Best Online MPA Programs

To find the best online MPA programs, consider your schedule, budget, desired career, and salary. Explore MPA programs and specialities here.
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Updated June 5, 2023

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Pursuing a master of public administration (MPA) degree can launch your career in public administration and prepare you for leadership or administrative roles. It can also give you the tools and understanding to positively impact society.

If you're passionate about social services, nonprofit administration, urban development, healthcare, or government — an MPA can be a career launchpad.

Our methodology uses a ranking system with multiple data indicators, like affordability and academic quality, to help you select the best public administration degrees objectively.

Featured Online MPA Programs

Best Online Master's in Public Administration Programs

Note: The school and/or program descriptions below were drafted using natural language generation technology and have been edited for clarity and accuracy. The data is primarily sourced from government databases such as IPEDS – see sources section for more details.

#1 Best Online MPA Programs

Sul Ross State University

  • Alpine, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Graduate students interested in a master of public administration can earn their degree from Sul Ross State University, located in Alpine, Texas. The master of public administration program draws on a rigorous curriculum that prepares graduates for leadership responsibilities. With a master's degree, candidates often advance their current career or move into new career paths.

The master's curriculum emphasizes both practical and theoretical approaches to public administration. Learners take specialized courses to stand out in a competitive job market. Applicants without a background in public administration may need to complete prerequisite courses before enrolling in the master's program.

Online enrollees complete internship programs in their local area to gain hands-on experience. Many institutions provide libraries and fitness centers for use by students living near campus. Graduate students also build professional connections by attending networking events.

Sul Ross State University at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, four-year

Admission Rate: 81%

Total Online Master's Programs: 15

Program Name: Master of public administration

Graduate Tuition In State: $4,162

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $11,524

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$6,547
Out-of-state
$18,817
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$4,162
Out-of-state
$11,524
Retention Rate
52%
Admission Rate
81%
Students Enrolled
2,345
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
74% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#2 Best Online MPA Programs

Purdue University Global

  • West Lafayette, IN
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Graduate students seeking an online public administration degree can enroll in the master's program at Purdue University Global. Learners train for leadership roles while earning their degree from the master of public administration program. A master's degree allows candidates to move up the career ladder or pursue a new career path.

The master's curriculum emphasizes the best practices in public administration. Learners prepare for focused career paths by choosing electives and concentrations. The admission requirements include a background in public administration or a related field.

Online enrollees complete internships in their local community to gain professional experience. Students who live near campus can access the library and gym, as well as other amenities and facilities. The program encourages graduate students to expand their professional connections through internships and networking events.

Purdue University Global at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, four-year

Total Online Master's Programs: 26

Program Name: Master of public administration

Graduate Tuition In State: $8,766

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $9,740

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$10,080
Out-of-state
$13,356
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$8,766
Out-of-state
$9,740
Retention Rate
33%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
43,927
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#3 Best Online MPA Programs

Rutgers University-Newark

  • Newark, NJ
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

From its New Jersey campus, Rutgers University-Newark offers an online master of public administration. The public administration program emphasizes advanced practice skills, training graduates for leadership roles with increased earning potential. A master's degree helps candidates advance in their current field or pursue a new career path.

The master's curriculum explores theoretical and practical perspectives in the public administration field. Learners take electives and other specialized courses to gain career-specific training. Applicants without a background in public administration may need to complete prerequisite courses before enrolling in the master's program.

Online enrollees often complete professional internships at approved locations in their own community. Those who live near campus can enjoy the amenities and facilities available at most institutions, such as the library and gym. Graduate students also build professional connections through virtual networking events and other activities.

Rutgers University-Newark at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, four-year

Admission Rate: 74%

Total Online Master's Programs: 5

Program Name: Master of public administration

Graduate Tuition In State: $17,736

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $30,144

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$12,230
Out-of-state
$29,012
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$17,736
Out-of-state
$30,144
Retention Rate
87%
Admission Rate
74%
Students Enrolled
13,231
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
23% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#4 Best Online MPA Programs

American Public University

  • Charles Town, WV
  • 4 years
  • Online

The online master of public administration degree at American Public University, located in Charles Town, West Virginia, prioritizes flexibility. The master of public administration program uses a rigorous curriculum that prepares graduates for leadership responsibilities. 

The master's curriculum incorporates theoretical and applied approaches to public administration. Learners take electives and other specialized courses to gain career-specific training. The master's program builds on prior public administration experience gained during a bachelor's program.

Online enrollees complete internship requirements at approved sites in their own community. Students who live near campus can access the library and gym, as well as other amenities and facilities. Internships and other practicum activities also provide professional networking opportunities.

American Public University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private, for-profit, four-year

Total Online Master's Programs: 35

Program Name: Master of public administration

Graduate Tuition In State: $6,660

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $6,660

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$6,840
Out-of-state
$6,840
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$6,660
Out-of-state
$6,660
Retention Rate
98%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
50,047
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#5 Best Online MPA Programs

Walden University

  • Minneapolis, MN
  • 4 years
  • Online

The online master of public administration at Walden University, located in Minneapolis, offers high academic quality. The public administration program strengthens industry-specific skills, preparing graduates for leadership responsibilities. After completing a master's degree, candidates often advance in their current field or pursue new opportunities.

The master's curriculum emphasizes the best practices in public administration. Learners specialize their course of study to prepare for the job market. Applicants with prior experience in public administration or a related field often meet the admission requirements.

Online enrollees participate in internship programs at approved locations in their area. Students who live near campus can benefit from the library and gym facilities. Graduate students can grow their professional connections through internships and virtual networking events.

