Masters in Public Administration Programs in the State of Colorado

Cole Neder

Cole Neder

Updated & Fact Checked: 05.21.2024

Pursuing a Public Administration graduate degree in the State of Colorado offers a unique and enriching experience, with several institutions providing specialized programs. The University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs stands out for its strong curriculum, offering specializations such as local government management and nonprofit organizations. Similarly, the University of Denver Graduate School of Public Affairs emphasizes policy analysis, leadership, and global perspectives through its Master of Public Policy and Administration program. Colorado State University’s Department of Political Science provides a comprehensive Master of Public Policy and Administration program, focusing on analytical and management skills development.

The State of Colorado provides ample opportunities for professional networking. The American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) has an active Colorado Chapter, hosting events, conferences, and seminars that facilitate connections within the public administration community. Additionally, local government associations, such as the Colorado Municipal League, organize conferences that serve as valuable platforms for networking with professionals in the field.

Job opportunities for Public Administration graduates are increasingly available in Colorado. With the state’s commitment to sustainability and environmental issues, positions in policy analysis and public affairs are prevalent. Denver, as the capital and largest city, offers diverse opportunities in city management and public administration. The non-profit sector is also vibrant, providing avenues for those interested in contributing to social and community development.

Outside of academic pursuits, Colorado’s recreational opportunities are unparalleled. The state’s stunning landscapes, particularly the Rocky Mountains, provide a backdrop for outdoor activities like hiking, skiing, and biking. Denver’s cultural scene is equally compelling, boasting museums, art galleries, music festivals, and theaters. Engaging in community service or volunteer work, attending public lectures, and exploring the vibrant local culture are integral components of the graduate student experience in Colorado.

MPA Programs in Colorado

Attaining an MPA degree opens doors to fulfilling managerial careers within the public sector, nonprofit organizations, and private entities engaged in partnerships with government officials. MPA students have the opportunity to tailor their studies by specializing in diverse areas such as human resources management, criminal justice, environmental planning, and nonprofit management.

Aspiring students exploring MPA programs in Colorado have several choices. The State of Colorado hosts Public Administration Masters programs at five different public and private educational institutions. A summary of these programs, regardless of accreditation, mode, or cost, can be found here:

NASPAA-accredited MPA Programs

The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA), a leading global accrediting body for graduate educational institutions, plays a crucial role in evaluating and accrediting programs like Master of Public Administration (MPA) and Master of Public Policy (MPP) to ensure the highest standards in public administration education. Accreditation involves a thorough assessment of curriculum, faculty qualifications, and program outcomes.

Currently, two Colorado institutions hold NASPAA accreditation for their MPA programs, demonstrating their commitment to quality education and industry standards. This accreditation serves as a reliable indicator for prospective students, affirming program relevance and providing a strong foundation for a career in public administration.

The following is an overview of Colorado’s 2 NASPAA-accredited institutions. Tuition estimates are calculated on a per credit hour basis:

University of Colorado – Colorado Springs

  • Colorado Springs, CO
  • Online + Campus

Modality: Online/On-Campus

Credit Hours: 39

GRE: Not required

Resident Tuition: $595

Non-Resident Tuition: $1,400

Program Overview:
The Master of Public Administration (MPA) program at UCCS is designed to prepare students for leadership roles in the public and nonprofit sectors. Offering flexibility with in-person, online, or hybrid courses, the program currently enrolls approximately 200 active students, maintaining small class sizes with a cap of 20. The curriculum emphasizes essential problem-solving and decision-making skills, along with diverse elective choices. Students, especially those with less professional experience, have the opportunity to engage in internships with public and nonprofit agencies.

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University of Colorado – Denver

  • Denver, CO
  • Online + Campus

Modality: Online/On-Campus

Credit Hours: 36

GRE: Not required

Resident Tuition: $595

Non-Resident Tuition: $1,400

Program Overview:
The program, housed in the School of Public Affairs, emphasizes a ‘Lead, Solve, Change’ philosophy. It strives to equip students with knowledge, skills, experiences, and ethical standards to become innovative leaders in public and nonprofit organizations. The multidisciplinary MPA curriculum, designed by SPA faculty, provides graduate professional education for individuals seeking administrative or policy careers in government, the nonprofit sector, or organizations concerned with public affairs. The program also serves as a platform for those already employed in these sectors to enhance their skills and advance their careers by integrating theory and practice, ensuring that graduates possess the necessary knowledge and skills for effective organizational management and policy analysis.

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Online MPA Programs

In the twenty-first century, the flexibility of online learning allows individuals from various locations, whether Upstate or Downstate, to attend a university of their choice, all while residing in the comfort of their homes. This accessibility and the growing preference for online education underscore the reasons why an increasing number of students opt for obtaining their public administration graduate degrees within their home state.

Online MPA programs provide students the flexibility to access course materials and lectures at their own pace, from any location with an internet connection. This adaptability is particularly advantageous for busy individuals or working professionals, enabling them to balance work commitments with academic pursuits. For those seeking career advancement or a change, online MPA programs facilitate the integration of education into existing professional and personal responsibilities.

In the State of New York, there are 12 MPA programs that offer a fully online learning option, with seven of them being NASPAA accredited. Additional information on the remaining five unaccredited programs can be found here:

Adams State University

  • Alamosa, CO
  • Online

Credit Hours: 36

GRE: Not required

Tuition: $462 (per credit)

Program Overview:
The 36-hour fully online Master’s in Public Administration program is tailored for professionals already engaged in the public and non-profit sectors, as well as pre-professionals aspiring to start a career in public service. Combining skills-based coursework with practical experience in public agencies, the program, delivered through interactive online courses, aims to prepare graduates for positions in federal, state, and local government, as well as non-profit organizations. Designed to be completed in two years, accommodating those working full-time, the program fosters career advancement for individuals entering public administration and current public servants aspiring to move into management roles. Additionally, it focuses on skill development to enhance the effectiveness of public managers in their roles.

