Masters in Public Administration Programs in the State of Pennsylvania

Cole Neder

Cole Neder

Updated & Fact Checked: 04.29.2024

Being a Public Administration graduate student in the state of Pennsylvania offers a distinct combination of academic excellence, historical richness, and diverse professional opportunities. Renowned institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania and Carnegie Mellon University provide top-tier programs, ensuring a high-quality education for aspiring public administrators. Outside of class, students can explore the state’s picturesque landscapes, including serene lakes and hiking trails in the Pocono Mountains, offering a perfect balance between academic rigor and outdoor recreation.

Pennsylvania’s unique historical significance provides a backdrop for various extracurricular activities. Students can immerse themselves in the rich cultural tapestry, visiting historical sites like Independence Hall in Philadelphia or engaging in networking events at the heart of American history. The state’s vibrant cities, including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, offer dynamic platforms for professional networking, connecting students with government officials, policy experts, and industry leaders.

Professional networking opportunities are abundant, with the state being home to a variety of government agencies, non-profit organizations, and corporate entities. The proximity to the state capital, Harrisburg, provides students with direct exposure to state government operations, fostering a deeper understanding of public administration in a legislative context. On the east coast, job opportunities are diverse, ranging from urban policy roles in Philadelphia to positions in healthcare administration and environmental policy.

Recreational activities on the east coast add to the allure of being a graduate student in Pennsylvania. From exploring the scenic Delaware Water Gap to enjoying the beaches of the Jersey Shore, students can unwind amidst the natural beauty of the region. For those preferring a more urban lifestyle, the state’s cities offer cultural events, diverse dining options, and a vibrant arts scene.

Pennsylvania’s historical prevalence extends to its rural areas, where students can witness the unique challenges faced by local governments. The prevalence of townships and boroughs contributes to a nuanced understanding of governance in diverse communities, complementing the academic curriculum with practical insights.

Being a Public Administration graduate student in Pennsylvania provides a rich and multifaceted experience. The state’s academic institutions, coupled with outdoor activities, historical significance, and extensive networking opportunities, create an environment that prepares students for a successful and impactful career in public administration.

MPA Programs in Pennsylvania

Earning an MPA degree in Pennsylvania comes with several advantages that make it an appealing choice for individuals interested in public administration. Pennsylvania is geographically located near major cities such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. This proximity provides MPA students with opportunities for internships, networking, and collaboration with government agencies, non-profit organizations, and businesses located in urban centers.

In addition, Pennsylvania provides opportunities for community engagement through partnerships with local organizations, government initiatives, and community development projects. MPA students can gain practical experience by actively participating in these opportunities.The proximity to Washington, D.C., allows students in Pennsylvania to potentially access federal agencies, policymakers, and national organizations. This can be advantageous for those interested in federal-level public administration.

Individuals considering MPA programs in Pennsylvania have a variety of 10 options to explore, each designed to cater to various preferences and career goals. Pennsylvania hosts reputable educational institutions that provide Master’s programs in Public Administration. A comprehensive overview of these programs, including details on accreditation, study modes, and costs, can be found for reference here:

NASPAA-accredited MPA Programs

Students in Pennsylvania seek Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) programs accredited by NASPAA for several compelling reasons. NASPAA accreditation serves as a mark of quality assurance, indicating that the program adheres to rigorous standards in curriculum design, faculty qualifications, and student learning outcomes. For students, this accreditation provides confidence in the program’s academic excellence and ensures that they receive a high-quality education in public administration.

Employability is another significant factor. Many employers, both in the public and private sectors, value candidates with degrees from NASPAA-accredited programs. This recognition enhances the graduates’ credibility and competitiveness in the job market, offering them a distinct advantage as they embark on their careers in public service within Pennsylvania.

Here’s an overview of the four NASPAA-accredited institutions in Pennsylvania, including estimated tuition costs calculated on a per credit hour basis:

Penn State Harrisburg University

  • Harrisburg, PA
  • Online + Campus

Modality: Online/On-Campus

Credit Hours: 39

GRE: Contingent on GPA

Resident Tuition: $1,923 (per course)

Non-Resident Tuition: $3,231 (per course)

Program Overview:
The Master of Public Administration (MPA) program at Penn State Harrisburg is designed for individuals interested in careers in public management, health and human services, government, and nonprofit organizations. The curriculum combines theoretical and applied concepts, offering real-world experiences for aspiring administrators. The program’s mission is to enhance the knowledge and skills required for effective leadership in public service organizations, with goals focusing on ethical leadership, managerial competence, commitment to public service values, research contribution, and addressing public issues on various levels.

