2024 Best Online Graduate Certificate in Public Administration Programs

By Amy Hayes
Edited by Briana Sukert
Updated on April 27, 2024
Edited by Briana Sukert
Ready to start your journey?

Public administration certificate graduate programs can help individuals develop advanced skills in the public administration sector. These skills could help you enter the public administration field or build upon your current experience.

Best Online Graduate Certificate in Public Administration Programs

If you’re passionate about helping others and strategizing to implement plans efficiently, you might enjoy working in a public administration career.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

A graduate-level public administration certificate program could be supplemental to your current educational experience. It’s also a beneficial path for someone who wants to further their education without committing to a degree program, such as an online masters in urban planning or masters in public administration online or on campus.

Universities Offering Online Graduate Certificate in Public Administration 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.

Ball State University

Ball State University offers a Graduate Certificate in Public Administration that can be earned on-campus or in a blended format. Classes meet once a week in the evenings. The program requires the completion of four courses from the core courses in the Master of Public Administration program. Credits from this may be counted toward an MPA later.

Ball State is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Central Michigan University

Central Michigan University’s Graduate Certificate in Public Administration is available on campus and online. To earn the certificate, students must complete 15 credits from the field of public administration. Possible class options include Labor Relations Issues, Managing Modern Local Government, Public Budgeting and Finance, and Program Analysis and Evaluation.

CMU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Indiana State University

Indiana State University offers a Graduate Certificate in Public Administration that can be earned entirely online. This 12 credit program can potentially be completed in 2 semesters by taking two courses at a time. The curriculum consists of courses like Proseminar in Public Administration, Organizational Behavior in Public Agencies, Public Personnel Administration, and Budgeting in Governmental Agencies.

Indiana State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Liberty University

Liberty University offers a 9 credit, online program for a Graduate Certificate in Public Administration that can potentially be finished in just 6 months. Each course is just 8 weeks long. The curriculum consists of courses like Fundamentals of Public Administration, Public Policy Analysis, and Politics, Strategies, and Initiatives of Community Economic Development. All courses are taught from a Christ-centered perspective.

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

Northwestern University

Northwestern University’s Advanced Public Administration Certificate program is intended for students who already hold graduate degrees. There is one required course, Fundamentals of Public Administration, and then students choose three electives. Courses are available on campus and in an online, synchronous format. Applications are accepted year-round to begin in any academic quarter.

Northwestern University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Old Dominion University

Old Dominion University offers a Graduate Certificate in Public Administration and Policy. Courses are available both on campus and online, and credits may be transferred into a Master of Public Administration. To earn the certificate, students must complete three core courses and one elective. Possible core courses include Administrative Theory I, Public Policy and Evaluation, and Ethics in Public Administration.

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

Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University’s 4 course, online Graduate Certificate in Public Administration program can potentially be completed in just 6 months. Courses have no set meeting times, and students are given around-the-clock access to their coursework. SNHU uses a rolling admissions process. It offers six terms a year, and each term is 8 weeks long.

Southern New Hampshire University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education, Inc.

Tennessee State University

Tennessee State University’s Graduate Certificate in Public Administration Executive Leadership program consists of six fully online courses. The curriculum consists of courses like Seminar in Administrative Leadership, Budgeting as a Management Tool, Organization Theory, and Personnel in Public Organizations. The program is designed to teach how to run an agency efficiently with limited resources.

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

University of Central Florida

The University of Central Florida offers an online program for a Graduate Certificate in Public Administration. This 18 credit program covers public policy, budgeting, human resources management, and more. All credits earned may be counted toward a Master of Public Administration later.

The University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Massachusetts – Lowell

The University of Massachusetts—Lowell offers a Graduate Certificate in Public Administration and Leadership that can be earned entirely online. The program requires a total of four courses and can typically be completed in 9 months. Prospective students can apply at any time to begin in the fall, spring, or summer.

The University of Massachusetts Lowell is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

University of North Dakota

The University of North Dakota’s Public Administration Certificate program requires 9 credit hours of coursework that can be completed on campus or online. The program was designed with working professionals in mind, and its online classes include live meetings once a week. Prospective students can apply to begin in the fall, spring, or summer.

The University of North Dakota is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

University of Rhode Island

The University of Rhode Island offers a 12 credit program for a Public Administration and Policy Professional Certificate. To earn the certificate, students must complete three required courses and one elective. It may be stacked with a 12 credit certificate in public management and a 12 credit certificate in policy analysis to earn a full Master of Public Administration degree.

The University of Rhode Island is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

University of Southern Indiana

The University of Southern Indiana offers a 12 credit Public Sector Administration Graduate Certificate that can be earned 100% online. Classes are taught by expert faculty and feature interactive, hands-on assignments. To earn the certificate, students must complete two required courses and two electives. The curriculum consists of courses like Introduction to Public Administration and Policies and Processes in the Public Sector.

The University of Southern Indiana is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

University of Virginia

The University of Virginia offers a flexible, online program for a Certificate in Public Administration. To earn the certificate, students must complete four required courses and one elective.

