Complete Guide to a Public Administration Degree Online

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Quick Facts
Accreditation: NASPAA
Degree Levels: Associate, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, and Certificate
Avg Tuition: $20,885
Avg Salary: $66,598

This page provides information about 790 online public administration degree programs. These programs are available at the associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and certificate levels. Public administrators manage local, state, and federal government agencies.

Master's degrees in public administration are the most common form of online public administration degree. NASPAA, the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration, examines and accredits master's degree programs in public administration. Continue reading for our list of NASPAA accredited online master's of public administration programs or browse our top online college rankings in public administration.

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Comprehensive List of Accredited Online Schools - Public Administration Degrees (218)

Online Public Administration Degree Overview & Career Information

Public administrators need to understand how business and management principles apply in a service-oriented organization. Associate programs in public administration introduce students to the basics of office management and client service and prepare graduates to become social and human services assistants. A bachelor's degree is the usual entry-level requirement for public agency and nonprofit management positions. Students can expect to take courses like fundraising and budgeting, organizational behavior, and program evaluation in public agencies. A master's in public administration is a professional degree that combines practical courses with fieldwork in a mission-driven organization. Students obtaining doctoral degrees will do research into public administration practices, in order to enter high-level administrative roles or college-level instruction positions.

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Online Associate Degrees in Public Administration

While there are a few schools that offer associates degrees in public administration, it is not a popular degree; many public administration students work toward a bachelor's or master's degree. However, an associate degree may be a great way to start students on the right path for a career in public administration or to sharpen skills related to existing public service positions. Typical associate degrees in this field take around two years to complete and require upwards of 60 units, combining major-specific courses with general education. Courses related to the degree include subjects like program planning, human resource management, organizational leadership, and budgeting. Some schools require that students have a high school diploma or a GED. Students who graduate with an associate degree in public administration will be eligible for entry-level jobs or research positions, often in city planning, human and health services, criminal justice, and with non-profit organizations. Some common positions include Information Specialist, Accounting Clerk, City Planning Officer, and Human Resources Assistant.

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Online Bachelor's Degrees in Public Administration

A bachelor's degree in public administration adds to the skills learned in associate degree programs, but also introduces concepts for those who are starting fresh in public administration. In addition to advancing the necessary public administration skills, online bachelor's degree programs offer additional communication and management skills. In order to enroll in a bachelor's program in this field, students must have graduated high school with a diploma or completed their GED. Some programs also require potential students to provide SAT or ACT exam scores. Students who are transferring with an associate degree may have slightly different admission requirements. Online bachelor's degrees in public administration typically require anywhere from 90 to 120 units, including courses on social issues, government, politics, economics, and law in addition to the standard leadership, finance, and management courses. Students will go on to work in both public and private sectors, landing a range of entry-level and intermediate-level jobs as administrative managers, program analysts, non-profit administrators, and public relations specialists.

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Online Master's in Public Administration

Students who are considering enrolling in an online master's degree program in the field of public administration must first complete a bachelor's program in a similar field. Master's programs focus on enhancing critical thinking skills, solving real-world problems, and evaluating and analyzing everything from budgets to public policy. Master's programs also typically offer different specializations so that students can become experts in specific aspects of public administration and improve their chances of finding jobs post-graduation. Students who earn master's degrees in public administration find jobs as development managers, directors of non-profits, government affairs directors, health service managers, policy coordinators, program analysts, and communications directors. Most programs can be completed online in two years or less, and require between 30 and 40 units. In addition to a capstone course that highlights everything learned in the program, students will take courses in organizational behavior, business ethics, social responsibility, financial management, public policy, and government. See eleven NASPAA accredited master's programs in public administration.

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Online Doctoral Degrees in Public Administration

With an emphasis on leadership and collaboration, an online doctorate degree in public administration delves deeper into skills learned while earning a bachelor's or master's degree. These programs also prepare students for careers in teaching or researching. Undergraduate and master's degree are generally required to enroll in doctorate programs. Most programs take around three years to complete. While some programs require only 48 units, others may require 60 or more. In addition to working on a dissertation, students will take courses like Leadership in the Public Sector, Survey of Research Methods, Strategic Planning and Management, and Ethics and Social Justice. Some colleges also offer specialties or concentrations in things like non-profit management, public health, or forensics. While a large percentage of PhD candidates go on to become professors or teachers at educational organizations, others may become budget directors, city managers, policy advisors, public safety directors, police chiefs, research assistants, and analysts.

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Online Certificates in Public Administration

Certificates are a great way to get a basic understanding of the subject and learn the skills necessary to enter the job field, but they can also be applied toward a degree at many colleges. While almost all of the certificate programs require that students take Fundamentals of Public Administration, other required courses vary. Required classes can include everything from Public Finance and Budgeting to Organizational Behavior or Public Policy Analysis. At less than 20 units per certificate, certificates in public administration are a quick way to fine-tune the skills needed for a current job or to gain new skills to try to break into public administration.

