Why This Matters

  • WORK IN ONE OF 10 DIFFERENT INDUSTRIES

    The diverse range of potential employers for those with a MPA include local, state and federal governments; non-profits; schools, and social service agencies.

  • PROJECTED JOB GROWTH AVERAGES 10% BY 2026

    The fastest-growing sectors of public administration are social and community service managers; administrative service managers, and city and regional planners.

  • YOU COULD BE LEAVING $23,000 ON THE TABLE

    The median salaries for public administration jobs that require a MPA, such as city planners, and political scientists, are significantly higher than jobs requiring only a bachelor’s degree.

Our Research

Individuals, states and entire countries rely on the work that public administrators do in the public and private sectors. There are many areas of focus within this broad field, but key qualities for public administrators include leadership, communication, managerial and analytical skills, all of which are addressed in MPA programs.

Because of the responsibilities public administrators undertake, we looked for programs accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration. This association accredits master’s programs in public administration, guaranteeing that their curricula meet a high standard for preparing future public administrators. To ensure flexibility for students, we also only reviewed programs that are offered completely online.

After selecting accredited programs, we evaluated them based on reputation in the field, cost, course strength, and flexibility. Using this information, we calculated the Intelligent Score of each degree on a scale from 0 to 100. Our top picks for the best online Master’s in Public Administration are affordable, highly-regarded industry leaders. (For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.)

  • 82 hours to write this article
  • 139 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 413 education programs we compared

The Top 50 Online Master’s of Public Administration

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What You Should Know About This Degree

There are many different career paths open to graduates of MPA programs in areas like government, law, business, healthcare, education and social services. Therefore, most MPA programs offer concentrations in non-profit management; criminal justice, and public safety, policy analysis, healthcare administration, and more. It’s important to research the different sectors of public administration, and have an idea of what you want to focus on when choosing a program.

Public administrators working in emergency management, social services or government may find themselves on call or often required to work overtime. Consider whether you want a position with these demands when choosing an area of focus. Professional certifications also exist for certain jobs within public administration; these certifications may be optional, or required by an employer.

Because most programs accept students of all educational backgrounds, hands-on learning experience is an essential part of their curricula, even in online programs. Specific internship requirements vary per program. It’s important to find out and in what type of setting you will be expected to complete your internship, and how many hours you will dedicate to it, to confirm that it fits into your schedule.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching MPH programs:

  • Do I meet the admissions criteria? While most programs accept students from all educational and professional backgrounds, a few require students to have some previous public administration experience, or take prerequisite coursework. Look carefully at the program’s admissions requirements to make sure you fulfill them before applying.
  • Does this program offer the concentration I want? There are many opportunities for specialization within public administration, but not all programs offer all specializations. If there is a specific area of public administration on which you want to focus, make sure the program your exploring offers coursework or a concentration in it.

Once you have identified the programs that interest you, research their application deadlines, processes and requirements, including work experience and standardized tests. This information is typically available on the program’s webpage; you can also contact the program directly if you have questions.

Funding your graduate education is another important consideration. Ask the schools you are applying to about scholarship and financial aid opportunities and deadlines. For individuals already employed in the public administration field, your employer might offer tuition remission or reimbursement, or other financial support for earning your master’s degree.