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Best School for a Public Administration Degree - San Diego, CA

Students interested in studying public administration in the San Diego area have only a few schools to choose from. Read about the top local schools' degree programs, tuition, and ranking info to find the right one for you.

School and Ranking Information

Although there are only a few of them, both 4-year and 2-year schools can be found within 25 miles of San Diego that offer public administration degrees. The following schools are considered the top three based on rankings, tuition and number of degrees awarded in the field:

  • Winner: San Diego State University, located in San Diego, is the winner due to its national rankings given by U.S. News & World Report in 2012 and 2013 and for its total number of degrees awarded in the field.
  • Runner Up #1: National University in San Diego secured second place for its degree options in the field and for its location.
  • Runner Up #2: Southwestern College, found in Chula Vista, is the second runner up for its low tuition rates and for offering the only associate's degree program in the field statewide.

School Comparison Chart

Category San Diego State University National University Southwestern College
Rankings Graduate public affairs program ranked 73rd in the country in 2012*,
Ranked the 165th best national university in 2013*
Named one of the nation's 'Military Friendly Schools' for 2012** N/A
Location San Diego, CA San Diego, CA Chula Vista, CA (11 miles from San Diego)
School Type 4-year, public 4-year, private not-for-profit 2-year, public
Tuition & Fees (2012-2013) $6,578 (undergraduate, in-state),
$18,236 (undergraduate, out-of-state),
$7,844 (graduate, in-state),
$17,390 (graduate, out-of-state)***
$11,736 (undergraduate),
$10,044 (graduate)***
$1,334 (in-state),
$6,654 (out-of-state)***
Public Administration Degrees Offered Bachelor's and master's degrees Bachelor's and master's degrees Associate's degree
Public Administration Degrees Awarded (All Levels) in 2011-2012 198*** 155*** 7***
Most Popular Public Administration Degree in 2011-2012 Bachelor's degree (148 awarded)*** Master's degree (141 awarded)*** Associate's degree (7 awarded)***
Undergraduate Graduation Rate (in 150% of normal degree time) 66% (for Fall 2006 entering class)*** 24% (for Fall 2006 entering class)*** 15% (for Fall 2009 entering class)***
Noteworthy The school's Public Administration Center keeps an up-to-date list of local and national job openings in the field 14 of the 18 departmental faculty members held doctoral degrees as of 2013 Only school in California offering an associate's degree in public administration

Sources: *U.S. News & World Report, **G.I. Jobs magazine, ***NCES College Navigator.

Winner: San Diego State University

  • The MPA program is accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration
  • The school's Institute of Public and Urban Affairs houses research documents and hosts conferences and symposiums for students and faculty
  • All six of the public administration faculty members hold doctoral degrees
  • Ranked 90th among public national universities by U.S. News & World Report in 2013

As of Spring 2013, San Diego State University (SDSU) reported that 270 students were pursuing a public administration degree, 211 of whom were enrolled in the undergraduate major. Additionally, SDSU features a Student Public Administration Association that provides students with access to networking opportunities, guest speakers, and social events. According to the school's 'Public Matters' Spring 2013 newsletter, around 250 students from the School of Public Affairs participate in these hands-on learning experiences in the San Diego area each year.

The program options at this school include a minor, Bachelor of Arts and Master of Public Administration (MPA). MPA students can also choose a concentrations in city planning and criminal justice administration or to pursue a dual degree option in Latin American studies. To complete program requirements for the B.A., undergraduate students must take 36 units of upper division courses, and complete an internship. Internships are also required as part of the master's degree program.

Runner-Up #1: National University

  • Lead faculty member for the public administration programs holds a Doctor of Public Administration (DPA)
  • Both the bachelor's and master's degree programs in public administration are offered on the Spectrum Business Park Campus in San Diego and online
  • The school's BPA/MPA Transition Program allows eligible undergraduates to take two graduate-level courses

National University offers Bachelor of Public Administration (BPA) and Master of Public Administration programs through its Department of Professional Studies. Students in the bachelor's degree program take 19 courses in the major, and topics of study include government relations and public policy development. Students must also complete a final research project. Master's degree candidates complete around 12 courses and can choose from three specializations: human resource management, organizational leadership, or public finance. They're required to research and present a capstone project as well.

Runner-Up #2: Southwestern College

  • Public administration program has a transfer option for students interested in attending 4-year universities
  • Students participating in the honors program can take advantage of special networking and mentorship opportunities
  • NCES reported that 76% of first-time, full-time students received financial aid in 2011-2012

Students enrolled in California's only 2-year public administration program take core classes in accounting, computers, economics, statistics, and American government. General education courses are also required. Though NCES reported there were about 18,300 students enrolled at Southwestern College in Fall 2012, the public administration program is very small, graduating less than ten students in 2011-2012. The department also had three full-time faculty members listed on the college's website in 2013; all held either a master's degree or Juris Doctor.


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