Nonprofit, for-profit, and governmental organizations rely on public administrators and policy professionals to create, implement, and evaluate public policy. The business acumen cultivated by top online MBA programs can qualify you for work in industrial, governmental, or nonprofit sectors.
Getting this advanced degree can lead to salary advancement and promotion to upper-level careers. PayScale indicates that professionals with a master's degree in public management earn an average of $73,000 annually.
The guide below outlines the MBA in public administration degree, including potential career benefits, tips for choosing the right degree program, relevant scholarships, and helpful professional organizations.
Here are the 10 Best Online MBA Programs in Public Administration:
- University of Mary - Bismarck, ND
- Old Dominion University - Norfolk, VA
- Northwest University - Kirkland, WA
- Southern New Hampshire University - Manchester, NH
- Belhaven University - Jackson, MS
- Doane University - Crete, NE
- New Mexico State University - Las Cruces, NM
- Adams State University - Alamosa, CO
- Concordia University - Ann Arbor - Ann Arbor, MI
- University of the Southwest - Hobbs, NM
Top Online MBA Programs in Public Administration for 2020
|Rank||School||Location||Cost||Toggle||Logo||Tuition||% Receiving Financial Aid||Student Population||School Type||Description|
University of Mary
|Location Bismarck , ND||Tuition $$$$$||% Receiving Financial Aid 100||Student Population 3,796||Tuition $12,480||School Type Private||
Mary, established in 1959 in Bismarck, North Dakota, enrolls more than 3,800 students annually. The school blends Catholic Benedictine tradition with academic excellence throughout its nearly 80 undergraduate and graduate programs.
The online MBA in public administration at Mary includes 36 credits of core and concentration coursework. The MBA core integrates theoretical knowledge of leadership and management in areas such as finance, accounting, and human resources.
Students also complete nine credits of specialized coursework in areas such as foundations of public administration, public finance and budgeting, and leadership in the public sector. The public administration MBA at Mary builds students' analytical and writing skills, and culminates in a business capstone which requires learners to produce a literature review on a topic of their choosing.
Applicants must provide transcripts from a regionally accredited bachelor’s degree with a minimum 2.75 GPA.
Old Dominion University
|Location Norfolk , VA||Tuition $$$$$||% Receiving Financial Aid 92||Student Population 24,176||Tuition $21,880||School Type Public||
Initially a division of the College of William & Mary, ODU became an independent institution in 1962. With a 335-acre campus in Norfolk, Virginia, ODU also offers educational programs at three regional education centers and online.
ODU's 40-45 credit online MBA in public procurement and contract management includes 36 credits of core classes in leadership dynamics, managerial economics, financial accounting, and information and knowledge management. Additional core courses explore investments and portfolio management, marketing strategy, and international business issues.
Learners complete 4-15 credits of elective coursework by earning a certificate in public procurement and contract management. Classes emphasize best practice acquisitions for public sector organizations and strategic procurement and contract planning.
Individuals lacking undergraduate coursework in business may take pre-core courses in finance, statistics, economics, and accounting. To apply, students provide transcripts, an essay, one reference, a resume, and GMAT or GRE scores.
|Location Kirkland , WA||Tuition $$$$$||% Receiving Financial Aid 98||Student Population 1,321||Tuition $30,420||School Type Private||
Rooted in the Assemblies of God tradition, NU began as a Bible Institute in 1934. Now home to six academic schools and colleges, NU occupies a main campus in Kirkland, Washington; a satellite location in Salem, Oregon; and offers online programming to nearly 2,000 students each year.
NU's online MBA prepares learners for leadership roles through a comprehensive curriculum that emphasizes faith and business fundamentals. Additionally, the public safety administration MBA includes 39 credits that students can complete in as few as 23 months.
The MBA core at NU includes classes in marketing, operations, financial, and project management. Learners study management communications, business innovation and research, and corporate strategy alongside courses in legal and ethical responsibility and applied economics for managers.
