Should I Get an MPA/MBA Dual Degree?

| Amy Boyington

Should I Get an MPA/MBA Dual Degree?

Are you ready to discover your MBA program?

Dual-degree programs allow learners to complete two separate programs at the same time. An MPA/MBA dual-degree program produces graduates with master of public administration (MPA) and master of business administration (MBA) degrees.

Both of these programs develop leadership, communication, and organizational skills. They also prepare students to manage projects, analyze finances, and incorporate ethics and legal principles into their everyday work. Graduates can pursue healthcare, education, and government administrative roles as human resources managers, public affairs specialists, and city managers.

To enter an MPA/MBA program, each candidate must complete a bachelor's degree from an accredited school. Some business schools also require work experience and professional letters of recommendation.

This guide features the top benefits and considerations of earning a joint degree MPA/MBA.

Why Enroll in an Online MPA/MBA Dual-Degree Program?

A standard MBA program lays the groundwork for future leaders to build communication, organizational, and management skills. An MPA/MBA dual-degree program also incorporates policymaking, research, and public administration topics. At the end of the program, students graduate with MPA and MBA degrees.

Because graduates complete two separate degrees throughout their programs, they should expect a longer time commitment. Generally, this dual-degree program takes 2-3 years to complete, compared to an MBA's 1-2 years.

Although per-credit tuition is usually similar to MBA costs, online MPA/MBA degree-seekers may pay more for their entire program. This increased rate is due to the additional credits needed to pursue both degrees. Still, a dual-degree program provides graduates with two full degrees that they can use to increase their career and salary opportunities.

An online MPA/MBA can also develop the following skills:

  • Data Analytics: Administrative leaders must understand how to dissect an organization's data to inform business decisions. Graduates use data analytics skills to manage finances, draft and analyze policies, create reports, and improve marketing and fundraising efforts for their organizations.
  • Policy Evaluation: Administrative professionals address complex policy issues in public and private organizations. Policymaking courses teach learners to move through the process, including drafting policy and analyzing effectiveness. In addition, graduates understand how to compare policies and determine the best approach for the people they affect.
  • Budgeting and Finance: Understanding the budgeting process in public and private sectors increases a leader's ability to make intelligent financial decisions. MPA/MBA dual-degree graduates know how to create budgets using donated funds, craft fiscal policy, and manage finances for cities or counties.
  • Ethics: Professionals must follow a code of ethics to ensure they make the best decisions for an organization, its workers, and the community it serves. An MPA/MBA can improve a learner's understanding of the general public's welfare.

What to Expect From an MPA/MBA Dual-Degree Program

An MPA/MBA dual program builds upon foundational business knowledge that students learned in their bachelor's degree programs.

MPA enrollees study law, ethics, and public and private sector policy. This degree can propel learners into roles as urban planners, policy analysts, and program directors.

An MBA offers more generalized studies of business-related topics, like finance, supply chain management, and entrepreneurship. This degree can lead to diverse career paths, like financial analysis or management consulting.

Each degree includes 30-60 credits and takes 1-2 years to complete. However, learners can typically complete their dual-degree program in 2-3 years, as several courses in an MPA and MBA overlap.

Degree and Concentration Options

Concentrations allow students to enhance their knowledge in specific areas. MPA/MBA dual-degrees offer many options for specialization. For example, schools might offer MPA concentrations in natural resource management, public management, or health policy.

For their MBA, a student might choose to specialize in finance, human resources, or global management. Learners might also earn an MBA in entrepreneurship to develop innovation, startup financing, and networking skills.

Students in dual-degree programs can pursue concentrations in either or both degrees. This process fine-tunes their program to match their interests and career goals.

Some concentrations may have varied prerequisites based on the degree's content. For instance, an MPA in natural resource management might require degree-seekers to have taken courses in environmental science, toxicology, or chemistry.

Curriculum for MPA/MBA Dual-Degree Programs

A few courses in an MPA/MBA dual-degree program usually overlap, including those covering finance, strategic operation, and law and ethics. However, an MPA focuses more on public administration, leading to more courses in public policy, government, and statistics and analysis.

The following list includes a few courses commonly found in MPA/MBA dual programs.

