Affordable Online Master’s in Public Administration Programs

Public administration is a multidisciplinary branch of political science that deals with government decision-making, public policy, and project development. Numerous specialized roles fall under the category of public administration, such as census manager, social service coordinator, and human resources director. Working with elected officials to create policies, allocate funds, and address complex social issues, public administrators provide a crucial link between government agencies and the community.

The core curriculum of an MPA program typically focuses on public finance, ethics, policy analysis, and the structure and behavior of organizations. Students expand on prior knowledge of business fundamentals, developing crucial leadership and public speaking skills while analyzing real-world governmental models. Some programs allow students to select an area of concentration according to their personal goals and interests. Many also require students to demonstrate their knowledge in a final capstone seminar, or put their acquired skills to practical use in an internship.

Aan MPA unlocks a wealth of career opportunities unavailable to those with only a bachelor’s degree. Public administrators’ yearly salaries vary greatly, ranging from $33,982 for non-profit coordinators to six-figure sums for executive directors, but most positions within the field are in high demand. Despite this increased earning potential, many potential MPA students are scared away by the costs and commitments of brick-and-mortar university programs.

Fortunately, there are plenty of comprehensive and affordable online MPA programs available for those who require both flexibility and academic rigor. The accredited institutions in our list below offer the chance to earn an online masters in public administration from home while providing the best returns for your investment. Ideal for individuals who need to balance their education with work or family commitments, self-paced programs let students create their own schedules. If you’ve been searching for a cheap online MPA program that fits your lifestyle, read on for a list of the most affordable online MPA programs in the country.

Online MPA Programs at a Glance

Fast Facts

Time to Complete On average, students need two years to complete this degree.
Credit Hours Full-time students take, on average, 18 credits per academic year.
Concentrations
  • Nonprofit management
  • Criminal Justice
  • Financial Management of Government Agencies
  • Emergency Services Management
Accreditation Students should use the Network of Schools of Public Policy to help find regionally and nationally accredited programs that best suit their academic needs.

Liberal Arts & Humanities Rankings

50 Affordable Online Master's Degrees in Public Administration
Rank School Score Toggle Content
1

Arkansas State University-Main Campus

Value Score 8.26
Average Tuition $4,572
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 72%
Number of Online Programs 12
Part-time cost per credit hour $254

Founded as an agricultural school in 1909, "A-State" is now a leading research university in the South and a regional power in online education. The Jonesboro-based institution offers dozens of online degrees, from the bachelor's to doctoral level, including a pair of online MPA programs, the traditional master of public administration and an alternative MPA focusing on nonprofit management.

Both courses require 36 credits and may be completed entirely online in as little as 18 months. Designed to provide law enforcement and city planners a pathway to executive-level positions in public administration, the classic MPA focuses on managing money, resources, people, and programs. The program's nonprofit track includes these subjects and factors in grants, fundraising, and the various issues that challenge contemporary nonprofit agencies. Internships are strongly encouraged after students have completed their first 18 credits, and a capstone option is available. Applicants must have an undergraduate degree -- a GPA of 3.0 is preferred -- and submit a personal essay and three letters of recommendation. Two foundation courses in U.S. government and economics are also required.


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2

Valdosta State University

Value Score 8.14
Average Tuition $4,374
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 63%
Number of Online Programs 8
Part-time cost per credit hour $243

Located in the south Georgia city of Valdosta, just 15 minutes north of the Florida line, Valdosta State is known for its famous Front Lawn, fine weather, experiential learning, and, increasingly, for its award-winning web-based programs. VSU's virtual campus hosts online MPA programs with concentrations in public policy and public sector management. The 36-credit master of public administration is a non-thesis program aimed at working professionals.

Using an asynchronous format, this program guides students through all facets of management, community development, and government while sharpening their oral and written communication skills. Particular attention is paid to technology, the sensitivities of local interest groups, and problem solving. A 300-hour internship in government, nonprofits, or NGO work is required. Applicants can have a bachelor's in any field, with an acceptable GPA, and must provide a resume, three letters of recommendation, and scores from the GRE, GMAT, or MAT. Online tuition is the same for in-state and out-of-state students.


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3

Sam Houston State University

Value Score 8.12
Average Tuition $5,139
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 62%
Number of Online Programs 13
Part-time cost per credit hour $266

Based in Huntsville, Texas, SHSU is enjoying record growth. The big state school enrolled more than 20,000 students in 2015 for the first time in history, and its highly regarded online programs are among the reasons why. Many of SHSU's web-based graduate programs have won national recognition. The university offers an online MPA that is noted for close interaction with professors, networking among peers, and small classes -- most are capped at 20. A concentration in disaster and emergency management is available and students can create their own specialization by tailoring electives with the help of an adviser.

Most students in the 36-credit master of public administration program at Sam Houston are currently employed professionals, and along with the acclaimed faculty, they bring a wealth of experience to the program. Participants without a working background must complete a three-credit internship. Collaboration among classmates is encouraged. Coursework is delivered asynchronously. Applicants must hold a baccalaureate degree and GRE or GMAT scores and must also submit a resume, a statement of intent, and a writing sample of professional or scholarly work.


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4

Texas A & M International University

Value Score 8.05
Average Tuition $3,226
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 59%
Number of Online Programs 4
Part-time cost per credit hour $77

Part of the larger Texas A&M University System, TAMIU has offered an online MPA since 2001. Like other programs at the Laredo-based institution, the school's master of public administration brings a diverse, international perspective to the discipline. Students are taught to think critically, communicate effectively, and look at issues of public policy and community development through a multicultural lens.

The program is aimed at mid-career professionals, and it can be pursued entirely online (with a one-week residency). The curriculum consists of 42 credits, 33 in the core curriculum, and nine electives. Coursework is delivered asynchronously, allowing students to continue working while they advance their careers, and a capstone or an internship is necessary to graduate. Admission requires an undergraduate degree, a 300-word personal narrative, and interviews with at least two MPA faculty members. Three or more years of experience in public management is preferred. TAMIU uses the Blackboard platform.


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5

Georgia College and State University

Value Score 7.99
Average Tuition $5,184
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 72%
Number of Online Programs 5
Part-time cost per credit hour $288

Georgia College is the designated public liberal arts school of the University System of Georgia. Based in the city of Milledgeville, it's one of the Peach State's smaller public institutions and boasts a reputation for tiny classes and personal attention. That close connection extends to the school's virtual campus -- Georgia College's web-based graduate studies have won national recognition and are its fastest-growing degree programs. The school's online MPA is one such example, winning multiple honors. The 36-credit master of public administration curriculum was designed around the needs of working professionals and readies graduates to step into the world of public service, whether it be for a local, state, or federal agency or in the nonprofit sector.

Accredited by the prestigious Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration, the program can be completed in four semesters by full-time students. Students select a thesis or capstone track and must maintain a 3.0 GPA. Admission requires a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.75 GPA (students with GPAs of less than 3.0 must also submit GRE or GMAT scores). Online students pay tuition rates close to in-state rates.


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6

Texas A & M University-College Station

Value Score 7.86
Average Tuition $5,598
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 14%
Number of Online Programs 31
Part-time cost per credit hour $241

The oldest public university in the Lone Star State, Texas A&M has grown into a progressive research institution with a strong presence on the worldwide web. The Aggies' online MPA is a hybrid program that includes a one-week residency each year of the two-year program. All other work is completed on the school's virtual campus. The 39-credit curriculum of the executive master of public service administration program is divided into three tracks -- homeland security, nonprofit management, and public management -- and culminates in a capstone project.

