What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Public Administration Program?

Public administration is most commonly known as the implementation of government policies. Duties vary by industry but usually include public speaking, fiscal management and disaster recovery and response. Advanced public administration management positions require professionals to obtain the Master of Public Administration (MPA). Online degrees offer the same coursework that traditional on-campus degrees offer, but getting the degree online lets students work full- or part-time, manage personal time easier and achieve the degree at the desired pace. Those looking for an online MPA program should research different schools to find the best concentrations and curriculum to suit their desired career path.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Public Administration

Health Administration Prepares individuals to work in health administration for nonprofits, public and private health organizations. Nursing home administrators, clinical managers, health information managers, health care executives, medical records supervisors, health information technician managers
Policy Analysts Focuses on the study and operations of political systems. Elective classes range from philosophy to research methods. Policy analyst, government affairs director, vice president of government affairs, executive director of policy affairs, program analyst, guidewire business analyst
Human Resources Classes center on the study and application of human resource principals. Other classes may include employee relations, compensation and benefits and a current issue class. Shift representative, human resources manager, administrative manager, assistant director, director of benefits, applications specialist
Environmental Policy Examine how to best manage the earth’s limited resources. Classes may include watershed management, environmental policy, physical science and environmental risk analysis. Environmental analyst, conservationists, Environmental Protection Agency positions (EPA), resource conservationist, foresters
International Public Management Focuses on bureaucratic structures within public agencies in the United States and other countries. Classes include human resource management, strategic management, budgeting and planning, information systems and intergovernmental systems. Project manager, international city manager, international director, international nonprofit manager, international regulatory manager

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Public Administration

Core classes prepare professionals for high-level administrative positions in both the public and nonprofit sectors. Students can expect internships and capstone courses as a requirement of the degree. Some sample courses include:

Strategic Planning Examines concepts on how organizations in the public and private sectors grow and thrive.
Ethics Seeks to help students find the answers to deep philosophical questions and examine concepts based on good, evil and the right thing to do.
Budgeting and Planning Offers effective financial management for nonprofit entities and the public sector, especially those with tight budgets.
Fundamentals of Nonprofit Management Covers the work of nonprofit organizations across a variety of sectors and looks at how they work within communities to bring about a positive change.
Public Policy Analysis Teaches students how data and politics influence policy decisions at the state, local and federal levels and focuses on the social impact of different policy approaches.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in Public Administration?

Most online master’s degrees in public administration require coursework of 36 to 48 credit hours, which can take up to two years to complete. In some cases, it can take longer to complete the degree if you opt to work full-time and take part-time classes or take time off in the middle of the degree program.

Cohort learning requires you to take all your classes with the same group of students each term, which can often slow the learning process. Individually paced programs let you move through quickly at your own schedule.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Public Administration

Most public administration positions require applicants to have a degree from an accredited university or college. There are two types of accreditations: national and regional. Regionally accredited schools are more prestigious and include most of the colleges and universities within the United States. National accreditation applies to for-profit, religious and vocational schools. Public administration degree programs receive accreditation when they meet the standards set forth by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Public Administration Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

Regardless of the industry, individuals in public administration have a healthy job outlook. In 2016, nonprofits account for over 12 million jobs in the private sector. Advanced degrees in public administration offer greater opportunities in government, health care and management, and it also means larger salaries throughout your career.

Expected Salary

Because many public administration jobs are in the nonprofit sector, salaries vary from modest with a nonprofit organization to significant in health services and the medical field. The top earners in the field make around $145,000. The bottom tier earners can expect around $50,000. Consider some of the following salaries for those with an online master’s in public administration.

In 2018, there were more than 7 million public administration positions currently held within the United States. Some of the highest paid and most popular positions were management and advanced positions. These jobs benefit from individuals with master’s degrees. Consider the following labor force statistics by position.

Career Opportunities

There are many career paths for a professional with an online master’s in public administration. Many individuals choose to work for nonprofit organizations, but there are other industries that benefit from the skills and expertise of those with a background in public administration.

Human Resources Manager Human resource managers work in nearly every industry handling hiring, recruiting, payroll and benefits. They spend time consulting top-level executives on planning and act as a link between employees and management. $110,120 per year 9%
Public Relations Managers Public relations managers help maintain the public image of companies and individuals. They may also help raise awareness of the business brand and organize and implement fundraising for projects and nonprofits. $111,280 per year 10%
Health Service Manager Health service managers are also referred to as health care administrators. These professionals plan, direct and coordinate medical and health services in private and public practices. They might manage an entire hospital or a specific department within a facility, and they must stay informed on the changes in health care laws, technologies and regulations. $98,350 per year 20%

Professional Organizations

Joining a professional organization for those with a master’s in public administration helps keep you informed and active within the industry. It also provides an excellent way to stay up-to-date on technological advancements, legislative rulings and important trends. Consider one of these top professional organizations.

American Society for Public Administration (ASPA): The ASPA was founded in 1939 and is comprised of almost 10,000 public administration professionals in the United States. The group works to advance the art, science, teaching and practice of nonprofit and public administration.

Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA): This U.S.-based organization connects public administration professionals throughout the world to focuses on improving the work of their organizations. The group holds annual conferences, mails out publications, holds electronic discussions and provides special interest groups to its members.

Public Management Research Association (PMRA): PMRA is a nonprofit academic public administration association. The group works to further professional and academic opportunities in public management.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Public Administration

An online master’s degree in public administration is often less expensive than a traditional on-campus degree. For one, both in-state and out-of-state residents usually pay the same tuition cost per hour. Students also save money on commute costs. Even with online degrees, many students still need financial assistance to pay for classes. The first step in applying for financial aid is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This qualifies the student for specific grants and loan programs offered through the federal government. There are also grants, private loans and scholarships to those who qualify. Check out some of the resources below.



Scholarships Details
Herbert Roback Memorial Scholarship Award: $7,500

Deadline: May 31

Eligibility: Open to graduate students currently enrolled or accepted for enrollment in a full-time master’s degree program in public administration, public and international affairs or political science in a Washington, DC, area university.

Stene Academic Scholarship Program Award: $1,000

Deadline: May 14

Eligibility: Students must be a member of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and must attend the annual conference. Students must also hold a full-time local government job, complete an online application and write an essay.

Harry S Truman Scholarship Award: Up to $30,000

Deadline: February 5

Eligibility: Students must be working toward a public-service-related graduate degree. He or she must be in the upper quarter of his or her class and a United States citizen or a United States national from American Samoa. Excellent candidates have an extensive record of public and community service.