Do you want to start or advance your career with a non-profit, public service, or government organization? In that case, you might want to consider an MPA, Master’s of Public Administration, degree. To help you in your choice for a worthy MPA program, we have curated a list of the best NASPAA-accredited online MPA programs available.
Article Navigation: What Is an MPA? | What Will I Learn In An MPA Program? | Career Opportunities with an MPA Degree | Demand, Job Outlook And Salary for MPA Graduates | MPA Degree Specializations | How Long is an Online MPA Degree Program? | What To Look Out For In Online MPA Programs | NASPAA Accredited Online Programs | Advantages of Earning An Online MPA Degree | Summary
What Is an MPA?
A Master’s of Public Administration (MPA) is a professional degree developed for individuals looking to advance their careers in the non-profit and public sectors.
To attain senior positions in public, government, or non-profit jobs, candidates must have a solid understanding of power and policy dynamics. They must also have financial and business expertise. An MPA degree prepares candidates for such positions through topics such as finance, management, ethics, and urban planning.
What Will I Learn In An MPA Program?
Business & Management Courses
MPA programs are generally broad and cover many areas, ranging from business to management-related courses. Topics covered include grants administration and financial management, as funding and resource management play essential roles.
Such coursework prepares you for top positions in government and non-profit organizations. For example, most organizations seek grants for infrastructural improvement, educational programming, economic development, and community resources. Applying for, winning, and managing these grants are essential for top public administration and non-profit positions.
Urban Planning & Development
On the other hand, the need for urban planning and development experts continues to grow. This is due to the expansion of many cities. MPA courses also cover transportation, natural resources, population growth, and land use.
Local or county administrators design urban projects to improve their regions. For example, local or county administrators strive to enhance their areas through urban planning projects like making a city more pedestrian or bike-friendly. Other changes could be improving access to affordable housing. So, if you aim to take up county or local administration roles, knowledge in urban planning is especially helpful.
Human Resources, Ethics, & More
MPA courses are not limited to grant administration and urban planning. Many online MPA programs also cover workforce development, ethics, human resources, research, conflict resolution, and law.
While these topics exist in textbooks, MPA programs offer much more than that. Students develop valuable problem-solving, communication, and analytical skills during the program.
Career Opportunities with an MPA Degree
An MPA degree represents the peak educational achievement for non-profit or public management professionals. Many professionals pursue an MPA to advance their careers in policy-shaping or people-oriented organizations. Additionally, those seeking to switch careers, especially from the business world, often seek to earn an MPA.
On a more general note, most MPA graduates work in one of two areas – the non-profit or the public sector. Let’s take a closer look at each of these possibilities.
A large and well-known charitable organization often comes to most people’s minds when they think of non-profits. Well, yes, but there is more to non-profit organizations than charity. Non-profits come in different forms and often have a wide variety of objectives. They include organizations committed to human services, health, education, environmental, animal welfare, and other societal needs.
Nonprofit Workplaces for MPAs
Let’s highlight some non-profit workplaces where an MPA could be useful:
- Human rights groups
- Charitable organizations
- Environmental groups
- Advocacy groups
- Local branch of a nationwide non-profit
- Arts organizations
- Skills development programs
- Private schools
- Non-profit hospitals
- Community foundations
- After-school programs
Specific Roles in Nonprofits for MPAs
Specific roles that you could hold within a non-profit include:
- Membership director
- Grants administrator
- Public relations manager
- Executive director
- Program director
- Development director
- Marketing director
- Advocacy director
The Public Sector
Areas in the Public Sector where MPAs Work
Every region, from cities to counties to states, needs managing. Areas that need oversight include:
- Economic development
- Preservation of historic sites
- Federal ordinances
- Local laws
- Booming cities
- Rural settlements
Employers within the Public Sector
MPA graduates find vast opportunities to serve, manage, and hold administrative positions at federal, state, and local government levels.
Employers within the public sector include:
- County courthouse
- City hall
- State administrative offices
- State capitol
- County administrative offices
- Public recreation facilities
- Law enforcement agencies
- City administrative offices
- Chamber of commerce
- Federal government agencies
- Research agencies
- Housing authority
- Transportation authority
- Public utility commissions
Specific Roles within the Public Sector
Specific roles that you could hold within the public sector include:
- Urban and regional planner
- County administrator
- Budget manager
- Recreation manager
- City manager
- Community relations manager
- Emergency management director
- Human resources director
- Policy analyst
- Director of economic development
- Human resources director
The Private Sector
Although professionals with an MPA degree mainly work for non-profits and government agencies, opportunities arise in the private sector. Some private firms work closely with healthcare organizations, government agencies, and other related groups. MPA graduates work to analyze or report on government-related initiatives in cases like this.
Demand, Job Outlook And Salary for MPA Graduates
Just about every time you listen to the news, you hear about public administration in one form or another. This shows the importance of professionals who can analyze issues, propose solutions, understand policy, and meet the populace’s needs. Those employed in this field enjoy job security.