The program was laid out with working administrators in mind, preferably those with five years or more experience, and it's scheduled for maximum flexibility. Classes are asynchronous and held in 15-week spring and fall sessions and a 10-week summer term. Students spend more than half of their time working in their concentration area. Applicants must hold an undergraduate degree and must have taken the GRE or GMAT. They must also submit a resume and a statement of purpose.


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7

University of North Carolina at Pembroke

Value Score 7.55
Average Tuition $3,474
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 50%
Number of Online Programs 3
Part-time cost per credit hour $189

Founded in 1887 as a school to educate Native Americans teachers, UNC Pembroke has grown into a small liberal arts university, conferring degrees from the baccalaureate to graduate level. Though Pembroke has relatively few master's available online, the school has a strong public service emphasis and offers several online MPA programs. Students may choose to focus their degree by enrolling in an MPA master's in public management, emergency management, criminal justice, or health administration.

All of Pembroke's master of public administration online programs require 42 to 45 credits to complete and follow a similar structure. Core courses comprise half of the requirements, four additional classes fulfill the concentration, and participants round out the program with two electives and a "professional paper," which must be presented on campus. Students from all backgrounds are welcome to apply, but those without public service experience will have to complete an internship. Applicants must submit their undergraduate transcripts, GRE scores, resume, and a personal statement.


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8

University of South Dakota

Value Score 7.51
Average Tuition $5,264
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 43%
Number of Online Programs 41
Part-time cost per credit hour $444

USD is South Dakota's flagship institution. The school offers learners a vibrant virtual campus, overlooking the information superhighway, and offers more than 40 of the university's most popular programs, including an online MPA. The school's executive master of public administration follows a 30-credit curriculum that can be pursued entirely online.

Aimed at seasoned professionals, this 10-course program explores theories of management, conflict resolution, community building, resource use and budgets, leadership ethics, and personnel issues. Emphasis is placed on effective communication, critical thinking, and problem solving. Classes are delivered asynchronously, and a capstone and advanced leadership-theory seminar round out coursework. Admission is open to students with a minimum of five years of experience, three of which should be at the middle to executive level. Applications must include an undergraduate transcript, three letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.


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9

University of Nebraska at Omaha

Value Score 7.51
Average Tuition $4,505
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 40%
Number of Online Programs 5
Part-time cost per credit hour $250

Located in Omaha, the University of Nebraska was the first school in the nation to offer online MPA programs accredited by the standard-setting Network of Schools of Public Policy Affairs and Administration. The land-grant, flagship institution has been refining its master of public administration program since it was introduced in 2000, and it continues to boast a national reputation.

Oriented to professionals, Nebraska's 39-credit MPA program is eminently customizable. Students select from six concentrations areas -- aviation, emergency management, local government, nonprofits, public management, and public policy -- and they may further focus their degrees by adding specializations in information technology and criminology and criminal justice. Dual degrees, combining the MPA with a master of social work or a master of IT, are also options. All students must participate in a mandatory one-day orientation in Omaha, where students meet their classmates and faculty, at the outset of the program. Coursework is optimized for both part- and full-time schedules, and is typically completed in two years. Internships are recommended, and all students must complete a capstone project.


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10

University of North Dakota

Value Score 7.43
Average Tuition $7,044
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 51%
Number of Online Programs 13
Part-time cost per credit hour $293

North Dakota's oldest and largest university, UND boasts a thriving web campus where students select from more than 50 degree and certificate options. The school's master of public administration program follows a 39-credit curriculum that prepares graduates for management roles in public service, whether it be in governmental, private, or nonprofit sectors. The degree is unusual among MPA online programs in that it can be specialized in the field of health care with a health-administration track. Further focus may be added with graduate certificates in public administration, policy analysis, or social entrepreneurship.

Coursework includes a live class meeting online once a week (there are no on-site requirements). Designed for part-time students, the degree can be completed in two years. Online students pay in-state tuition. The program is accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy Affairs and Administration. Applicants should have a bachelor's degree, a 2.75 undergraduate GPA, three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and GRE or GMAT scores.


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11

Texas Southern University

Value Score 7.31
Average Tuition $1,600
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 24%
Number of Online Programs 3
Part-time cost per credit hour $100

Located in the heart of Houston and with more than 9,000 students, Texas Southern is one of the nation's largest historically black universities. A comprehensive, doctoral, research institution, the school has a commitment to innovation that extends to its online MPA programs. TSU's executive master of public administration is aimed at mid-career professionals and has a strong public-policy emphasis.

This 36-credit curriculum can be concentrated in seven focus areas -- human resources, development administration, public policy, sustainability, community development, public participation, and government and community relations. Classes are offered in both real-time and asynchronous formats, and everything can be completed via the web, usually within 16 months. Single-fee tuition includes eBooks and short-term study abroad opportunities. Applicants are expected to have a minimum of five years in public service and a bachelor's degree. A personal essay and two letters of recommendation are also required.


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12

University of Colorado Denver

Value Score 7.18
Average Tuition $6,516
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 24%
Number of Online Programs 13
Part-time cost per credit hour $362

Founded in 1996, the University of Colorado's CU Online was one of the country's first fully accredited virtual schools. CU Online now offers more than 450 classes and 20 degrees that can be pursued entirely via the web. The university's 36-credit online MPA program features three tracks -- the traditional MPA, and specializations in nonprofit management and homeland security.

The school's master of public administration curriculum consists of six core courses, five electives, and a real-client capstone or two-semester thesis project. There are no on-site requirements, but students who do travel to Denver to take some electives can broaden their concentration options to include environmental policy, domestic violence, local government, and emergency management. The degree is typically earned in 2.5 years. Students who don't have the recommended three years of professional experience must complete an internship. Admission requires an undergraduate transcript, GRE scores, and preference is given to applicants with a GPA of 3.0 or better and who scored in the 50th percentile or higher on the GRE. Online students from out-of-state pay 120% of the in-state tuition (a significant saving over traditional non-resident fees).


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13

University of Central Florida

Value Score 7.11
Average Tuition $6,916
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 38%
Number of Online Programs 22
Part-time cost per credit hour $370

A pioneer in online learning, Central Florida has been holding class on the net for more than twenty years. One of the nation's largest universities, the Orlando institution now hosts over 60 degree programs on its cyber campus, including an online MPA program -- with no GRE required -- that explores the latest issues surrounding civic governance and successful management techniques.

Designed with both working professionals and aspiring public servants in mind, the school's master of public administration program requires 42 credits to graduate. These are broken down into nine core courses, four advanced classes, and a capstone. A 3.0 GPA must be maintained, and the curriculum may be completed in two years, working full-time. Two dual degrees are possible with UCF's MPA -- one that combines with a master of nonprofit management and another married to a master of criminal justice. Participants without significant public sector experience are strongly encouraged to pursue an internship. Applications should include an undergraduate transcript, resume, statement of interest, and three letters of recommendation.


