Online Master of Public Administration (MPA)

If you would like to change the educational landscape by implementing policies and developing programs, then a career in public administration might be for you. The Master of Public Administration (MPA) is a degree that focuses on public service or nonprofit management. Masters of public administration programs (commonly referred to as MPA programs) prepare students for management and executive organization on a local, state and federal level in different sectors, which include government service, education, community management, nonprofit organizations and more.

If you choose to specialize in education in the public administration field, you will manage policy issues in leadership positions of primary, secondary and higher educational systems. Some MPA programs require you to participate in field internships to hone your administrative, policy making, communication and research skills.

MPA degrees are one of the most popular degrees for mid-career professionals and, as a result, gaining an MPA online has become an increasingly common choice.Enrolling in an online master’s of public administration is a great way to save time and an effective way to continue earning an income whilst earning a valuable degree. A master's degree from an accredited institution may be required to become a practicing school administrator. This, along with state certification, will allow you to become an administrator at any grade level.

Jumpstart Your Career in the Public Sector, Explore Online MPA Programs:

Earn an EMPA online from Syracuse's top-ranked Maxwell School
    • GRE scores optional
    • Complete in as few as 15 months
    • An Executive MPA for mid-career professionals
Discover Syracuse's EMPA Program
Enroll in University of North Carolina's highly ranked MPA online program
    • GRE waivers are available
    • Complete in as few as 18 months
    • Choose from five focus areas
Learn more about MPA@UNC

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Online MPA Admissions Requirements

Before you begin to apply to online mpa programs, be sure to contact your accredited institutions of choice for information about any prerequisites you may need to fulfill. Depending on the requirements of the program you are applying to, you may be asked to submit some or all of the following items:

  1. Application: Fill out an initial application, which you can find  on the website of the accredited institution of your choice. Paper and online forms are both generally accepted.
  2. Bachelor’s degree: You should have a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent from an accredited institution prior to applying to an MPA program.
  3. Transcripts: Request transcripts before the application deadline, and upload one official copy of each transcript from any postsecondary schools you have attended.
  4. Experience: Include any relevant work experience in public administration.  
  5. Personal statement: Write a personal statement, which is typically in the form of an essay. You may be required to submit multiple essays to fully express the intent and purpose of your application. Below are some common topics that should be mentioned in a statement.
    • Your main academic and personal interests
    • Experiences in school or work that have helped to prepare you for this course of study
    • Why you wish to study for the degree you’ve chosen
    • Why you wish to study at the university
    • Your plans for the future after you earn your degree
  6. Resume/CV: Upload a copy of your most recent resume or curriculum vitae as part of your application.
  7. Letters of recommendation: Submit your letters of recommendation. The number of letters required varies with each school. Be sure to request them well in advance of the deadline.
  8. Test scores: Mail in copies of your test scores. Many schools require GRE General Test scores or TOEFL/IELTS scores for international students; however, some programs do not require test scores at all.

Often, mpa online programs will have an executive track that features advanced coursework and an accelerated curriculum that is designed for mid-career public service professionals. These types of programs can be advantageous to busy mid-level professionals who want to gain an online mpa as efficiently as possible.

Some programs, like Syracuse’s top ranked Executive MPA program can be completed in as few as 15 months!

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Online MPA Curriculum 

The curriculum and number of credits required to complete a master’s program vary widely depending on your school and specialization. However, a typical online MPA program includes courses in:

  • Microeconomics
  • Budgeting/finance
  • Policy process and policy analysis
  • Ethics
  • Public management
  • Leadership

Public Administration Career Outlook

After completing an MPA online program, the next step is to get licensed. This certification will enable you to officially work in the field of your choice. Every state has its own licensure requirements for becoming a school public administrator. The average annual salary for school administrators in elementary and secondary schools ranged from $70,840 to $107,900 in 2015. School administrators can work at the elementary through high school level. Another popular degree to jumpstart your career in education administration specifically is a doctorate of education degree that sets students up for success in educational leadership.

In addition to these common school administrator roles, there are also specializations and different roles that a recent graduate from an online master’s in public administration program can pursue:

Possible Career Paths

District administrator

This role provides service to a school system as a district level administrative officer.


This role provides service to a school system as a district or school level executive overseeing daily operations


This role oversees and maintains daily activities within a school system and ensures that standards are being met.