Top University in Philadelphia for a Public Administration Master's Degree

Students interested in studying public administration at the master's degree level in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, have only a few schools to choose from. Read about the top local schools' degree programs, tuition, and ranking information to find the right one for you.

School and Ranking Information

Of the more than a dozen colleges and universities in the Philadelphia area, only a handful of them offer master's degree programs in public administration. Based on graduation rates and U.S. News & World Report rankings, the top 3 institutions are the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), Villanova University (VU), and Rutgers University - Camden (Rutgers). All 3 of these schools were ranked among the top 20 universities in regional or national categories by U.S. News & World Report. In addition, all of these schools have nationally ranked public administration programs.

  • Winner: The University of Pennsylvania was ranked highest among schools with graduate public affairs programs.
  • Runner Up #1: Villanova University hosts a student chapter of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA).
  • Runner Up #2: Rutgers University offers up to 9 credits for professional experience before entering the executive MPA program. While this school does have a nationally ranked public affairs program, this school has the lowest undergraduate graduate rate of the three schools.

School Comparison Chart

Category University of Pennsylvania Villanova University Rutgers University - Camden
Ranking(s) 7th among national universities (2014),
42nd for graduate public affairs programs, national (2012),
29th for graduate public management administration programs, national (2012)*
1st among regional universities in the North (2014),
97th for graduate public affairs programs, national (2012)*
24th among regional universities in the North (2014),
104th for graduate public affairs programs, national (2012)*
Location Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Villanova, Pennsylvania (12.1 miles from Philadelphia) Camden, New Jersey (2.3 miles from Philadelphia)
School Type 4-year, private not-for-profit 4-year, private not-for-profit 4-year, public
Graduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013) $30,108** $15,393** $17,163 in-state,
$25,971 out-of-state**
Public Administration Degree Levels Offered Master's degrees; graduate certificates Master's degrees; graduate certificates Master's degrees
Public Administration Degrees Awarded (All Levels) in 2011-2012 65 (master's degrees only)** 41** 42**
Most Popular Public Administration Program (2011-2012) Master's degree (65 awarded)** Master's degree (27 awarded)** N/A
Undergraduate Graduation Rate (in 150% of normal program time) for 2006 Entering Class 96%** 88%** 64%**
Noteworthy Internship program available in Washington, D.C. Chapter of Pi Alpha Alpha, national honor society for public administration students Public Administration Student Association

Sources: *U.S. News & World Report, **NCES College Navigator.

Winner: University of Pennsylvania

  • Students can earn graduate certificates while pursuing an MPA
  • Many dual degree options are available
  • Students can participate in UPenn's Public Policy Challenge

The Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree program is offered through UPenn's Fels Institute of Government. Full-time students can earn an MPA in 3-4 semesters, and the program consists of 7 core classes, 1 finance elective, and 4 additional elective classes. Core courses cover topics like economic analysis, statistics, public financial management, policy development, and public leadership. Students may use elective courses to specialize in economic development and growth, non-profit administration, politics, or public finance - completing a specialization can lead to a certificate. Internship opportunities are available, and some students work as associate consultants for the Fels research and consulting division.

This program is also offered in an executive format for working professionals and requires about 6 semesters to complete. Classes in the part-time program are held on Saturdays, but some are also available on weeknights. In addition, undergraduate students can pursue a business bachelor's degree with a business economics and public policy concentration.

Runner-Up #1: Villanova University

  • School hosts a student chapter of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA)
  • Dual degree option available that combines a law degree with the MPA
  • 20% tuition reduction for teachers pursuing a graduate degree within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, including the MPA program

The 36-credit Master of Public Administration program at Villanova is available in campus-based and online formats. The core curriculum covers financial management, public personnel management, and research techniques; elective topics include city management, non-profit fundraising strategies, and decision-making skills. All students are required to take a comprehensive exam, and students who don't have qualifying work experience complete a management internship. Graduate certificates in public administration, nonprofit management, and city management are also available to MPA and non-MPA students.

Runner-Up #2: Rutgers University - Camden

  • Offers up to 9 credits for professional experience before entering the executive MPA program
  • The international public service and development concentration includes a 2-year assignment with the U.S. Peace Corps

The MPA program at Rutgers consists of 42 credits and usually takes full-time students 2 years to complete. Students can specialize in public management, community development, educational policy, or international public service and development. This program also includes an internship. However, working students can alternatively take a special problems in public policy course. All MPA students complete a capstone research project.

Rutgers offers an executive MPA program for working students in which classes are offered on weekends and evenings. These classes are available on campus, online, or in a hybrid format. The executive MPA program has a cohort of less than 20 students.

Rutgers also offers a bachelor's degree in urban studies and a Ph.D. program in public affairs/community development. In addition, there's a dual-degree option where students can earn a bachelor's degree in urban studies and an MPA in 5 years. According to the NCES, 19% of all Rutgers master's degrees conferred in 2011-2012 were for public administration.

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