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Top Master’s of Public Administration Programs 2020

Compiled and Written By TopManagementDegrees.com Staff
Last Updated: Feb 19, 2020

Master of public administration (MPA) programs build the knowledge and skills required for careers in management and governance of the public sector. The degree overlaps somewhat with a business administration curriculum, but emphasizes principles, policies, and practices as they relate to the administration of public programs.

Public administration programs train students to thrive within ever-changing social, political, and economic climates. With a degree in public administration, individuals can pursue careers in local, state, or federal government. They also gain research skills applicable to positions in research and academia, and they qualify for careers in international and nonprofit settings.

Top MPA Programs and Schools

Note: A detailed explanation of the methodology we used to determine the best MPA programs can be found at the end of the ranking.

#1 University of Georgia School of Public & International Affairs – Athens, Georgia

The MPA at the University of Georgia maintains national recognition for producing highly skilled public service leaders with a wide range of in-demand skills. The 41-credit program works to develop learners who have the technical skills necessary for effective public administration as well as public service values such as accountability, transparency, and ethics. Learners study topics such as public financial administration, public management, economics for policy analysis, and a series of courses to develop research competency. One of the best best MPA programs in the nation, the curriculum offers opportunity for specialization in areas such as health policy and administration, higher education administration, or local government administration. Admission requires transcripts and GRE scores.

Affordability Score: Affordable
TMD Ranking Score: 100.00

#2 University of Nebraska Omaha School of Public Administration – Omaha, Nebraska

Learners seeking to help transform society through a career in public service enroll in the University of Nebraska Omaha's on-campus MPA. International scholars in the public administration field teach the program. The 39-credit degree offers a sweeping curriculum with six concentration in areas such as public policy, emergency management, and healthcare administration. What's more, students may choose a specialization in criminology and criminal justice or information and technology management in one of the best MPA programs. The degree includes an internship component at a public agency or nonprofit organization, which faculty strongly encourages for learners without relevant work experience. The program also offers an online version. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and the GRE.

Affordability Score: Very Affordable
TMD Ranking Score: 98.81

#3 University of Kansas School of Public Affairs & Administration – Lawrence, Kansas

One of the top programs of its kind in the country, the MPA at the University of Kansas graduates learners well-equipped to solve diverse problems that affect the public. The 43-credit degree develops their skills in areas such as leadership, public service delivery, HR management, and budgeting. Students may specialize with concentrations in policy, sustainability, urban planning, or law and society. A unique aspect of one of the best MPAs is the hands-on experience learners acquire from the optional two-year City Management Fellowship program. Students interested in city management engage in peer-to-peer learning and a one-year internship. Admission to the MPA requires a minimum 3.0 and the GRE.

Affordability Score: Affordable
TMD Ranking Score: 98.09

#4 Florida State University Reubin O'D. Askew School of Public Administration and Policy – Tallahassee, Florida

Florida State University's MPA dates back to 1947. The degree requires 42 credits that include a core of topics such as policy development, public financial management, and HR management. Research serves as an integral part of the degree with study of research design and quantitative analysis in public administration. Learners who enter the program, one of the best MPA programs in the country, without at least one year of work experience must complete an internship component. Students leave the program with professional competency and ethics, able to creatively problem-solve as they act with integrity and as stewards. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and the GRE.

Affordability Score: Affordable
TMD Ranking Score: 97.34

#5 University at Albany, SUNY Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy – Albany, New York

Those looking to develop proficiencies that can begin or advance their careers as managers, leaders, or advanced analysts enroll in the MPA at the University at Albany, SUNY. The 49-credit program includes a core curriculum that examines topics such as decision-making, public economics, and financial management. By choosing a concentration from a portfolio of options, learners specialize in areas such as policy analysis, global affairs, or local government management. Learners may earn certificates concurrently in areas such as public sector management and women and public policy. They participate in internships that could lead to full-time employment in the public or private sector. Admission to one of the country's best MPA programs requires the GRE or GMAT.