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14

University of Illinois at Springfield

Value Score 7.10
Average Tuition $7,996
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 65%
Number of Online Programs 11
Part-time cost per credit hour $349

One of three institutions in the University of Illinois System, UIS has become known for its public administration program, and the MPA is one of the school's most popular graduate offerings. UIS is also a leader in online education, offering its first degree online program in 1999, and earning numerous accolades over the years. It is fitting that the school's online MPA programs are nationally ranked and accredited by the global-standard-setting Network of Schools of Public Policy Affairs and Administration.

UIS's master of public administration curriculum equips students with the tools necessary to succeed in both the private and public sector, in government or nonprofits. The program can be undertaken online, with no campus visits necessary, and requires 40 credits to complete. Roughly half of the program's classes are core courses, and students can use electives to focus their studies in three areas -- nonprofit management; community planning; and child advocacy. A dual degree combining the MPA and the university's master of public health is also available. Online students pay the same tuition fees as Illinois residents.


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15

Stephen F Austin State University

Value Score 7.09
Average Tuition $4,779
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 46%
Number of Online Programs 6
Part-time cost per credit hour $327

Named after one of Texas's founding fathers, Stephen F. Austin University is unusual in that it is both a public university and entirely independent. It's one of three such institutions in the Lone Star State, colleges that are public and yet operate outside of the state's university system. SFA does things its own way, and that includes cyber education. Based in the East Texas city of Nacogdoches, SFA offers 20 degree programs via the web, all of which can be earned entirely online. The school's cheap online MPA provides students with a wealth of opportunities, from internships to special research projects to graduate research assistantships.

SFA's master of public administration program follows a 36-credit curriculum and prepares in-service and pre-service students for management-level careers in government and nonprofits. Core coursework features classes in public administration methods, personnel management, ethics, law, and budgets. Students have the option of completing an internship or taking an additional course and all learners complete a capstone project. Applicants must provide their undergraduate transcript, GRE scores, a resume, personal statement, and letters of recommendation.


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16

Southern Utah University

Value Score 6.95
Average Tuition $7,034
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 56%
Number of Online Programs 7
Part-time cost per credit hour $315

Founded as a normal school in 1897, SUU is a mid-size public university based in Cedar City, a small burgh between Salt Lake and Las Vegas. Known for outdoor recreation and Big Sky Conference sports, Southern Utah has a long tradition of public service -- each student participates in the school's "service learning experience," and the university has been recognized on the national level for the number of hours students donate to the community. This spirit of public service infuses SUU's online MPA program.

This 36-credit master of public administration program has two tracks: government and higher education. The core curriculum consists of 21 credits, and the remainder are earned by taking electives and participating in an experiential project, which might be an internship, "professional project," or thesis. Students who have been employed in the public sector for more than a year can waive the internship requirement. The program is designed to be completed in two years, but students are welcome to proceed at their own pace.


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17

University of Missouri-Columbia

Value Score 6.65
Average Tuition $8,402
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 31%
Number of Online Programs 12
Part-time cost per credit hour $350

Affectionately nicknamed Mizzou, the University of Missouri is the oldest institution of higher education west of the Mississippi. It's also the Show-Me State's land grant school and largest university. The Columbia-based college has one of the nation's most extensive virtual campuses with more than 100 degree programs and 1,000 classes offered online. Mizzou's Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs hosts an MPA online that can be tailored to a student's interests with grad certificates in grantsmanship, organizational change, nonprofit management, and public management.

The 33-credit master of public administration program can be pursued entirely online with no visits to campus necessary. Coursework covers ethics, organizational dynamics, leadership, collaborative governance, and finance. Classes are nine-weeks long and typically taken one at a time, allowing students to graduate within two years. Tuition is at the in-state rate. Accreditation is through the industry-leading Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration. Admission requires three years of experience in public sector work, a bachelor's degree, and a GPA of 3.0 or better in the last 60 credits earned.


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18

The University of Montana

Value Score 6.64
Average Tuition $4,135
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 18%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $283

The University of Montana's online MPA is a small program -- only 20 online students are admitted each year -- providing everyone involved with a great deal of personal attention. The school's nationally ranked master of public administration follows a 36-credit curriculum offered in two tracks -- the traditional MPA and a nonprofit management option. The Missoula school also allows students to customize their degree by specializing in environmental administration, international development, and local government administration. Many students elect to add a natural resource conflict resolution certificate.

Students must present their final portfolio with written and oral components at the conclusion of the program (online students can present via Skype). All students without professional public sector experience are strongly encouraged to complete an internship. Anyone with a bachelor's degree is eligible to apply to the program. Applications must include a 300-word personal essay, three letters of recommendation, and GRE scores. Montana is a member affiliate of the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration.


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19

Indiana State University

Value Score 6.62
Average Tuition $6,984
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 54%
Number of Online Programs 18
Part-time cost per credit hour $388

Based in Terra Haute, Indiana State is considered among the best in the Midwest, a top public research institution with a reputation for public service. ISU has increasingly focused its attention on the web in recent years, and it now offers more than 60 programs on its virtual campus. The school's online MPA was created with working public-sector employees in mind, and most who participate are in the middle of their careers. The school's 36-credit master of public administration curriculum can be tailored to fit a student's particular interests with concentrations in nonprofit management, criminology/criminal justice, human resource development, and public health, and certificates available in public administration and public personnel administration.

Seven courses comprise the core of the program, which full-time enrollees can complete in two years. Students then select from electives and finish with a capstone project. About half of the classes are delivered asynchronously, but several require weekly web conferencing. Participants without related work experience are required to complete an internship. Online students pay a reduced tuition rate compared to their on-campus counterparts.


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20

University of Louisiana at Monroe

Value Score 6.55
Average Tuition $6,106
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 44%
Number of Online Programs 19
Part-time cost per credit hour $451

Part of the larger University of Louisiana system, ULM is a public, four-year institution set in Monroe. The school has made a firm commitment to distance learning with its cyber campus eULM, and now offers more than 30 award-winning degree programs online. The school's master of public administration program takes an interdisciplinary approach to public-sector education, and was designed for both newcomers to the field and working public-service professionals.

ULM's 36-credit MPA online is built around six courses offered in eight-week and 16-week formats every semester. Students then select from five concentration tracks -- public management (general track), administration of health, administration of justice, administration of education, and management. Those without at least two years of public service must complete an internship. Applicants must have a minimum 2.75 undergraduate GPA and acceptable GRE scores. There are no on-campus requirements, and the degree can typically be earned in two years. A fast-track option is available.


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21

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Value Score 6.38
Average Tuition $5,329
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 47%
Number of Online Programs 5
Part-time cost per credit hour $405

One of the nation's newest colleges, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley enrolled its first classes in 2015. The Edinburg-based institution is already home to 29,000, and it has embraced technology and the internet as a means to grow even bigger. UTRGV offers seven online graduate degrees, including a cheap online MPA. The school's master of public affairs is a 36-credit program that grounds students in public policy analysis, grant writing, research, nonprofits, and the latest management techniques.

The curriculum was laid out to fit around a public-service manager's busy schedule, and it can be pursued entirely online in an accelerated format. Ambitious students can earn their diplomas in as little as 12 months. Students with no background in the public sector must first complete a foundation course. Admission requires a 3.0 undergraduate GPA, three letters of reference, and a personal statement.


