Masters in Public Administration Programs in the State of Iowa

Cole Neder

Cole Neder

Updated & Fact Checked: 05.15.2024


As a prospective Master of Public Administration (MPA) student considering programs in the State of Iowa, there are several compelling reasons to explore this region for your graduate studies. First and foremost, Iowa offers a relatively affordable cost of living, including housing, compared to many other states, making it an attractive option for students seeking a budget-friendly education. The state’s vibrant cities, such as Des Moines, Iowa City, and Cedar Rapids, offer a range of housing options to suit various preferences and budgets, from urban apartments to suburban homes.

Beyond affordability, Iowa boasts a rich cultural scene and a plethora of recreational activities for students to enjoy. The state is home to numerous museums, art galleries, theaters, and music venues, providing ample opportunities for cultural enrichment. Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate Iowa’s scenic landscapes, including its many parks, trails, and rivers, which offer hiking, biking, fishing, and other recreational activities.

When it comes to MPA programs, Iowa boasts several reputable institutions that offer unique and innovative programs. For example, the University of Iowa’s MPA program emphasizes hands-on learning and practical experience through internships and research projects. The program’s strong focus on policy analysis and leadership development prepares students for impactful careers in public service.

Overall, Iowa’s affordability, cultural amenities, economic opportunities, and innovative MPA programs make it a compelling choice for prospective students seeking a rewarding graduate education and a promising career in public administration.

MPA Programs in Iowa

The state of Iowa has four different educational bodies that offer an MPA graduate degree. Each institution is unique in its educational approach, topical focus, and class delivery style. An overview of these programs- including accreditation, credit hours, location, and class modality- can be found here:

NASPAA-accredited MPA Programs

The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) plays a significant role in shaping the quality and standards of Master of Public Administration (MPA) programs across the United States, including those in the state of Iowa. NASPAA accreditation signifies that a program meets high standards of excellence in public service education and prepares graduates for impactful careers in public administration and policy.

While there are currently no NASPAA-accredited MPA programs in Iowa, several universities in the state are NASPAA members and have programs accredited by regional bodies such as the Higher Learning Commission.

Online MPA Programs

Opting for an online Master of Public Administration (MPA) program can offer several perks, particularly for students in the state of Iowa. Online MPA programs provide the opportunity to connect with a diverse cohort of students from different locations and backgrounds. This can enrich the learning experience by providing insights and perspectives from individuals working in various sectors and regions, including those outside of Iowa.

Overall, online MPA programs offer a flexible, convenient, and diverse learning experience that can benefit students in Iowa seeking to advance their careers in public administration. An overview of MPA programs in the state that offer an online-only format can be found here:

Drake University

  • Des Moines, IA
  • Online

Accreditation: NCACSHLC

Modality: Online

Credit Hours: 36

GRE: Not required

Tuition: $714 (PCH)

Program Overview:
The online M.P.A. program at Drake University prepares students to address public administration challenges across various sectors through strategic problem-solving and policy analysis. The program is designed for working professionals and can be completed with 30 credit hours, with options to focus on public and nonprofit management or healthcare management.

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University of Northern Iowa

  • Cedar Falls, IA
  • Online

Accreditation: NCACSHLC

Modality: Online

Credit Hours: 37

GRE: Not required

Resident Tuition: $10,030 (PYR)

Non-Resident Tuition: $21,502 (PYR)

Program Overview:
The MPA program is entirely online, consisting of 37 credits that can be completed in two years. It is tailored for working professionals, allowing them to study alongside a cohort of peers and finish the program in two years, including summers. This professional, applied degree is crafted to enhance the skills necessary for success in the complex public policy field. Students will delve into the political and social dimensions of public policy, as well as various methods for policy analysis.

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Upper Iowa University

  • Fayette, IA
  • Online + Campus

Accreditation: NCACSHLC

Modality: Online/On- Campus

Credit Hours: 36

GRE: Not required

Tuition: $607 (PCH)

Program Overview:
The UIU MPA program provides students with the essential leadership, managerial, analytical, and decision-making skills necessary for both academic and professional success. The faculty, composed of experienced professionals, is dedicated to supporting the communities they serve. Students can tailor their studies with a choice of emphases including Criminal Justice, Emergency Management and Homeland Security, General Study, Healthcare Management, Nonprofit Organizational Management, and Public Management.

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Accelerated MPA Programs

In Iowa, both the University of Iowa and Drake University offer accelerated Master of Public Administration (MPA) programs. At the University of Iowa, the u2g program and dual degree programs in the public affairs department allow students to reduce their undergraduate/graduate degree timeline by one year. 

Drake University’s MPA program also offers an accelerated option with reduced credit requirements, sometimes down to 30 credits. This allows students to complete the degree in under two years, providing a fast-track option for those looking to enter the workforce or advance their careers quickly.

Affordable MPA Programs

In Iowa, several universities offer Master of Public Administration (MPA) programs with competitive tuition rates, making them more affordable options for students. One such university is Drake University, which offers an MPA program with tuition rates ($714 per credit hour) that are often more affordable compared to other institutions.

Additionally, the Upper Iowa University offers an MPA program with competitive tuition rates ($607 per credit hour). The MPA program provides students with a comprehensive education in public administration and offers a range of specializations to suit individual career goals.

All MPA Programs in Iowa

School NameDegree Program NameStateCityNASPAA AccreditedOnline DegreeProgram Link
Drake UniversityMaster Of Public AdministrationIowaDes MoinesNoNo
University of Northern IowaMaster Of Public PolicyIowaCedar FallsYesYes
Upper Iowa UniversityMaster Of Public Policy AdministrationIowaFayetteYesNo

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

With a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree in Iowa, graduates can pursue a wide range of rewarding careers in public service, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies at the local, state, and federal levels. Some unique career opportunities in Iowa include:

  • Agricultural Policy Analyst: Given Iowa’s status as a major agricultural state, policy analysts in this field work to research and develop policies that impact the state’s agricultural industry, such as farm subsidies, conservation programs, and food safety regulations.
  • Community Development Specialist: Iowa’s rural communities often seek specialists to help them develop and implement plans for economic development, infrastructure improvement, and community revitalization.
  • Water Resource Manager: With its extensive network of rivers and lakes, Iowa relies on water resource managers to ensure the sustainable use and conservation of its water resources, especially in the face of environmental challenges like pollution and climate change.
  • Local Government Administrator: Cities and counties in Iowa require skilled administrators to manage day-to-day operations, oversee budgets, and implement policies and programs that benefit residents.
  • Nonprofit Executive Director: Iowa’s nonprofit sector is vibrant, and executive directors play a crucial role in leading organizations that address a wide range of social, environmental, and cultural issues.

One notable individual with an MPA degree from Iowa is Tom Vilsack, who served as the governor of Iowa from 1999 to 2007 and later as the United States Secretary of Agriculture under President Barack Obama. Vilsack’s MPA degree from Drake University helped prepare him for a successful career in public service, where he focused on issues such as agriculture, rural development, and food policy.

MPA Programs in Other States