Walden University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private, for-profit, four-year

Total Online Master's Programs: 38

Program Name: Master of public administration

Graduate Tuition In State: $10,272

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $10,272

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$10,139
Out-of-state
$10,139
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$10,272
Out-of-state
$10,272
Retention Rate
33%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
49,695
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

Why Get an MPA Degree Online?

How Much Do MPA Grads Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), all public policy and social services professionals earned a median salary of $47,000 in 2019.

With an MPA degree, you could qualify for advanced administrative and management careers. Median salaries for these careers range from $74,000 to $126,230, depending on the career path and your level of experience.

7 Popular Public Administration Jobs
Job Median Annual Salary (May 2021) Job Growth Rate (2021-2031)
Administrative Services and Facilities Managers $99,290 7%
Human Resources Managers $126,230 7%
Medical and Health Services Managers $101,340 28%
Postsecondary Education Administrators $96,910 7%
Social and Community Service Managers $74,000 12%
Top Executives $98,980 6%
Urban and Regional Planners $78,500 4%
Source: BLS

Courses in Online MPA Programs

An online MPA program builds specialized knowledge in the operation and management of public institutions and organizations. You'll study topics like organizational behavior, public policy, and finance.

Here are some sample classes you might take in an online MPA program.

Fundamentals of Public Administration

In an introductory public administration class, you'll be introduced to the fundamental practices and theories. You'll receive a broad overview of the field, including its relationship to legal and political structures.

This class also covers frameworks for understanding public institutes and their relationships with communities and individuals.

Organizational Theory and Behavior

Public administration centers on the operation of large, complex institutions. This class examines the organizational dynamics at play in various forms of bureaucracy.

You'll explore topics like organizational behavior styles and managerial processes. The class may also highlight the factors that affect interpersonal and group behavior.

Public Financial Management

This class focuses on the role of finance and budgeting in public organizations. You'll explore financial practices in government agencies and nonprofits, including how budgets determine organizational priorities and affect public policy.

Other common class topics may include tax administration, cost-benefit analysis, and debt financing.

Online MPA Specializations

Online MPA programs usually offer specializations to help you build advanced knowledge in a specific area of public administration.

Also known as concentrations or tracks, specializations help you customize your education to fit your professional interests and career goals.

Nonprofit Management

This concentration explores the history and development of the nonprofit sector and its economic, social, and legislative impact. Other common course topics include philanthropy, fundraising, and the effects of public policy on nonprofit organizations.

Public Policy

Candidates specializing in public policy focus on the role of policy and legislation in shaping public life and institutions. Classes may focus on topics like the legislative process, administrative law, and environmental and climate policy.

Global Health

This specialization highlights the application of public policy to global and public healthcare systems, working toward more equitable outcomes for global populations. Common classes may include global health initiatives, demography and global health, and grant writing and fundraising.

How to Choose an Online MPA Program: 4 Tips

If you're ready to advance with an online MPA program, consider the following tips to choose the best program for your career goals.

  1. 1

    Define Your Goals

    To pick the right program, you'll need to know what you want to do with your degree. For example, if you want to pursue a career in nonprofit management, you'll want to look for an MPA program that offers that specialization.

    If you're not sure what you'd like to do after graduation, research possible career paths, talk to other professionals, or take an internship to clarify your career goals.

  2. 2

    Choose Your Specialty

    Not all public administration programs offer the same specialties. You'll want to select a college that offers your target specialization.

    While many specializations could be applied to similar careers, choosing the right specialization that blends your interests, strengths, and future career goals can help set you up for success.

  3. 3

    Determine Your Budget

    Student loans can be a huge burden after graduation, especially if you're already paying off your undergraduate education.

    A college with high tuition doesn't equate to a better job after graduation. Instead, choose a program that meets your budget or provides scholarship opportunities. Online MPA programs are a great choice as they're often more affordable.

  4. 4

    Compare Online Programs

    When choosing an online MPA, consider course offerings, alumni networks, graduation rates, professor reviews, and your affinity for the college.

    You should also consider whether you prefer a synchronous or asynchronous program and whether you'd like to attend some classes in a hybrid format or prefer fully online programs.

Frequently Asked Questions About Online MPA Programs

How long does it take to get a public administration degree?

It typically takes four years of full-time study for a bachelor's in public administration and two to three years for a master's degree. You may be able to finish faster with a combined bachelor's and master's program or accelerated programs.

Online programs also offer greater flexibility to earn your degree on a personalized timeline.

What is the highest-paying job in public administration?

Public administration salaries vary widely by industry and title. For example, according to the BLS, social and community services managers earned a median of $74,000 in 2021, whereas public relations and fundraising managers earned $119,860.

The highest-paying careers are usually top executives and director-level positions. Earning an MPA degree can lead to promotions and typically increases your salary potential.

How much does a master's degree increase your salary?

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for graduates with a bachelor's degree is $76,748. For master's degree graduates, the median annual salary is $90,555. For most careers, a master's degree can significantly increase your earning potential.

MPA grads can expect to earn more with their master's degree if they advance to leadership roles and executive positions.

Is a MPA degree worth It?

For many professionals, an MPA degree is worth it as it can lead to additional experience, a higher salary, and greater career opportunities. An MPA can qualify you for leadership roles in public administration, human resource management, social services, public relations, or nonprofit management.

An MPA can also give you a platform to positively impact society, which is priceless.

How much does a master's in public administration cost?

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average cost of a master's degree is $19,750 per year. The median tuition for public institutions is lower, at $11,670 per year.

In many cases, tuition for the best online MPA programs is less than for on-campus programs.

Featured Online MPA Programs

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