Masters in Public Administration Programs in the State of Tennessee

Cole Neder

Cole Neder

Updated & Fact Checked: 03.05.2024


Being a Public Administration graduate student in the state of Tennessee offers a distinctive blend of academic excellence, Southern culture, and diverse professional opportunities. The state hosts reputable institutions such as the University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt University, providing a solid foundation for those pursuing careers in public administration. Beyond the classroom, students can immerse themselves in the natural beauty of Tennessee, exploring picturesque lakes and hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains, creating a unique combination of academic rigor and outdoor recreation.

Tennessee’s Southern charm extends to professional networking opportunities, with cities like Nashville and Memphis serving as vibrant hubs for government officials, nonprofit leaders, and policy experts. Networking events and conferences abound, allowing students to connect with professionals in a variety of fields, fostering relationships crucial for a successful career in public administration.

The state offers unique job opportunities reflective of its diverse economic landscape. Public administration graduates can explore roles in healthcare management, education policy, and cultural affairs, capitalizing on the state’s commitment to fostering a well-rounded civic society. The recreational activities in Tennessee are diverse, from enjoying the musical scene in Nashville to exploring the iconic Graceland in Memphis, providing students with a broad spectrum of leisure options.

Being near the state capital, Nashville, provides students with direct exposure to state government operations, offering insights into legislative processes and policy implementation. Tennessee’s rich historical prevalence is evident in cities like Knoxville and Chattanooga, where students can engage with the cultural heritage and witness the evolution of governance in the region.

The influence of Southern culture permeates both urban and rural areas, contributing to a unique academic experience. More rural areas showcase the prevalence of local governments, allowing students to understand the challenges faced by communities outside major metropolitan areas. This nuanced perspective adds depth to the curriculum, preparing graduates for the complexities of public administration in diverse environments.

Being a Public Administration graduate student in Tennessee provides a blend of academic excellence, Southern culture, and diverse professional opportunities. The state’s institutions, coupled with outdoor activities, networking events, and a rich cultural heritage, create an environment that prepares students for a fulfilling and impactful career in public administration.

MPA Programs in Tennessee

Studying in Tennessee can provide networking opportunities within the state, connecting students with local government officials, non-profit organizations, and other professionals in the public administration field. Building a local network can be valuable for future career opportunities.

Tennessee is home to reputable universities and institutions that offer high-quality MPA programs. Researching and choosing a well-regarded program can enhance the educational experience and the value of the degree.

There are eight public and private educational institutions within the state that provide Master’s programs in Public Administration. You can find a comprehensive overview of these programs, including details on accreditation, study modes, and costs, for reference here:

NASPAA-accredited MPA Programs

Students in the state of Tennessee seek Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) programs accredited by NASPAA for various compelling reasons. NASPAA accreditation is a hallmark of quality in public administration education, ensuring that the program adheres to rigorous standards in curriculum design, faculty qualifications, and student learning outcomes. For students, this accreditation provides assurance that they are enrolling in a program that meets the highest academic and professional standards.

NASPAA accreditation also signifies a commitment to staying current with industry trends and best practices. Students benefit from programs that prioritize continuous improvement, ensuring that their education is relevant and aligned with the evolving landscape of public administration in Tennessee.

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

Tennessee State University

  • Nashville, TN
  • Online

Modality: Online

Credit Hours: 36

GRE: Not required

Resident Tuition: $549

Non-Resident Tuition: $1,147

Program Overview:
Tennessee State University’s College of Public Service provides a fully online Master of Public Administration (MPA) program, catering to working professionals who can complete the degree in two years. The program, accredited by NASPAA, is the only NASPAA-accredited MPA program in Middle Tennessee. Located in the state capital, the college offers opportunities for students to engage with policymakers, administrators, and nonprofit leaders. The fully online format, taught by experienced faculty with doctorates in relevant fields, emphasizes flexibility for both full-time and part-time students. The user-friendly learning platform encourages interaction and collaboration, providing a dynamic environment for achieving academic and professional goals.

More Details

University of Memphis

  • Memphis, TN
  • Campus

Modality: On-Campus

Credit Hours: 39

GRE: Not required

Resident Tuition: $623

Non-Resident Tuition: $846

Program Overview:
The curriculum focuses on developing critical thinking and analytical skills crucial for effective leadership in today’s public and nonprofit sectors, with a particular emphasis on addressing policy issues and challenges in Memphis and the greater Mid-South region. With a mission to promote responsive, responsible, and professional public service, the program leverages its close ties with the Memphis community, providing students with opportunities to connect with government and nonprofit partners through classes, internships, and special projects. The MPA program caters to individuals at various career stages, offering flexibility with evening classes for working professionals and online formats for added convenience.

