Who Should Enroll in an Online MPA Program?
Many people start in public service with just a bachelor’s degree or even less education. While there are many positions that give workers on-the-job training that will help them advance and gain new skills, to rise above and continue to advance your career, you often need to add an MPA to your credentials. Not only can an MPA help you climb to the top in the field of management, but it can provide you with new skills and connections that will make your current job or next job easier.
An MPA can also be a degree for someone with no public service experience who wants to begin or switch careers to work in nonprofit or government management. While some programs are specifically designed for those who already work in public administration, many will also allow people new to the field to study, though newbies may be required to complete an internship to gain hands-on experience in the field while they study. Many people return to school to study towards an MPA, making this a great networking opportunity for mid-career administrators. Online classes provide opportunities for students to work together to solve problems, interact in discussions, and learn from each other’s experiences.
For those who are already working or have family obligations that make it hard to attend a university program, an online MPA can be earned from wherever you live, often completely on your own schedule. With online classes, many can be accessed when it is convenient for you, or asynchronously. Some courses may require you to attend at specific time for videoconference lectures or discussions, and a few programs will also require one or two brief on-campus residency portions to complete the program. But the online MPAs are designed to allow you to continue in your regular life while earning an advanced degree. Some programs allow you to combine online courses and weekend or evening on-campus classes to suit your preferences.
There are some programs, executive MPA degree programs, that are designed only for very experienced public service or nonprofit administrators. To go through a program with other very advanced manager can be a great experience, as while all your peers will be experienced, they will likely have completely different fields of experience. These programs, like other online MPA programs, are designed with fulltime working professionals in mind, so plenty of flexibility is built in.
What to Expect in an Online MPA Program
All MPA programs will have some required core courses in basic management skills including budgeting, finance, human resource management, analysis, information management, public administration, and organizational theory, among other subjects. Many programs will also allow you to have an area of concentration, such as nonprofit management, urban planning, emergency management, health policy, or any number of other special areas. Some programs will allow you to take courses outside the department to customize a degree to your exact interests. With an online degree, if you have a specific job area you want to pursue, like criminal justice administration, you can study one of the programs with that concentration no matter whether it is in your city or across the country.
Students required to perform internships will often do this towards the latter half of their training. Most programs also have a capstone or research project as a culminating experience. These projects are developed in consultation with faculty and sometimes presented in person at an end-of-program residency. A few programs will require a comprehensive exam before graduating.
Which MPA Degree Do I Need?
If you are drawn to public service, you can begin your career with just a bachelor’s degree, and for many positions, this may be all you need. For higher management positions, and to feel completely competent in a public service or nonprofit administration position, an MPA can really take your career to the next level. While any online MPA program can be perfect for even a very experienced public servant, an executive MPA can be great for networking with other experienced administrators. When you are choosing further education, you may have many different considerations, but among them will be the particular concentrations or focus of a program. Online programs make education more convenient, but you still need to consider the time requirements and options of each program to make sure it will fit well into your family and work situation. Consult our ranking of the most affordable online MPA programs available.
Another consideration as you think about getting another credential to advance your career is the credibility of the degree program. Programs that are accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) will meet stringent standards. The NASPAA is the nonprofit that oversees the global standards for public service education. An NASPAA accredited program can give you the extra peace of mind in knowing that your program has gone through rigorous examination to become accredited. Plus, the NASPAA accreditation adds prestige to the credential you will receive with your MPA.
39 NASPAA Accredited Online MPA Programs
These master of public administration programs are available at least 80% online and hold programmatic accreditation from NASPAA.