Top University in Arlington, VA, for a Public Administration Master's

Students interested in earning a master's degree in public administration near Arlington have many schools to choose from. Read about the top local schools' degree programs, tuition, and ranking info to find the right one for you.

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School and Ranking Information

Approximately 15 schools in and within 25 miles of Arlington, VA, offer Master of Public Administration programs. The following universities are considered the top three schools in the Arlington area for MPA programs based on rankings:

  • Winner: American University is declared the winner based on its highly ranked public administration program and because it had the highest number of master's program graduates in 2011-2012.
  • Runner Up #1: Placing second is George Washington University, since its graduate public administration program ranks just below that of American University.
  • Runner Up #2: George Mason University is the second runner up because its MPA program ranking is not as high as those of the other two schools and it is also located farthest from Arlington. It's the only public school among these three.

School Comparison Chart

Category American University George Washington University George Mason University
Ranking(s) 8th for graduate public management administration programs (2012), nationwide,
12th for graduate public affairs programs (2012), nationwide*
10th for graduate public management administration programs (2012), nationwide,
12th for graduate public affairs programs (2012), nationwide*
42nd for graduate public affairs programs (2012), nationwide*
Location Washington, DC (6 miles from Arlington) Washington, DC (6 miles from Arlington) Fairfax, VA (14 miles from Arlington)
School Type Four-year, private not-for-profit Four-year, private not-for-profit Four-year, public
Tuition & Fees (2012-2013) $25,612 (graduate)** $24,147 (graduate)** $11,690 (graduate, in-state), $27,620 (graduate, out-of-state)**
Noteworthy Department of Public Administration and Policy offers four research centers and institutes, including the Washington Institute for Public and International Affairs Research One of only two schools in the nation to have the master's in public administration and public policy accredited by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration The school's Arlington campus is home to the Department of Public and International Affairs and the School of Public Policy

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

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Winner: American University

  • Ranked 77th among national universities in 2013 by U.S. News & World Report
  • Master's program offers up to six credits for work experience

Master's degree offerings through AU's Department of Public Administration and Policy (DPAP) are a Master of Public Administration (MPA) and a Master of Public Policy (MPP). The 42-credit MPA program includes courses in quantitative methods for public managers or policy analysis, legal basis of public administration, public managerial economics, human capital assets management, and budgeting and financial management. Students must complete 12 credits in one of eight areas of concentration, including nonprofit management, international management or applied politics. Program completion requires two research courses, and a comprehensive exam with a management analysis exercise and reflective essay. DPAP also offers a dual MPA/JD, through the Washington College of Law, as well as a combined BS/MPA program.

Runner-Up #1: George Washington University

  • Ranked 19th among graduate public policy analysis programs in 2012 by U.S. News & World Report
  • Public administration students have access to four research centers, including the George Washington Institute of Public Policy
  • MPA students can take part in the Anacostia Tutoring Program, which allows them to mentor high school students

The Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration offers MPA, MPP and combined programs. The classes for the 40-credit MPA program can be taken in the evenings and provide graduates with skills in public service analysis, leadership, and research. The coursework examines public service, policy decision-making, and research methods. Students can choose from one of eight primary fields of study, such as public finance, homeland security, and policy analysis. Additionally, to complete the program, students must complete a practicum experience and capstone seminar. Students have the option to pursue a dual MPA/JD program with GW's law school or a BA/MPA program.

Runner-Up #2: George Mason University

  • In 2012, GMU was ranked 1st among up-and-coming national schools, according to U.S. News & World Report
  • Students have several opportunities for internships and post-graduate experiences

Initially established in 1957 as a branch of the University of Virginia, GMU gained independent status in 1972. The school has four campuses, with the main campus in Fairfax, VA. The Arlington campus houses the CHSS and its Department of Public and International Affairs, where students can complete a MPA. The MPA consists of 36 credits and covers data analysis, government management, public organizations, and public policy ethics. Students satisfy their 12 elective credits by choosing a concentration from a selection including environmental science, human resources, international management, justice administration, nonprofit organizations, or public management. Additionally, students must complete an internship and a thesis or a research project in lieu of a thesis. The department also offers an accelerated MPA to Mason students in the public administration bachelor's degree program.

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