The Master of Public Administration program prepares students to take leadership roles in the public and nonprofit sectors. This multidisciplinary degree program is designed to provide graduate professional education for students interested in public service careers. Our MPA program is accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA), whose standards are the benchmark used by public administration master’s degree programs worldwide.
The School of Public Affairs’ MPA degree is distinctive in that students can acquire the degree entirely online, entirely in the classroom, or seamlessly in combination.
The Master of Public Administration program provides high quality graduate education for current and prospective practitioners in public and nonprofit organizations, here and abroad, to prepare them for excellence in public service.
To accomplish this mission, we strive to
- Advance public service through improving the quality of public, nonprofit, national security, and criminal justice systems.
- Teach students from diverse backgrounds to work collaboratively to meet societal challenges ethically, with compassion, vision, analytic rigor, and practicality.
- Foster strategic leadership skills: critical thinking and decision-making, effective communication, creative problem-solving, knowledge management, multi-sector understanding, and global citizenship.
- Support and model civil public discourse, citizenship, responsibility, and respect.
- Facilitate a process of lifelong learning that evolves and adapts to the changing nature of the field and continuous development of the knowledge, skills, and abilities required.
MPA Core Competencies
Graduates of the MPA program will have the following competencies, as enumerated by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA), the program’s accrediting body:
- Lead and manage in public governance;
- Participate effectively in the public policy process;
- Analyze, synthesize, think critically, solve problems, and make decisions;
- Articulate and apply a public service perspective;
- Communicate and interact productively with a diverse and changing workforce and citizenry.
- Complete a minimum of 36 credit hours of graduate coursework with a total grade point average of B (3.0 on a 4-point scale) or better;
- Complete an additional 3 credit hours of internship/field study (if required); and
- Grades of B- or better in all courses counted towards the degree.
Students must complete 9-15 credit hours of electives, depending on Capstone or Thesis selection. Elective courses include a mixture of specialized courses, workshops, and other formats. Students may choose to focus these elective hours around a particular area based on their interests and career goals. Where appropriate, students may include specialized courses offered by other departments and schools of the University, with prior written approval of the MPA Program Director.
Capstone Requirements: Capstone Seminar or Thesis
All MPA students, except those pursuing the thesis option, are required to complete PAD 5361, Capstone Seminar, in which they conduct, write, and present a public service oriented client-based project. The Capstone Seminar should be taken after all core courses have been completed with a B- or better, and is ideally taken the last semester in the MPA program. Students are advised to complete PAD 5003 Research and Analytic Methods the semester prior to completing the Capstone Seminar, ideally using the Research Methods course to formulate a project proposal, contact a second reader, and begin an Institutional Review Board (IRB) application. Capstone Seminar is offered ONLY in the fall and spring semesters.
In Capstone Seminar, students work with a client in a public or nonprofit agency to identify a problem and then, using the knowledge and skills they have gained in the program, carry out a project and write a paper to address the problem. Projects take many different forms including business plans, marketing plans, surveys and interviews, salary studies, etc. The principle of the course is that it provides students with an opportunity to integrate what they have learned and apply their knowledge and skills to a real-world problem. Further, it provides the faculty with an opportunity to judge the student’s achievement of MPA core competencies.
Students should complete the following steps the semester prior to enrollment in PAD 5361 Capstone Seminar:
- Attend a Capstone Seminar workshop hosted by the School of Public Affairs
- Identify a partner agency for the Capstone project
- Obtain an agreement from a MPA faculty member to serve as a second reader on the Capstone project
- Draft a proposal and IRB application for the Capstone project (may be completed in PAD 5003 Research and Analytic Methods)
- Work with the Capstone Seminar instructor to submit an IRB proposal for review prior to the start of the semester in which they will enroll in the Capstone Seminar
The thesis option is available in lieu of PAD 5361 for MPA students who have an interest in pursuing a topic in-depth or who are planning to pursue a career in research or academia. Students must receive approval from their faculty advisor to pursue the thesis option. The thesis requires six credit hours of credit that normally spans two semesters.
Minimum eligibility requirements for pursuing a thesis include:
- Matriculation in the MPA program
- Successful completion of all core courses
- Overall GPA of 3.5 or higher
- Preliminary identification of a thesis topic or area of interest
- Agreement of two SPA faculty members to serve on the thesis committee (one as thesis advisor)
A student wishing to undertake the thesis option applies formally through her/his faculty advisor, first, to establish eligibility with respect to the above criteria, and second, to identify appropriate faculty members to serve on the student’s thesis committee. The thesis committee consists of three people: a thesis advisor who is a full-time SPA faculty member, and two others. One of these must be a SPA faculty member, though the person can be an adjunct faculty member, and the other is a reader who has expertise in the area, but is either from the community or another school or department. (NOTE: Although the formal procedures entail application through the faculty advisor, the student is encouraged to make informal contacts with appropriate subject-matter faculty to determine interest and availability.)
Field Study in Public Administration
The Master of Public Administration (MPA) program includes professional experience among the requirements for degree completion. Students who do not have at least one year of professional experience in the field of public administration or nonprofit management, or the equivalent, are classified as pre-service. Pre-service students are required to complete a 3-credit internship course, PAD 6910 Field Study in Public Administration, which brings their total required course hours to 24 and the total hours required for the degree to 39.
In-service students may also enroll in PAD 6910 and complete an internship to obtain additional experience that differs from or is more specialized than previous experience. In this instance, the internship may be counted as an elective toward degree completion.
The MPA program director examines each student’s application and determines whether an internship is required or should be waived; each student is notified of this decision in his/her admission letter.
Students must have completed at least 9 hours of coursework to enroll in Field Study. A minimum of 240 hours of supervised work is required to earn 3 hours of credit.
Additional information regarding internships may be found in the MPA Handbook, available on the School of Public Affairs website.