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University of Pittsburgh

  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Online

Modality: Online

Credit Hours: 33

GRE: Contingent on GPA

Resident Tuition: $1,038

Non-Resident Tuition: $1,788

Program Overview:
The curriculum focuses on professional skills such as neighborhood development, data interpretation, advocacy for effective local government, ethical leadership, responsible business practices, and critical thinking. Programs include Master of Public Administration, Energy & Environment, Governance & International Public Management, Policy Research & Analysis, Public & Nonprofit Management, Social Policy, Urban Affairs & Planning, Master of Public & International Affairs, Master of International Development, Master of Public Policy & Management, and Doctor of Philosophy in Public & International Affairs, each offering specific concentrations and degree requirements.

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Villanova University

  • Villanova, PA
  • Online + Campus

Modality: Online/On-Campus

Credit Hours: 39

GRE: Not required

Resident Tuition: $1,260

Non-Resident Tuition: $760

Program Overview:
The program emphasizes ethics, financial management, and strategic planning, providing hands-on experiences to translate theory into practice. With flexibility in learning options, including online, on-campus, and hybrid formats, students can customize their MPA journey. The program offers live, synchronous classes for a dynamic online experience and provides three graduate certificates that can be standalone credentials or a pathway to the full MPA. Graduates of this NASPAA-accredited program work towards addressing public issues like poverty, healthcare, and education.

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West Chester University

  • West Chester, PA
  • Online + Campus

Modality: Online/On-Campus

Credit Hours: 39

GRE: Not required

Tuition: $1,385

Program Overview:
The program offers flexible course options, allowing working professionals to attend classes in person, online, or through a hybrid format. The Department of Public Policy and Administration is committed to providing high-quality and accessible education for a diverse community of emerging and existing public service leaders. Emphasizing public service values, the curriculum focuses on democratic, professional, ethical, and human values. The MPA degree is suitable for individuals with or without work experience, offering a professional foundation in policy and management skills for careers in government, nonprofit organizations, human services, education, and more. The program includes concentrations in General MPA, Nonprofit Administration, and Public Management.

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Online MPA Programs

Participating in a remote or online Master of Public Administration (MPA) program in Pennsylvania presents numerous advantages for MPA students. The foremost benefit lies in the flexibility offered by these programs, allowing students to engage with coursework and lectures at their own convenience. This flexibility is a key asset for those balancing work commitments, as it permits them to seamlessly integrate their studies into their professional lives. 

The geographical independence of online MPA programs is also noteworthy, eliminating the need for students to be physically present in a specific location. This not only accommodates those with diverse travel constraints but also provides an opportunity to select programs based on merit rather than proximity. Achieving a better work-life balance becomes feasible through the adaptable nature of online classes, empowering students to pursue advanced education without sacrificing their current employment. 

Furthermore, the digital format of these programs often results in cost savings related to commuting and accommodation expenses. Online MPA students can continue working while earning their degree, immediately applying theoretical knowledge to real-world scenarios, and advancing their careers. 

The virtual nature of these programs fosters networking opportunities, connecting students with professionals and peers from varied backgrounds. Access to a wealth of digital resources further enriches the educational experience, ensuring that students stay abreast of the latest research and information. In essence, opting for an online MPA program in Pennsylvania provides a versatile and accessible avenue for personal and professional development, aligning with the demands of a contemporary lifestyle.

In the state of Pennsylvania, 8 MPA programs offer a fully online learning option, with four of them being NASPAA accredited. Additional information on the remaining four unaccredited programs can be found here:

Gannon University

  • Erie, PA
  • Online + Campus

Credit Hours: 36

GRE: Not required

Tuition: $720 (per credit)

Program Overview:
The Gannon online Master of Public Administration (MPA) program is a 36-credit-hour program with 24 credit hours of core courses and 12 credit hours in the chosen specialization. Specializations include Administrative Specialization, focusing on business decision-making skills, and Organizational Leadership Specialization, emphasizing vision development and leadership techniques. The program also offers a Customized Track, allowing students to choose three electives based on their professional goals. Gannon’s MPA program prepares graduates for roles in public and nonprofit organizations globally, fostering competence, professionalism, and leadership. The curriculum emphasizes public service values, civic engagement, innovation, and international perspectives.