More Details

University of Tennessee – Chattanooga

  • Chattanooga, TN
  • Online + Campus

Modality: Online/On-Campus

Credit Hours: 39

GRE: Contingent on GPA

Resident Tuition: $5,394 (per semester)

Non-Resident Tuition: $7,410 (per semester)

Program Overview:
The UTC Department of Political Science and Public Service offers the Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree, focusing on graduate-level training for individuals aspiring to pursue careers in public service. Additionally, the department provides a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management, catering to professionals transitioning into management roles within nonprofit organizations. The MPA program is guided by a mission statement that emphasizes preparing students to be effective leaders, managers, and analysts in public and nonprofit agencies. The program prioritizes the development of core management and analytic skills, the application of theory to practice, and a commitment to technical competence, professional ethics, and the public interest. Active learning, diversity inclusion, and regional service are integral aspects of the program’s mission.

More Details

Online MPA Programs

Enrolling in a remote or online Master of Public Administration (MPA) program in Tennessee offers practical advantages for MPA students. The flexibility of these programs allows students to manage coursework and lectures at their own pace, making it easier to integrate studies into professional lives. 

The geographical independence of online MPA programs is valuable, allowing students to choose programs based on merit rather than location. This flexibility contributes to achieving a better work-life balance, adapting studies to individual schedules and commitments. 

The digital format often results in cost savings, making education more accessible. Online MPA students can continue their careers while pursuing their degree, applying theoretical knowledge to real-world scenarios. Networking opportunities in virtual spaces connect students with professionals and peers. 

Access to digital resources ensures students stay informed with the latest research. Ultimately, choosing an online MPA program in Tennessee provides a practical, accessible, and tailored pathway for personal and professional growth, aligning with the demands of a contemporary lifestyle.

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

East Tennessee State University

  • Johnson City, TN
  • Online

Credit Hours: 36

GRE: Required

Tuition: $579 (per credit)

Program Overview:
The Master of Public Administration (MPA) is a non-business degree that provides an excellent education for individuals aspiring to pursue a rewarding career in the public or non-profit sector. Open to students from any undergraduate major, the MPA is a versatile and marketable qualification for entry into various fields, including city management, urban planning, industrial recruitment, community development, non-profit administration, public budgeting, and financial management. The program caters to working professionals seeking to enhance their education, offering an online format ideal for those with busy schedules. The MPA responds to the increasing demand for trained public and non-profit managers, both regionally and beyond, making it a valuable choice for those ready to advance their career opportunities.

More Details

Lipscomb University

  • Spark, TN
  • Online + Campus

Credit Hours: 36

GRE: Not required

Tuition: $1,091 (per credit)

Program Overview:
The program emphasizes the study and implementation of government policy, a crucial skill set for success in public service. Lipscomb’s MPA coursework places a strong emphasis on leadership development, providing students with a comprehensive understanding of state finance processes, data analysis, and critical thinking for impactful decision-making. The program also offers mentorship from professionals actively involved in state/local government or nonprofits, guiding students toward specific job opportunities post-graduation. The MPA program adopts a small cohort model and a hybrid in-person/online learning system, allowing students to work full-time while pursuing the degree. Graduates can expect to complete the program in 15 months, equipped with the skills to advance their careers in public service.

More Details

Cumberland University

  • Lebanon, TN
  • Online

Credit Hours: 36

GRE: Not required

Tuition: $625

Program Overview:
The Master of Public Service Management (MSP) program is tailored for professionals in public service, law enforcement, and nonprofit social service agencies. With a focus on human relations, management, and research, the program covers essential topics such as cultural diversity, statistics, and media relations relevant to today’s public sector. Instituted in 1996, the MSP program awards the Master of Public Service Management degree, and its graduates began receiving the degree in May 1998. Enrollment is limited, with a two-year program structure spanning five consecutive semesters. While the primary intake is during the fall semester, other students may join on a space-available basis in different terms.

More Details

Credit Hours: 30

GRE: Not required

Tuition: $2,000 (per course)

Program Overview:
The curriculum focuses on ensuring the efficient, effective, and strategic use of resources in local, state, and federal governments. The value of a master’s in public administration lies in the skills acquired, including qualitative and quantitative analytical abilities, policy analysis and evaluation knowledge, citizenship skills, and an understanding of public administrators’ prescribed roles. The program allows flexibility in pacing, depending on the number of courses taken simultaneously.

More Details

Accelerated MPA Programs

In the state of Tennessee, the standard duration for completing a Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) degree typically ranges from 2-3 years for full-time students and 3-4 years for part-time students. However, certain programs in the region provide accelerated and dual-track options, empowering students to expedite the attainment of their degree.

In Tennessee, enrolling in an accelerated MPA graduate program offers distinctive advantages aligned with the state’s unique characteristics. The abbreviated duration of these programs enables students to promptly achieve their Master’s in Public Administration, completing the degree in a condensed time frame compared to traditional programs. This holds particular appeal for working adults in Tennessee, facilitating a seamless integration of studies into their professional lives and fostering a harmonious balance between education and work commitments.

The inherent flexibility of accelerated options proves invaluable, addressing the demanding schedules of working professionals and setting Tennessee’s programs apart from their conventional full-time counterparts. Additionally, the cost-effectiveness of accelerated MPA programs is a noteworthy feature, often necessitating a shorter financial commitment and thereby enhancing accessibility for a diverse range of individuals.

