10 Best Online MBA in Public Administration Programs [2024 Guide]

By Joy Cromwelle
Edited by Briana Sukert
Updated on June 1, 2024
Edited by Briana Sukert
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An MBA in Public Administration is a beneficial graduate degree for students who want to become leaders or managers in the public sector.

Best Online MBA in Public Administration Programs

Whether you hope to make a difference in your local area or on a national scale, an MBA in Public Administration could help you work toward that goal.

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This degree can equip you with a strong understanding of how to apply business concepts in government or nonprofit settings. You might become a versatile leader who’s ready to rise to the challenge of effective public service.

Universities Offering Online MBA in Public Administration Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

1. Adams State University

Adams State University offers an MBA with an emphasis in Public Administration. The program is entirely online and requires 36 credits. On average, the program can be completed in 2 years. Courses follow a semester schedule, with start dates in the fall, spring, and summer.

Adams State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

2. Columbia Southern University

An MBA with a concentration in Public Administration is available through Columbia Southern University. Up to 18 of the 36 required credits may be transferred into the fully online program. Courses are 8 weeks long. The school offers 11 convenient start dates each year. Potential courses include Public Finance and Budgeting, Public Policy, and Strategic Planning.

Columbia Southern University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

3. Concordia University – Wisconsin

Concordia University – Wisconsin offers the opportunity to earn an MBA in Nonprofit Management and Public Administration. The program is offered online, on campus, and at off-site learning centers. The program requires 36 credits with the option to attend classes online, on campus, and at off-site learning centers. On average, the coursework requirements can be completed in 2 years.

Concordia University – Wisconsin is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

4. Eastern Kentucky University

U.S. News & World Report ranked Eastern Kentucky University as one of the best schools in the country for online learning. The school offers an MBA with a concentration in Public Administration. Up to 9 of the required 30 to 33 credits may be transferred into the program. Courses are 8 weeks long with 6 start dates.

Eastern Kentucky University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

5. Liberty University

Liberty University offers an MBA in Public Administration. The program is fully online. Up to half of the required 45 credits may be transferred. Courses are offered in 8 week blocks and are in an asynchronous format. There are multiple start dates throughout the year. Potential courses include Legal Issues in Business, Public Policy Analysis, and Organizational Design and Structure.

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

6. Southern New Hampshire University

An MBA in Public Administration can be earned through Southern New Hampshire University. The program is entirely online. Courses are 10 weeks long and in an asynchronous format. The faculty offers live weekly webinars. On average, the program can be completed in 2 years.

SNHU is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education, Inc.

7. Strayer University

Strayer University offers the opportunity to earn an MBA in Public Administration through its fully online program. The program requires 135 credits. Courses are 11 weeks in length with 4 convenient start dates. Potential courses include Leadership and Organized Behavior, Strategic Management, and Business Communications.

Strayer University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

8. University of Massachusetts Global

The University of Massachusetts Global offers an MBA with an emphasis in Public Administration. The program is entirely online and requires 36 credits, including 12 in Public Administration. There are 3 trimesters each year, with 2 accelerated sessions per trimester. Courses have synchronous and asynchronous components.

UMass Global is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

9. Waldorf University

An MBA with a concentration in Public Administration is available through Waldorf University. The program is only offered online and requires 36 credits, including 15 hours within the concentration. Courses are 8 weeks long with various start dates throughout the year. Courses include Local Government Planning, Human Resource Management, and Corporate Finance.

Waldorf University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

MBA in Public Administration Programs Online

Woman pursuing MBA in Public Administration Online

Government organizations at every level depend on strong leaders who understand the unique ins and outs of working in a public agency. A graduate degree in public administration can help provide the necessary preparation for this career path.

In particular, you might be interested in earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree with a concentration in public administration. The MBA program will provide you with a solid understanding of advanced business principles. The public administration specialization will teach you to apply those ideas in public and nonprofit settings.

You may study:

  • Budgeting and finance
  • Business law
  • Decision-making
  • Human resources management
  • Levels of government
  • Marketing
  • Organizational leadership
  • Outreach strategies
  • Policymaking

By the time you finish this coursework, you may be ready to run programs and lead personnel in government departments and agencies. You’ll have learned how to work within a budget, put policies into practice, and make a difference in your community.

Some students wonder about the differences between public administration vs. business administration. Public administration focuses on working in the public sector—such as in local, state, and federal agencies. Studies in public administration can be useful for nonprofit work too. General business administration degrees, though, usually prepare students for private-sector jobs.

If you choose to earn a public administration MBA, you might consider becoming a budget analyst for your city, a fundraising manager for a nonprofit group, or the director of a public health department. Some graduates might even be fitting candidates for working as the mayor of their city!

Public Administration Careers and Salaries

Public Administration Careers and Salaries

An MBA can help you qualify for management positions. There are several management roles for which you may be particularly suited when you choose a public administration track for your MBA.