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Colorado State University

  • Fort Collins, CO
  • Online + Campus

Credit Hours: 39

GRE: Not required

Tuition: $998 (per credit)

Program Overview:
The Master of Public Policy and Administration (MPPA) is designed for individuals sought after by international organizations, government agencies, and nonprofits to lead teams and shape policies for societal improvement. The program, offered in the evenings or online to accommodate working professionals, features an interdisciplinary curriculum integrating research-based academic theory with practical experience. Faculty members, experienced public service professionals, lead discussions and hands-on learning experiences, connecting students with the local municipality of Fort Collins. The MPPA degree offers specializations in Public Management, Public Policy, and International Policy and Management, allowing students to develop expertise in specific areas relevant to their career goals, with unique opportunities for engagement in local government, internships abroad, or the Peace Corps.

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Colorado Christian University

  • Lakewood, CO
  • Online

Credit Hours: 30

GRE: Not required

Tuition: $543 (per credit)

Program Overview:
Colorado Christian University’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) online program is designed to equip individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary for leadership and management roles in various sectors, including local, state, and federal government agencies, as well as voluntary, proprietary, and not-for-profit organizations. What sets CCU’s MPA program apart is its unique emphasis on training Christ-centered individuals interested in public service to become leaders who are confident, courageous, ethical, and effective. The program’s focus areas include governmental law, public budgeting and finance, public information and civic engagement, and public policy.

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Accelerated MPA Programs

A Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) degree typically takes 2-3 years for full-time students and 3-4 years for part-time students. However, various programs in the State of Colorado offer accelerated and dual-track options, allowing students to complete their degrees in a shorter time frame. The primary advantage of accelerated MPA programs is a significant reduction in the time needed to obtain the degree. 

While traditional MPA programs often take two years or more, accelerated programs can be completed in approximately 12 to 18 months. For example, the MPA program at the University of Colorado – Denver is normally completed in two years, but offers a one-year, accelerated program for on-campus students. 

In addition, Colorado State University offers a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree program that allows undergraduate students to complete their graduate degree in only five years. Lastly, Colorado Christian University allows full-time students to stack their coursework to complete their degree in roughly 15 months.

Affordable MPA Programs

Investing in a Master’s Degree in Public Administration can be substantial for students and working professionals alike. In Colorado, cost of living challenges amongst all residents create a more urgent need for affordable higher education options. Cost-effective MPA programs in the State of Colorado aim to enhance accessibility to higher education, accommodating a diverse range of students who may face budgetary constraints.

The affordability of these programs alleviates financial stress, promoting inclusivity and diversity within the MPA student community. Additionally, the appeal of cost-effective MPA programs extends to working professionals and individuals managing financial commitments, offering them the opportunity to pursue advanced degrees without accumulating significant debt.

For residents in the State of Colorado, both University of Colorado campuses are generally the most affordable approach to obtaining an MPA degree. University of Colorado – Colorado Springs and University of Colorado – Denver both offer tuition at $595 per credit hour for residents and $1,400 per credit hour for non-residents. 

Online options in the State of Colorado are generally a more cost-effective option. University of Colorado – Colorado Springs and University of Colorado – Denver offer their online option at $714 per credit hour. Comparably, Colorado State University offers an online option at $998 per credit hour, Adams State University at $462 per credit hour, and Colorado Christian University at $543 per credit hour.

What Types of Careers Can I Pursue With an MPA Degree in Colorado?

In the State of Colorado, earning a Master of Public Administration degree opens up a diverse range of career opportunities in the public and nonprofit sectors. One unique aspect of pursuing an MPA in Colorado is the state’s emphasis on environmental conservation and sustainability. Graduates with an MPA may find meaningful career paths in organizations dedicated to addressing environmental issues and promoting sustainable practices, given Colorado’s commitment to preserving its natural resources and outdoor spaces.

Additionally, the state of Colorado places importance on healthcare, and MPA graduates may contribute to the management and administration of public health programs. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, as well as various local health departments, could offer career opportunities for MPA graduates interested in improving healthcare delivery and outcomes for the state’s residents.

Colorado is home to a vibrant and growing technology sector, particularly in cities like Denver and Boulder. With an MPA degree, individuals may pursue careers in public technology management, working on initiatives that enhance government services through innovative technologies. This could involve roles in digital governance, smart city projects, or data analytics for public policy.

Several public officials in Colorado have notable MPA degrees. One example is former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who earned an MPA from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Hickenlooper’s career path highlights the potential impact of an MPA degree in shaping state-level policies and governance.

In addition to political figures, MPA graduates in Colorado can aspire to follow in the footsteps of leaders such as Christine Scanlan, who serves as the President and CEO of the Keystone Policy Center, a non-profit organization based in Colorado. Her MPA background likely contributes to her ability to navigate public policy discussions and foster collaboration between diverse stakeholders.

An MPA degree in Colorado can lead to diverse and impactful careers, from environmental management to healthcare administration and technology governance. The state’s unique emphasis on environmental sustainability, coupled with its growing technology sector, provides MPA graduates with opportunities to contribute meaningfully to public service in various capacities. Learning from the experiences of influential figures like John Hickenlooper and Christine Scanlan can inspire future MPA graduates to make a positive impact on public policy and administration in the state.

MPA Programs in Other States

Wyoming

Nebraska

Kansas

Arizona

New Mexico