Nine credits of specialized coursework in public safety administration focus on leadership challenges, human resource management, and fundamentals of public safety administration.
Applicants must provide transcripts from a regionally accredited bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA for admission. Individuals with a 3.2 or higher GPA receive a GMAT waiver.
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Southern New Hampshire University
|Location Manchester , NH||Tuition $$$$$||% Receiving Financial Aid 80||Student Population 104,068||Tuition $22,572||School Type Private||
Founded in 1932, SNHU enrolls more than 90,000 students at its main campus in Manchester, New Hampshire, and online. Learners can choose from over 200 undergraduate and graduate programs, including an online MBA in public administration.
The 36-credit public administration MBA includes 27 core credits in topics like business environment and innovation, leading in an organization, and business decision making. Students also examine marketing and strategy, accounting and financial analysis, and government impact on business in anticipation of an MBA capstone requirement.
Learners also complete nine credits of public administration courses in intergovernmental relations, strategic management in public service, and foundations of public policy and public administration.
Applicants must submit transcripts from previous institutions. Students can transfer up to 12 credits into the degree, shortening the length of the program to as few as 15 months.
|Location Jackson , MS||Tuition $$$$$||% Receiving Financial Aid 100||Student Population 4,205||Tuition $20,340||School Type Private||
Located in Jackson, Mississippi, Belhaven formed out of the merger of the Mississippi Synodical College and The McComb Female Institute in 1863. Belhaven offers undergraduate and graduate programs from a Christian worldview to nearly 4,500 students annually.
Belhaven's 42-credit online MBA in public administration prepares graduates for careers in the public or private sector. Core MBA classes emphasize quantitative decision-making, organizational economics, business foundations, and the legal environment of business. Students also explore financial analysis, marketing management, and managerial economics.
Additionally, the curriculum includes nine credits of public administration courses such as economics and public policy, public policy analysis, and public and administrative law.
Students must submit transcripts from an undergraduate degree with a minimum 2.8 GPA, or a 3.0 GPA from at least nine credits of previous graduate coursework for admission.
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|Location Crete , NE||Tuition $$$$$||% Receiving Financial Aid 100||Student Population 1,008||Tuition $15,600||School Type Private||
Doane was founded under the auspices of the General Association of the Congregationalist Churches in 1872, and today maintains affiliation with the United Church of Christ. Based in Crete, Nebraska, Doane offers academic programs online and from campuses in Grand Island and Omaha.
The 33-credit online MBA in nonprofit and public administration features a comprehensive core curriculum that integrates classes in managerial accounting, econometrics, international business and economics, and financial management. Learners also study administrative strategy and policy and strategic marketing.
Specialized coursework builds expertise in data, economics, and development policy. Students complete nine credits in public finance and budgeting, fundraising and philanthropy, and nonprofit management and governance.
Most students can earn an online MBA from Doane in 18 months. Applicants provide transcripts from a regionally accredited bachelor's degree for admission.
New Mexico State University
|Location Las Cruces , NM||Tuition $$$$$||% Receiving Financial Aid 97||Student Population 14,289||Tuition $14,400||School Type Public||
NMSU is the oldest public institution of higher education in New Mexico. As the one of five schools within the New Mexico State University System, NMSU sits on 900 acres in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
NMSU's online MBA in public utility regulation offers comprehensive coursework in a cohort-based model. Students complete the 36-credit curriculum in two years. Weekly synchronous online class attendance accompanies asynchronous online content and two on-campus residency requirements.
The MBA core at NMSU includes classes in managerial economics, accounting, and finance. Students complete coursework in marketing management, quantitative analysis for business decisions, and organizational behavior. Additionally, nine credits of public utility regulation courses emphasize regulatory policy and industrial analysis as they relate to electricity, water, and natural gas.
To apply, learners submit transcripts from a regionally accredited bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA for consideration. Individuals provide GMAT or GRE scores, demonstrate at least five years of relevant work experience, or hold a professional certification in accounting, financial management, or management to supplement application materials.