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Marywood University

  • Scranton, PA
  • Online

Credit Hours: 30

GRE: Not required

Tuition: $880 (per credit)

Program Overview:
With a focus on preparing effective and innovative administrators, the 30-credit MPA program emphasizes practical experiences, vital skills, evidence-based research, and theoretical frameworks essential for navigating the complex public affairs environment. The curriculum promotes civic engagement and public responsibilities on local, national, and international levels. Taught by experienced faculty, including Fulbright Scholars, the program offers flexibility with full- or part-time options. Additionally, Marywood University provides a unique dual-degree opportunity, combining the MPA with the Master of Social Work (MSW), offering a comprehensive approach to managerial expertise and social work skills for a diverse range of professional options.

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Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania

  • Shippensburg, PA
  • Online + Campus

Credit Hours: 36

GRE: Not required

Resident Tuition: $626 (per credit)

Non-Resident Tuition: $648 (per credit)

Program Overview:
The Masters of Public Administration (MPA) program is designed to equip students for careers in public service, spanning local, state, and federal government agencies, as well as nonprofit organizations. The curriculum focuses on general public management theory, techniques, and skills, emphasizing a practical approach to public administration. With a 36-credit structure, students can complete the program at their own pace within one to two years, taking advantage of eight-week sessions during the academic semester and five-week sessions in the summer. The MPA program encourages experiential learning through internships, field research, and elective courses.

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Credit Hours: 34

GRE: Not required

Tuition: $815 (per credit)

Program Overview:
The curriculum emphasizes the institutional, political, and ethical aspects of the public and nonprofit sectors, welcoming both existing and emerging public service leaders. Led by insiders in public administration, the courses prioritize community connection and career advancement. The program allows for customization, offering options to start with a certificate, pursue specializations such as Criminal Justice, Human Sexuality Studies, Local Government, or Nonprofit Leadership, and explore dual-degree possibilities. With a synchronous online format and small seminar-style settings, the MPA degree at Widener promotes active learning through discussions, fostering a diverse enrollment.

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Accelerated MPA Programs

In Pennsylvania, the standard duration for earning a Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) degree is typically 2-3 years for full-time students and 3-4 years for part-time students. Nonetheless, certain programs in the state provide accelerated and dual-track alternatives, allowing students to expedite the completion of their degree.

Engaging in an accelerated MPA graduate program in the state of Pennsylvania offers numerous advantages tailored to the needs of individuals seeking a swift and efficient educational path. The shorter time frame inherent in accelerated programs allows students to efficiently earn their Master’s in Public Administration, typically completing their degree in a condensed period compared to traditional programs. 

This accelerated pace is particularly beneficial for working adults, as it enables them to seamlessly integrate their studies into their professional lives, striking a balance between education and work commitments. Unlike full-time programs, accelerated options provide a more flexible schedule, accommodating the demanding routines of working professionals. 

Additionally, the cost-effectiveness of accelerated MPA programs is a notable advantage, often requiring a shorter duration of financial commitment, making advanced education more accessible. Beyond time and cost considerations, the accelerated format ensures that individuals rapidly acquire the essential skills and knowledge needed for leadership roles in public administration, aligning with the dynamic and fast-paced nature of the state of Pennsylvania.

There are significant opportunities in the state of Pennsylvania for mid-career professionals to attend accelerated MPA programs. University of Pennsylvania has a mid-career option with only 30 credits for individuals who have five or more years of professional work experience. Marywood University also offers an Executive Master of Public Administration degree option (EMPA). This path is specifically designed for career professionals who are seeking graduate education that can be finished with only 27 credits. Both of these programs can be finished within one year of enrollment.

Affordable MPA Programs

Tuition affordability for MPA programs in the state of Pennsylvania is a crucial aspect of the higher education landscape, with student loans playing a significant role in shaping the economic prospects of students. While Pennsylvania is committed to providing accessible education, the burden of student loans can hinder the economic well-being of graduates.

Student loans, when not managed carefully, can become a considerable financial challenge for MPA students in Pennsylvania. The debt accumulated during graduate studies can impact graduates’ ability to pursue economic opportunities, such as homeownership, entrepreneurship, or other investments. Managing student loan repayment can pose challenges, especially if graduates enter fields with lower salary expectations or if economic conditions are uncertain.