Your background in nonprofit and public work may help you become a community or social services manager. Jobs may be available with local governments, religious groups, service organizations, or residential facilities. Fundraising management is another job to consider. You might work for a nonprofit organization to help it secure the funding necessary for accomplishing its mission.

Your MBA training might prepare you for a career in human resources. With your public administration specialization, you might want to focus on labor relations or public affairs. A potential job title is labor relations director.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for management occupations is $107,360.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Chief Executives $189,520
Human Resources Managers $130,000
Public Relations Managers $129,430
Political Scientists $128,020
Fundraising Managers $107,390
Medical and Health Services Managers $104,830
General and Operations Managers $98,100
Postsecondary Business Teachers $88,790
Budget Analysts $82,260
Social and Community Service Managers $74,240

While an MBA can help you secure a management role, it may also be necessary to have several years of relevant professional experience on your resume.

Healthcare facilities can benefit from leaders who understand public administration. Some graduates might work as a department manager or go on to become a chief executive. There are chief executive roles available in government too. For example, city managers and mayors are considered types of chief executives.

Many different organizations need general managers, operations managers, and budget analysts. You might work for an employer that aligns closely with your public administration background, or your MBA training could help you branch out into a wide variety of other fields, including the corporate world.

Some higher education institutions hire MBA graduates to teach business classes. Universities often require professors to hold PhDs, but an MBA may suffice for teaching in a junior college setting. Public policy is another line of work that’s suitable for this degree. Policy analysts are often considered a type of political scientist.

MBA in Public Administration Curriculum & Courses

students taking MBA in Public Administration course

You can expect to take a core set of business classes that are shared by all students in your MBA program. In addition, there will be several classes specific to the public administration track. Here are some course examples:

  • Accounting and Finance: This course may go over basic principles of accounting and finance, and you might also learn to use financial reports for evaluating an organization’s performance.
  • Change Management: Your MBA program might include a class on getting organizations to change and providing leadership during transitions.
  • Economic Development of Communities: In preparation for leading thriving communities, you’ll study how to encourage business development and bolster your local economy.
  • Government Systems and Structures: You might study the relationships between government agencies and personnel at the local, state, and federal levels, and you’ll also discuss the intersection of administration and policymaking.
  • Human Resources Leadership: Analyzing case studies may enhance your ability to address modern workplace concerns and develop the value of your organization’s human capital.
  • Introduction to Public Administration: There may be a foundational class that helps you understand what it means to be a public administrator and discover which career paths might be suitable for you.
  • Marketing Strategy: You can learn to be an effective manager who oversees each step of a strategic marketing campaign.
  • Public Policy: In a course that addresses how ideas become policies, you may also discuss strategies for solving social problems.
  • Public Sector Management: While you’ll learn many of the same leadership principles as students in other MBA programs, this class will focus on applying those principles in public and nonprofit settings.
  • Workplace Innovation: This course will cultivate your capacity for creative thinking so that you’ll be ready to develop innovative solutions to the problems your organization or community faces.

MBA curricula can vary greatly from one school to the next. Some focus more on leadership principles, and others cover business disciplines like marketing and finance.

How to Choose an MBA in Public Administration Online Program

Friends checking on MBA in Public Administration online

While public administration isn’t the most common MBA concentration, there are multiple schools that offer it. You might consider the following criteria as you figure out which college for mba online is best for you:

  • Accreditation. You can earn the best education from a regionally accredited college. Plus, you may be interested in choosing a school that holds programmatic accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) or a similar organization.
  • Admissions requirements. Some colleges expect you to have earned a business degree or have taken undergraduate business classes before enrolling.
  • Network connections. Networking can make a powerful difference in the trajectory of your business career, so it’s helpful to choose a school that connects you with industry leaders or offers internship opportunities.
  • Online style. You can pick a college with live online classes, 24/7 online access, or a hybrid format with online and on-campus elements.
  • Public administration preparation. In an MBA program, the number of courses that specifically focus on public administration typically ranges from 3 to 5.

Although each college has its own approach to business and public administration curriculum, you can get a high-quality education from many different schools.

Admissions Requirements

Man preparing requirements for MBA in Public Administration

If you are ready to enroll in school for an MBA, then it is time to start sending in application packets to the colleges that interest you.

Getting into business school may require:

  • GRE or GMAT scores (not required for all colleges)
  • Recommendation letters
  • Resume
  • Transcripts from all colleges you’ve attended
  • Undergraduate degree with prerequisite business courses

Some online colleges have generous admissions policies and require only a few documents for admission and enrollment. Others are more stringent and request comprehensive application packets.

Master of Business Administration Accreditation

University offering MBA in Public Administration online

A strategic choice for your public administration graduate degree is a school that holds regional accreditation. You’ll know that you’re choosing a school that’s received the approval of an independent evaluating association.