Affordability Score: Average
TMD Ranking Score: 97.07

#6 Arizona State University School of Public Affairs – Phoenix, Arizona

The MPA at Arizona State University prepares a new generation of public servants at the local, state, and national levels. Learners acquire competencies in problem analysis, collaboration that leads to solutions, and the effective and ethical management of public agencies. The 42-credit program offers learners four concentrations: emergency management, nonprofit administration, public finance, and urban management. Faculty encourage learners without any work experience to begin building it with the program's internship. The school offers great flexibility by also offering a weekend-intensive format for busy working professionals and online courses. ASU offers affordable tuition, helping to make the degree one of the best MPA programs. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Affordability Score: Above Average
TMD Ranking Score: 96.51

#7 University of Texas at Austin Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs – Austin, Texas

The master of public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin provides an on-campus program that blends theoretic learning and real-world application. The 48-credit program includes study of applied empirical methods and applied microeconomics for policy analysis. A two-semester research project serves as a unique component of the MPA, during which learners conduct research for an external agency. Students customize the degree, one of the best MPA programs in the nation, with specializations in areas such as international affairs; public management and leadership; and technology, innovation, and information policy. In the first or second year, students get hands-on experience during an internship with governmental or nonprofit organizations. Admission requires school transcripts and the GRE.

Affordability Score: Above Average
TMD Ranking Score: 96.28

#8 University of Central Florida School of Public Administration – Orlando, Florida

The MPA at the University of Central Florida offers on-campus and online formats. The 42-credit program includes a nine-course core that delves into the specific skills learners need for public service careers. These skills include public budgeting, financial management, and analytic techniques for public administration. Students use electives to customize the MPA to meet their professional areas of interest. Faculty strongly advise learners without work experience in this field to use elective credits to complete an internship that builds experience. One of the best MPAs, the program offers dual degree options in criminal justice and nonprofit management. Admission requires no GRE.

Affordability Score: Affordable
TMD Ranking Score: 96.06

#9 Baruch College, CUNY Marxe School of Public and International Affairs – New York, New York

Baruch College, CUNY, offers both a traditional and nontraditional MPA. The traditional option requires 42-45 credits and enrolls learners with at least one year of experience, allowing them to take classes in the day, evening, or online. The nontraditional option, the Executive MPA, serves mid-level professionals with at least three years of experience by offering a Saturday cohort that meets September to June. Regardless of which of the best MPAs learners choose, they acquire proficiency in areas such as budgeting and economic analysis, in addition to fine-tuned managerial and leadership skills. Learners in the traditional MPA specialize in areas such as healthcare policy and urban development and sustainability. Admission requires school transcripts and the GRE.

Affordability Score: Average
TMD Ranking Score: 95.96

#10 University of Missouri Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs – Columbia, Missouri

For more than 50 years, the University of Missouri has educated public servants with high-quality programs such as the master of public affairs. The program offers both on-campus and online options. The on-campus version require 45 credits that include foundational knowledge in public policy, economic analysis, and organizational dynamics and leadership. With 15 credits learners delve into one of two specializations: public policy or public and nonprofit management. Through a required internship learners gain public service experience, learn how to apply their knowledge in real-world contexts, and build a professional network. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and competitive GRE scores.

Affordability Score: Affordable
TMD Ranking Score: 95.92

#11 North Carolina State University School of Public and International Affairs – Raleigh, North Carolina

At North Carolina State University, the on-campus 40-credit MPA offers learners the option to choose an area of specialization or design an individualized program that meets their career goals. The degree offers both full-time and part-time enrollment to fit the needs of working professionals. The core of the degree, one of the best MPAs, includes study of public policy analysis, budgeting, and management systems. While the school offers no formal MPA concentrations, learners may use electives to specialize in areas such as public management, urban management, or organizational leadership. MPA learners with no professional work experience must complete an internship, thereby establishing a portfolio of experience. Admission requires the GRE.

