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. The UCCS 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 future leaders in public, nonprofit, and private sector organizations, here and abroad, to prepare them for excellence in public service.
To accomplish this mission, we strive to meet the following goals:
- Advance public service through improving the quality leadership of public, nonprofit, national security, and emergency management 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. The ability to:
- Lead and manage in public governance;
- Participate effectively in and contribute to the public policy process;
- Analyze, synthesize, think critically, solve problems, and make decisions;
- Articulate and apply a public service perspective; and
- Communicate and interact productively with a diverse and changing workforce and citizenry.
Policies and Procedures
Refer to the School of Public Affairs General Information section of this academic catalog for the eligibility criteria, policies, and procedures relevant to this program.
- 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 (if required, for a total of 39 credit hours); and
- Earn grades of B- or better in all courses counted towards the degree.
Core Courses (18 credit hours)
Students are expected to complete PAD 5001 within their first two semesters of enrollment.
PAD 5003 should not be taken in the first semester of study.
Elective Courses (12-15 credit hours)
Students must complete 12-15 credit hours of electives (number of hours depends on student’s selection of Capstone or Thesis for their culminating experience). 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 and in accordance with the transfer credit guidelines.
Culminating Experience: Capstone or Thesis
MPA students are required to complete either the Capstone Seminar or Master’s Thesis as their culminating experience.
Capstone Seminar (3 credit hours)
In PAD 5361 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. The Capstone Seminar requires 3 hours of credit and should be taken after all core courses have been completed with a grade of B- or better, and preferably during the final semester in the MPA program. Capstone Seminar is offered ONLY in the fall and spring semesters.
Students choosing to complete the Capstone Seminar should complete the capstone checklist and submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org for review and approval. Upon approval, the student will be issued a permission number allowing them to register for the course. The capstone checklist includes completion of the following steps no later than the semester prior to enrolling in PAD 5361 Capstone Seminar:
- Attend a Capstone Orientation hosted by the School of Public Affairs (online orientations are available).
- Identify a partner agency for the Capstone project.
- Obtain an agreement from a SPA faculty member to serve as a second reader on the Capstone project.
- Work with the faculty member serving as the Capstone second reader to draft a proposal and assess the need for IRB approval.
- Submit evidence of CITI training completion.
- If IRB approval is required, 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.
Master’s Thesis (6 credit hours)
In PAD 6950 Master’s Thesis students conduct a comprehensive review of the theoretical and research literature in the subject area of their thesis and collect original data or analyze existing data in new ways. The thesis requires 6 hours of credit that span two semesters. The thesis option is available to MPA students who have achieved an exceptional academic record and who wish to pursue independent research in greater depth than would normally be possible in Capstone Seminar. It is suited for students who intend to pursue a PhD degree or to enter a research or policy environment upon completion of the MPA degree.
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
- Demonstrated ability to pursue research work, as evidenced by two submitted research papers developed in SPA courses or elsewhere
- Preliminary identification of a thesis topic or area of interest
- Agreement from a SPA faculty member to serve as the thesis committee chair along with two additional faculty members to serve on the thesis committee.
- Minor exceptions to the above criteria may be made in exceptional circumstances.
A student desiring to pursue the thesis option should meet with their faculty advisor to establish eligibility under the above criteria. After establishing eligibility, the student should recruit three faculty members to serve on the student’s thesis committee – one to serve as the committee chair and two to serve on the committee – and then complete the thesis application form. Once complete, the thesis application form should be submitted to the MPA Program Director for approval.
Internship (additional requirement for pre-service students)
The Master of Public Administration (MPA) program includes professional experience among the requirements for degree completion. Pre-service students (those without at least one year of professional work experience in a public administration field) are also required to complete a 3-credit-hour internship course, bringing the total hours required for the degree to 39.
Students are notified upon admission whether an internship is required for completion of program requirements. Should a student gain at least one year of professional experience during their tenure in the program, the student may request the Internship Waiver Request form from their faculty advisor.
Students must have completed at least 9 credit hours of coursework to enroll in Internship. A minimum of 240 hours of supervised work is required to earn 3 hours of credit.
Internship guidelines are set forth in the MPA Student Internship Information Handbook.