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22

The University of Texas at Arlington

Value Score 6.33
Average Tuition $6,959
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 40%
Number of Online Programs 11
Part-time cost per credit hour $390

Located in the Greater Dallas area, UTA is a four-year public research university with a huge student population. More than 55,000 are enrolled globally, and many of them partake in online classes. Distance learners have access to award-winning degree programs taught by the university's acclaimed faculty. The school's online MPA is unique in that it focuses on the challenges faced by public administrators in urban areas.

UTA's master of public administration is a Network of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration-accredited program requiring 39 credits, and typically takes two years to complete. Students have the opportunity to embark on an urban management internship, and everyone finishes with a capstone course. One of two electives -- capital budgeting and nonprofit management and social entrepreneurship -- must also be worked into the schedule. No campus visits are necessary.


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23

Southern University and A & M College

Value Score 6.30
Average Tuition $5,336
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 16%
Number of Online Programs 4
Part-time cost per credit hour $314

A historically black university overlooking the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Southern has a history of innovation, and it now offers a half dozen degrees that can be earned entirely online. Run by the Mandela College of Government and Social Sciences, Southern's online MPA is a 40+ credit program intended for students who already have several years of professional experience in public sector work at a management level.

The executive master of public administration is a rigorous, Network of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration-accredited program that can be specialized by adding concentrated electives in healthcare, public policy, and nonprofit management. Coursework includes 27 credits of core classes, 15 credits in a concentration, a thesis/research project, and a writing class (if necessary). Some students may be required to complete an internship. Students may transfer in as many as 12 credits. Applicants must have an undergraduate degree with a minimum 2.7 GPA and need to submit GRE scores, a writing sample, a mission statement, and three letters of reference.


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24

Jacksonville State University

Value Score 6.27
Average Tuition $8,904
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 64%
Number of Online Programs 12
Part-time cost per credit hour $371

Not to be confused with Mississippi's Jackson State University, Jacksonville State is a mid-size regional, public institution in Jacksonville, Alabama. The university's cheap online MPA provides students with a flexible, interdisciplinary curriculum that can be customized to learners' individual interests. Five areas of concentration are available to online students: administrative management, criminal justice, education, emergency management, and geographical information systems.

Jacksonville State has offered MPA programming for more than 40 years, and it has earned the highly sought-after Network of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration seal of approval. The school's 39-40-credit master of public administration examines the intersection of the public and the private sectors, and provides students with a broad background in leadership and critical thinking skills. Classes are offered in the fall, spring, and summer. Applicants who don't meet GPA or GRE requirements may be eligible for conditional admission -- maintain a 3.0 GPA on the first 12 credits and you're in.


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25

Florida Gulf Coast University

Value Score 6.26
Average Tuition $6,974
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 52%
Number of Online Programs 4
Part-time cost per credit hour $372

Since its founding in 1991, FGCU has become an integral part of the educational landscape of the Sunshine State. One of a dozen schools in the University System of Florida, the Fort Meyers-based institution has one of the highest graduate employment rates of any public school. It also offers the only Network of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration-accredited online MPA degree in southwest Florida. FCGU's master of public administration program was set up for students with professional management experience -- and those without.

Program curriculum features two tracks -- public leadership and management and environmental policy and planning -- and requires 36-39 credits for a diploma. A B- or better is required for all classes in the 27-credit core curriculum. These are augmented by 12 credits in the preferred concentration. The program can be completed online, but students who have less than a year of full-time experience in the public or nonprofit sector must attend six on-campus networking workshops and an internship. All students must visit Fort Meyers to present their capstone project.


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26

Indiana University-Bloomington

Value Score 6.26
Average Tuition $8,442
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 24%
Number of Online Programs 7
Part-time cost per credit hour $352

One of the nation's leading public schools, Indiana University Bloomington is the flagship of the state's university system. And it has access to all of the system's online educational opportunities, including more than 100 innovative degree programs. Offered by the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, IU's master of public affairs is considered among the best online MPA programs in the country. The curriculum is broad, deep, and comprehensive, allowing students to select from four areas of concentration -- public management, nonprofit management, policy analysis, and public budgeting and financial management.

IU's online MPA is a combination of its award-winning master of public administration and master of public policy programs and kicks off with an optional, weeklong, on-campus seminar. The program's 48-credit curriculum consists of six core courses, up to 10 electives, and an experiential component, which may be waived with prior professional experience. The school recommends two classes a semester, and most are delivered asynchronously. Some might have real-time sessions. Up to 12 credits can be transferred in.


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27

Troy University

Value Score 6.20
Average Tuition $7,146
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 58%
Number of Online Programs 10
Part-time cost per credit hour $397

Troy has provided students with online learning opportunities for more than 20 years and its virtual campus, Troy Online, continues to grow in stature. In fact, the Alabama institution awarded almost as many degrees online as it did on campus in 2015. The school offers a cheap online MPA whose cost belies its quality. Troy's master of public administration is a flexible, in-depth program open to personalization by each student. Seven areas of concentration are available -- public management, nonprofit management, government contracting, public health administration, public human resource management, justice administration, and national security affairs. Program participants may double up concentrations if they desire to further specialize.

The 36-credit program comprises nine core courses and three electives. Students with more than a year of experience in a professional position in the public or nonprofit sectors may waive the internship requirement. Troy uses the Blackboard platform to deliver courses. This MPA is accredited by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges.


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28

Northern Arizona University

Value Score 6.16
Average Tuition $8,691
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 58%
Number of Online Programs 22
Part-time cost per credit hour $431

Located in scenic Flagstaff, Northern Arizona is a high-research institution known for its innovative programming. The school boasts a system of extended campuses, including 30 statewide learning centers and NAU Online, the university's virtual campus. NAU's online MPA is kept small to foster connectivity between classmates and faculty. Its master of public administration is unique in that it focuses on the environment, sustainability, political development, and diversity. The program also features a strong connection to local Native communities.

The curriculum spans 39 credits, and may be completed entirely in cyberspace. Core courses account for 24 credits while the remainder are composed of electives. Students can select from concentrations in criminal justice, educational administration, environmental management, applied sociology, and tribal governance – or a specialty of their own creation. The program's capstone requirement can be fulfilled either by taking the theory and practice of public administration seminar or a field internship/independent study. Most classes are delivered asynchronously but some may require real-time sessions. Admission requires a baccalaureate degree with a 3.0 GPA or better, a writing sample, resume, and three letters of recommendation.


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Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion

Value Score 6.13
Average Tuition $9,265
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 84%
Number of Online Programs 30
Part-time cost per credit hour $515

Indiana Wesleyan is the biggest private university in Indiana and the country's most populous member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. The evangelical Christian, Marion-based school is a comprehensive institution in the Wesleyan tradition, and offers students a vital virtual campus with more than 90 degree programs. IWU's online MPA is a 36-credit program built for working professionals and features an emphasis on civic engagement and social responsibility. Concentrations in nonprofit management, public management, and criminal justice allow students to tailor the degree to their preferences.

This cohort-based master of public administration core curriculum takes students through 24 credits in classes like public institutions and values, financing public services, and ethical leadership in the public sector. Another four courses in electives are followed by a capstone project and students must maintain a C average or better in all classes to receive credit. Applicants should have a 2.5 or higher undergraduate GPA. Six credits may be transferred. Online class sizes are capped to foster interaction and personal attention.