Affordability Score: Affordable
TMD Ranking Score: 95.77

#12 University of Kentucky Martin School of Public Policy and Administration – Lexington, Kentucky

Learners from a variety of backgrounds enroll in the MPA at the University of Kentucky. They acquire analytical, finance, and managerial skills through the 40-credit curriculum, which also emphasizes practical training. Students attend classes in Lexington, studying topics such as policy process, decision analysis, and strategic planning in the public sector. A wide number of concentration options give learners specialization in areas such as economic development, education policy, and transportation systems management. Faculty waive the required internship component of the degree, one of the best MPA programs in the nation, for learners with relevant work experience. Admission requires school transcripts and the GRE or GMAT.

Affordability Score: Average
TMD Ranking Score: 95.58

#13 Texas A&M University Bush School of Government and Public Service – College Station, Texas

The master of public service and administration at Texas A&M University develops public service leaders with character and integrity. The on-campus degree provides learners with foundational knowledge as well as proficiencies in policy analysis, leadership, and research methods. One of the best MPAs, the degree provides a suite of concentrations, including two that are not often available in similar programs: cybersecurity and security policy and management. To customize their degree, learners choose one of three tracks: public policy analysis, public management, or nonprofit management. Students receive hands-on training through internships at governmental organizations, NGOs, and think tanks in this country and abroad. Admission requires the GRE or GMAT.

Affordability Score: Average
TMD Ranking Score: 95.30

#14 University of Utah College of Social & Behavioral Sciences – Salt Lake City, Utah

At the University of Utah, the MPA offers evening and executive formats to meet the needs of busy professionals. The evening program allows students to learn at their own pace, completing the 42-credit degree in a two- to four-year timeframe. They complete an MPA core and choose an emphasis area such as policy analysis, or design their own. A semester-long internship provides hands-on experience. Those who enroll in the Executive MPA have at least five years of middle- to upper-level administrative experience. Learners in this format take some courses during the week and others on the weekends. Admission requires a prerequisite American Government course, a minimum 3.2 GPA, and the GRE, GMAT, or MAT.

Affordability Score: Very Affordable
TMD Ranking Score: 95.11

#15 University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Humphrey School of Public Affairs – Minneapolis, Minnesota

Mid-career professionals seeking to advance their skills enroll in the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities' 30-credit master of public affairs. They study within a community of peers to advance their skills in management, leadership, and policy analysis. In addition to the MPA core, learners design a concentration that meets their career goals. In one of the nation's best MPA programs, students complete a capstone community-based project that requires a written report to a client. The program allows learners to take one or two classes in the day, evening, during weekends, and over the summer to complete the degree in up to three years. Admission requires at least 10 years of professional work experience and the GRE.

Affordability Score: Above Average
TMD Ranking Score: 95.07

#16 University of Maryland School of Public Policy – College Park, Maryland

The master of public management at the University of Maryland enrolls learners with at least five years of public policy or public management experience. The 30-36 credit program offers two tracks: the Executive Master of Public Management (EXPM) and Master of Public Management (MAMG). The 30-credit EXPM enrolls students as a cohort and offers a curriculum that includes many enrichment activities, with classes held Friday evenings and Saturdays. The 36-credit MAMG track focuses on public policy, providing a core and a portfolio of specializations. MAMG learners participate in an optional internship to further build work experience. Admission to two of the nation's best MPAs requires a minimum 3.0 GPA or the GRE or GMAT.

Affordability Score: Above Average
TMD Ranking Score: 94.97

#17 John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY – New York, New York

John Jay College of Criminal Justice offers two MPA programs: the MPA in public policy and administration and MPA in inspection and oversight. Both programs require 42 credits and seek to prepare public administrators dedicated "to the highest ideals of citizenship and public service." Each track offers a distinct suite of specializations relevant to the concentration, such as management and operations, emergency management, forensic accounting, and investigation and operational inspection. Students choose where and how they want to complete either program, with on-campus venues and online learning available. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and the GRE for some students.

