Public Administration and Policy Online Graduate Programs

Through Online Public Administration and Policy Graduate Programs students could conveniently study how to make an impact on the issues and problems which affect the general public and nonprofit sectors. Online graduate degrees in public administration typically aim to help students build skills as leaders and managers while public policy-focused programs stress analysis and research.

written by Rana Waxman

Types of Online Public Administration and Policy Graduate Programs

Online Public Administration and Policy Graduate Programs may be available at all levels – certificates, masters and doctoral degrees. Most programs mix compulsory and foundational coursework, research methodology and electives with a student-selected emphasis. These relate directly to the program – public administration, government and/or public policy.

What Is the Difference Between Public Policy and Public Administration?

Public Policy and Public Administration is the scientific study of the politics of institutions, structures and organizations. Both Public Policy and Public Administration cut across the traditional fields of American politics and comparative politics.

Yet despite some overlap there are some differences between the two that may lead to very distinct courses and program objectives when it comes to online Public Administration and Policy graduate programs


The average annual salary for political scientists was $115,110 in May 2017. i

About Public Policy: The study of public policy focuses on the analysis and account of government and non-government responses to public problems. Public policy (PP) It seeks to explain how institutions, organizations, and the public interact within various governance constructs to develop the policies that they do.

Finally, PP is also involved with the evaluation and impact of these policies on

citizens, regulating institutions, and organized interests like nonprofits and education. Online grad students could potentially take courses in the following topics.

  • Micro Economics
  • Resource Allocation
  • Decision Modeling
  • Cost Benefit Analysis
  • Political Factors

About Public Administration: The study of public administration focuses on the structures, activities, and behavior of administrative agencies and officials in the conduct of public office and government. Public administration (PA) could also look at how bureaucracies interact with other political institutions.

Finally, PA may examine the political and legal context of administration and how various organizations and governance structures affect the actions of government. Some of the possible courses students might take could draw from the following examples.

  • Public Budgeting
  • Executive Legislative Relations
  • Personnel Management
  • Public Policy Management
  • Financial Management

Online Masters in Public Administration and Policy

Online Masters in Public Administration and Policy include degrees such as the Master of Public Administration (MPA) and Master of Public Policy (MPP) degrees. These programs usually meld several disciplines, and students may choose to concentrate in a specific area of interest. Most also offer core courses in research methods, policy formation, program evaluation, and statistics.

An average online masters program could consist of 36 required major credits which a full-time online student might complete in an average of 16 months to 2 years. Expect requirements to vary between schools.

Final requirements for an online masters degree in public administration and policy could include a final exam, research project, and/or research thesis. Some programs may also require inexperienced online students to complete an internship.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution. Some programs also require submission of GRE or LSAT test score. However there are universities with ‘no-GRE’ programs and ones that may waive the GRE for eligible students.

Online MPA – Master of Public Administration

An online Master of Public Administration (MPA degree) is similar to the Master of Business Administration but explores management through the lens of public service rather than corporate profitability.

Online MPA programs vary, but often stack business administration courses in areas such as in public budgeting/finance, human resources, strategy and management with public policy courses. These may discuss policy making and analysis, government finance management and public-sector labor relations among others.

Most online MPA students also work towards a concentration. These areas differ between schools, so they could factor into a decision on where to earn the degree. Look for areas such as (but not limited to!) criminal justice, emergency management and homeland security.

Online MPP – Master in Public Policy

An online Masters in Public Policy (MPP degree) is an advanced academic degree which could help students learn the finer points of analysis and research. Students in MPP degree programs get to look behind the scenes at influences to - and effects of - public policy as well as how to craft solutions to some of today’s key issues.

Distance students that decide on a masters degree in public policy path may study leadership as well as topics from the social sciences. Some programs entail about 36 credits of coursework and could take a full-time student about two years to complete.

Core MPP courses frequently encompass elements from sociology, economics, statistics, political economy, policy analysis, program evaluation, public management and ethics. Students are usually tasked with choosing electives in a major area of policy or government to work towards a concentration within the MPP.

Different schools offer different electives, so prospective MPP students may select a program that fits their interests whether in health policy, environmental policy, law and public policy or numerous other choices.

Online MPAP - Master of Public Administration and Policy

An online Master of Public Administration and Policy fuses policy analysis (MPP) courses with management courses (MPA) into one program. MPAP online students might learn to bridge theory and practice to successfully address complex organizational problems.