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30

Sul Ross State University

Value Score 6.12
Average Tuition $3,366
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 2%
Number of Online Programs 3
Part-time cost per credit hour $360

Named after a Confederate States Army general and with a cattle brand for a logo, Sul Ross State is very much a product of Texas. This comprehensive institution of higher learning hosts a full slate of web-based programs available to learners far from the city of Alpine in the Big Bend region. The school's MPA online takes a political science-based approach to public service, focusing on public policy and policy analysis, and can be combined with a master's in criminal justice and master's in homeland security to create dual degrees. Both are 54-credit programs.

The school's traditional master of public administration requires 36 credits and the passage of a comprehensive exam at the conclusion of the program. The exam features written and oral sections and students typically travel to Texas to speak before a committee (though some online learners have presented over the phone). Coursework is delivered through the Blackboard platform. Accreditation is provided by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.


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31

Old Dominion University

Value Score 6.07
Average Tuition $8,492
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 51%
Number of Online Programs 13
Part-time cost per credit hour $464

Founded in 1930 as a Norfolk offshoot of the College of William and Mary, Old Dominion calls itself Virginia's "entrepreneurial university." This large research institution certainly has a reputation for pioneering -- the school's tradition of distance learning extends all the way back to the 1950s. Today, students can select from more than 100 degree programs on ODU's virtual campus, including a pair of online MPA programs, the classic master of public administration and a variation with a concentration in multi-sector public service, which examines the intersection of the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.

The Network of Schools of Public Policy Affairs and Administration-accredited MPA curriculum consists of 39 credits, 21 of which are in core courses. Most classes are asynchronous. Full-time students typically finish the program within two years and part-time participants sometimes take as long as five. Out-of-state online students receive a considerable discount over non-resident on-campus students. Admission requires a 2.8 or better undergraduate GPA, GRE scores, a written statement, and two letters of recommendation.


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32

National University

Value Score 6.02
Average Tuition $10,962
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 66%
Number of Online Programs 39
Part-time cost per credit hour $406

Few universities have invested more resources in online education than National University. The La Jolla, California nonprofit institution has been offering web-based programming since 1996 and now hosts more than 90 degree programs on its virtual campus. The school's cheap online MPA comprises eight core courses and four electives students can use to specialize in two fields -- human resource management and organizational leadership.

Participants in National U's master of public administration program can expect to come away with skills in budgeting, quantitative methods, personnel management, politics, urban planning, and grant writing. Effective oral and written communication is also stressed. National U employs an intensive, one-course per month format that allows students to accelerate their education. Admissions are offered on a rolling basis. An online master's in human resource management, healthcare administration, and public health are also available.


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33

San Diego State University

Value Score 6.01
Average Tuition $6,738
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 3%
Number of Online Programs 4
Part-time cost per credit hour $374

One of the most venerable institutions in California's public university system, San Diego State was founded in 1897 and has now offered its MPA for more than 50 years. SDSU is a national leader in research and innovation and makes dozens of courses available via the web. The College of Extended Studies's online MPA is among the highest ranked internet degree programs in the state university system.

San Diego State's 36-credit master of public administration is a 16-month, cohort-based program aimed at professionals with managerial experience in the field. The curriculum is taught in six two-month modules online, and includes two modules on campus: one at the beginning of the program and another at the end. A capstone project is presented for the final. Students without adequate work experience must complete an internship. San Diego State is accredited by the standard-setting Network of Schools of Public Policy Affairs and Administration. Admission requirements include a baccalaureate degree with a GPA of at least 2.85, GRE scores, two letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose.


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34

Park University

Value Score 5.86
Average Tuition $7,575
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 70%
Number of Online Programs 10
Part-time cost per credit hour $505

Its main campus in Parkville, Missouri, Park U. is a mid-sized regional university founded in 1875 and known nationally for its affordability. The school serves students at 40 satellite centers in 21 states and boasts a growing presence on the web, including 24 undergrad and eight graduate degree programs. The school's online MPA program requires no GRE, was the first master's degree offered on its virtual campus, and takes a multi-sector approach to public service. Park's master of public affairs emphasizes the cross connections between government, business, nonprofits, and the public sector. Three concentrations are available -- public management, nonprofit management, and emergency management.

To successfully complete the MPA, students must accrue 36 credits and maintain an overall GPA of 3.0 or better. A research and writing-intensive capstone project focusing on the nation's founding documents concludes the program, followed by a comprehensive exam. Students can arrange to have the exam proctored locally. Pre-service participants must also complete an internship. Admission requires an undergraduate degree with a GPA of 2.75 or better, two letters of recommendation, a resume, and a personal statement.


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35

California State University-San Bernardino

Value Score 5.82
Average Tuition $6,738
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 24%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $374

Cal State San Bernardino is a regional public university enjoying boom times -- in recent years the school has seen record enrollment, diversity, fundraising, and program development. The school's online MPA is a generalist degree, providing students with a well-rounded background in U.S. governance, decision making, and effective communication, Cal State San Bernardino's approach is rooted in the ethical practices of the Code of Ethics of the American Society for Public Administration. Students can elect to pursue three concentration areas -- cybersecurity, leadership, and public financial management -- and also have the option of a dual degree in public administration and social work.

The twelve classes of the master of public administration may be taken online but students must visit campus for the comprehensive examination or thesis defense that wraps up the program. Internships are required for those participants who do not have work experience in public administration. This program meets the standards of the Network of Schools of Public Policy Affairs and Administration.


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36

California State University-Long Beach

Value Score 5.78
Average Tuition $6,738
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 11%
Part-time cost per credit hour $374

Affectionately referred to as "The Beach," Cal State Long Beach has a long tradition of public service. The school mentions its civic values in its mission statement and puts them into practice in its online MPA. Long Beach's master of public administration program has been offered for more than two decades and is geared toward working professionals. With concentration options in urban affairs and public works administration, this program is flexible and readily customizable. Certificates in employee-employer relations, public financial management, and public management analysis are also available.

Coursework for the cohort-based program is done entirely online, in a synchronous format, and 39 credits are required for graduation. Classes meet twice a week -- from 6:00 to 9:30 pm over a course of six weeks -- and students typically earn their diploma in two years. There are no thesis or comprehensive exam requirements but students must complete a portfolio and an applied research course. Students without the requisite background in public administration must complete an internship to gain appropriate work experience.


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37

Eastern Kentucky University

Value Score 5.69
Average Tuition $9,000
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 76%
Number of Online Programs 14
Part-time cost per credit hour $500

Eastern Kentucky University introduced its master of public administration in 1968, launching thousands of graduates into careers in local, state, and federal government, as well as in nonprofits and in the private sector. This Richmond institution has made online education a vital part of its mission, and now EKU's Network of Schools of Public Policy Affairs and Administration-accredited MPA is available in an online format.

Students enrolled in this 39-credit program can take a general track or concentrate in community development. The curriculum of each consists of 24 credits in core courses, 12 in electives, and a final internship or applied analysis research project. Coursework is delivered asynchronously in accelerated eight-week terms during the fall and spring, and in a six-week summer session. A successful application will include an undergraduate degree GPA of at least 2.75, acceptable GRE scores, two letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.


