Top-Ranked Master’s in Public Administration Programs

Cole Neder

Cole Neder

Updated & Fact Checked: 05.22.2024

Introduction

Choosing the right Master of Public Administration (MPA) program is crucial for those seeking a career in public service. With numerous options available across the United States, it can be challenging to determine which programs offer the best value and opportunities for advancement.

In this comprehensive review, we will delve into the top 30 MPA programs in the country, evaluating each based on a variety of factors. These include the benefits of each program, such as specialization options and alumni networks, as well as admissions requirements, including GPA and GRE scores.

We will also compare online vs. on-campus offerings, faculty expertise, internship and job opportunities, and peer assessment scores to provide a thorough overview of each program’s strengths and weaknesses. Whether you’re a recent graduate looking to launch your career or a mid-career professional seeking to advance, this review will help you make an informed decision about the best MPA program for your goals.

Choosing an MPA Degree

When choosing an MPA degree, there are various resources that provide the program rankings. One such resource is the U.S. News & World Report, which ranks Master of Public Administration (MPA) programs based on several factors, including peer assessment scores, faculty resources, admissions selectivity, and program offerings.

Benefits and Challenges

Understanding the benefits of each program allows you to determine if it aligns with your career goals and interests. Some programs may offer specializations or opportunities that are particularly appealing to you.

Admissions Requirements

Knowing the admissions requirements helps you assess your eligibility and determine if you need to take any additional steps, such as improving your GPA or taking the GRE, to qualify for the program. Admissions selectivity considers factors like acceptance rate, average GRE scores, and undergraduate GPA of admitted students.

Online vs. On-Campus

Comparing online vs. on-campus options allows you to choose a learning format that fits your lifestyle and preferences. Some programs may offer more flexibility for working professionals or those with other commitments.

Ranking MPA Programs

Researching topics such as benefits, admissions requirements, online vs. on-campus options, faculty expertise, internship and job opportunities, and peer assessment scores is crucial when choosing an MPA school for several reasons:

Accreditation

Accreditation ensures that the MPA program meets high standards of quality and effectiveness. It is an important factor in determining the value and recognition of your degree. Programs accredited by organizations like NASPAA (Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration) are often preferred by employers and may offer better educational experiences.

Tuition Costs

Understanding the tuition costs of an MPA program is crucial for financial planning. Tuition can vary widely between programs, and factors such as residency status, program format (online vs. on-campus), and additional fees can impact the total cost. Comparing tuition costs can help you choose a program that is affordable and fits your budget.

Peer Assessment Scores

Peer assessment scores can provide an indication of the program’s reputation within the academic community and among employers, which can be important for future career prospects. Peer assessment scores are obtained from surveys sent to deans, directors, and department chairs of public affairs and administration programs.

Faculty Expertise

Evaluating faculty expertise gives you an idea of the quality of education you will receive. Experienced faculty members can provide valuable insights and mentorship. Faculty resources include metrics such as ratio, faculty credentials, and the percentage of faculty who are full-time.

Internship and Job Opportunities

Assessing internship and job opportunities associated with the program can help you determine if it will provide the practical experience and networking opportunities you need to succeed in your career. Program offerings encompass areas like the breadth of the curriculum, specializations or concentrations offered, and opportunities for experiential learning, internships, and job placements.

30 Top-Ranked MPA Programs

Here, we provide an overview of the top 30 MPA programs offered by institutions across the United States. These institutions are accredited, offer comprehensive MPA programs, and offer both online and on-campus learning formats. These program rankings are drawn from NASPAA and the U.S. News and World Report:

University of Kansas

  • Lawrence, KS
  • Campus

Modality: On-Campus

Program Overview:
The program combines theoretical coursework with practical applications to prepare graduates for leadership, innovation, and problem-solving in public and nonprofit sectors. The 40-credit hour program is accredited by NASPAA and offers coursework in public governance, policy analysis, creative thinking, problem-solving, public service perspectives, and effective communication with diverse stakeholders.

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Modality: On-Campus

Program Overview:
The Master of Public Administration (MPA) program at Chapel Hill prepares students for leadership roles in public service. It focuses on developing analytical, managerial, and ethical skills for effective governance. The program offers a rigorous curriculum, practical experience, and opportunities for networking with professionals in the field.

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Columbia University – SIPA

  • New York City, NY
  • Campus

Modality: On-Campus

Program Overview:
The MPA degree program is designed for young professionals with a bachelor’s degree and 3-5 years of relevant work or internship experience. Graduates pursue careers in prestigious public, private, nonprofit organizations, or start their own ventures. The curriculum offers a global perspective on policy-making, with courses in economics, quantitative analysis, and management.