Coursework for an online MPAP program could explore how legislative power is distributed, rule-making, administrative appeals, and judicial review. A course in policy analysis could familiarize students with the logic and applicability of analytical methods needed to make well-informed public policy decisions.

On the administrative side, students could learn how to manage people and projects. This might include scheduling, systems engineering, cost estimation, innovation, and processes needed to conduct high-risk operations in risk-averse environments. Students could develop their own leadership style in tandem with courses in budgeting and financial management.

Online Masters in Government

Online Masters in Government programs could mix theory and practice in areas such as politics, policy-making and governance to help students solve governmental, political and policy related problems faced today. Courses might also help students build analytical skills and the ability to conduct research, as a final thesis is often required.

In core courses, students might take a microscope to the study of power and politics through a careful look at the government of the U.S. Topics might cover the major institutions of American government and some of America's political processes.

Several of the key forces which compete for power in the U.S. might be examined to see how decisions in the areas of economic, social and foreign policy are reached. Students may also be able to select a focal area such as democracy, political communication or homeland security.

Online Graduate Certificate in Public Administration and Policy

An online Graduate Certificate in public administration and policy is a short and focused series of courses typically formed around a singular topic. A certificate might be completed by students who seek a stand-alone credential in policy, government analytics or a related topic. Or, by those who wish to supplement one of their other degree programs through targeted courses.

Online Doctorate in Public Administration and Policy

Online Doctorate in Public Administration and Policy programs build on masters-level courses and competencies but add a hefty amount of research and thought into an area that could benefit from it. Some of the common degrees are the PhD, DPA and DBA in Public Administration.

Online PhD in Public Administration and Policy

An online PhD in Public Administration and Policy is a research degree that usually asks students to contribute new knowledge to their chosen area of inquiry. PhD online students might learn to apply a systems perspective as they develop strategies for organizational change in the public organization of their choice.

Most online Public Administration and Policy PhD programs ask students to come to campus for brief residencies but may give students up to 8 years (variable) to complete their degree. Much of the program content is devoted to qualitative and quantitative research methods and analysis. However, it could also cover broad themes in governance, strategy planning and organizational change.

More narrowly, PhD students anchor their studies in a chosen topic such as policy analysis, terrorism and peace, health policy or homeland security. Elective courses are designed to help students build expertise and further their own research interests for a final dissertation.

Online DBA – Doctor of Business Administration

An online Doctor of Business Administration is a professional doctorate which could help today’s manager prepare for senior leadership. Most online DBA programs highlight the application of research as a means to create innovative strategies and tactics with which to solve organizational problems.

As with the MBA, an online DBA is formatted around key and core business topics, and students take concentration courses in public administration as well doctoral writing and research courses. These core courses might ready students to oversee budgets and financial planning, shape public policy, evaluate programs, manage people and resources, and serve the public good.

Online DPA – Doctor of Public Administration

An online Doctor of Public Administration is a practice doctorate which could help today’s leaders refine their skills in ethical public service leadership. Students could learn to evaluate current theories and techniques in the public administration field as well as conduct independent research.

Course plans could help online DPA students to fuse citizen involvement and community advocacy into effective public-sector decisions. Participants typically study leadership, operational strategy, diversity and finance. A final project could address a problem and prospective solution to it.

About the Online Format

Online Public Administration and Policy Graduate Programs allow students to tailor their coursework around busy schedules and professional lives. They provide an alternative to the structure of traditional classes in that students can view material when they are able – whether on laptop, desktop, or mobile device.

Distance learners do often take the same courses and meet the same rigorous demands of traditional, on-campus programs. The difference is that instead of taking their classes in a live setting, they do through an online learning platform like Blackboard.

This flexibility doesn’t mean there is no contact with others though. Students often take part in threaded discussions or work on group assignments with their fellow students.

Some online graduate programs in public administration and public policy are fully web-based with no necessary visits to campus required. Others may add some type of meeting or brief residency. Either way, distance learners typically have access to the same resources as their campus counterparts.

Easily Apply to Online Public Administration and Policy Graduate Programs

Let your fingers scroll through our Online Public Administration and Policy Graduate Programs to find the perfect MPA, MPP, MPAP, MBA, DBA, DPA or PhD for you. Use filters for program level and subject to review partner programs. Then contact schools with the on-page form.

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