Regional accreditation gives your coursework and degree more value. Colleges consider accreditation status when deciding whether to accept transfer credits or admit students into doctoral programs. Employers, too, may only be interested in hiring team members who hold degrees from regionally accredited universities.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

MBA in Public Administration Financial Aid

Many students take advantage of financial aid opportunities to help them pay for their graduate degrees or MBA degree programs. The more that you learn about student aid, the more funding you may end up with for your studies.

A common first step in the financial aid process is to fill out the government’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Afterward, you might qualify to receive federal student loans. Based on your FAFSA results, your state might issue you loans too.

Depending on your financial need, there may be a grant program for which you could qualify and apply. While state and federal aid is useful, you can also look beyond government programs for help. Some tuition assistance may be available directly through your school.

Many colleges give out scholarship money to promising enrollees. Plus, you can check into local and national organizations that offer scholarships and fellowships. Finally, you can also ask your employer about workplace tuition benefits.

What Is a Public Administration MBA Degree?

Chief Executive discussing with Employee relations directors

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Public Administration is a graduate business degree focused on the public and nonprofit sectors. Earning this degree involves taking an assortment of advanced business classes. Plus, students in a public administration track also take courses in public policy and systems of government.

In many ways, working as a business leader in the public sector is quite similar to being in the corporate world. In other aspects, though, there are significant differences. For example, profit generation isn’t the end goal of public work. This concentration can help prepare you for the unique demands of public-sector leadership.

What Can You Do with an MBA in Public Administration Degree?

Public Relations Manager in a meeting with fundraising team

After finishing public administration graduate programs, many students become managers. Often, they work for government or nonprofit agencies.

Potential management titles include fundraising manager, employee relations director, community program coordinator, and healthcare services manager. People with an MBA may become top leaders. Depending on an organization’s structure, the job title might be general manager or chief executive.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top executive in a government setting might be a county administrator or a mayor. Some MBA graduates may become educators. For example, there might be opportunities to teach business classes at a community college.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online MBA in Public Administration?

Woman taking Online MBA in Public Administration

Online graduate students can often earn an MBA in 1 to 2 years with full-time study. Just like an online master’s in urban planning, if you want to finish in just 1 year, you can prioritize graduate programs that require 36 credits or less and don’t involve writing a thesis.

Ideally, you could select programs with year-round classes so that you won’t have to take time off over the summer. It can also help to attend a school with 7 or 8 week course terms instead of traditional semesters. Full-time students are usually able to complete school more quickly than part-time enrollees.

What’s the Difference Between an MPA vs. MBA in Public Administration Degree?

If you know that you want to study public administration, you might be asking, “Should I get an MPA or MBA in Public Administration?” The following chart can help guide your decision.

Master of Public Administration (MPA) MBA in Public Administration
  • Features mostly public administration courses
  • Builds on a social science background
  • May allow students to enroll right after a bachelor’s degree
  • Includes business courses and a handful of public administration classes
  • Builds on a business background
  • May prefer applicants to have several years of professional experience

An online MPA program has a narrower focus like online executive MPA programs that focus on leadership skills and traits. If you might want to move over to the private sector, it could be beneficial to choose an MBA.

What’s the Difference Between an MBA in Public Policy vs. Public Administration?

If you want to influence communities, then you could study public policy or public administration during your MBA program. Before deciding, it can help to learn how they compare.

MBA in Public Administration MBA in Public Policy
  • Emphasis is on carrying out policies
  • May include topics like community development and American public service
  • Can lead to careers in management and leadership
  • Emphasis is on analyzing and developing policies
  • May include topics like government systems and economics of public policy
  • Can lead to careers in policymaking and data analysis

If you can’t decide between the two, you might consider a school with a combined programs, such as an MBA in Public Policy and Management.

Is an MBA in Public Administration Degree Worth It?

Community program coordinator discussing with the team

Yes, an MBA in Public Administration degree is worth it for many students. A career in public service is an investment in your community. Getting a graduate degree could help you fulfill this role to the best of your ability.

An MBA in Public Administration can offer you a solid business foundation. You may be ready for careers in the public and nonprofit sectors, but you may also have the option of transitioning to the private sector. Management is a growing field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an 8% growth rate for management positions over the next ten years.

Earning Your MBA in Public Administration Online

student getting MBA in Public Administration Online

If you care about your community and want to make a difference for the people who live and work there, then you might enjoy a public service career.

You can become better prepared for that responsibility by earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Public Administration. This degree will cover advanced business concepts that are useful for both public- and private-sector jobs. You can also gain detailed knowledge about being a leader in a public or nonprofit agency.

You can learn these lessons through an accredited online degree program. If online schooling is right for you, then you could start checking out information on public administration graduate programs today.

Ready to start your journey?