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Northern Illinois University

  • Dekalb, IL
  • Online + Campus

Modality: Online/On-Campus

Program Overview:
Courses are taught in an eight-week executive format to accommodate busy schedules, and the MPA degree or certificate can be completed online. The MPA program is available in two formats: MPA online in local government, and MPA traditional, which offers evening classes at two locations.

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Penn State – Harrisburg

  • Harrisburg, PA
  • Online + Campus

Modality: Online/On-Campus

Program Overview:
The Master of Public Administration (MPA) program 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 students. The program also emphasizes general professional development.

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New York University – Wagner

  • New York City, NY
  • Online + Campus

Modality: Online/On-Campus

Program Overview:
NYU Wagner’s Master of Public Administration in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy (MPA-PNP) program prepares students to make an impact in public service by providing interdisciplinary coursework in finance, policy, and management. The program emphasizes the importance of understanding how skills and ideas translate across different real-world contexts.

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Kansas State University

  • Manhattan, KS
  • Online + Campus

Modality: Online/On-Campus

Program Overview:
Graduates are prepared for positions in government agencies at all levels, regional organizations, nonprofits, private firms working with governments, and international organizations. The program accommodates both pre-service students, who gain internships and employment opportunities, and in-service students, who enhance their administrative skills for career advancement.

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University of Georgia

  • Athens, GA
  • Campus

Modality: On-Campus

Program Overview:
The University of Georgia’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) program aims to prepare professionals for effective management in the public sector and research roles. It educates students for careers in government and nonprofit organizations, offering opportunities for those without prior public service experience and for current public sector employees seeking career advancement.

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Arizona State University

  • Tempe, AZ
  • Online + Campus

Modality: Online/On-Campus

Program Overview:
This highly ranked MPA program prepares students for careers in public service, offering a core curriculum focused on managerial and analytic skills. Students can specialize in areas such as emergency management, nonprofit administration, public finance, or urban management. The program is designed for those seeking careers in government, nonprofit, and private sectors, and can be completed on a full-time or part-time basis.

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Syracuse University

  • Syracuse, NY
  • Online + Campus

Modality: Online/On-Campus

Program Overview:
The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs offers a 40-credit master’s degree program designed to prepare students for impactful careers in public service. The program focuses on policy analysis, public management, and leadership skills, and provides opportunities for success in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. The program can be completed in 12 months, with an option for an extended 18-month program that includes an internship.

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Indiana University – Bloomington

  • Bloomington, IN
  • Online + Campus

Modality: Online/On-Campus

Program Overview:
The O’Neill School’s Master of Public Affairs (MPA) program offers a comprehensive education with a strong foundation in scholarship and decades of growth. As one of the largest and most respected schools of its kind, it consistently ranks among the best MPA programs. The program boasts a high employment rate, with 98% of reporting 2021-22 MPA residential master’s students entering employment or continuing education upon receiving their degree.

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Modality: On-Campus

Program Overview:
The University of Nebraska Omaha’s Master of Public Administration program offers a prestigious and practical education for those seeking careers in public service. The program aims to develop students’ intellectual identities and expose them to leaders in various fields.

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University of Illinois – Chicago

  • Chicago, IL
  • Online + Campus

Modality: Online/On-Campus

Program Overview:
The MPA program at UIC prepares students to influence communities through leadership and policy analysis. The program’s multidisciplinary faculty covers various relevant areas such as law, management, political science, statistics, sociology, economics, and more. The program aims to impart skills in leadership, financial management, and policy analysis, meeting the strong demand for professionals with these abilities.

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University of Southern California

  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Online + Campus

Modality: Online/On-Campus

Program Overview:
The University of Southern California’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) program, ranked #4 in the nation, offers a multifaceted curriculum accredited by NASPAA. It prepares students for careers in public administration, provides access to top research centers, and offers specializations in six areas along with opportunities to earn additional certificates.

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Florida State University

  • Tallahassee, FL
  • Online + Campus

Modality: Online/On-Campus

Program Overview:
The Askew School of Public Administration and Policy at FSU offers a prestigious MPA program, one of the oldest in the country, dating back to 1947. The school emphasizes ethical and competent leadership, integrating theory and practice, creative problem-solving, integrity, stewardship, and research and administration skills.

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Rutgers University – Newark

  • Newark, NJ
  • Online + Campus

Modality: Online/On-Campus

Program Overview:
The Master of Public Administration (MPA) program at Rutgers SPAA offers a choice between public and nonprofit management foundations, with flexibility to tailor the degree to individual interests and career goals. The program prepares students for successful careers in government, nonprofits, international organizations, and the corporate sector, focusing on leadership, management, policy analysis, evidence-based decision-making, and public service values.