This commitment to efficiency and accessibility resonates with Tennessee’s overarching dedication to providing educational pathways that swiftly equip professionals with the essential skills for leadership roles in public administration, tailored to the distinctive context of the state.

The University of Tennessee – Knoxville offers their undergraduate students the opportunity to participate in an accelerated MPA program. The Accelerated MPPA program allows a qualified undergraduate student to take up to 9 hours of approved graduate courses as a senior and to have these hours count toward bachelor’s electives and the MPPA degree.

For prospective students looking for an online option, students at Lipscomb University can stack classes as a full-time student to finish the degree in only 15 months. At East Tennessee, students can take summer classes to finish the degree in 20 months.

Affordable MPA Programs

Tuition affordability for MPA programs in the state of Tennessee is a significant consideration that involves various factors, including the cost of living, food insecurity, and challenges related to student loans. Tennessee, like many states, endeavors to strike a balance between providing accessible education and addressing the financial realities faced by students pursuing an MPA.

The cost of living in Tennessee varies across regions, and this diversity poses challenges for students. While tuition rates may be reasonable, the overall cost of living can impact the financial burden on MPA students, especially in areas with higher living expenses. The state aims to address these challenges by implementing initiatives that consider the economic disparities within different communities.

Food insecurity among students is another concern affecting tuition affordability in Tennessee. Recognizing the importance of addressing basic needs, universities and programs strive to implement support systems that alleviate food insecurity. Ensuring that students have access to affordable and nutritious meals contributes to their overall well-being and academic success.

Challenges with student loans are part of the broader affordability landscape. Tennessee, like other states, offers financial aid programs and student loan options to assist MPA students. However, there is a growing awareness of the need to manage student loans responsibly, preventing graduates from being burdened with excessive debt. Initiatives that promote financial literacy and responsible borrowing contribute to a more sustainable approach to student loans.

Multiple institutions in Tennessee offer competitive tuition rates for resident, non-resident, and online MPA students. At Tennessee State University, tuition for state residents is only $579 per credit. At the University of Memphis, tuition for state residents is only $623 per credit. For non-residents, tuition is only $846 per credit. 

For online students, East Tennessee State offers tuition at $579 per credit, regardless of your residency status. Cumberland University is similar, with tuition for all graduate students offered at $625 per credit.

All MPA Programs in Tennessee

School NameDegree Program NameStateCityNASPAA AccreditedOnline DegreeProgram Link
East Tennessee State UniversityMaster Of Public AdministrationTennesseeJohnson CityNoNo
Tennessee State UniversityMaster Of Public AdministrationTennesseeNashvilleYesYes
The University of MemphisMaster Of Public AdministrationTennesseeMemphisNoYes
The University of Tennessee at ChattanoogaMaster Of Public AdministrationTennesseeKnoxvilleNoYes
The University of Tennessee at KnoxvilleMaster of Public Policy and AdministrationTennesseeHuntsvilleNoNo

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

Tennessee, characterized by its diverse combination of geographic settings and a spectrum of political ideologies, presents exclusive prospects for careers in public administration. The employment landscape diverges between rural areas and the state capital, Nashville, reflecting the impact of the state’s political dynamics. Below are examples of public administration careers that illustrate these differences:

Rural Area Public Administration Careers:

  • Rural Development Coordinator: Focused on rural communities, coordinators work on initiatives to enhance economic development, infrastructure, and overall quality of life.
  • County Health Department Administrator: Addressing healthcare needs in rural areas, administrators oversee public health programs, clinics, and services.
  • Agricultural Extension Officer: Collaborating with farmers and communities, extension officers provide research-based information and support agricultural initiatives.

State Capital Public Administration Careers (Nashville):

  • Tourism and Cultural Affairs Manager: In Nashville, professionals may manage initiatives promoting tourism and preserving the state’s cultural heritage.
  • State Transportation Planner: Contributing to statewide transportation policies, planners in the capital work on infrastructure projects and traffic management.
  • Legislative Liaison: Serving as a bridge between state agencies and legislators, liaisons navigate the legislative process and facilitate effective communication.

Politics of the State and Associated Careers:

  • Conservative Policy Analyst: In more conservative areas, policy analysts may focus on issues aligned with conservative values, such as limited government and traditional values.
  • Progressive Advocacy Coordinator: In more progressive areas, coordinators may work on advocacy initiatives related to social justice, equality, and environmental sustainability.
  • Local Government Relations Specialist: Addressing diverse political landscapes, specialists work to build relationships between local governments and state agencies.

Tennessee’s political landscape is characterized by a mix of progressive and conservative areas, creating a dynamic environment for public administration professionals. Understanding and navigating these political nuances are crucial for successful public administration careers.

Public administration careers in Tennessee vary based on geography and the state’s political dynamics. Whether working in rural areas to support economic development or contributing to statewide policies and political initiatives in the capital, public administration professionals play a significant role in shaping Tennessee’s future.

MPA Programs in Other States



South Carolina