Master of Public Administration (MPA): Online Degree

Learn about online Master of Public Administration programs. This article has an overview of online master's degree options in the field. Get information on course requirements and career prospects to make an informed decision about your education.

Essential Information

A Master of Public Administration (MPA) program can often be completed fully online. However, in some programs, students might need to attend orientation and review sessions at the campus. Prior to beginning a course, students may need to install Skype or conferencing software on their computers.

Possible MPA majors include community and economic development, human resources and employee relations. Most programs focus on public sector management and not-for-profit administration, and courses emphasize program evaluation, leadership, public decision-making and policy analysis. Graduates may pursue work in city management, healthcare advocacy, public management, lobbying, non-profit organization and community development.

Master of Public Administration

An online Master of Public Administration program is a graduate degree option for students interested in managerial and supervisory roles in the public sector. The online format provides an alternative to traditional programs by educating prospective public service leaders with minimal impact on their already busy professional and personal schedules. Guidance from faculty and administrators can also take place online.

Program Information and Requirements

Most MPA programs require students to earn between 30 and 40 credit hours, which can take roughly two years. In order to participate in this online program, students must have access to the Internet and a Web browser, but there aren't usually special software or hardware requirements for most programs. Flexibility is often key in these programs; some schools provide asynchronous learning that allows students to access coursework on their own schedule, though due dates for assignments must still be adhered to. Others offer real-time classes, which can often be attended in the evenings, and interactive communication via Skype or Web conferencing.

Course Topics

Many of these degree programs offer rigorous core curricula supplemented by opportunities for focusing in areas like management of information, human resources, government and non-profit agencies, public policies, social justice or community development. The following are some common courses available in a Master of Public Administration program:

Public Policy

Students learn about public policy processes and the concept of public administration. Issues in education, environment and welfare are studied, and students can expect to become well-versed in policy evaluation.

Research Methods

Courses covering research methods educate students on the methodologies involved with researching public policy, regulations and administration issues. Students gain analytical skills and learn how to use empirical, qualitative and quantitative research data.

Organizational Behavior

Courses in organizational behavior involve the study of social interactions and cultural integration in the workplace. Students explore the decision processes and conceptual models used by various organizations.


Career Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment and salaries for administrative services managers vary from region to region with expected growth of about 8% from 2014-2024. In May 2015, the average annual wage for a management position in all industries within the public sector was $96,590. At that time, those who worked as administrative services managers averaged $94,840 (www.bls.gov).

Continuing Education Information

Doctor of Public Administration programs can offer advanced leadership training, intensive research opportunities and preparation for a career in academia. Concentrations may be available in program administration, administration of justice and program evaluation. Some schools offer partially online programs at the doctoral degree level, combine weekend and online courses, and integrate flexible learning options with on-campus sessions.

In online MPA programs, students take general courses in the management of public service and community projects, and they can focus their studies in a particular sector of interest. The flexible scheduling options that these programs provide make them ideal for students with time constraints, such as a full-time job.


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