Demand for MPA Graduates
MPA graduates with the requisite skills and qualifications are always in high demand. Data from the Chronicle of Philanthropy shows that there has been a significant increase in non-profit sector jobs in recent years.
The publication also states that non-profits are the third-largest employers in the US. According to an employment report for Non-profits in 2020 by Johns Hopkins, the demand for professionals in the non-profit sector grew three times faster than that of the private sector. The stats show that between 2007 and 2017, there was an increase of 18.6% for non-profit jobs, three times faster than the private sector over the same period.
Government positions also show high demand. For context, the “most urgent hiring needs” section of USAJobs features many listings for MPA graduates.
Job Outlook/Salary for MPA Graduates
We have looked at the previous section’s employment opportunities and workplaces for MPA graduates. However, it is crucial to know whether these positions are high demand. One way to do that is through the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) employment data. The BLS estimates that the average career will see a growth of 7.7% over the next decade. With that in mind, any sector with figures higher than the average career growth rate indicates a higher demand.
Here are some occupations for MPA graduates, the job outlook, and average salary details:
Experts project a 17% growth rate in the job outlook for financial managers between 2020 and 2030. This is way faster than the average occupation. Also, the annual average salary for financial managers is a healthy $134,180.
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers
The estimated job demand is 13%, faster than the average job for public relations and fundraising managers. According to the BLS, the median pay for public relations and fundraising managers was $118,430 for 2021.
Urban and Regional Planners
Urban and regional planners have an estimated job outlook growth of 7% for 2020 to 2030. This growth equals what is available for the average career. Entry-level urban and regional planning roles require at least a master’s degree. The average annual salary for 2020 was $75,950.
Political Scientists/Related Occupations (Policy Analysts)
Policy analysts are categorized under political scientists/related occupations by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The estimated growth rate lies at 9%, and the average annual pay is $125,350, with the federal government paying an estimated $133,460.
Training and Development Managers
Training and development managers have an estimated job outlook faster than the average career at 11% from 2020 to 2030. The average annual pay for the occupation is $115,640, and the highest 10% earn as much as $200,210.
Social and Community Service Managers
The demand for social and community service managers remains relatively high at 15%, almost double the rate for most occupations. The estimated salary for this occupation is $69,600 annually.
MPA Degree Specializations
It is common to find MPA programs that allow students to concentrate on a particular aspect of public administration. Students must take extra classes and other required courses with MPA degree specializations. Some disciplines include human resources management and organizational leadership.
In addition to your online MPA degree, a specialization puts you in the lead in your job search. For example, suppose your job demands direct interaction with employees. In that case, a concentration in human resources will give you an edge while searching for jobs.
How Long is an Online MPA Degree Program?
Online MPA programs typically offer more flexibility and a shorter time commitment than on-campus programs. However, the time it takes to complete an online program varies from one institution to another. Most adult-learner graduate programs span two years. Some institutions offer programs of just over a year in length.
The time to complete an online MPA program also depends on the student. As students can earn their degree at their own pace in most online institutions, the length will vary from one online learner to another.
In most cases, students can pause their studies due to a family vacation, work obligations, illness, and other reasons. This affects completion time and can extend the program much longer than expected. However, the flexibility in an online schedule appeals to many students.
What To Look Out For In Online MPA Programs
An MPA degree can facilitate career growth and personal satisfaction for the right candidate. However, before pursuing an MPA degree, you should consider some factors to ensure you are on the right track. Some of these factors include:
- Your budget
- Whether a physical school or an online MPA program is best for you
- If an MPA program is best for your career goals
Various leadership positions appeal to online MPA graduates. Such roles prevail in:
- Different levels of government
- Multinational organizations
- Non-profit organizations
- The private sector
If you are looking to earn an MPA degree, that’s a step in the right direction. However, there are certain factors to consider when looking for an online MPA program.
Online MPA programs generally include the required courses, along with an internship period, thesis, or capstone project. As a broad field, the coursework in public administration largely depends on the institution.
Online MPA programs differ in cost. The most expensive doesn’t necessarily translate into the best. Before you pick a program, you’ll have to consider your budget.
You can enroll in an MPA program in a brick-and-mortar or an online school. You will want to find a program accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA). NASPAA-accredited online MPA programs generally prepare students for effective leadership in non-profit and public sectors through public policy and business management topics.
NASPAA regulates and awards degrees to graduates of master’s degree programs in public administration, public policy, public affairs, non-profit and related fields. NASPAA boasts of more than 300 member institutions under its jurisdiction spread across the United States and beyond.
Therefore, irrespective of whether you choose to study online or in-person, you want your MPA degree to be valuable. Therefore, you must select a NASPAA-accredited program.
What does an NASPAA Accreditation Provide?
The accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) verifies that the online MPA program meets global standards in public service education. Some of the benefits of NASPAA-accreditation for an online program include:
- Enhanced employment opportunities
- Confirms that the program meets the quality of public service education
- Assures future employers that students possess the knowledge and skills needed in this field
NASPAA Accredited Online Programs
Below we present the best online programs in which to earn your MPA.