Affordability Score: Average
TMD Ranking Score: 94.86

#18 Ohio State University John Glenn College of Public Affairs – Columbus, Ohio

At Ohio State University, working professionals acquire advanced skills for public service careers through a full-time curriculum that accommodates their schedules. Most learners in the program, one of the best MPAs in the nation, work 20 hours per week. The curriculum emphasizes the areas of policy, management, economics, and data analysis skills. The MPA also immerses learners in practical and skill-based courses that help them cultivate the managerial tools needed for career advancement. Students may add a minor as a means of specializing in an area such as global health or nonprofit studies. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and the GRE.

Affordability Score: Above Average
TMD Ranking Score: 94.60

#19 Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs – Bloomington, Indiana

Administered by one of the most respected public affairs schools in the nation, the master of public affairs at Indiana University offers an interdisciplinary curriculum that prepares principled and skilled leaders. The 48-credit program offers a core that build skills in areas such as budgeting and management, while providing learners with opportunity to concentrate in one of 12 areas. To provide learners with real-world experience, the degree requires that students participate in an internship, individual or group research, or volunteer with an organization such as the Peace Corps or Teach for America. Admission to one of the nation's best online MPA programs requires school transcripts and the GRE or GMAT to strengthen the application.

Affordability Score: Above Average
TMD Ranking Score: 94.42

#20 University of North Texas College of Health and Public Service – Denton, Texas

Established in 1961, the MPA at the University of North Texas enjoys a long history of grooming learners for public service. The 39-42 credit curriculum emphasizes areas such as the evaluation of public programs, financial reporting, and planning for disasters. Pre-career students participate in an internship comprised of at least 440 hours of paid employment. The school's Department of Public Administration notes an excellent track record of placing graduates in various levels of government. One of the best MPAs, the program offers affordable tuition and financial assistance specifically available to MPA students. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and the GRE for lower scores.

Affordability Score: Very Affordable
TMD Ranking Score: 93.88

#21 Brigham Young University J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott School of Business – Provo, Utah

An esteemed program, the MPA at Brigham Young University prepares learners with unique skill sets for careers in public and nonprofit service. The school offers two MPA programs: a full-time program learners complete in two years, and a part-time Executive MPA for learners with at least four years of relevant professional experience. Both share some core classes in areas such as economics, communication, applied decision analysis, and statistics. The full-time MPA offers sector emphasis areas such as local government and state and federal government. One of the nation's best MPAs, the program charges tuition based on affiliation or non-affiliation with the LDS church. Admission requires very competitive GPA scores and the GRE for the full-time program.

Affordability Score: Affordable
TMD Ranking Score: 93.77

#22 Virginia Tech School of Public and International Affairs – Blacksburg, Virginia

Dedicated to good governance and the advancement of ethical public service leaders, the MPA at Virginia Tech focuses on management, public service, and public policy. Students complete the degree on the main campus in Blacksburg or in Alexandria or Richmond, Virginia. Faculty teach the 39-credit program in classrooms with a 9-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. The program offers both full-time and part-time enrollment options. The curriculum cultivates professionals with advanced managerial and analytical skills acquired through theoretic coursework and professional experiences. Pre- and early-career students have the opportunity to participate in prestigious internships such as the Virginia General Assembly and Virginia Office of Government Relations. Admission to one of the nation's best MPA requires a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Affordability Score: Average
TMD Ranking Score: 93.61

#23 Portland State University Hatfield School of Government – Portland, Oregon

The MPA at Portland State University provides learners with a 60-credit curriculum that includes core courses, skill development, and areas of specialization. One of the best MPAs, the program requires that students receive a sound foundation in areas such as administrative theory and behavior and financial management. Learners must choose one of five areas of specialization to complete the MPA. This component allows students to pursue career interests in areas such as HR management or global leadership and management. With the school's focus on community service and engagement, students in the MPA acquire experience through internships at various agencies in Portland, in the state, and/or nationally. Admission requires a minimum 2.75 GPA.

