2010-2011 Catalog 
    May 28, 2024  
2010-2011 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Public Administration, MPA

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: School of Public Affairs

The Master of Public Administration (MPA) program serves the needs of pre-service students who wish to begin a career in the management of public or nonprofit organizations, of mid-career public or nonprofit sector professionals who wish to enhance their potential for career advancement, and of people from the private sector who intend to move into the public or nonprofit sectors. The MPA is a broadly recognized credential for public service management at all levels of government and in many nonprofit organizations. It also serves as a foundation for doctoral work in the field of public administration.

The curriculum of the MPA program provides students with a range of theoretical and practice-based concepts in topical areas such as the field of public administration, leadership, ethics, public policy, methods of conducting research, and human resources and financial management. The curriculum also includes a variety of elective courses that allow students to tailor their programs to their particular career interests.


  • Make use of the broad base of knowledge and research in public and nonprofit administration and policy
  • Communicate effectively in speaking and writing
  • Apply critical thinking skills to solve problems in public and nonprofit settings in a manner that will increase the public good

General Requirements

  • A minimum of 36 semester hours of graduate course work
  • A grade point average of B (3.0 on a 4-point scale) or better
  • Grades of B- or better in all required courses. Credit will not be counted for any course in which a student earns a grade of C- or lower.

Course Requirements


Students are expected to complete PAD 5001 within their first two semesters of enrollment.

Fifteen Semester Hours of Electives

Elective courses include a mixture of specialized courses, workshops, and other formats. Students may choose to use these elective hours to build an area of concentration designed to meet individual needs. Where appropriate, students may include specialized courses offered by other departments and schools of the University, with prior written approval of the faculty advisor or dean.

Capstone Requirements: Advanced Seminar or Thesis

All MPA students, except those pursuing the thesis option, are required to complete PAD 5361, Advanced Seminar in Public Policy and Management, in which they conduct, write, and present a client-based project.  The Advanced Seminar is taken during the last semester of the student’s degree program.  All core courses must be completed before taking the advanced seminar. 

The Advanced Seminar course is the capstone course for the program.  In it, 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 ability to perform such work.  (See Advanced Seminar Policies.)

The thesis option is available for MPA students who are interested in undertaking a research project, pursuing careers in research, or entering the Ph.D. program.  Students must select a thesis advisor from the faculty to oversee their work.  A thesis may be completed in one semester, but often requires a two-semester, six-credit hour time frame.  The student conducts a comprehensive review of the theoretical and research literature in the subject area of their thesis and collects original data or analyzes existing data in new ways.  (See the SPA Thesis Guidelines for more detail.)

 Minimum eligibility requirements for pursuing a thesis include:

  • Matriculation in the MPA program
  • Successful completion of all core courses
  • Overall GPA of 3.75 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 academic 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 major 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 academic advisor, the student is encouraged to make informal contacts with appropriate subject-matter faculty to determine interest and availability.)

This course presents students with the opportunity to apply knowledge gained in course work to a question of interest drawn from their current or future careers in public or nonprofit organizations. The Advanced Seminar/Professional Practicum is taken in the final semester of the student’s program. It allows the student to apply the knowledge and skills gained in his or her course work through in-class discussions and individual or group projects. All core courses must be completed before a student enrolls in the advanced seminar.

Field Study in Public Administration

Students who have limited experience (generally defined as less than one year of experience) in public or nonprofit organizations must complete an internship. Students register for PAD 6910 for three credit hours while completing the internship, which includes a minimum of 300 hours of supervised work and study.

Note: This requirement raises the total semester hours needed to earn the MPA degree to 39.

Applicants to the program will be reviewed, and those who must complete internships will be notified. Students ordinarily begin an internship following completion of nine or more hours of MPA coursework.  Students with an internship requirement should consult with the MPA internship director early in their program.

Additional Internship Opportunities

Students who are not required to complete an internship as part of their degree program may nevertheless opt to participate in a field experience as an independent study and may earn credit for doing so. Those who wish to pursue this opportunity should contact the SPA Internship Coordinator.

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: School of Public Affairs