements for Master of Public Administration

So what do you need to go to grad school?  You need to take the GRE or another entrance exam, right?

You might be surprised to learn that many adult-friendly schools do not require GRE or entrance exams.  Online MPA programs generally require only a bachelor’s degree to get started, and there are no application fees to worry about.  You start when you’re ready.

Master of Public Administration Curriculum

As mentioned above, a Master of Public Administration degree could help you to develop key tools of public management science such as microeconomics, accounting, public finance, public management, statistics and policy analysis, and ethics.

These areas of knowledge are all essential to effective public administration and useful in a wide variety of careers.

What Courses Will I Take in My MPA Program?

Because public administration is a complex and crucial endeavor, an MPA program could include a healthy mix of courses that blend business acumen with knowledge of various government systems.

Examples include:

  1. Policy Process: From agenda building to implementation to termination, this would cover the complete process of policymaking.
  2. Financial Management and Budgeting: In today’s volatile economic world, better budgeting and innovative financial management are more important than ever to public programs.
  3. Managerial Economics: This is the application of economic theory to solve real-world problems, both in daily decisions as well as long-term planning.
  4. Quantitative Methods: Objective measurements, data analysis, and statistics are the only way to effectively measure the success of public programs.
  5. Legal Issues in Public Administration: This would likely cover social equity, transparency, and new technologies, all of which have changed the face of public administration, especially since the 1990s.

Specializations and Concentrations

While many people get a Master of Public Health with no particular specialization or concentration, you could find a school that offers you the opportunity to choose a focus.

Options could include:

  • Urban Planning
  • Emergency Management
  • Transportation
  • Economic Development
  • Community Development
  • Environmental Policy
  • International Affairs

You could also find that a different, MPA-related degree is a better fit for your career of choice.

Examples include:

  • Master of Public Affairs (MPA): This could be more suited to work as an intermediary between the government and other organizations, such as corporations.
  • Master of Public Policy (MPP): This would focus on policy analysis and program evaluation.
  • Master of Public Service (MPS) or Master of Nonprofit Management (MNM): These could prepare you to manage nonprofit, community-based, and/or faith-based organizations.
  • Master of Public Health (MPH): This degree focuses on preventing disease, prolonging life, and improving quality of life in your community.
  • Doctor of Public Administration (DPA): This could make more sense for you if you already have a master’s degree.
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA): As you probably know, this is more designed for work in the private sector.  Since government is essentially the most complex business there is, however, it could be useful in public administration as well.

Master of Public Administration Program Length

Most Master of Public Administration degrees require between 40 and 60 credits to graduate.  Normally, an MPA program takes about two years to complete.  An accelerated plan, however, could take a year. Getting done with your degree as fast as possible can be very favorable as the market is highly competitive, and it waits for no one.

This is where adult-friendly schools really shine.  They know their students have jobs, kids, and other obligations that make a traditional school schedule unrealistic. To make it super convenient, adult-friendly schools seek to offer programs that help their students enter the workforce as fast as possible, prioritizing efficiency and speed. They understand what adult students need.

Choosing the Right University or College MPA Program

Choosing the right school for you can be exciting, but it can also be a hassle.  Tuition costs, application fees, accreditation, enrollment windows, and entrance exams are just some of the variables to consider.

That’s why we created the Smartplan.  We want to help people go back to school, to make college more accessible and affordable for everyone.

With our Smartplan, we make it easy for you to start on your path towards your Master of Public Administration.

Here are just some of the benefits of your Smartplan:

  • No application fees
  • Accredited colleges and universities
  • No entrance exams or testing
  • Faculty and professors who understand adults
  • Discounts and scholarships available
  • Open enrollment dates

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Best Jobs for Those With a Master of Public Administration

What can you do with an MPA?  What kind of salary can you expect?

Here are some common careers for MPA holders, with salary data estimates provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • City Manager or County Administrator: These people are responsible for overseeing the administration of a municipal or county government. You could make anywhere from $46,550 to $118,650 per year.
  • Urban or Regional Planner: This is someone who designs a community, accommodates population growth, and/or maintains the physical facilities of a city or metropolitan area. You could make anywhere from $48,70 to $ 119,340 per year.
  • Community Relations Manager: Necessary programs and services require people to implement, oversee, and improve them. You could make anywhere from $46,550 to $118,650 per year.
  • Director of Economic Development: The production and distribution of goods and services are important facets of the public sector which require strong management. You could make anywhere from $59,450 to $185,020 per year.
  • Policy Analyst: This is someone who evaluates the effects of policies–as well as public opinion. You could make anywhere from $60,960 to $164,210 per year.

We’ve compiled some of our favorite careers, but this degree does provide you with broad skills to work in a variety of positions, as MPA holders are usually in high demand across many industries.

Best of all, you could work in the public sector to gain experience and then go into business for yourself, after all, start-ups are definitely in!  These are just some of the endless possibilities you can choose from.

Cost and Tuition

Cost and tuition vary from school to school, and you’ll want to speak with each of your prospective schools directly.  Fortunately, online schools are generally more affordable than their in-person counterparts.  Adult-friendly colleges understand that you want to save, and they could even help you with financial aid if you’re eligible.

These savings become especially important during times of economic and financial instability, helping make the journey as affordable for the students as possible.  You’ll definitely want to speak to a few schools, and can help you with that.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: Do I need to know what job I want before I start an MPA program?

A: No!  An MPA program could prepare you for a wide variety of careers.  You certainly don’t need to know what job you want today.

Q: Will I make more money with an MPA?

A: That depends on a variety of factors.  But as you can see above in the “Best Jobs for Those With a Master of Public Administration” section, your MPA could mean excellent earning potential.

Q: How long will I be in school?

A: That could depend on you, your current job, and any other obligations you might have.  An MPA program could take anywhere from one to three years, but our Smartplan is designed to help you find the right degree for you, so could finish as quickly as possible!

How to save time and money

Our mission is to help you to avoid paying full price for college. We want your Master of Public Administration degree to be affordable and accessible. Here’s how you could save:

Create Your Free SmartPlan

There are many ways to make college affordable and accessible.

That’s why we created a helpful tool called SmartPlan.

It’s free, and helps you find potential ways to save and tons of information about each school you’re considering

Think of it as your “college blueprint”, to help you instantly craft a path to your degree:

  • Which Colleges Match Your Needs
  • Ways You Could Save Time & Money
  • Free Courses You Could Take for Credit
  • Valuable Data and Insights on Each College
  • Detailed Steps You Should Take!

See what’s possible for you and generate a free plan within just a few minutes

Create My SmartPlan

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About the Author
Grant founded with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, American Express, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.

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