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Online Public Administration Degree Program Overviews

Find out about online public administration courses and in which degree programs they're most commonly offered. Get course descriptions, program info and online requirements to make an informed decision.

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Essential Information

Programs in public administration at both the bachelor's and master's degree levels may be entirely online, or they may be hybrid programs that require some on-campus classes. Both programs are fairly common. Online students watch the lessons and complete assignments as their schedules permit, although they must stay within a designated time frame.

Degree programs at both levels teach students to formulate and analyze public policy. They learn about issues that affect communities. Some bachelor's programs require at least 3 years of work experience for admission.

The master's programs are more focused on management, and students may learn supervisory skills and study budgeting. Many master's programs allow students to choose from concentrations in local government, aviation administration, nonprofit administration and public works administration. Master's degree programs usually require a bachelor's degree in the social sciences.

Bachelor's Degree in Public Administration

An online bachelor's degree program in public administration introduces fundamental concepts in the organization and management of public institutions, with the aim of helping graduates better execute their missions. Students learn to analyze and think critically about policy decisions and the effects they have on local communities, regions and the nation. They also practice collaboration and consensus-building in the policy planning process. A high school diploma or GED is required for admission to a public administration bachelor's degree program. Some programs may also require at least three years of post-high school full time work experience.

Program Information and Requirements

Students may complete an online bachelor's degree in public administration entirely online or as a mix of online and traditional classroom instruction. All course content is accessible through a school's website on a 24-hour basis. Lessons and assignments have fixed deadlines. Interactions between the instructor and students take place through message boards, e-mail and phone. A bachelor's degree is typically earned in four years.

A personal computer, Internet access, word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software are required for participation in an online programs. Schools may use Blackboard or their own proprietary systems to manage content.

Common Courses

Bachelor's degree programs include a liberal arts component consisting of courses in the arts, humanities and the sciences. Some programs may waive this requirement if a student has earned an associate's degree.

Applied Statistics

This course introduces students to the use of statistics and statistical analysis in policy making. Course content reviews mathematical functions and computer technology.

Public Finance Administration

Students learn fundamentals of the budget planning process and fiscal accountability, particularly in mid-sized and large organizations. Other topics covered include grants, financial management and alternative revenue sources.

Personnel Management

This course examines the process of hiring, deploying and maximizing the productivity of workers. Training, organizational systems, worker empowerment and labor-management relations are among the topics covered in the course.


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Master's Degree in Public Administration

An online master's degree program in public administration provides a systemic, in-depth examination of the roles performed by managers and executives in government and non-profit organizations. Course content is interdisciplinary, adapting concepts from such diverse fields as anthropology, economics, law, political science and sociology. The relationship between civil servants and elected legislators, budgeting and finance, policy research and professional ethics are considered in context with the policy planning process. Applicants to a master's degree program need to have earned a bachelor's degree preferably in the social sciences and maintained a 3.0 grade point average or better.

Program Information and Requirements

Courses in an online master's degree program in public administration may be offered exclusively online or as an online-classroom hybrid. Readings, lectures, assignments and tests are handled through a school's website, as are all student-teacher and student-to-student interactions. Students need a personal computer, Internet access and productivity software to participate in an online program. A master's degree is typically earned in two years.

Common Courses

Master's degree programs generally consist of 5-10 core courses and a list of electives. Electives in a public administration program may touch on such diverse topics as environmental policy, criminal justice or fundraising.

Administrative Theory

This course examines historical and contemporary theories of organization and reviews instance of their real-world application. Students learn to analyze whether an organization is functioning effectively and propose improvements.

Administrative Law

Students in this course review constitutional law bearing on the scope of governmental powers. Course work considers government at the local, state and federal levels.

Non-profit Leadership

This course explores the particular staffing, administration and management needs of non-profit organizations. Program development, membership, volunteer relations and resource allocation are among the topics considered.


Career Information

Graduates of bachelor's programs are most likely to find entry-level administrative support positions in government, non-profit and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). As of 2015, the average salary of administrative support personnel at the local government level was $38,890, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Graduates of an online master's degree program in public administration are prepared for managerial or executive level positions in local, state and federal government agencies, non-profit organizations and non-governmental organizations. A degree may be particularly helpful to employees of government agencies or NGOs seeking to become city managers, operations directors or policy analysts. As of 2016, the median salary of city managers was $81,690 and the median salary of policy analysts was $54,485, according to PayScale.com.

Continuing Education Information

Leadership positions in government and non-profit organizations require a master's degree. Master's degree programs in public administration are available online and from more schools than offer bachelor's degrees.

A doctorate is the final step for master's degree holders interested in teaching postsecondary students or conducting academic research into public administration. Doctoral degrees in public administration are available online.

Online students can find bachelor's and master's degree programs in public administration that look at community issues and the administration and management techniques to solve these issues. Students can study at their own pace to prepare for careers as city managers, administrative support personnel or policy analysts.

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