Affordability Score: Average
TMD Ranking Score: 93.50

#24 George Mason University Schar School of Policy and Government – Fairfax, Virginia

Students in the MPA at George Mason University, located in Arlington, Virginia, learn about the interplay between management, policy, politics, and leadership in the school's 36-39 credit program. Located close to the nation's capital, the program provides learners with access to experts in policy making and public service and a large nonprofit sector. The curriculum addresses issues such as organization theory, administrative law, and emergency management, while offering a robust portfolio of specializations. Students design their own concentration or choose one such as administration of justice or state and local government. One of the best MPAs in the nation, the program offers evening classes and full-time or part-time enrollment. Admission requires the GRE, GMAT, or LSAT.

Affordability Score: Average
TMD Ranking Score: 93.49

#25 University of Arizona College of Social & Behavioral Sciences – Tucson, Arizona

The MPA at the University of Arizona cultivates professional administrators knowledgeable about the complex social issues they must address in the public and nonprofit sectors. They develop the managerial skills necessary to meet these demands through the 42-credit MPA's combination of theoretic knowledge and real-world fieldwork. Core courses include study of economics for public policy, public organizational theory, and statistical decision-making. Students apply skills acquired through the curriculum and an internship during a capstone in the final semester. Many students in one of the best MPA programs can still work thanks to evening classes conveniently scheduled after 5:30 p.m. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Affordability Score: Above Average
TMD Ranking Score: 93.45

Why an MPA?

MPA curricula build comprehensive understanding of principles, planning, and practices in the public administration field. Students build organizational and business skills in finance, budgeting, and strategic planning, while also fostering their research and analytical capabilities.

A public administration degree emphasizes public policy as it relates to local, state, federal, and international governance. Programs include coursework in public policy analysis and applied research and evaluation. Students enhance hard skills such as quantitative methods and behavior analysis while honing soft skills such as critical thinking and communication. MPA programs also build entrepreneurial, fundraising, and leadership skills.

Learners pursuing careers in business, government service, or academia benefit from MPA degrees. Employment opportunities include positions such as policy analyst, program coordinator, and development specialist. Additionally, graduates can work in for-profit and nonprofit sectors alike.

Individuals with an MPA can work as social and community service managers for private nonprofit groups and government agencies. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), projects a 13% increase in employment for these professionals from 2018-2028. Graduates who work as urban or regional planners will benefit from a projected 11% growth from 2018-2028. An MPA can also lead to careers in quantitative analysis, which could see a projected 30% increase from 2018-2028.

Learn More About MPA Programs and Business Schools

What Do the Top MPA Programs Have in Common?

Specific coursework and requirements for top MPA programs vary, but most feature similar objectives and outcomes. MPAs prepare students for careers in government, the private sector, and nonprofit organizations by exploring a breadth of topics, such as management, communication, and public policy.

Core classes in MPA programs emphasize topics such as principles of public administration, ethics and social justice, and public policy analysis. Through coursework in applied economic metrics, policy analysis, and the politics of public policy, learners establish foundations to explore advanced aspects of public administration.

MPA degrees may allow students to specialize in a subset of public administration. Specializations such as nonprofit management and leadership, social entrepreneurship and innovation, and law and public policy prepare learners for careers in nonprofit organizations, start-ups, and legal institutions, respectively. Other concentration options include policy analysis, public management, and emergency management.

Hybrid and online degrees offer the same classes as traditional programs, but often with more flexible, convenient options. Hybrid public administration degrees integrate online content with in-person requirements, such as weekend class meetings or workshops. The hybrid format meets working professionals' needs through the flexibility of online classes, while still offering opportunities to meet and interact with classmates and instructors.

How Long Does It Take to Get an MPA?

The time it takes to earn an MPA varies by student and institution. Programs typically include 30-48 credit hours, which traditional students can complete in two years. Part-time learners can complete their classes in 3-5 years.

