2021 Best Part Time MPA Programs [Campus & Online]

If you want to earn a graduate degree but are short on spare hours in your week, part time MPA programs may hold the solution.

master in public administration

Available both online and on campuses across the country, part-time master’s programs may allow you the flexibility to balance schoolwork with your other responsibilities. Whether you’re holding a full-time job, caring for your family, or juggling other tasks, you may appreciate the option to adopt a comfortable pace for your studies.

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In the end, you may earn the same masters in public administration degree as full-time students, but you may complete it at your own pace with a part-time program.

Part Time MPA Programs

human resource managers interview a job applicant

When it comes to earning a Master of Public Administration, you have options. Some programs are designed for full-time enrollment, but many offer part-time tracks for students looking for scheduling flexibility.

In addition, you can also choose between on-campus and online courses. For a more traditional school experience and face-to-face interaction, you might be interested in attending class on campus. If you’re looking for the highest level of flexibility, then you might appreciate online studies instead.

Part-time programs often cater to working professionals. On-campus or live online classes may be held in the evenings or on the weekends. Many online public administration degree courses offer prerecorded material that you can access as it suits your schedule.

Whichever program format you choose, you may learn to lead in ways that can benefit the public good. Many programs focus not only on government work but also on the influence of non-governmental organizations, nonprofits, and even private businesses.

Your studies may include courses like public sector leadership, administration for public organizations, and evaluating policies and programs. You may also learn how to apply specific business skills—such as human resources leadership or budgetary analysis—to the public and nonprofit sectors.

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Colleges often offer the option of a generalist MPA degree or a specialization track. The concentration selection varies among schools, but you might be interested in public policy, nonprofit administration, or municipal government.

Choosing a concentration for your studies will influence the curriculum that’s required. For example, if you choose a disaster management track, you might have classes like emergency response and risk mitigation. A health administration concentration might include courses on healthcare law and health equity.

Earning a part-time MPA degree, much like with part time MHA programs, may set you on the path to becoming a manager or holding another influential leadership role. Potential job titles include administrative manager, disaster management coordinator, city manager, budget analyst, urban planner, and policy analyst.

Graduates work in diverse settings, such as government departments, non-governmental organizations, nonprofits, and private companies. Many hold domestic positions, but international work may be available as well.

If you are interested in continuing your education past your masters, you may want to look into one of the part time doctorate programs that some universities offer.

Part-Time vs. Full-Time MPA Programs

MPA student

Everyone does not operate on the same schedule, so colleges generally offer a variety of formats for earning an MPA.

Some students appreciate being immersed in full-time studies, and others like the flexibility of part-time programs. With either approach, you may also choose between on-campus and online programs.

Enrollment

Part-time versus full-time status is typically determined by how many courses you take per term. At a college that uses traditional 16 week semesters, full-time graduate work is usually classified as 9 or more credit hours per semester. This generally equates to 3 or more classes.

If grad school is your main responsibility, then you may have the freedom to carry a full-time load each semester. If you’re a busy parent or professional, then you might find part-time MPA studies more manageable. When enrolling part-time, you typically only need to take 1 or 2 classes each term.

Time to Completion

master in public administration student

The more classes that you take at once, the more quickly you may finish your studies.

Most MPA programs require between 35 and 45 semester hours. At a school with traditional semesters, it usually takes around 2 years to complete a master’s degree when enrolled full-time. Accelerated full-time programs may be completed in only 12 to 18 months.

If you choose part-time enrollment instead, your studies will typically take longer. Part-time students often end up spreading their courses out over 3 to 5 years. As with full-time programs, that time often shrinks at colleges with accelerated calendars.

Pros and Cons

Part-Time MPA Full-Time MPA
Pros
  • Flexible night, weekend, or at-your-own-pace classes
  • If working, can apply lessons in professional contexts right away
  • Can spread costs out over time
  • May receive more employer tuition assistance
  • Usually finish in less time
  • Able to focus more intently on studies
  • Eligible for promotions sooner
  • Increased eligibility for scholarships
Cons
  • Longer time to completion
  • May be fewer opportunities to build professional connections
  • Takes longer to benefit financially
  • Coursework demands a larger portion of each week
  • May need to take time off work
  • Program admission might be more selective

MPA Careers & Salaries

MPA Careers & Salaries

MPA graduates often find work in the public sector. Jobs may be found within government agencies at every level, including federal, state, and city governance.