The curriculum consists of courses such as Introduction to Public Administration, Public Policy Analysis, Public Organization Management, and Public Budgeting and Financial Management. The program can typically be finished within 1 year if two courses are taken each term.

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

Villanova University

Villanova University’s Graduate Certificate in Public Administration program requires the completion of 15 credits of coursework, including 9 credits of electives. It can be earned as a specialization within an MPA or as a standalone option. Courses are available on campus and online. On-campus courses are 16 weeks long, and online courses are 8 weeks long.

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

Online Public Administration Certificate Programs

Man taking Online Public Administration Certificate

Public administration certificates at the graduate level are typically pursued by individuals who want to further develop their skills and experience in the field. It might help you increase your job opportunities or advance your career if you’re already working in public administration.

It could also be a useful program for professionals with a bachelor’s degree who are looking to expand upon their career options or enter the public administration field. Common topics that are explored in public administration graduate certificate programs include:

  • Budgeting in public administration
  • Program planning and implementation
  • Public management issues and problem-solving
  • Public policy-making

Professionals who work as public administrators don’t typically create policies. Instead, they learn of policies and laws on the local, state, or federal government level and use this knowledge to plan, organize, and implement programs that benefit the public.

Public administration plans could include making improvements to a certain department, such as education or transportation. Public administrators typically coordinate other individuals to detect problems in an area, come up with a solution, and organize a plan of action.

Professionals who study public administration may work in several different industries and learn skills that could be helpful to multiple career fields. A few potential career paths include:

  • Urban or regional planner
  • Public relations specialist or manager
  • Budget analyst
  • Compliance officer
  • Policy analyst

Certificates in public administration can offer individuals knowledge and skills that revolve around project management and leadership.

Public Administration Careers & Salaries

Public Administration Careers & Salaries

Public administration careers can be found in several industries, such as healthcare, government, nonprofits, or business.

Community and social service as well as management are two common career fields for individuals who studied public policy, public administration, or other social services majors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are the median salaries of some of the career paths associated with the field of public administration.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Political Scientists $122,510
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers $119,860
Administrative Services Managers $100,170
Management Analysts $93,000
Operations Research Analysts $82,360
Budget Analysts $79,940
Urban and Regional Planners $78,500
Emergency Management Directors $76,730
Social and Community Service Managers $74,000
Compliance Officers $71,650

Job availability and salaries may differ depending on your location, amount of experience, and level of education.

A public administration graduate certificate might be useful in opening up more job opportunities. It may also help current professionals in the field increase their earning potential. The versatility of a public administration program can be beneficial for individuals who want to learn more about coordinating plans, organizing programs, and managing projects and people.

Responsibilities in public administration roles often include managing public programs and coordinating with other agencies, analyzing policies and resources, and creating solutions for public issues.

Graduate Certificate in Public Administration Curriculum & Courses

People taking Graduate Certificate in Public Administration

Public administration certificate programs typically include core coursework that focuses on public policy, public management, and budgeting.

Here are some courses that may be included in public administration graduate certificate programs:

  • Public Policy Process: In this course, you can learn the processes involved in public policy-making and how to detect issues and come up with solutions for those issues.
  • Issues in Public Management: You can study issues in management of public organizations within government systems and how to improve management in certain settings.
  • Human Resources Management: This course provides you with an overview of the responsibilities and functions of human resource managers and staff in a workplace.
  • Intergovernmental Relations: This course is designed to teach you about the interactions and relationships between local, state, and national governments.
  • Public Budgeting Systems: Budgeting is an important part of public administration, and this course can teach you about the structure of budgeting for different settings.
  • Program Planning and Implementation: You can learn about public policy implementation as well as planning and administering programs based on established policies.
  • State and Local Budgeting: In this course, you are introduced to the principle budgeting functions on the local and state government levels as well as different entities involved in transactions.
  • National Budgeting: This course can help you learn about the national fiscal policy and the process of budgeting on the national level.
  • Organization Theory and Management: You can learn about dealing with different behaviors in the context of a public organization and analyze different theories in conflict, decision-making, and leadership.
  • Administrative Law: You can examine the legal aspect of public administration in this course by analyzing administrative decisions, rules, laws, and regulations.

Coursework offered in public administration graduate certificate programs are designed to teach you about important processes, responsibilities, and management functions involved in the field.

Admissions Requirements

Woman preparing requirements for Graduate Certificate in Public Administration

Admission requirements for a public administration graduate certificate can differ between schools, but here are some common requirements you may see:

  • Undergraduate degree
  • Copy of official transcripts
  • Personal statement
  • Minimum GPA (only some schools require it)

A graduate-level public administration certificate program is designed for individuals who have completed an undergraduate degree. Schools typically request a copy of any official transcripts from your prior education to see what coursework you’ve completed.

Accreditation

University offering Graduate Certificate in Public Administration

The accreditation status of a college or university is an essential factor to consider when researching prospective schools.