  • Public Policy Process: This course teaches the theory and principles of crafting, voting on, and enforcing public policy. As a capstone, degree-seekers typically complete research projects analyzing current or historical public policy.
  • Business Finance: Enrollees explore the revenue, expenses, and accounting of organizations' finances. Financial management tools allow students to plan, forecast, organize, and improve businesses' cash flow. This course also covers business investing, raising capital, and determining value.
  • Policy Analysis: Determining policy effectiveness is a key responsibility of public administrators. In this course, students work with evaluation tools and data models to evaluate a policy's performance, sustainability, and ethics. They also use their analyses to create workable solutions based on their knowledge of law, ethics, economics, and social responsibility.
  • Research Methods: Some schools combine research methods with policy analysis for more high-level coursework. As a standalone class, students work with digital tools like surveys and descriptive statistics to extract the data necessary to analyze policies and programs.
  • Public Budgeting: Public-sector budgeting differs from private-sector financial management. MPA programs offer this course to help learners understand the roles of long-term financing, capital budgeting, and financial reporting in public and nonprofit organizations.
  • Business Law and Ethics: Learners discover how to manage risk, create ethical policies, and adhere to compliance laws. This course also discusses employment law, social policy, and consumer law.

Admissions Process

To apply for a dual degree MPA/MBA, degree-seekers must apply to and receive acceptance from each school offering the degrees. Most colleges have a business school for MBAs and a school of leadership or public administration for MPAs.

Applicants may need to submit GMAT or GRE scores for either or both schools. Other requirements generally include a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university, a resume, an essay, and professional letters of recommendation.

MPA admissions departments may look for applicants with a history of leadership experience, whether in a job or extracurriculars. Schools may also require candidates to complete in-person or video interviews to best understand their educational and career goals.

Applicants should expect to pay a $25-$75 application fee for each school. Demonstrating strong proficiency in the English language may increase a candidate's chances of acceptance. High scores in English courses or on tests such as the GMAT or GRE can also help applicants stand out.

The ROI of an MPA/MBA Dual-Degree Program

Your return on investment (ROI) measures the value of your degree compared to your costs to receive it. On average, students should expect to pay between $500-$1,000 per credit for about 60-80 credits, totaling $30,000-$80,000 for the program.

When determining the ROI of a dual degree MPA/MBA, you should also consider your time investment, loans, and lost salary. For instance, working fewer hours to invest more time into your education can reduce your salary during your program.

However, there is much to gain from an in-person or online MPA/MBA degree. This level of education can increase job opportunities and salary potential. As of July 2022, Payscale reports an average salary of $71,000/year for MPA graduates and $92,000/year for MBA graduates. Combining these credentials can set candidates apart on job applications, which could make the investment worthwhile.

MPA/MBA Career Opportunities After Graduating

Graduates of separate MPA and MBA programs are well-equipped for leadership roles. By combining the programs, students can enjoy a diverse selection of potential careers in the private and public sectors.

Urban planning blends management and public-sector strategy skills. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a median 2021 salary of $78,500 for these professionals.

An MBA/MBA dual-degree program can also lead to a career in political science, thanks to heavy research and policymaking coursework. According to the BLS, political scientists earned a median salary of $122,510 in 2021.

Here are a few additional careers for joint degree MPA/MBA graduates:

  • Management Consultant: Management consultants evaluate organizations' financial, staff, and operational performance. They use their analyses to suggest and implement improvements. An MPA/MBA graduate's leadership, research, and innovation skills can lead to success in this role.
  • Financial Manager: Financial managers oversee organizations' accounting, taxing, and budgeting systems. Although they often work in the private sector, they can also find employment in government agencies. The certified government financial manager credential endorses candidates with government-specific financial management skills.
  • Community Service Managers: Community service managers supervise the staff and events involved in funding and bringing awareness to community service programs. Their key responsibilities include applying for funding, planning community events, and evaluating the effectiveness of their programs.
  • Fundraising Manager: These managers typically work with nonprofit organizations to oversee fundraising efforts. They coordinate events, manage marketing efforts, and delegate tasks to staff. Fundraising managers may also contact donors, apply for grants, and strategize long-term campaigns.

Common Questions about MPA/MBA Dual Degrees


How much does an MPA/MBA dual-degree program cost?

On average, an MPA/MBA dual program costs between $30,000-$80,000. However, various factors may affect costs, including in-state or out-of-state residency, online or on-campus delivery, and the program's credit load.

Is an MPA/MBA dual degree worth it?

Many graduates find that their joint degree MPA/MBA is worth their time and cost investment. This dual degree can advance salary and career opportunities. It also develops in-demand skills, such as leadership, data analysis, and financial management.

What can I do with an MBA and MPA?

MPA/MBA graduates can access diverse career opportunities. Potential job titles include business consultant, education administrator, or urban planner. Graduates also may pursue entrepreneurial roles in the public or private sectors.

Why is an MPA degree important?

An MPA can lead to career paths in government, business, or nonprofit organizations. Graduates can solve problems that affect businesses, people, and society through innovative ideas and programs. According to Payscale, several average starting salaries for potential MPA careers exceed $80,000, including human resources director and government affairs director.


Featured Image: ArLawKa AungTun / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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