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The Importance of an Accredited Online Public Administration Degree

When students are determining which college or university to attend, it's important to pay attention to accreditation, even if the degree program is online. Accreditation is the process educational organizations use to ensure that students are receiving quality educations that include all of the knowledge and skills needed to complete specific jobs. Since there is no programmatic accreditation available for most public administration degree programs, students should make sure they are receiving a degree from a regionally accredited institution. If a school has been regionally accredited, students can rest assured that they are getting the education they deserve and that their classes will transfer to other accredited universities.

For a master's in public administration, NASPAA, the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration, sets the standards that determine which concepts public service degrees should include. NASPAA accredits specific degree programs rather than colleges or departments, but they only look at master's degree programs. The organization examines programs that deal with public policy, public administration, public affairs, and non-profit management. Many fields require that students earn a degree from an accredited university in order to be eligible for licensure, but public policy careers don't require that same certification, making it optional to attend a college that has been accredited. But, as previously mentioned, it's always a good idea since it ensures that students receive a quality education.

NASPAA Accredited Online Master's Degrees in Public Administration

Master's degrees are the most common level of online degrees in public administration. They provide students with the opportunity to pursue careers such as city administrators, analysts, city planners, and human resource directors. Eleven schools offer online master's programs in public administration that are accredited by NASPAA.

All schools on this list are regionally accredited, non-profit institutions that offer accredited online master's in public administration programs.

Old Dominion University

  • Annual Tuition: $24,210
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC and NASPAA
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The online master's program in public administration at Old Dominion University aims to provide students with knowledge on public sector management, organizational design, political concepts, and analysis techniques. Full-time students finish the 39-credit master's program in two years or less while part-time students may take up to five years. Students must complete 13 courses, seven that are required core classes and six additional electives. The core classes consist of two administrative theory courses and four others on financial management, public policy analysis, ethics, and research methods. The final required course is a capstone seminar that deals with social and administrative implications in the field. Electives may be varied so long as they are related to public administration. While there is a traditional path to the MPA at Old Dominion, there is an additional program with a concentration in Multi-Sector Public Service that also requires a course called Government, Business & Society.

San Diego State University

  • Annual Tuition: $17,926
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: WASC WSCUC and NASPAA
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In less than a year and half, students can complete the San Diego State University master's program. The fast-track program requires 36 units taught in two-month modules; modules consist of reading assignments, papers, group exercises, and comments on the virtual discussion board. Units cannot be transferred in from other colleges so plan on taking all of your classes as part of this accredited, self-contained program. Required courses include Scope of Public Administration, Methods of Analysis, Quantitative Approaches, Administrative Theory, Public Personnel Administration, Administration and Public Policy Development, and Public Financial Management. In addition, students must complete four electives and a capstone class that includes an applied research project. The Master of Public Administration at SDSU was designed for professionals who are already working in fields like criminal justice, urban planning, non-profit administration, and other related job fields. Online students are able to attend on-site graduation ceremonies as well if they desire.

Southern Utah University

  • Annual Tuition: $17,902
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: NWCCU
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The topic of public administration is presented through social, cultural, historical, political, and economic lenses in Southern Utah University's two-year online program. Each student can customize their path, blending necessary elements with written communication skills. The program includes 21 units of core classes, up to 12 units of electives, and up to six units of experiential learning (either an internship, thesis, or professional project) that must equal at least 36 units overall. The required courses include Theory of Public Administration, Public Sector Economics, Administrative Law, Research Methods for Public Administration, Public Human Resource Management, Critical Thinking and Ethics in the Public Sector, and Capstone in Public Administration. Available electives include those on higher education, policy, leadership, law, and analysis. While the program was recently accredited by NASPAA, it is also accredited through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

Texas A & M International University

  • Annual Tuition: $14,314
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC and NASPAA
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The Master of Public Administration program at Texas A&M International University requires students to have at least three years of management experience. This program also admits international students as well. The 42-unit MPA program has 33 units of required courses, which include Advanced Methods of Social Research, Organization Theory, Administrative Ethics, Human Resources Management, and Principles and Politics of Public Budgeting. Students must also complete a project or an internship as well as three elective courses. The university also offers an additional certificate in Non-Profit Leadership and Management that MPA students may obtain, though they must apply for the program separately. Tuition can range from $2,000 to $6,000 per year depending on whether or not you're a resident of Texas.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • Annual Tuition: $30,122
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC and NASPAA
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The program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is another one that is designed with working professionals in mind, facilitating an easier path to a master's degree while maintaining a job. With a focus on the necessary skills for government and non-profit roles, this master's program is consistently ranked as one of the top online programs in the country. With a flexible curriculum, students can organize their classes into a schedule that works best for them; the program can be completed in anywhere from 18 months and five years. Courses in UNC's program equate to 45 required credits, including 27 units of core classes like Public Service Leadership, Human Resource Management, and Law for Public Administration. Another 15 units of electives are required as well, in hopes that the classes will aid in students' competency and cultivate new skills. Students may choose from Federal Policies and Institutions, Technology and Community Engagement, and Productivity Improvement in Local Government. Another three credits are split between work experience and a professional portfolio.