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38

Bellevue University

Value Score 5.69
Average Tuition $9,450
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 92%
Number of Online Programs 15
Part-time cost per credit hour $525

Set in the Omaha suburb of Bellevue, Bellevue University was founded in 1966 to provide educational opportunities to working adults. This private, nonprofit institution continues that tradition today, offering more than 40 degree programs in a convenient, web-based format. The school's online MPA programs can be completed in an accelerated fashion, allowing students to earn their degrees quickly and efficiently. Designed to fit into a busy work schedule, this 36-credit program provides participants with a transformative experience, thanks to its applied research focus.

The school's master of public administration program curriculum revolves around four primary components: investigating grant writing, writing policy assessments of real issues, working on a funding project, and building a training module to meet the goal of an organization. Students work together in a cohort, network, and build relationships en-route to their diplomas. Applicants must have a 2.5 or better GPA in the last 60 credits of their undergraduate degrees.


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39

California State University-Northridge

Value Score 5.59
Average Tuition $6,738
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 11%
Part-time cost per credit hour $374

Besides Harvard and Columbia, Cal State Northridge confers more MPA degrees than any other school in the nation. A public university in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Northridge, CSNU has provided education in public administration since 1985. The school's online MPA is appropriate not only for career public servants already hard at work but also those aspiring to join them. This program can be pursued on a general track or specialized with a concentration in public sector or nonprofit management or health administration.

CSNU partners with ten Los Angeles County agencies, eight cities, and two counties to give students in the master of public administration program first-hand knowledge of organizational structure and the opportunity to see theory put into practice. The 33-credit curriculum has stackable components, allowing students to earn certificates and use the credit toward their MPA, and classes can be taken at their convenience. Some time on campus may be required, and the degree typically takes 2.5 years to finish. The program culminates in a graduate project in which students compose a scholarly article.


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40

Wayland Baptist University

Value Score 5.38
Average Tuition $9,720
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 73%
Number of Online Programs 17
Part-time cost per credit hour $540

The oldest continuous university in Texas's High Plains, Wayland Baptist is a Christian liberal arts school with a main campus in Plainview and satellites across the country, in Kenya and online. The university offers 20 degrees and certificates entirely online, from the bachelor's to doctoral levels. Wayland's cheap online MPA takes a faith-based approach and teaches students to become leaders in the public sector.

The school's master of public administration follows a 36-credit curriculum, split in half between core requirements and three areas of specialization: government administration, homeland security and emergency management, and justice administration. All courses are available online, and the program can be completed within a year and a half. The school is accredited through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.


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41

Northern Michigan University

Value Score 5.27
Average Tuition $7,584
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 45%
Number of Online Programs 6
Part-time cost per credit hour $474

Located on the southern shore of Lake Superior in the city of Marquette, Northern Michigan enjoys a reputation as a high-tech hotspot. The public university of 9,000 is recognized as one of the most wired campuses in the country, and every full-time student receives a Thinkpad or MacBook as part of their tuition. It's therefore no surprise that the school offers its students a progressive slate of web-based offerings through its virtual campus. Northern Michigan's online MPA is a nationally recognized program aimed at both preservice and in-service public managers.

The 36-credit master of public administration curriculum at NMU provides students with a solid foundation in both the theory and practice of governance and leadership. Four areas of concentration are available: public management, state and local government, human resource administration, and criminal justice administration. Classes like organizational theory and ethics and public administration are followed by the experiential applications seminar, a research-based capstone. Some students may qualify for conditional admission.


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42

Concordia University-Wisconsin

Value Score 5.21
Average Tuition $9,864
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 46%
Number of Online Programs 25
Part-time cost per credit hour $548

The MPA at Concordia Wisconsin is unique among online MPA programs in that it's offered as part of the school's award-winning MBA program. Located in Mequon, Wisconsin, CUW is one of 10 schools in the Concordia University system, a national chain of Lutheran universities dedicated to training leaders. This 39-credit degree is aimed at government officials who want to further their education in business. Coursework explores administrative law, personnel, budgets, and intergovernmental relations. But business is at the program's core, comprising 24 credit hours. Much of what students learn in their business classes -- management science, strategic management, ethics, finance -- is what they would find in a more traditional MPA.

Concordia's MPA does not require submission of GRE scores nor does it require a thesis. Instead, students enrolled in the school's master of business administration – public administration program complete a capstone project, typically conducted during the program's final semester. The school's cohort-based curriculum emphasizes the importance of networking, and 40% of participants are international. Classes are taught asynchronously and admissions are offered on a rolling basis.


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43

Murray State University

Value Score 5.10
Average Tuition $10,512
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 56%
Number of Online Programs 10
Part-time cost per credit hour $482

Named for its Kentucky hometown, Murray State has offered a master of public administration for more than 30 years, and in 2013 the school became the first public university in Kentucky to begin online MPA programs. Appropriate for working public-service professionals looking to advance their careers or newcomers interested in entering a growing field, the school's 33-credit curriculum can be pursued entirely online.

Students enrolled in the school's master of public administration program can enroll part-time and complete their degree in two years or sign up for an accelerated track and finish in one. The curriculum is composed primarily of core courses in subjects like finance, management, research, public policy analysis, and human resources, and students add four classes in approved electives. A capstone, typically taken last, concludes required coursework. To qualify for unconditional admission students must have an undergraduate degree in political or social science, or business, and a minimum 2.75 GPA.


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44

Hamline University

Value Score 5.01
Average Tuition $8,496
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 32%
Number of Online Programs 6
Part-time cost per credit hour $531

Hamline was Minnesota's first university and one of the earliest schools in the nation to offer degrees to women. The St. Paul liberal arts institution continues to innovate to this day, hosting 18 graduate degrees and certificate programs in cyberspace. In keeping with the university's Methodist traditions, the school's online MPA programs emphasize ethics and public service. The 36-credit curriculum follows a hybrid format -- students complete most of their work in virtual classrooms and visit Hamline every two months for a weekend residency.

Hamline's master of public administration program is the oldest in its region, benefiting from decades of fine-tuning. The program's cohort-based curriculum is built around a core of 24 credits, and participants have the option to complete a thesis or take a capstone course, skill development for government. Students with limited experience in the public sector must also complete an internship. Dual degrees, combining an MPA with an MBA or a master's in nonprofit management, are also available. And students can continue to a doctorate in public administration as well.


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45

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Value Score 4.95
Average Tuition $9,143
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 15%
Number of Online Programs 8
Part-time cost per credit hour $508

Opening its doors in 1795, the University of North Carolina was one of the first public universities in the country and has remained one of the nation's top institutions of higher learning. A major element of the famed North Carolina Research Triangle, the school has developed a reputation as an educational pioneer. Its online MPA programs continue that tradition, allowing students to select from an array of focus areas, offering students more choices than most other leading programs. The MPA@UNC includes concentrations in community and economic development, nonprofit management, local government, public health, and international relations, in addition to the classic MPA.

The MPA@UNC curriculum requires 45 credits, and may be completed in as few as 18 months or as long as 5 years. Students take 27 credits of core courses, 15 credits of electives, and then do a professional experience practicum and a portfolio. Learners also enjoy the unique opportunity to take elective courses from other top-tier universities (George Washington, USC, American, and Washington, for example) and have the credits apply to the program. Course content is both asynchronous -- employing video lectures and case studies -- and offered in real-time.