Seton Hall University: Master of Public Administration / Non-Profit Management
Seton Hall University offers an online Master of Public Administration / Non-Profit Management. This degree gives students the foundation to become managers or leaders of government or non-profit organizations.
The program equips students with social entrepreneurship, fundraising, grantsmanship, and board/staff relations skills. Students have to complete a research seminar or a capstone project to earn their degree.
Accredited by NASPAA, the program follows the Non-profit Academic Centers Council (NACC) guidelines. Students can finish the program in less than three years. The carefully designed program prepares students for roles such as:
- Social and community service managers
- City managers
- Budget analysts
- Executive directors of non-profit organizations
Murray State University: Master of Public Administration
Those who work full-time find Murray State University’s online Master of Public Administration program ideal for advancing their public administration careers. The NASPAA-accredited program prepares students for management roles in local, state, and federal governments. Courses include but are not limited to:
- Human Resources Administration
- Public Budgeting and Finance
- Research Methods, Healthcare Policy
- Public Policy Analysis
Additionally, students can specialize in public management, healthcare administration, public and community health, and economic development.
Texas A & M University-Corpus Christi: Master of Public Administration
Offered by Texas A & M University at Corpus Christi, the online Master of Public Administration prepares students for an excellent career in public service. The online MPA program offers courses that train students in human resources management, policymaking, administrative theory, data analysis, and public budgeting and finance. Graduates lead public organizations, affect the policy process, and relate with various populations.
Students can specialize in the following areas:
- Public safety
- Public management
- Non-profit management
- Healthcare administration
The online MPA program has NASPAA-accreditation and uses real-world situations to instruct students.
University of Delaware: Master of Public Administration / Healthcare Management
The online Master of Public Administration / Healthcare Management provides a dual degree with the option to earn a nine-credit specialization in healthcare management. The program, through the University of Delaware, offers a unique learning-focused curriculum that prioritizes experience.
Students of this program examine case studies while applying what they’ve learned in organizational leadership. Students complete 36 credits in this 30-month long program. Apart from the regular MPA courses, students can study a curriculum developed by a team of experts. Lectures explore trends on emerging needs in public service. Students learn to use public health data and information technology to improve community health.
Texas Tech University
Through their online Master of Public Administration program, Texas Tech prepares you for a career in public administration or to climb the corporate ladder. Students of this program can specialize in one of the concentration areas offered by the institution. They include:
- Health administration
- Public administration
- Non-profit management
- Environmental policy
Accredited by NASPAA, the program focuses on preparing students for a successful career in public administration. Professors teach some courses in live online classes and others asynchronously (at your own pace).
Advantages of Earning An Online MPA Degree
For those in the public service or non-profit sector, a master of public administration degree is the equivalent of an MBA in the business field. Schools design the programs to shape leaders in government and public spheres. Here are some advantages of an online MPA degree.
Your value automatically shoots up with an MPA degree, and many career opportunities open up to you. MPA graduates can work in various roles, including healthcare administration, politics, international development, education, urban planning, and more.
If you are already working in the public sector, an MPA degree enables you to take on more responsibilities. With an MPA, you can reach beyond government roles. MPA graduates also work for top private companies. Firms like Google, CNN, and other industry leaders often hire MPA graduates for international organizational management roles.
Apart from the wealth of knowledge and essential skills that you gain in an MPA program, you also get the chance to build a network that might extend outside the shores of your country. Most MPA students already work in the public sector. Sharing classes with them means you have access to a vast pool of professionals with different experience levels.
Gain Leadership Skills
An MPA degree helps professionals land management roles that involve managing public resources and people and making policies. As a result, after completing your MPA program, you will be armed with the necessary leadership and management skills to move ahead or take on new challenges.
Postgraduate programs provide an excellent opportunity for specialization. An online Master of Public Administration degree is no different. Here, you can become an expert in an area that interests you. Some areas of concentration include health management, public management, policymaking, international development, and non-profit management.
However, suppose you choose to major in public policy. In that case, you can pursue a Master of Public Policy (MPP) degree instead of an MPA degree.
An online degree offers excellent flexibility over in-person programs. In addition to pursuing a degree at your own pace, you do not have to quit your job or focus on education at the expense of your family. Also, online master’s degrees cost less than traditional degrees and help you save while you learn.
One of the biggest motivations for individuals pursuing a master’s degree is the chance to earn more than their current salary. An MPA degree offers that, too, as most MPA graduates make at least 30-50% more than their colleagues without a master’s degree.
The advantages of an online MPA degree are enormous. They can be the difference between mid-level roles and landing leadership roles in the public and non-profit sectors.
Are you seeking to explore more information around this subject of academic/career pursuits? You can also learn more about master’s degree programs or check out our educational resources to help you with all the information you need to succeed in your chosen career path.