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University of Minnesota

  • Minneapolis – St. Paul, MN
  • Online + Campus

Modality: Online/On-Campus

Program Overview:
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University of Colorado – Denver

  • Denver, CO
  • Online + Campus

Modality: Online/On-Campus

Program Overview:
The University of Colorado Denver’s Master of Public Administration program focuses on developing skilled leaders for the public and nonprofit sectors. It offers a 36-credit program with options for in-person, online, or hybrid learning. The program can be completed in 1-2 years full-time or up to 6 years part-time.

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DePaul University

  • Chicago, IL
  • Online + Campus

Modality: Online/On-Campus

Program Overview:
DePaul University’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) program prepares students for leadership roles in the public sector, focusing on ethical organizational leadership, public finance, human resource management, and public policy. Students can choose from concentrations in Emergency Management, Health Care Administration, International Public Management, Metropolitan Planning and Urban Affairs, Public Management, or pursue the Standard Concentration.

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American University

  • Washington, D.C.
  • Online + Campus

Modality: Online/On-Campus

Program Overview:
American University’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) program aims to prepare students to lead with distinction in public service, both domestically and internationally. Accredited by NASPAA, the program focuses on leadership in public and nonprofit organizations, public policy, and critical analysis of public administration issues.

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Modality: On-Campus

Program Overview:
The Evans School MPA program is designed to advance careers in the public and nonprofit sectors, offering a transformative experience that prepares students to make a real impact. The program emphasizes thinking differently, acting collaboratively, and leading effectively to find solutions to real-world challenges.

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Cornell University

  • Ithaca, NY
  • Campus

Modality: On-Campus

Program Overview:
The Master of Public Administration (MPA) prepares graduates for management and leadership roles in public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Graduates work in various government agencies, nonprofits, private firms, and international organizations in executive, managerial, analyst, and planner positions.

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Texas A&M University

  • Corpus Christi, TX
  • Online + Campus

Modality: Online/On-Campus

Program Overview:
The Master of Public Service and Administration (MPSA) program at the Bush School of Government and Public Service prepares principled leaders for the public and nonprofit sectors, emphasizing accountability and ethical behavior. Accredited by NASPAA, the program offers a curriculum focused on management, leadership, policy analysis, and research methods.

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Modality: Online/On-Campus

Program Overview:
The Master of Public Administration (MPA) program at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) prepares students for leadership roles in the public and nonprofit sectors. The program emphasizes ethical leadership, public finance, human resource management, and policy analysis. Graduates pursue careers as public program managers, nonprofit leaders, analysts, and administrators.

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University of Pittsburgh

  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Online

Modality: Online

Program Overview:
Prepare for leadership roles in public service with a diverse skill set that is applicable across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Gain expertise in neighborhood development, data interpretation, advocacy for effective local government, ethical leadership, responsible business practices, critical thinking, and problem-solving.

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Central Michigan University

  • Mount Pleasant, MI
  • Online

Modality: Online

Program Overview:
The Master of Public Administration (MPA) program at Central Michigan University (CMU) is designed for public service-minded leaders seeking innovative leadership roles in the public and nonprofit sectors. The program offers a flexible online format, allowing students to complete the 37-hour program in roughly 2-3 years while working full-time.

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Ohio State University

  • Columbus, OH
  • Campus

Modality: On-Campus

Program Overview:
The Master of Public Administration (MPA) program focuses on providing applied skills for leadership in today’s workforce. It offers a comprehensive curriculum covering public policy, economics, management, and data analysis. The program consists of 52 total credit hours, with core coursework (32 credit hours) emphasizing these foundational areas.

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Modality: On-Campus

Program Overview:
The program provides students with dedicated faculty, supportive staff, and a practitioner community offering internships, fellowships, and networking opportunities. Full-time and part-time options are available, with evening classes for professionals and online classes. Funded field experiences and scholarships are also offered.

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Portland State University

  • Portland, OR
  • Online + Campus

Modality: Online/On-Campus

Program Overview:
The Master of Public Administration (MPA) program prepares students for administrative and leadership roles in government and nonprofit organizations. It includes foundational courses in administrative ethics, theory, public policy, law, budgeting, financial management, human resources, and analytics. The program offers specializations in Global Leadership, Local Government, Natural Resources, and Nonprofit Management.

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Northeastern University

  • Boston, MA
  • Campus

Modality: On-Campus

Program Overview:
Northeastern University’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) program is designed for those committed to serving the public good. Students engage in interdisciplinary work and applied research with government and community partners to address emerging challenges in cities and create social change.

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