Public Administration Master's Programs

In Public Administration Master’s Programs, students learn how to plan, implement, and assess public policy and administer governmental services. Courses offer theoretical, analytical, and practical lenses for exploring how to create, run, and adjust government programs and initiatives. Because curricula often includes communications, management, and business components, students develop skills and knowledge to apply to public, private, and nonprofit settings.

Master of Public Administration MPA, Public Administration Masters Programswritten by Annie Rose Stathes

Types of Public Administration Masters Programs

There are several common avenues through which students pursue a master’s in public administration.

  • First, students might pursue a Master of Public Administration, or M.P.A. These programs focus their entire curricula on public administration and closely related topics.
  • Second, students might pursue a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) with an emphasis in Public Administration. These programs focus first on business areas (such as finance and marketing), theories, and strategies and second on the leadership, policy, research, and other skills students need to work for governmental agencies.
  • Third, students might pursue a Master of Public Policy, or M.P.P. These programs focus primarily on local, national, and international public policy making and intervention.
  • Fourth, students might pursue a Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.) in Political Science with an emphasis on Public Administration or Public Policy. These programs focus first on political science theory and practice and second on governmental administration or public policy.

Curricula in MPP and MPA Degree Programs

In a master’s in public admin or public policy program, students typically explore a blend of theoretical and applied concepts that cover organizational governance, finance, and administration. They examine case studies that provide real-world examples, and they work with classmates and professors to examine historical and contemporary challenges in public administration and policy. More specifically, master’s degree programs in MPP and MPA cover a variety of subjects.

Depending on the program and its focus, core curricula could cover a number of areas.

In public administration master’s programs, students might study the following subjects to develop their foundational knowledge:

  • Organizational behavior
  • Governmental fiscal decision making
  • Public organization
  • Management and leadership
  • Human resources in the public and nonprofit sectors
  • Policy analysis
  • Economics and quantitative analysis
  • Political thought and institutions
  • Research methods

Through their MPA elective coursework, students might opt to study subjects such as:

  • Human resources
  • Policy analysis and evaluation
  • Nonprofit management
  • Public budgeting and financial management
  • State and local government and administration

In an MPA program, students might specialize or concentrate their learning in areas such as:

  • Local, federal, or international government
  • Nonprofit management
  • Health
  • Public finance
  • Leadership

Similarly, students might be able to pursue “dual degrees,” or two degrees at once. Some common pairings are: MPA and Juris Doctor, MPA and Master of Planning, and MPA and Master of Social Work. These are just some options.

In a public policy degree program, students might study these core subjects to develop their foundational knowledge:

  • Economics
  • Ethics
  • Management and leadership
  • Negotiation
  • Politics
  • Policy analysis
  • Quantitative analysis
  • Policy making processes
  • Policy interventions
  • Decision theory

Students in MPP programs might concentrate their learning in areas such as:

  • Business and entrepreneurship
  • Civil infrastructure
  • Community and economic development
  • Education, environmental, health, public, or international policy
  • Media and communications policy
  • Social justice

These are just some of a plethora of subjects in which MPP students might focus their learning.

MPP, MBA, MA, MS, and MPA Degree Requirements

By and large, the degree requirements for a master’s degree in public administration, business administration, public policy, and political science are similar if not the same. In all of them, students complete core courses to develop foundational knowledge in their primary subject and elective courses to develop their knowledge in supplemental subjects. Students may also have options to emphasize certain subjects, concentrate their learning in certain areas, or follow particular tracks. These options and electives help students pursue skills and knowledge in specific areas of public administration or policy that are professionally relevant or of interest to students.

For admissions to their public administration or public policy master’s programs, applicants might have to demonstrate having had professional experience in the fields, or they might have to have completed an internship. Otherwise, they might have to commit to participating in an internship during their program. They may have to take the GMAT or GRE for admittance into public policy or public administration master’s programs.

To conclude their programs and to officially earn a master’s in public policy or public administration, students typically have to successfully complete and defend a thesis and potentially earn a particular score on an oral or written comprehensive exam.

Careers for Students Who Pursue an MPP or MPA

Public policy and public administration master’s programs help students develop their knowledge in nonprofit, nongovernmental, and governmental work. Professionals with degrees in the subjects might work at local, state, federal, or international levels, and the might work for public, private, or nonprofit agencies.

Students who earn a degree in public administration or public policy might develop the skills and knowledge to work as:

  • College administrators
  • Criminal justice administrators
  • Healthcare or hospital administrators
  • Consultants
  • Political campaign workers
  • City managers
  • Social services managers
  • Urban or regional planners
  • Political scientist

Many students wonder, “what can I do with a master’s in public administration?” These are just some of many potential paths students with master’s degrees in public policy or public administration might pursue.

Potential Salaries for Public Policy or Public Administration Professionals

The following are career and salary potentials for professionals who hold an MPP or MPA:

  • Urban and Regional Planners: according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), professionals in this field earned a median annual wage of $71,490 in 2017. The BLS predicts that jobs in this area will grow by 13 percent between 2016 and 2026.i
  • Political Scientists: according to the BLS, professionals in this field earned a median annual wage of $115,110 in 2017. The BLS predicts that jobs in this area will grow by 13 percent between 2016 and 2026.ii
  • Emergency Management Directors: according to the BLS, professionals in this field earned a median annual wage of $72,760 in 2017. The BLS predicts that jobs in this area will grow by eight percent between 2016 and 2026.iii
  • Administrative Services Managers: according to the BLS, professionals in this occupation earned a median annual wage of $94,020 in 2017. The BLS predicts that jobs in this area will grow by ten percent between 2016 and 2026.iv

Why Pursue an MPP or MPA? Not all of the occupations listed above require professionals to have a master’s degree, but some of them—like urban planning and political scientist—do. And, having a master’s degree can enhance your resume and help you gain the skills and knowledge you need to pursue the career of your dreams. offers 15 Public Administration & Policy Masters – 8 Degree Programs

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