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Adams State University
|Location Alamosa , CO||Tuition $$$$$||% Receiving Financial Aid 95||Student Population 3,110||Tuition $15,120||School Type Public||
Located in Alamosa, Colorado, ASU began as a teacher's college in 1921. Tasked with providing educational opportunities to residents of rural areas in Colorado, ASU now offers undergraduate and graduate programs to nearly 3,500 students annually.
Students can complete the 36-credit online MBA at ASU in two years. ASU's MBA core focuses on leadership skills for managerials, creating consumer value, and financial analysis. Learners also explore fundamentals of managerial accounting, economics, and business strategy.
The curriculum includes 12 credits of public administration courses that explore public and nonprofit management, public budget and finance, and policy analysis. Learners culminate the program by completing a public administration capstone, in which they build a portfolio project.
Applicants submit transcripts, a letter of intent, a resume, and two letters of recommendation for consideration. Individuals need a minimum 3.0 GPA from the most recent 30 credits of college coursework for admission.
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Concordia University - Ann Arbor
|Location Ann Arbor , MI||Tuition $$$$$||% Receiving Financial Aid 100||Student Population 1,197||Tuition $28,860||School Type Private||
CUAA, one of 10 institutions within the Concordia University System, operates under the authority of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Established in 1963, CUAA educates nearly 2,000 students online and at its campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The 39-credit online MBA in public administration includes 24 credits of core coursework in managerial economics and econometrics, applied statistical methods, and ethical and organizational leadership. Additional classes in leadership perspectives, financial analysis, and management science precede a strategic management capstone requirement.
Students choose 15 credits of specialized public administration courses. Options include publicity and public relations, public program evaluation, international relations, and budgeting in public agencies. CUAA also allows public administration learners to participate in an international study abroad or a public human resources administration internship.
Applicants must provide a personal essay, a resume, two letters of recommendation, and transcripts from previous college coursework for consideration.
University of the Southwest
|Location Hobbs , NM||Tuition $$$$$||% Receiving Financial Aid 100||Student Population 951||Tuition $22,500||School Type Private||
Founded in 1962, USW offers academic programs based in Christian values and a servant leadership philosophy. As a nondenominational liberal arts college, USW serves a 21,000 square-mile area in southeastern New Mexico and western Texas.
The 36-credit online public administration MBA at USW prepares graduates for leadership roles with state and local government institutions, nonprofit agencies, and nongovernmental organizations. Students complete 21 credits of core coursework in leadership, strategic resource allocation and planning, and business analytics and econometrics.
Specialized public administration content emphasizes city and public personnel management, public policy and government, and fundraising for nonprofit organizations. The online MBA culminates in an organizational design and strategy capstone requirement.
USW awards transfer credit for professional and military training and experience. Learners may earn a degree in as few as 12 months. To apply, individuals submit a resume, personal statement, and transcript information for consideration.
How We Rank Online MBA Programs
Want to know how we create our rankings? We assess schools based on academic quality, affordability, online flexibility, and student success.
Quality (30% of total score)
|A low student-to-faculty ratio, a wide breadth of specialized MBA programs, and a high retention rate of students returning after their first year are all indicators of a quality university.|
Affordability (10% of total score)
|The amount of financial aid offered factors into a school's net price; this, paired with a low loan default rate, indicates that students may find a school's tuition within their budget.|
Online Flexibility (20% of total score)
|Scores for online flexibility focus on schools that have a high percentage of fully online students, but consideration is also given to schools that enroll partially online students using hybrid programs.|
Student Success (40% of total score)
|Both strong hallmarks of student success, we look for programs with high graduation rates whose students go on to have higher-than-average median earnings.|
What Is an MBA in Public Administration?