For example, you may work as a regional planner who makes decisions about land development. You may also be an emergency management director who establishes plans for crisis response. As a budget analyst, you might influence how an agency’s funds are allocated.

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City managers and mayors hold some of the most influential roles in local government. The Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies these jobs as chief executives. You may also work alongside government officials to help shape policy decisions or provide valuable insights. In such a role, you might be considered a political scientist or an economist.

Many of the top roles for someone with an M.P.A. degree fall into the category of management jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a career in management pays an average annual salary of $109,760.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Chief Executives $185,950
Political Scientists $125,350
Human Resources Managers $121,220
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers $118,430
Economists $108,350
Administrative Services and Facilities Managers $98,890
Postsecondary Education Administrators $97,500
Budget Analysts $78,970
Emergency Management Directors $76,250
Urban and Regional Planners $75,950

Graduates who have an MPA are often suited for management roles. Some are administrators who oversee an organization’s daily operations. Others head up particular departments, such as human resources or public relations.

Your management skills may be useful in nearly any job setting. In addition to government agencies, you may work for nonprofit organizations and private businesses. While you could look for work in nearly any business setting, you might be particularly interested in a role that relies on your MPA background.

For example, some companies depend on leaders who can deftly navigate interactions with government officials or monitor regulatory compliance.

In the nonprofit realm, some MPA graduates organize programs and coordinate employees in community agencies. There may also be opportunities for you to apply your MPA training as a college administrator, a fundraising manager, or a grant writer.

Public Administration Master’s Curriculum

chief executives in meeting

Course offerings vary from one college to the next, but the sample curriculum below may give you a better understanding of what sort of classes MPA students take.

  • Analysis Practices for Public Policy: You’ll learn how data plays a role in policymaking and investigate the steps involved in crafting new policies.
  • Emergency Management: This class will address ways for government agencies to prepare for potential disasters and equip you to respond when a crisis does arise.
  • Grant Writing Skills: Knowing how to write grant proposals and identify potential funding sources can help you pay for community projects.
  • Human Resources in the Public Sector: The topics in this course may include hiring practices, conflict management, workplace diversity, and employee compensation.
  • Law and Policy: You’ll explore the links between legislation, court rulings, and public policy.
  • Organizational Leadership: Your time in this class may cover leadership theories, team dynamics, and principles for managing transitions.
  • Principles of Public Administration: This foundational course will set the direction for your MPA studies.
  • Program Evaluation: You’ll learn to assess whether programs are accomplishing their goals.
  • Public Finance: Nonprofits and government departments often operate with tight budgets, and this course will teach you to navigate that issue.
  • Research in Public Administration: This course will cover ways to conduct research and use study results to shape plans, policies, and public opinion.

Choosing a concentration for your MPA may affect which courses are included in your required curriculum.

Admissions Requirements

MPA student with laptop

Before you can start a graduate MPA program, you’ll first apply to one or more schools. Getting accepted into a school usually involves compiling a packet of materials that highlight your strengths and achievements.

In addition to an application form and fee, your admissions materials may include:

  • Essay about experiences or goals
  • Official transcripts from all colleges attended
  • Professional references
  • Resume

GRE and other test scores aren’t a universal requirement for grad school admission these days. Some colleges don’t request scores at all, and others may grant waivers to qualified applicants.

Accreditation

Colleges with regional accreditation have received approval from an official agency that evaluates whether schools effectively educate students.

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At a regionally accredited school, you can earn a reputable degree. Other colleges are more likely to accept your transfer credits, and employers may trust that you are prepared for the workforce.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Graduate students may qualify for government financial aid. This assistance may come as state or federal grants or loans. You can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to learn more about your eligibility.

Scholarships and fellowships may be offered through your school or private sources. Sometimes, these programs are open only to full-time students. Your employer may contribute to your graduate studies as well. Workplace funds may be available during each term of your program.

What Is a MPA Program?

Political scientists meeting in a cafe

An MPA program is a graduate degree that can help prepare you for leadership roles in civil service or a related line of work. You may learn to apply business and management principles in government or nonprofit agencies.

Topics studied in MPA programs often include budgeting, human resources, grant writing, research, and program evaluation. As you develop your leadership skills, you may learn to empower teams, organize volunteers, develop long-term strategies, evaluate programs, and comply with government regulations.