The University of Texas at Arlington

  • Annual Tuition: $17,374
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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The University of Texas at Arlington's master's program teaches students something that other colleges may not: how to face some of the unique challenges of working as a manager in an urban area. Most of the courses last for eight weeks, featuring topics like Ethics in Public Service, Foundations of Urban Research and Analysis, Public Budgeting, Intergovernmental Relations, and Non-Profit Institutions. Students must also choose between two specific electives: Capital Budgeting, and Personnel Management and Conflict Resolution in the Public and Non-Profit Sector. The MPA program can be finished in two years and three-course classes come out to around $1,275 each at a rate of $425 per unit. At 39 required credits, the total for the program overall comes to around $16,000.

Troy University

  • Annual Tuition: $13,520
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC and NASPAA
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Although the Master of Public Administration program at Troy University is online like the rest of the programs on this list, the university offers the same rate to all students regardless of where they live. This is a huge benefit considering the fact that students who pay out-of-state tuition typically pay more than in-state residents. The program is accredited by both NASPAA and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), but it only requires 12 courses: nine core classes and three classes depending on which concentration the student has chosen. There are seven different concentrations to choose from: Public Management, Government Contracting, Justice Administration, Public Health Administration, Non-Profit Management, Public Health Resource Management, and National Security Affairs. The program's required core classes include Public Policy, Foundations of Public Administration, and Governmental Budgeting and Financial Management. Troy University also offers an additional graduate certificate in Government Contracting.

University of Baltimore

  • Annual Tuition: $16,288
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
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Their two-year master's program requires 42 units that will prepare students to think critically, learn how to research, and determine what your civic responsibilities are when you're working in public service jobs. There is also a heavy focus on interacting with both peers and professors despite the fact that courses are entirely online. Students can choose from four different specializations, including public policy and administration, health-care policy and administration, budgeting and fiscal administration, and public and non-profit management. The website provides a list of recommended elective courses for each specialization, which students should definitely check before determining their class schedule. No matter which specialization a student chooses, there are also 33 units of required core classes to take. Some of these courses are Bureaucracy and the Political Process, Statistical Applications in Public Administration, and Legal and Ethical Environment of Public Administration. A three-unit internship is also required, though it may be waived with proof of significant professional experience in the public sector.

University of Illinois at Springfield

  • Annual Tuition: $16,498
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: NCA HLC and NASPAA
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When studying public administration online at the University of Illinois at Springfield, students will be learning from the same professors teaching on-campus classes. The program includes a total of 36 units, of which seven are required three-unit core classes: Introduction to the Profession, Organization Dynamics, Analytical Tools, Budget and Finance, Human Resource Management, Public Policy for Managers, and Information for Decision Making. Students must also take at least two electives that are 400-level or higher and a capstone course that combines everything students have learned in previous classes. To apply for the program, students must complete a statement of a minimum of 300 words that describes their career goals, how the program could aid in personal development, and what the student would contribute to the college.

University of San Francisco

  • Annual Tuition: $40,294
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: WASC WSCUC and NASPAA
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With 13 courses equaling 39 credits, students can earn an online graduate degree in public administration at the University of San Francisco without ever having to take the GRE. The program teaches students about the public good through avenues like organizational behavior, policy analysis, budgeting, information technology, strategic planning, and program implementation. Nine core classes are required, including Information Technology and E-Trends, Program Evaluation and Monitoring, Strategic Planning, and Core Value Driven Leadership and Ethics. Two additional electives are also required. Students may choose to have an additional concentration in health services administration, which is designed for those who hope to go into healthcare management. Following graduation, the majority of students end up in state, local, and federal government. Others work for non-profits, or even oin companies in the private sector.

Villanova University

  • Annual Tuition: $44,430
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: MSCHE and NASPAA
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The online master's program at Villanova University teaches students all about the structures of administrative organizations, financial management, management strategies, tools for conducting research, leadership, and ethics. All of these topics help provide students with the foundation necessary to succeed in the world of public service. Because this degree has so many job opportunities associated with it, the classes cover a wide range of subjects. From Managing Public Networks and Organization Theory to Administrative Communication and Public Personnel Management, students in the Villanova MPA program must complete 36 units to earn their degree. Full-time students usually finish this program in around two years. A comprehensive exam must be passed before the degree can be granted, and it is offered online three times each year.

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Careers in Public Administration

There are so many career paths to choose from when it comes to this line of work. A public administration degree at any level prepares students to work at a variety of government agencies, private businesses, or non-profit organizations. While certificates, associate degrees, and even bachelor's degrees can earn students entry-level jobs, master's or doctorate degrees help them find more advanced positions. In addition to education, experience plays an important role in which jobs students land in this career field. Some may go on to work in law enforcement or criminal justice, but they can also work at state or city governments, law or consulting firms, or anywhere that utilizes managers, analysts, planners, or certain types of specialists. Working in public administration requires a wide range of abilities and knowledge, but mainly the ability to multitask. Once hired, students will find themselves analyzing, organizing, and evaluating everything from budgets to events and clients. Working in public service can be rewarding as it offers many different options and paths for its graduates.


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