A school can become regionally accredited after meeting quality and performance standards set by a third-party accreditor. Credible regional accrediting organizations are recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Attending an accredited institution can help establish the credibility of your education. Some schools only accept credit transfers from accredited institutions. In addition, some employers take the accreditation status of a school into consideration when looking at potential candidates. Attending a non-accredited institution could also affect your eligibility to receive federal financial aid.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Graduate Certificate in Public Administration financial aid

Financial aid can help qualifying students cut down on up-front tuition costs. State and federal financial aid options may be available to students who apply and are deemed eligible.

To see if you’re eligible for federal student aid, you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) through the US Department of Education. In addition to need-based government aid, scholarships may be awarded to select students based on specific interests, academics, or athletics. A scholarship is a monetary award that can be given by a public or private organization.

You can check with your school to see what financial aid opportunities they offer, and you can also see if your employer offers tuition assistance, if you’re currently working.

What Can You Do with a Certificate in Public Administration?

PR & Fundraising Manager discussing with the team

A public administration graduate certificate may help you gain more job opportunities within the field. Public administrators provide public services, and many take on management roles.

Many public administrators work in the government. Public administration professionals also work in the community and social services sector. Skills gained through a public administration education program can also be carried into related careers.

Common careers in this field include public relations manager, policy analyst, budget analyst, compliance officer, urban or regional planner, and social or community services manager, just to name a few. The positions you can qualify for may depend on your prior education, experience, and area of expertise.

What Does a Public Administrator Do?

Administrative Services Manager discussing with the staff

A public administrator can have a variety of responsibilities, depending on the industry they work in. Some may work as a budget analyst for a private organization or government entity. Others could work in the social services sector and help improve their community.

General responsibilities of public administrators include identifying needs of the public or an organization and analyzing policies to create and implement a plan to improve an area or situation. Essential skills that are commonly used in public administration include communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, leadership, and interpersonal skills.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Graduate Certificate in Public Administration Online?

Man pursuing Graduate Certificate in Public Administration online

A graduate-level public administration certificate program may take as little as 6 months to 1 year to complete, depending on how many credit hours the program includes. Some programs include more credit hours than others, which could take longer to complete.

If a program includes 18 credit hours, a student may be able to complete it in as little as 6 months with full-time study. If a student is studying part time, it could take more time to finish the program, much like a part time MPA program. A part time certificate program could take a year or more to complete.

What’s the Difference Between a Public Administration Certification vs. Certificate?

A professional certification isn’t the same as an academic certificate. Here are a few key differences between the two.

Public Administration Certification Public Administration Certificate
  • Awarded to individuals through an industry organization
  • Proves that an individual specializes in a certain skill or field
  • Completed through a college or university educational program
  • Involves coursework to develop advanced skills and knowledge

An academic certificate involves studying public administration topics to enhance your knowledge and skills in the field. Industry certification may be sought after once you meet defined criteria that’s set by a certification organization.

What’s the Difference Between a Graduate Certificate vs. Masters in Public Administration?

A graduate certificate and masters degree in public administration may cover similar topics, but there are some key differences between the two.

Graduate Certificate in Public Administration Masters in Public Administration
  • Non-degree academic program
  • Usually takes 1 year or less to complete
  • Typically doesn’t include a thesis
  • Academic degree program
  • Usually takes 1 to 2 years to complete
  • May include a capstone project or thesis

A graduate certificate program doesn’t involve as much commitment as a masters program, and both academic paths can be beneficial, depending on your goals. A graduate certificate may even count toward a masters degree program.

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

Public administration and public policy professionals often coordinate with each other, but these two sectors aren’t the same. Here are some differences between the two.

Public Policy Public Administration
  • Involves policy-making
  • Has a narrower focus, concentrating on policies and policy-making
  • Involves studying policies to manage programs and policy initiatives
  • Has a broader focus, with various roles and responsibilities

Professionals who work in public policy are typically responsible for gathering and analyzing data and creating public policies that benefit the public. Public administration roles usually work more with the public, research current policies, and manage programs based on those policies.

Is a Public Administration Certificate Worth It?

Political Scientists attending a conference

Yes, a public administration certificate is worth it for many students. If you’re passionate about helping others and want to improve communities, you might find a public administration career rewarding.

Many career paths relating to public administration are expected to see positive job growth in the coming years. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 10% job growth for community and social service occupations over the next ten years.

Public administration might be a strategic career for individuals who like to problem-solve and come up with effective solutions. A graduate certificate in public administration could help you gain skills and knowledge that are useful in several industries and career fields.

Getting Your Public Administration Certificate Online

Woman getting Public Administration Certificate online

A public administration graduate certificate can be beneficial for bachelor degree holders who want to enter the field. It can also be useful for current professionals in the public administration sector who want to further develop their knowledge and skills.

Public administrator positions can vary depending on the industry. You might enjoy a career in this field if you want to help your community or the public by creating plans, coordinating with others, and implementing effective solutions.

If you’re ready to take this next step in your professional journey, you can start by researching accredited institutions to find public admin grad certificate programs that align with your interests.

Ready to start your journey?