Home » Business Administration » 7 Essential Questions » Earning Your Master of Public Administration (MPA)

Earning Your Master of Public Administration (MPA)


The Master of Public Administration (MPA) is an interdisciplinary postgraduate degree that draws from several fields outside of the realm of a strictly business administration perspective. An MPA program takes a more humanistic and holistic approach to administration in order to prepare you to deal with issues that affect all levels of the public, and educate you in the social sciences. You'll study sociology, anthropology, political science, public policy, and regional and urban planning as well as more traditional business-related courses in economics, finance and management.

The MPA is considered a professional degree for those who wish to develop leadership and management skills and work in local and federal government and primarily the non-profit sector, though there are careers available in the profit sector as well.

Example of Actual MPA Curriculum

Let's take a look at the curriculum at Seattle University, which states that once completed, Master of Public Administration holders will have the following skills:

  • Able to demonstrate an understanding of public affairs, policy development, analysis, management, and organizational theory as they pertain to public service.
  • The ability to conduct an inquiry into the issue a client is facing.
  • Able to apply critical thinking and the appropriate technology for public policy analysis.
  • Effective communication skills for different groups and audiences.
  • The ability to translate the community's needs into policy solutions and appropriate public actions in order to promote a humane and just world.

Some of the core classes you'll take may include the following:

  • Foundations of Public Administration
  • Human Relations
  • Human Resource Management
  • Understanding Organizations
  • Policy Formation and Implementation
  • Economic Analysis

Additionally, depending upon your area of specialty, you might take classes such as these:

For a Government specialization:

  • Administrative Law
  • Information Management for Government

For a Non-profit specialization:

  • Non-profit law
  • Non-profit governance

Your electives may include courses in oral and written communications, advocacy, budgeting, marketing and mediation and negotiation skills.

How Long Does it Take to Earn My MPA?

Most master's degree and MBA and MPA programs take around two years to complete. Depending upon your personal and work circumstances, masters-level programs can take anywhere from two- to-five years. Generally, however, two years is the average. You can find MPA programs at traditional schools and you can also readily find online MPA degree programs if you need to continue working while you go to school or have family obligations to consider.

What Can I Do with an MPA Degree?

There are many careers you can enter once you've earned your MPA, but it'll be up to you to bring your dedication and conscience to your career. Here is a chart that outlines some of the jobs in each of the most common areas:

AreaType of Career and Employer
Local GovernmentCity manager, financial administrator, budget analyst, social services administrator, urban planner or community affairs manager for counties, towns, school districts and municipalities
State GovernmentAdministrative services manager, legislator or administrator for state government departments, legislative agencies, or judicial courts, such as a supreme court, appellate court or trial court
Federal GovernmentAdministrator, IT administrator, or legislator for federal departments and agencies, accounting offices, offices of senators and representatives, U.S. court system, presidential departments such as agriculture or education; for independent agencies such as environmental protection agencies, emergency management agencies, or other governmental service agencies
Non-profit SectorAdministrator, developer, program manager, policy analyst or researcher for local non-profits and foundations, charities, trade associations or research organizations
PoliticalAdministrator for Political Action, educational or public interest group, for a political party or lobbying organization
BusinessHuman resource manager, budget analyst, sales or marketing manager for a business firm, contracting and consulting firm, association management company
HealthcareAdministrator in hospital, healthcare facility, nursing home or in a social services agency

Source: Career Planning staff of Career Services at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.