Online public administration master's degrees may allow students to complete classes on an accelerated schedule, earning their MPA in as little as 18 months. Additionally, some online MPA programs allow public administration students to earn their degree at their own pace.

MPAs often include capstone requirements, which can impact time to completion. Learners may complete an in-depth research project and write a thesis, or they may participate in an individual or group project. Capstones allow learners to demonstrate the knowledge and skills they built through the degree while gaining valuable insight into public administration or nonprofit management and leadership. Some capstones may require a significant amount of time and research.

METHODOLOGY

This ranking is designed to find the best Master's in Public Administration degrees available. A list of over 320 schools was obtained and evaluated on the following factors: Accreditations, Affordability, and Prestige.

Regional Accreditation (20%): Institutional accreditations are very important and attest to each program's value and university education standards. Each bachelor's program in this list is accredited by one of the six regional accrediting institutions recognized by the US Department of Education.

Public Administration Accreditation (20%): In addition to regional accreditation, each MPA program is ranked upon if it upholds an accreditation from the NASPAA. The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) is the highest recognized global accrediting institution for master's degree programs in the fields of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration. This accreditation certifies that a master's program in public affairs has gone through a rigorous process of voluntary peer review and has attained specific standards for professional master's degree programs in the sector of public affairs, policy, and administration.

Affordability (20%): Each MPA was evaluated for the estimated total base tuition cost. Tuition costs directly affect accessibility and is an important criterion to research when deciding upon a program. The base tuition was calculated for the whole degree plan, but does not included fees, books, or room and board. For schools that offer a lower in-state tuition rate, the in-state pricing is used. Based on this base tuition data, each program was then given an Affordability Score:

Expensive = $50,000+
Above Average = $30,000-$49,999
Average = $20,000-$29,999
Affordable = $14,000-$19,999
Very Affordable = $0-$13,999

Regional College Prestige (20%): This information was collected from one of the most prestigious sources in educational rankings, the Princeton Review. Each program was ranked on if their college or university was included in one of the Princeton Review's 2018 Best Regional Colleges Rankings.

Graduate Public Affairs Program Prestige (20%): This criterion was collected from one of the most prestigious sources in educational rankings, US News and World Report. Each program was ranked based on their score within the US News and World Report's Best Graduate Public Affairs Program Ranking.

All of the data was collected, weighted equally, averaged, and then calculated on a 100-point scale. This score is the TMD Ranking Score, which provides the ranking order for this list. By evaluating the accreditations, affordability, and prestige, this ranking helps prospective students find the highest quality on campus Master's of Public Administration Programs.

Professional Organizations in Public Administration

Professional organizations for public administration professionals allow like-minded individuals to connect, cooperate, and collaborate. Professional organizations provide their members with access to continuing education resources, networking opportunities, and advocacy campaigns. Additional benefits include career guidance and access to job boards, research publications, and topical updates.

Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management

APPAM unites research, analysis, and education to improve public policy and management around the United States. Members receive access to the APPAM community, which is comprised of academics, practitioners, students, and field veterans. APPAM offers members access to webinars and podcasts, the annual conference, and a job board.

Public Management Research Association

PMRA fosters research on public organizations by publishing field-related journals and holding annual events. By linking the study of public institutions, their management, and public policy, PMRA seeks to expand interdisciplinary research into government and governance.

American Society for Public Administration

Dedicated to linking public administration scholars and practitioners, ASPA serves public service professionals by building networks and fostering solutions to governance challenges. Members include civil servants, elected officials, researchers, and nonprofit managers. Individuals who join gain access to networking opportunities, ASPA publications, and professional development programs.

Alliance for Nonprofit Management

This alliance brings together consultants, funders, academics, and executives to exchange perspectives across the nonprofit management field. Through events, award programs, and the alliance's directory, members learn to advance their practice, initiate and participate in innovative methods, and lead in the field.

International City/County Management Association

Uniting local government professionals from around the world, ICMA provides development programs, research updates, and publications to members. Additional resources include technical assistance, training programs, data, and job postings.

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