How to Choose the Best Online MPA Programs

This article will describe what an online master of public administration is, and how you can earn one. It also will detail what you should be watching for as you choose an MPA program. We also will offer accreditation information and recommended online MPA program.

What Is an Online MPA?

An online MPA degree is a two-year graduate degree that is the accepted, professional degree that public service professionals should have that wish to work in middle and senior management and administrative positions.

Professionals who earn their online MPA degree acquire the skills that they need to become a highly competent manager and leader in a government or nonprofit organization. Some professionals with their MPA also may assume leadership positions in private companies, most often in contracting companies that work with a state or federal government agency.

Public administration professionals must possess effective administrative, management and leadership skills to lead people and programs in the public sector.

Some of the skills and knowledge you will gain in an MPA program are:

  • How to implement projects, policies and programs that can solve serious societal problems
  • How to address HR, budgetary and organizational challenges
  • How to use advanced managerial and analytical skills to solve public sector problems

An MPA degree will open the door wide to many growing career options in public services, such as in government, public management, education, environmental policy, health care and human services. More jobs are becoming available in these areas of the public sector because hundreds of thousands of federal workers are getting ready for retirement. It is expected that more public workers will be needed in management in the near future.

The MPA is viewed somewhat as the MBA of the public sector. An MPA program will focus generally on finance, accounting, HR, and administrative management.

The exact content of an online MPA program will vary somewhat by the university. Many of them are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA).

Why Earn an Online MPA?

There are many types of jobs and careers that are open to you with an MPA that could be a great start to a very rewarding career. Many MPA graduates are managers for cities and counties, conduct important policy studies, evaluate public policy effectiveness, help to draft legislation, and devise new ways to deal with public sector challenges.

Some MPA graduates work on developing and administering public sector budgets and also advocate for more public services in local areas. MPA graduates also work in areas as varied as:

  • Homeland security
  • Public safety
  • Public finance
  • Criminal justice
  • Military
  • Social services
  • State legislature
  • Political campaigns
  • Election administration
  • Law
  • Courts
  • Health care
  • Public education

The possibilities are nearly endless with an MPA, and research shows just how many career paths you have available. According to NASPAA, a 2015 survey of MPA graduates found that they were working in the following areas:

  • 23% – nonprofit organization
  • 17% – city, county or local government
  • 11% – federal government
  • 8% – private sector in research or consulting
  • 12% – other private sector
  • 5% – foreign government

The types of jobs that you may have with your MPA will vary, but there is growing job demand in many of them. For example, some MPA holders may become administrative services managers.

These are managers that plan, direct, and coordinate many different services of either public or private sector organizations. Their exact duties will vary, but they often are responsible for maintaining facilities, keeping records, distributing mail and handling other operational aspects of offices and departments.

Job growth in that field will grow by 8% by 2024. One of the factors for this growth is a greater concern about the environmental effects of buildings. Facility managers for public and private sector buildings need to be able to keep buildings as energy efficient as possible to keep with state and federal regulations.

Another growing field for people with an MPA is medical and health services manager. These professionals are referred to in some quarters as healthcare executives or healthcare managers. Some of them are employed in the public and nonprofit sectors. They may manage an entire public sector building or a department.

The job outlook for these workers is excellent as they will see a 17% increase in demand by 2024. There is much greater emphasis in the public and private sectors today on making healthcare services more affordable, which is driving demand for these managers. The median salary is also excellent at $94,500 per year.

MPA Online Programs

Earning an MPA today has never been easier as you can earn your degree mostly or entirely online without going to a campus. It is critical however for you to do your homework as you choose your online MPA program. We recommend that you consider these factors:

  • What is the accreditation status of the university? You should make certain that the university is at least accredited by one of the six regional accreditation agencies that have been recognized by the US Department of Education. Also, you should confirm if the program itself is accredited by NASPAA.
  • How long has the program been offered? Some universities have been offering online MPAs for many years and are highly ranked for quality.
  • Will you need to take your classes at a set time? Many MPA students have busy lives, and need to take classes whenever their schedule allows. If this is you, then you will want to take classes on an asynchronous schedule. Be sure that your program has classes that can be taken at any time.
  • How much support do you receive? You should be able to count on the same level of administrative, academic and career support in your online program as the on campus students receive.

If you keep those four key factors in mind, you should be able to choose a good MPA program to further your career goals.

Online MPA Options

The University of Illinois Springfield has a NASPAA-accredited MPA program that provides you with the administrative skills to work in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

This program is highly ranked: It is rated as #7 among all MPA programs by Bestcolleges.com, and is #6 among all online MPA programs on Thebestschools.org. The program also has been the recipient of awards from the Sloan Consortium for its MPA quality.

Your required courses include:

  • Introduction to Public Administration
  • Organization Dynamics
  • Analytical Tools
  • Budget and Finance
  • Human Resource Management
  • Public Policy for Managers

Accreditation

As noted earlier in this guide, we recommend that you look for program accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA).

Summary

Earning an MPA degree is an effective way to bolster your credentials so that you can enjoy a profitable and enjoyable career in the public or sometimes private sector. It is a very flexible degree that will give you the managerial and administrative skills to excel in many leadership roles inside and outside of government.

Robert Sanchez
Written by Robert Sanchez
Robert Sanchez is HealthGrad.com's Chief Editorialist. Robert Sanchez has over 10 years experience in the Healthcare field and more recently has become an avid writer advising on career and job topics in this exciting field.

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