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46

Brandman University

Value Score 4.91
Average Tuition $10,980
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 78%
Number of Online Programs 9
Part-time cost per credit hour $610

A leader in online learning, Brandman was founded in 1958 with a mission of providing educational opportunities to nontraditional learners. In its early years, that was to be understood as military personnel but today the Irvine-based nonprofit offers more than 50 degrees through its virtual classrooms to working adults from all backgrounds. Brandman's online MPA programs were created with input from city managers, government officials, and officials from nonprofit agencies. The school hosts a straightforward MPA, an MPA in organizational leadership, and an executive certificate in public and nonprofit leadership, all of which may be pursued online.

The school's master of public administration is a 36-credit program consisting of two parts -- nine core classes, including the action learning project capstone, and three electives. Electives can be grouped into ready concentrations in accounting, leadership, marketing, and computer science or tailored to fit a student's preferences. Coursework is delivered in a flexible, asynchronous format, and applicants can try an online demo at the Brandman site.


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47

Belhaven University

Value Score 4.85
Average Tuition $9,990
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 59%
Number of Online Programs 11
Part-time cost per credit hour $555

Belhaven's virtual campus first opened its virtual doors in 2006 to five students. Today, the Christian college based in Jackson, Mississippi serves more than 800 online students pursuing degrees in dozens of subject areas and it anticipates major growth. The school's cheap online MPA is a 36-credit program with a curriculum of 12 classes. Students can earn their diplomas in as little as 18 months.

Coursework in the school's master of public administration is delivered asynchronously and scheduled in eight-week sessions. Assignments are typically due on Saturday's, and students log in a few times a week. A concentration in human resource management is available, and all students are expected to complete a research project as a capstone. Applicants should provide a resume showing two years of relevant experience, as well as an undergraduate transcript. Students may be admitted on a conditional basis, earning admission by maintaining a 3.0 GPA during their first six class hours.


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48

Central Michigan University

Value Score 4.71
Average Tuition $11,770
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 43%
Number of Online Programs 17
Part-time cost per credit hour $527

With more than 20,000 students on its Mount Pleasant campus and 7,000 more at satellite centers and onlineCMU, Central Michigan is a notably large university. This public research institution was a pioneer in web-delivered education and has been offering an award-winning MPA since 1978. Now students can earn this accredited degree entirely online through CMU's virtual Global Campus.

The school's 37-credit master of public administration curriculum is aimed at mid-career professionals and delivered in condensed, eight-week courses. Students receive a state-of-the-art degree and enjoy global networking with the opportunity to join the public administration honor society, Pi Alpha Alpha; the International City/County Management Association; and the Nonprofit Student Leadership Alliance. Faculty members help students build a "toolkit" they can use for the remainder of their careers. Concentrations are available in public management and local government. Course participants without professional experience must complete an internship. Current federal employees receive a 15% discount.


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49

Kent State University at Kent

Value Score 4.64
Average Tuition $10,864
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 46%
Number of Online Programs 9
Part-time cost per credit hour $495

Kent State is bigger than many small cities. One of the nation's leading research institutions, the university has more than 44,000 students spread across its campuses and online. It's the only place in Ohio to get a fully online, Network of Schools of Public Policy Affairs and Administration-accredited MPA. The curriculum of the 36-credit program runs in sequence, one course at a time, and allows busy, working professionals to earn their degrees in just two years.

Coursework in the master of public administration program is divided between eight core requirements, three electives, and a final capstone project. Classes are kept small by offering multiple sections of the same course, and most content is delivered asynchronously, though there are some real-time components. The program emphasizes experiential learning and students may be required to conduct interviews and attend fundraisers. Students without requisite work experience must complete an internship.


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50

Thomas Edison State University

Value Score 4.58
Average Tuition $11,610
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 100%
Number of Online Programs 9
Part-time cost per credit hour $645

Thomas Edison State is one of the first institutions of higher education in the nation designed specifically for adult learners. Reflecting the school's groundbreaking namesake, TESU creates innovative, forward-thinking programs tailored specifically for the unique needs of busy, employed learners. The Trenton, New Jersey, university offers one of the nation's most customizable online MPA programs. The program is also flexible and allows students to focus in one of six different specialty areas: community and economic development, environmental policy/environmental justice, nonprofit management, public and municipal finance, public health/public policy, and information technology management for public service.

This 36-credit master of public service leadership can be completed entirely via the web in an accelerated fashion. Developed in accordance with Network of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration standards, the program's curriculum is competency-based, allowing students to test out of classes and move on and provides credit for work experience. A public service capstone, typically taken last, rounds out the program. TESU also offers a master of science in management – public service careers.


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What Will I Learn in My Online MPA Program?

Sample Courses

An online MPA degree prepares you for a career in local, state, or federal government, as well as the nonprofit and private sectors. Graduates from online MPA programs lead and manage teams, while effecting positive change for the common good. Some core course offerings common to MPA programs include:

  • Public Administration Theory: A foundational course in many online MPA programs, this course explores the history, development, and function of public administration in the U.S.
  • Strategic Planning: This course develops strategic planning and management habits by studying effective models and business plans.
  • Nonprofit Management: A preparation for a career in nonprofits, this course explores the effective management of volunteers, supervising successful fundraising endeavors, and the ethics and accountability of working at a nonprofit.

Concentrations

Students in an online MPA program should take into account their personal needs and work interests as they develop their career trajectories. The best way to prepare for a diverse job market is to explore the MPA online programs’ offerings, and develop a specialty in one or two areas. Common concentrations or specialty areas include:

  • Law Enforcement: With careers that include police officers, parole officers, border patrol, and detectives, a concentration in law enforcement opens many opportunities at the city, state, and federal levels. Law enforcement protects individuals, communities, and private and public property. Professionals in criminal justice enjoy dependable job security, and a chance to serve the community where they live.
  • Nonprofit Management: These managers oversee daily operations for nonprofit organizations. They must continually restructure and modify standard practices to best serve their communities and to ensure they operate effectively. This position includes strategic planning, financial planning, and leading fundraising initiatives.
  • City and County Management: These managers oversee budgets and operations for the county or city they serve, and advise governmental officials in the creation of laws and policies. As a servant of the general public, these jobs require transparency and must keep the public informed of their progress and plans.

Employment Outlook for MPA Graduates

MPA CAREERS

Online MPA programs prepare you for numerous positions in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Depending on your interests, jobs are available at federal, state, or local government agencies in the public service area. In the private sector, public administrators develop relationships directly or indirectly with local, state, or federal governing officials. Alternatively, you might consider working independently as a consultant, legal counselor, or marketing manager. Those in nonprofit fields will find hold various administrative, community development, and fundraising positions. Each position requires an individual be organized and driven, with the ability to solve complex interpersonal, public, and social issues.

Political Scientist

$114,290 Avg Annual Salary
Master's Degree Required

Political scientists analyze government policies, political trends, and conduct research. They also study the relationships between domestic and foreign governments while monitoring current political and social events and evolving government policies.

Projected Growth Rate 11%

Probation Officer

$50,160 Avg Annual Salary
Master's Degree Required

Probation officers provide guidance and resources for probationers and probationers’ friends and families. They evaluate and determine the best routes to rehabilitation for probationers, provide direction for substance abuse counseling, and maintain extensive reports and case files on their clients.