Top online MBA in public administration programs integrate standard business courses with public policy-related coursework. Courses in finance, management, and business law cultivate fundamental business skills such as budgeting, project management, and regulatory compliance. These business skills can help graduates land lucrative analyst, management, or regulatory positions in various industries.
This degree also builds advanced understanding of governmental workings in policy analysis and development. This knowledge provides a great foundation for nonprofit careers, such as community outreach coordinator or policy coordinator. Salaries for these and related positions average $40,000-50,000 annually; however, PayScale data suggests that public management master's degree holders garner an average of $73,000 annually.
Why Should You Get an Online MBA in Public Administration?
Students pursuing a public administration MBA online often benefit from flexible attendance options and reduced costs. Many online programs allow asynchronous attendance, meaning students can attend classes during after-work hours. Distance learners save on commuting time and money, and some programs offer in-state or discounted tuition rates designated for online students.
Top online MBA in public administration programs provide valuable skill sets relevant to many career paths. These include transferable skills in cooperation, digital communication, and attention to detail. Students learn to navigate bureaucracies by understanding systems and communicating with other professionals.
Working professionals with a business background can use this degree to change roles within their own company or to transition into a new career path. Since many public administrator roles require advanced degrees, earning an online public administration MBA also proves ideal for public sector employees seeking promotion or salary advancement.
Salaries for public administration MBA graduates vary widely depending on employer and position. Median annual salaries for the sample careers described below vary from $42,000 to $58,000, but PayScale suggests that master's degrees in this subject put graduates into a higher pay bracket.
What Can You Do With an MBA in Public Administration?
- Program Coordinator, Nonprofit Organization
Tasked with promotion, administration, and supervision duties, nonprofit program coordinators oversee projects and initiatives. These positions require field expertise and advanced organizational, leadership, and interpersonal skills. Program coordinators may design programs, generate strategies, and create budgets. These coordinators often hold a bachelor's or master's degree in public administration, social sciences, management, or a related field. They make a median salary of $43,000.
- Policy Coordinator
These professionals use public speaking skills to represent their organization to the public. Policy coordinators collaborate with staff, stakeholders, and lobbyists to produce and implement policy. PayScale data for this position indicates a median salary of about $44,000.
- Community Outreach Coordinator
These coordinators assess community needs in order to design outreach programs and activities. This role typically involves program design and proposal writing. These professionals require excellent interpersonal and communication skills as they represent their organizations, recruit and oversee volunteers, and engage with donors and partners. Community outreach coordinator positions exist at many organizations in the nonprofit, commercial, and governmental sectors. They make a median annual salary of $42,000.
- Outreach Specialist
Much like outreach coordinators, outreach specialists design and implement outreach initiatives for various organizations. These professionals may specialize in areas such as public relations or fundraising and donor relations. Outreach specialists require skills in project management, event planning, and community outreach. PayScale data indicates that outreach specialist salaries usually vary from $40,000-49,000 annually, with a median of $43,000.
- Public Policy Analyst
Public policy analysts assess public needs, research and evaluate policy options, and propose changes. These professionals need advanced policy development and communication skills to identify, create, present, and discuss current and recommended policies. These professionals often work for nonprofits, governments, and public health-related organizations. Public policy analysts make a median salary of about $59,000 annually, according to PayScale.
Online MBA in Public Administration Curriculum
The top online MBA in public administration programs feature business management and public administration coursework focused on assessing needs and designing solutions through effective policy, programming, and management. Program focus areas and courses vary, but the sample courses below outline common curriculum content for this degree.
This foundational MBA course prepares students for budgeting duties, particularly in public sector organizations. Students learn to manage organizational finances and create budgets.
Public Service Ethics
This course teaches students about public service ethics, laws, standards, and practices. Topics may include personal financial gains laws, transparency laws, public resource use, and merit-based decision-making.
This course examines legal issues in business, including tax and nonprofit laws. Students learn about governmental regulations and compliance measures relevant in for-profit and nonprofit organizations.