The financial challenges associated with pursuing higher education in Pennsylvania extend beyond tuition costs to encompass factors such as cost of living, textbook expenses, and other ancillary costs. These challenges can contribute to the overall financial burden on students, affecting their financial stability even after completing their MPA programs.

Furthermore, Pennsylvania recognizes the importance of addressing the broader economic impact of student loans. Initiatives aimed at promoting financial literacy, responsible borrowing, and loan repayment assistance are crucial components of the state’s efforts to mitigate the adverse effects of student loans on economic prospects.

Prospective MPA students looking for an online program have multiple affordable options. At Gannon University, online tuition is only $720 per credit. At the NASPAA-accredited Villanova, online tuition is $760 per credit, lower than $1,260 for their in-person class option. For state residents of Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburg offers tuition at $1,038 per credit.

All MPA Programs in Pennsylvania

School NameDegree Program NameStateCityNASPAA AccreditedOnline DegreeProgram Link
Carnegie Mellon UniversityMaster of Science in Public Policy and ManagementPennsylvaniaPittsburghNoNo
Carnegie Mellon UniversityMaster Of Public ManagementPennsylvaniaPittsburghNoNo
Drexel UniversityMaster of Science in Public PolicyPennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaNoNo
Marywood UniversityMaster Of Public AdministrationPennsylvaniaScrantonYesNo
Penn State HarrisburgMaster Of Public AdministrationPennsylvaniaMiddletownYesYes
Penn State, University ParkMaster Of Public PolicyPennsylvaniaState CollegeNoNo
Shippensburg UniversityMaster Of Public AdministrationPennsylvaniaShippensburgNoNo
The University of PennsylvaniaMaster Of Public AdministrationPennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaNoNo
University of PittsburghMaster Of International DevelopmentPennsylvaniaPittsburghNoNo
University of PittsburghMaster of Public and International AffairsPennsylvaniaPittsburghNoNo
University of PittsburghMaster Of Public AdministrationPennsylvaniaPittsburghNoYes
Villanova UniversityMaster Of Public AdministrationPennsylvaniaVillanovaYesYes
West Chester UniversityMaster Of Public AdministrationPennsylvaniaWest ChesterNoYes
Widener UniversityMaster Of Public AdministrationPennsylvaniaChesterNoNo

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

Pennsylvania, with its diverse landscapes and urban-rural mix, offers a range of public administration careers. Careers can vary between rural areas and the state capital, Harrisburg, and are influenced by the state’s political dynamics. Here are some public administration careers that showcase these distinctions:

Rural Area Public Administration Careers:

  • Agricultural Development Specialist: In rural regions, specialists work to support and enhance agricultural practices, collaborating with farmers and communities.
  • County Emergency Management Coordinator: Addressing unique challenges in rural areas, coordinators focus on disaster preparedness and response at the county level.
  • Community and Economic Development Planner: Working to revitalize rural communities, planners focus on strategies for economic growth, infrastructure improvement, and community well-being.

State Capital Public Administration Careers (Harrisburg):

  • State Historic Preservation Officer: In Harrisburg, professionals may work to preserve and promote the state’s historical and cultural heritage.
  • State Government Relations Manager: Managing relationships between state agencies and legislators, these professionals navigate the legislative process and advocate for policy priorities.
  • Health Policy Analyst: Analyzing and developing health policies at the state level, analysts contribute to the improvement of public health outcomes.

Politics of the State and Associated Careers:

  • Political Consultant: Given Pennsylvania’s role as a key swing state, political consultants work on political campaigns, providing strategic advice and communication expertise.
  • Ethics Commission Investigator: Ensuring ethical conduct in government, investigators play a crucial role in maintaining public trust and transparency.
  • Intergovernmental Relations Specialist: Addressing intergovernmental issues, specialists work to foster collaboration between state and local governments.

The political environment in Pennsylvania reflects a blend of urban and rural concerns. Being a swing state, Pennsylvania holds substantial sway in national politics, emphasizing the relevance of careers in government relations and political consulting.

The landscape of public administration careers in Pennsylvania is shaped by geographical diversity and the ever-changing political dynamics of the state. Whether engaged in fostering agriculture and community development in rural areas or influencing statewide policies and political campaigns in the capital, public administration professionals are pivotal in molding the future of Pennsylvania.

MPA Programs in Other States