Projected Growth Rate 4%

Urban Planner

$70,020 Avg Annual Salary
Master's Degree Required

Urban planners determine the best use of space inside the city limits. This includes revitalizing residential areas or developing public spaces for community activities. Not all schools will have the expertise to prepare students for this field, so students should check with their prospective schools to determine faculty expertise and curriculum.

Projected Growth Rate 6%

Human Resources Manager

$106,910 Avg Annual Salary
Master's Degree Required

Human resource managers are critical for the ongoing supervision of a company’s workforce. These professionals coordinate an organization’s employees and make sure that they are working in positions to maximize their strengths. HR managers must have strong interpersonal skills, as they handle sensitive situations that arise in the workplace, including equal employment opportunities and employee conflicts. While a master’s degree is often not required for this position, most applicants for upper-level positions will have one.

Projected Growth Rate 9%

Licensure and Certification

While a certification may not be required for some careers, professionals with certifications earn more than those without. Even if you have experience and a proven track record in your field, a certification helps generate more career opportunities and improves your chances for advancement. Furthermore, certifications — and the institutes that confer them — offer paths to enhance your professionalism and cultivate personal growth.

  • AICP Certification: The American Planning Association recommends that professionals become certified by the American Institute of Certified Planners. This is for professionals specializing in urban planning, public organizing, and professions with extensive community engagement.
  • Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP): For those working in human resources management or higher level administrative roles, the CPLP credential offered by the Association for Talent Development solidifies the foundations needed in this profession.
  • Certified Management Consultant: This certification through the International Council of Management Consulting Institutes is for management consultants and analysts who wish to publicly confirm their specialized education and demonstrate their commitment to the highest ethical standards. This certification is for professionals with three to five years of experience, and have an established specialty in their career.
  • Certified Records Manager (CRM): The Institute of Certified Records Managers offers an examination and certification process for employees in the field. The CRM certification helps individuals advance in their career and earn higher salaries.

JOB PLACEMENT

Although a bachelor’s degree prepares you for many entry-level positions in this field, an online MPA can enhance your job prospects and earning potential. According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, those with advanced degrees in the field enjoyed, on average, a 37% boost in earnings over professionals with only an undergraduate degree. Of all professionals with this degree, 94% of them are employed, 88% of whom are full-time employees. With only 27% of individuals in the field pursuing a graduate degree, an online MPA can be a distinguishing part of your resume.

MPA SALARY

While there are diverse specializations within public administration, the majority of the professionals with an MPA degree enjoy salary increases commensurate with their experience. The following table displays data derived from PayScale, and indicates a progressive salary increase over time. PayScale helps prospective students and recent graduates predict what they will earn over the course of their career.

MASTER’S IN PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION SALARY
Job Title Overall Median Salary Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years) Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years) Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (>20 years)
Probation Officer $40,329 $37,000 $42,000 $46,000
Urban and Regional Planner $54,328 $48,000 $64,000 $66,000
Civil Engineer $63,462 $72,000 $83,000 $96,000
City Manager $85,303 $69,000 $82,000 $96,000

Do I Need to Take the GRE to Enroll in an Online MPA Program?

The GRE exam is a test often required for admission into graduate school. Akin to the SAT and ACT, this test measures critical thinking, writing, vocabulary, and math skills. It is designed to assess how well you might perform in a graduate program, and many schools have a required minimum score for prospective applicants.

Note that not all schools require the GRE. But for those who wish to take the exam, students can expect to study for a minimum of 2-4 hours a day for several weeks. Private tutors and GRE preparation courses are offered by many professional tutoring and test preparation companies. The amount of time you spend preparing for the GRE should be measured by the number of hours you study, not the number of calendar days. This will keep a more accurate record of your progress. Fortunately, most online MPA programs do not require applicants to have GRE scores, thus saving you time, money, and energy.

Accreditation for Online MPA Degrees

The majority of online schools are either regionally or nationally accredited. Regional accreditation is determined by six different associations divided into geographic sectors. Nationally accredited schools are determined by three popular accreditation agencies recognized by the Council for Higher Education. While regionally accredited schools are widely considered to be top-tier institutions, they often cost more than nationally accredited schools and usually require more liberal arts courses to graduate. Regionally accredited schools accept a wide variety of transfer credits from other schools, however, thus making them potentially more affordable for transfer and returning students.

Regionally accredited schools usually have a more stringent application process and lower acceptance rates than nationally accredited programs.

For those interested on specific careers, vocations, and trades, nationally accredited schools offer specialized certificates and degrees catering to those personal preferences. When searching for online MPA programs, select a program that is affordable and well-suited for your academic and professional goals. For the best accredited online MPA programs, the Network of Schools of Public Policy website can help you locate a great program.

Financing Your Online MPA Program

For many students, financial assistance is a necessary and logical step toward funding their education. The first place to start is by completing the FAFSA, which determines a student’s eligibility for federal assistance, like scholarships, loans, or grants. Schools often accept applications for internal funding opportunities, as well, either from your home department or the graduate school itself.

Public Administration Scholarships

SHRM Foundation Graduate Scholarship $5,000

Offered by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), this is open to graduate students enrolled in an accredited graduate degree program related to human resources.

Scholarship Deadline: October 10

Eligibility Requirements: Student must be a current SHRM member (student or professional) with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.5 in their undergraduate work.

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Government Finance Officers Association - George A. Nielsen Public Investor Scholarship $5,000

Offered by the Government Finance Officers Association for full-time graduate or undergraduate students studying of public administration, business administration, or finance.

Scholarship Deadline: February 28

Eligibility Requirements: Applicants must be enrolled in a full-time or part-time undergraduate or graduate program in public administration, finance, business administration, or related field before funds are awarded.

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The American Association of American Women - Selected Professions Fellowship $5,000-18,000

Offered by the American Association of American Women (AAUW) and open to women pursuing a master’s degree full-time at an accredited U.S. institution.

Scholarship Deadline: January 10

Eligibility Requirements: Multiple scholarships are offered through AAUW, including one for women of color and another for women in traditionally underrepresented fields.

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Judith McManus Price Scholarship $2,000-4,000

Funded by the American Planning Association, this scholarship assists minority women pursuing graduate degrees in urban and city planning.

Scholarship Deadline: May 24

Eligibility Requirements: Applicants must be women or minorities with U.S. citizenship.

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Charles Abrams Scholarship $2,000

Offered by the American Planning Association for students studying full-time in urban planning and policy analysis programs.

Scholarship Deadline: October 10

Eligibility Requirements: U.S. citizens enrolled at one of the five schools at which Charles Abrams taught: Columbia University, Harvard University, MIT, New School University, or the University of Pennsylvania.

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NACCED Annual John C. Murphy Scholarship Grant Award Program $1,500

Offered by the American Planning Association and the National Association for County Community (NACCED) and Economic Development, this scholarship is for undergraduate and graduate students specializing in planning programs that focus on affordable housing and community development.

Scholarship Deadline: August 11

Eligibility Requirements: Individuals must have certification of financial need and have a letter of support written by a NACCED member in good standing.

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EDSA Minority Scholarship $5,000

Offered by the Landscape Architecture Foundation, this scholarship was established to help African American, Hispanic, Native American and minority students of all cultural and ethnic backgrounds to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in full-service planning and urban design.

Scholarship Deadline: February 15

Eligibility Requirements: Minority students may apply by follow this list of general guidelines.

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