See More Top MBA Programs
How to Choose the Right Online MBA in Public Administration Program
Students interested in public administration master's programs have a rich array of options. Some students opt for a master's in public policy, which focuses on policy analysis and ethics, while others select a political science master's degree that focuses more heavily on governmental and political systems.
Both degrees focus primarily on the public sector, whereas the more versatile MBA in public administration incorporates business courses that can qualify students for work in private industries. Other related degrees include MBAs in human resources, organizational leadership, operations management, and global management.
The top online MBA programs sometimes offer multiple curriculum specializations such as urban planning or policy analysis. Students should look for curricula that align with their interests and career aspirations.
Prospective students should also compare program structures, timelines, and extracurricular requirements. Many online programs offer various pacing options, so pick a program tailored to your scheduling needs. Busy professionals often opt for part-time programs that allow them to work while earning their degree, while students with more available time sometimes choose an accelerated program format. Extracurricular requirements such as internships or capstone projects should also factor into your program decision.
Public administration programs also vary in quality, so check program accreditation standards before you apply. The best public administration MBA programs typically appear at regionally accredited schools and boast programmatic accreditation from organizations such as the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration.
Scholarships for Public Administration MBA Programs
As you plan out how to finance your public administration MBA, be sure to examine the many scholarships and fellowships available to students based on identity, financial need, and merit. Public administration-related graduate scholarships often look for academically accomplished students committed to public service careers.
Harry S. Truman Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Junior-level undergraduates in the top 25% of their class who plan on pursuing a public service graduate program may apply if they receive nomination from their school's Truman Scholarship faculty representative. Eligible applicants must be U.S. citizens or nationals who demonstrate an impressive community service record, excellent leadership capability, and communication skills.
Amount: Up to $30,000Apply for Scholarship
Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Graduate Fellowship Program
Who Can Apply: This program awards fellowships to 30 eligible U.S. citizens who boast a minimum 3.2 GPA. Candidates must intend to enter a graduate program in foreign service or a related field at an approved school.
Amount: Up to $37,500 annually for up to two yearsApply for Scholarship
Clarence E. Ridley Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This scholarship benefits Texas graduate students who intend to pursue a career in local government. Candidates must pursue a degree related to public administration at a Texas college or university.
Amount: $5,000Apply for Scholarship
Minorities in Government Finance Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This scholarship assists full-time and part-time minority students pursuing careers in local or state government finance. Candidates must pursue a related graduate degree and submit a letter of recommendation.
Amount: $10,000Apply for Scholarship
Walter W. Mode Scholarship
Who Can Apply: ASPA members who are committed to a public service career and enrolled in a public administration graduate program may apply.
Amount: $1,500Apply for Scholarship
Professional Organizations for Public Administration
Public administration professional organizations can help students and professionals develop their career and remain current on relevant policy and administration trends. Professional organizations frequently provide networking events, online platforms, continuing education opportunities, and job boards. Many organizations also conduct research, educate the public, and advocate for the profession.
- American Society for Public Administration Founded in 1939 in response to governmental administration concerns, ASPA provides e-learning programs, a job board, and conferences for public administration and government policy professionals. ASPA's student summit, young scholar's workshop, and founders' fellows programs may appeal to public administration students.
- Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management A professional organization that supports public policy and management research, APPAM provides public policy news, continuing education, conferences, and publications for policy and management professionals. APPAM offers discounted memberships, mentorship, and career and education guidance for students.
- Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration This international nonprofit association of public policy and administration schools aims to encourage public service by enhancing education and training for public servants. NASPAA accredits public policy, public affairs, and public administration master's programs.
- American Public Works Association This nonprofit association of public works professionals and organizations raises public awareness and provides education, advocacy, and career support for public works professionals. APWA boasts several certification programs, events, and networking groups.
- National Academy of Public Administration Chartered by Congress, this nonprofit organization supports analysis of government and public administration trends. NAPA addresses 12 grand public administration challenges and runs several topic-based working groups.