Top Accredited Online Public Administration Degree Programs

What is a Public Administration Degree?

A public administration degree is a business degree. It studies social issues and how to apply policy to meet the goals of governments and the needs of people.

Online public administration degrees are available at all levels. But the most common are at the bachelor's and master's levels. They are usually for those who want to pursue a career in local, state or national government.

Bachelors programs often cover basics. Like how to manage people, projects and operations. Master of Public Administration programs go deeper. They look at the skills needed to run public programs or drive policy changes.

Bachelor of Science in Business Administration – Public Administration

Bachelor of Arts in Public Sector Management

Bachelor of Science in Public Administration

The BSBA program covers the basics of business management, leadership and operations. In other facets, students learn key aspects of finance, accounting, and statistics. The curriculum also looks at how to manage multicultural teams in a global market place. With a choice of 10 areas of concentration, one has the option to focus on interests.

The BA in PSM is a degree completion program. It covers principles of management that relate to the public sector and ways to put them to use.

There is an internship towards the end where students might work in an agency setting to gain experience.

This program is available as a BA or BS. The course material draws from many disciplines to help students develop problem solving skills they can apply to the public sector. It also builds an understanding of politics and policy making with other classes covering economics.

  • Grant Writing Basics
  • State and Local Government
  • Administrative Law
  • Advanced Public Speaking
  • Leadership, Power, Politics
  • Strategic Human Relations Management
  • American Government
  • Business Communication
  • Micro/Macro Economics

Programmatic accreditation through the ACBSP – Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.

No specific accreditation other than regional through WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges).

Programmatic accreditation through the AACSB – Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

Public Administration Degree Programs

At the bachelor's level, a public administration degree is usually a business program. For instance, a BS in business administration with a public administration focus.

When this is the case, the main part of the study plan may cover all aspects of business. These may be basic courses at first that look at the day to day practices of corporate life.

On top of managerial themes, you are also likely to study how government operates. This means you will often study politics and the legislative process in the United States. Some programs also cover policy analysis and administrative law.

Here are a few examples of public administration classes. The names will change from school to school. But you can extract some common themes.

  • Introduction to Public Policy
  • Social Science Research Methods
  • Fundamentals of Policy Analysis
  • Group Communication
  • Management Skills Development

Bachelor of Arts – Public Sector Management (PSM)

A bachelors in PSM program may draw on analytics, concepts and practical methods. It may also culminate in an internship or field study. Some of the courses relate to management. How to deal with staff and organizational issues. Yet others tackle politics, public policy and policy implementation.

Bachelor of Science – Public Administration

A BS-PA program helps students about management for local, state, or federal levels. At the center of the curriculum, you will often find many topics relating to analysis. These deal with the economy and finance. You will also typically study the nature of politics and policy-making.

Master of Public Administration

The MPA is a professional master's degree. It is for those who want to grow as leaders. Most students are seeking to work in local and federal government and the non-profit sector.

The focus of the courses is on building managerial skills. For instance, how to be good at managing people, projects and resources. You may also study business courses like economics, finance and the use of data for decisions.

But most programs cover other topics too. These may inform you how to translate community needs into policy solutions. So, to round things out, you will often study regional and urban planning. Sociology, anthropology, political science and public policy as well.

Course names vary between schools. Yet the following sample MPA degrees give you a peek inside a typical study plan.

  • Public Administration and Management
  • Leadership in the Public Sector
  • Finance and the Administration of Public Funds
  • Human Resource Management in the Public Sector

MPA graduates might continue studying at the doctoral level. A Doctor of Public Administration (DPA) is a terminal degree for professionals. It may help you apply what you know. For instance, to create change government, nonprofits, or other policy organizations.

Master of Science in Criminal Justice – Public Management and Leadership

This program exposes students to the field of criminal justice. You will likely look at law enforcement, the courts and corrections. How they function, and how they interact at local, state and federal levels. While studying the ways criminals behave, you may build specific managerial skills. Elements like victimology and homeland security may also be central.

How Long Does It Take to earn a Public Administration Degree?

A Bachelor’s degree in public administration often entails 120 credits and four years. This is the average for students who pursue their degree full-time.

But since many online programs omit summer breaks, one may earn their degree sooner. Transfer credits from an associate degree help in this goal too. For instance, a Bachelor’s degree completion program might include 60 credits. As such, it may take 2.5 years.

If you are pursuing an MPA degree, it may take about one to two years to complete an average of 36 credits. Here too, some schools offer accelerated and part-time formats.

How Long Does It Take to earn a Public Administration Degree?