How Difficult Is an MPA Program?

Chief executives in office

In an MPA program, you’ll take classes related to business and leadership. Course topics may include management for public administration and finance in the public sector.

Strong writing and speaking skills may contribute to your success. Clear communication is beneficial when speaking with stakeholders or writing grant proposals, so your graduate courses may work on enhancing those skills.

To wrap up your studies, you may complete residencies, internships, or a capstone project. For those, you’ll likely draw on concepts you’ve learned throughout the program.

What Can I Do with a Masters in Public Administration?

PR Manager meeting with clients

Earning an executive MPA online may prepare you to lead and make a lasting contribution in the public sector.

Potential government jobs include urban planner and emergency management director. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, emergency management directors usually make $42,230 to $142,870 each year.

In government, nonprofit, NGO, or private business settings, you may work as a budget analyst, an HR manager, or an administrative services manager. The average annual salary for administrative service managers in government agencies is $95,220.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Part Time MPA?

MPA programs

While full-time master’s programs usually take around 1 to 2 years to complete, part-time studies may require a longer commitment. At a school with a traditional 2 semester calendar, it might take 3 to 5 years to complete the coursework.

Some online MPA programs offer shorter terms for faster studies. With 5 week, 6 week, or 8 week classes, you may accumulate credits more quickly. If you follow this type of schedule year-round, it may take no longer to complete a part-time online program as it would to finish a full-time, on-campus degree.

Is an MPA Degree Worth It?

public administrators in meeting

Yes, a Master of Public Administration is worth it for many students. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, management jobs are set to grow at 5% over the next 10 years, faster than the average for all occupations.

Common public administration careers in this field include administrative services manager, fundraising manager, budget analyst, emergency management director, and city manager.

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An MPA is a versatile degree that can help equip you with an array of marketable skills. You may find career paths open to you in local or federal government, nonprofit service, community improvement, or private enterprise.

Universities Offering Part-Time Master of 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 part time degree programs.

Northwestern University

Northwestern University campus

Northwestern University’s Masters in Public Policy and Administration allows students to develop leadership skills while learning the analytical and administrative capabilities needed by employers worldwide. The masters degree program offers specializations in public administration, global health, and several other areas of interest.

Northwestern University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of California – Berkeley

berkeley

University of California – Berkeley’s MPA degree helps students learn the skills needed to move forward in the business world.

This flexible degree is offered online and in-person and takes as little as 1 year to complete. Immersed in real-world problem-solving and surrounded by strong mentors, Students in UCB’s MPA program engage in innovative studies of ethics, strategy, and economic analysis.

The University of California-Berkeley is accredited by WASC Senior College and University Commission.

University of Southern California

University of Southern California campus

The University of Southern California’s Master of Public Administration program combines research studies and innovative curricula, allowing students to gain a deeper understanding of public administration.

Studying areas such as public financial management, social policy, and local government helps students to understand the inner workings of the industry.

USC is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

University of Texas – Permian Basin

University of Texas Permian Basin campus

The University of Texas – Permian Basin’s part time MPA program allows students to acquire their degree in as little as 1 year.

This program teaches students leadership skills and problem-solving approaches as well as how to address the challenges facing public administration in various real-world simulations. Graduates are equipped to work in public organizations and nonprofit sectors.

The University of Texas Permian Basin is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

University of Washington

University of Washington campus

The University of Washington’s part time masters programs assist students in broadening their understanding of leadership, innovative practices, and public policy.

Their MPA program lets students continue working while getting credit for professional experiences and mentorships. The MPA from UW prepares students to work in various roles in the public or private sector.

The University of Washington is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Getting Your Part Time MPA Online

MPA Online

To advance your career in government, nonprofits, or a related line of work, you may consider earning a masters in public administration.

A packed schedule doesn’t have to keep you from earning a graduate degree. Part-time enrollment can help you balance college courses with your work and family responsibilities. While part-time MPA programs are available on college campuses and online, students often choose the online option for the greatest flexibility.

You can start exploring accredited programs to learn more about the benefits of enrolling in a part-time online MPA program.

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Joy Cromwelle
WRITTEN BY
Joy Cromwelle
Joy is pursuing her Ph.D. in Public Policy & Foreign Policy and holds a Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management, as well as a Bachelor's in Business Administration. Joy's focus is helping non-traditional students find accelerated degree options and credit for prior learning opportunities.