A Bachelor’s degree in public administration often entails 120 credits and four years. This is the average for students who pursue their degree full-time.

But since many online programs omit summer breaks, one may earn their degree sooner. Transfer credits from an associate degree help in this goal too. For instance, a Bachelor’s degree completion program might include 60 credits. As such, it may take 2.5 years.

If you are pursuing an MPA degree, it may take about one to two years to complete an average of 36 credits. Here too, some schools offer accelerated and part-time formats.

Public Administration Degrees That Could be Completed in 78 weeks

School

Degree Level

# of Credits Required

Start Dates

Minimum Months to Complete

California State University Northridge

Bachelor

60

2

30

UMass Online

Bachelor

120

3

48

Colorado Technical University

Bachelor

180

3

18

The Cost of a Public Administration Degrees

The cost of public administration degrees varies. Some schools offer two tuition rates. One for in-state residents, the other for out-of-state students. At present, the average in-state tuition is $6,698.The average out-of-state tuition is $29,688.

School

Degree Level

# of Credits Required

Cost Per Credit

Total Tuition Cost

Colorado Technical University

Bachelor

180

$325

$58,500

California State University Northridge

Bachelor

60

$661

$39,660

UMass Online

Bachelor

120

$332

$39,840

Top Schools that offer Public Administration Degrees

According to the NCES, there were 2,497 schools that offer public administration degrees or programs.  From those schools there were 17,154 public administration degrees or programs awarded to students. The majority (71.5%) of these programs were master’s degrees.  

School

2017 Grads total/degrees awarded

Tuition (Out of State)

Indiana University - Bloomington

711

$19,836

California State University - Northridge

422

$18,773

Columbia University - NYC

401

$59,430

Harvard University

352

$50,420

New York University

309

$51,828

Walden University

272

$12,120

University of Phoenix - AZ

269

$9,552

Syracuse University

260

$51,853

Ashford University

188

$12,169

Grand Canyon University

172

$17,050

Choosing an Accredited Public Administration Degree Program

Many schools with regional accreditation offer public administration degree programs. Pursuing your degree at one of them may enable you to use transfer credits.

This can be important if you want to continue your education later. Regional accreditation also means you may be eligible to apply for federal aid to study at that school.

The process of accreditation involves an external (regional or national) agency which sets standards. These enable the agency to see how the school measures up. Then, relay the information to the public.

An agency's rubber stamp is good for a specific period of time. After that, the school has to once again volunteer to have the agency review it. It must then show it is maintaining or improving upon the criteria. If so, the institution gets to renew its status.

In some cases, a public administration degree comes from a business school. In this event, there are three main agencies that accredit them. There is also one agency that accredits MPA programs only, called NASPAA.

As a consumer, it is useful to know where you can check the status of a school or specific program. The following accreditors maintain databases on their websites.

  • Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
  • International Assembly for Collegiate Education (IACBE)
  • Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
  • Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPPA)

Program accreditors decide which concepts public admin or business admin degrees should cover. It is much the same process as regional accreditation. That is, there is a review, report and possible renewal (about every 7 years).

What can you do with a degree in Public Administration?

There are 735,273 people working in public administration, and this is going up by 1.28%. The average age of a person in the workforce with degree in public administration and social service is 43. Most of these workers are female.

Top Salaries by State for Administrative Services Manager

State

Employment

Annual Mean Wage

New York

18,350

$137,480

New Jersey

10,960

$130,770

Rhode Island

570

$129,870

District of Columbia

1,410

$125,770

Washington

5,030

$122,570

Find the Perfect Online Degree For You

Administrative Service Managers

Administrative services managers make sure that an organization runs well. They plan, coordinate, and direct a broad range of activities to further this goal. These tasks might include office support or taking care of the facility. Some have job titles like Office Manager or Business Manager.

 

  • Median Salary: $96,180
  • Job growth through 2026: 10% (Faster than average)
  • Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Urban and Regional Planners

Urban and Regional Planners identify community needs. Then come up with short-and long-range land use plans and programs. These may provide solutions to make a specific area thrive. This may involve meeting with public officials, developers and residents.

  • Median Salary: $73,050
  • Job growth through 2026: 13% (Faster than average)
  • Typical entry-level education: Master’s degree

Social and Community Service Managers

Social and community service managers run and oversee social and human services programs. They also manage workers who provide social services to the public. Depending on how large the agency they work for, some may have a specific type of role. This could be running one type of program or working with a certain population. For example, working with the homeless, substance abuse or chronic hunger.

  • Median Salary: $65,320
  • Job growth through 2026: 18% (Much faster than average)
  • Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree