The Master of Public Administration is a competitive 16-month online degree program offered to experienced professionals who currently work in government and nonprofit agencies. The rigorous format has been designed for working professionals who are currently employed in managerial positions in public administration, nonprofit administration, urban planning, criminal justice or related fields. Past experience in these fields will be considered for applicants who are not currently working in the public or nonprofit sector. The 36-unit curriculum of the Master of Public Administration degree is the same as the campus-based program; however, the fast-track, online program is taught in six, two-month modules.

SDSU’s online Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree program is designed to teach leadership skills to professionals who work in the public sector. You’ll be able to earn a graduate-level degree in public administration from an MPA program that’s ranked #1 in all the CSU schools and #5 in California.

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About the Program

Now more than ever, the nation needs effective and competent leadership in the administration of public affairs at the local, state, and federal levels. As government programs and public service organizations have grown in size and scope, they’ve taken on more responsibilities and more complex roles in our society. This growth has led directly to the need for more capable public administrators. SDSU’s online Master of Public Administration program is structured around meeting this need.

$19,836

Total Estimated Cost
$551 Total Cost/Unit

As short as
16 Months

Completion Time

Online + Asynchronous

Course Format

Created in collaboration with SDSU’s School of Public Affairs, the Master of Public Administration program is an intensive 16-month online degree program designed for experienced professionals who currently work in managerial positions in a variety of government and nonprofit-related fields. This online MPA program has the exact same 36-unit curriculum as the on-campus program, taught by the same instructors, with the same academic expectations and outcomes.

Your courses are taught by experienced faculty at SDSU’s School of Public Affairs who are passionate about helping you acquire the in-demand skills that employers are looking for. When you apply for the online Master of Public Administration program, you’re making a solid investment in your career and your future.

The MPA program is fully accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA).

Is This Program Right for Me?

SDSU’s online Master of Public Administration program is designed to equip students with skills and techniques that enable them to assume leadership roles in changing political and social environments in the United States and internationally. It’s ideal for career-driven professionals with some managerial experience who want to take on leadership roles and drive policy throughout the public or private sector, including:

  • Public Administration
  • Nonprofit Administration
  • Urban Planning
  • Criminal Justice
  • Fiscal Management
  • Public Policy

The program will also prepare you for post-graduate education and doctoral programs in public affairs.

Many graduates have used the knowledge they gained from the program to attain high-level positions with state and local government agencies, non-profits, and other organizations. Of the 38 MPA students who graduated in 2020-2021, 97% of survey respondents were employed within 6 months of graduation. Of all survey respondents:

  • 86% work in either state, local, or federal government
  • 6% work in nonprofits
  • 12% work in both the private sector and in research/consulting

Since the program is entirely online and can be completed in 16 months, you’ll be able to earn your master’s degree in your busy schedule. Best of all, upon graduation, you’ll have earned a valuable graduate degree from a reputable university: a Master of Public Administration from San Diego State University.

What Can I Learn?

This online MPA program can help you develop the skills you need to drive change in the public and private sectors. Your curriculum is based on five distinct learning outcomes:

Learning Outcomes

  • Lead and manage in public governance
  • Participate in and contribute to the policy process
  • Analyze, synthesize, think critically, solve problems, and make decisions
  • Articulate and apply a public service perspective
  • Communicate and interact productively with a diverse and changing workforce and citizenry

The program is taught in six, eight-week modules. In each module, you’ll take two courses as part of an online peer cohort, followed by a brief break (generally two weeks) between modules. The final module consists of a capstone research course where you’ll develop an applied research project.

The online courses cover the same topics as the campus-based degree program. You’ll need to take nine (9) core courses, including your capstone, that cover key public administration topics, including:

  • Public Administration Theory
  • Research Methods
  • Administrative Theory
  • Public Personnel Administration
  • Public Finance Management
  • Public Policy

You’ll supplement these courses by taking three (3) electives that are tailored to the interests of each cohort. Examples of some of the electives this program has offered in the past include:

  • Urban Government Administration
  • Employer/Employee Relations
  • Nonprofit Relations and Government
  • Administrative Behavior
  • Comparative Public Administration

The final module consists of a capstone research course, where you’ll develop an applied research project that addresses a challenge at your place of employment. You’ll present your capstone research project to a panel of professional practitioners and faculty.

Career Outcomes

Labor Analysis
MPA — Master of Public Administration Graduate — Nationwide

Job Postings
179,953
Job postings in the last 12 months

Projected Growth
+19.3%
Projected job growth in the next 10 years

Salary Range
$94,272
Average salary of graduates


Source: Burning Glass/Emsi, 2022

The outlook for individuals who hold a Master of Public Administration is positive, with over 8,000 jobs posted over the past year — over 1,200 jobs in California alone. It’s a versatile degree, with job postings for a variety of positions as project managers, program managers, healthcare administrators, HR and labor relations specialists, urban planners, and more. Public Administration is also a fast-growing field of study, with employment numbers expected to grow by more than 10% over the next decade.

Why Should You Choose Us?

Reputation

For nearly 50 years, SDSU has developed a reputation for excellence in public administration. Thousands of program alumni have served in leadership positions throughout the United States. In fact, SDSU’s MPA program is ranked #1 in all the CSU schools and #5 in California by U.S. News & World Report, and we’re the 6th-best Public Administration program in the country according to BestValueSchools.com.

Flexibility

When thinking about the cost of a graduate program, you need to consider the cost of room and board, travel, and other expenses associated with a traditional degree. SDSU’s online Master of Public Administration program is different. By taking your courses online, you don’t have to put your professional life on hold in order to earn a degree.

Practicality

As a public administration professional, you need lessons that you can immediately apply to your office. Your instructors bring years of real-world public policy experience to every lesson, which means that you’ll learn about real-world solutions to the problems that all local governments face on a daily basis. You’ll even have access to comprehensive and personalized career advising and professional development services. By the time you earn your degree, you’ll have acquired the ability and the knowledge you need to improve your career and your community.

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In order to earn your Master of Public Administration, you’ll need to complete 36 units of courses, which consist of:

  • Core Courses — 27 Units
  • Elective Courses — 9 Units

Tentative Online MPA Schedule: 16-month program with eight-week modules and breaks

Dates Module Course
8/23-10/15 Fall 2021
M1
PA 600: Scope of Public Administration
PA 604: Methods of Analysis
10/25-12/17 Fall 2021
M2
PA 606: Quantitative Approaches
PA 630: Public Personnel Administration

Break 1

1/18-3/12 Spring 2022
M3
PA 650 Public Financial Management
Elective 1
3/20-5/14 Spring 2022
M4
PA 645: Seminar in Administrative Theory
PA 501: Nonprofit Organizations and Government
Elective 2
5/30-7/22 Summer 2022
M5
PA 660: Administration and Public Policy Development
PA 605: Seminar in Applied Research
Elective 3

Break 2

8/22-10/14 and
8/22-12/9
Fall 2022
M6
PA 530: Negotiation and Bargaining in the Public Service
PA 795: Capstone Seminar in Public Affairs

Core and Elective Courses List

Click to View Core and Elective Courses

Core Courses (27 Units)

  • PA 600: Scope of Public Administration (3 Units)
    The development of public administration as an academic discipline; a systematic evaluation of the rise and operations of large-scale public bureaucracies.
  • PA 604: Methods of Analysis in Public and Urban Affairs (3 Units)
    Research design for problems and cases in public affairs; summarizing and organizing data; methods of projection; sampling theory and application; using census and other secondary data sources.
  • PA 605: Seminar in Applied Research (3 Units)
    Qualitative and quantitative research designs to address public affairs issues.
  • PA 606: Seminar in Quantitative Approaches to Public Administration (3 Units)
    Advanced techniques for analyzing problems in public and urban affairs; emphasis on computer applications.
  • PA 630: Seminar in Public Personnel Administration (3 Units)
    Analysis of selected problems in personnel administration; special emphasis on organizational development and consultation skills as emerging personnel functions.
  • PA 642: Seminar in Administrative Theory (3 Units)
    Organization and management; the executive role, decision making; bureaucracy; authority and power; communication and control and organizational system; tactics and strategies in effective management.
  • PA 650: Seminar in Public Financial Management (3 Units)
    Economics and politics of the public sector. Theories of public expenditure analysis and revenue generation. Issues of ethics and efficiency in government financial policy.
  • PA 660: Administration and Public Policy Development (3 Units)
    Social, political and administrative problems involved in governmental program development and change.
  • PA 795 Capstone: Seminar in Public Affairs (3 Units)
    Analytical treatment of selected problems in Public Administration. Review of methods for investigation and reporting of data. Consideration of problems in the preparation of a project or thesis. Your project will be presented to a panel of professionals at the final on-campus* experience.

Elective Courses (9 Units)

Elective courses will be decided at the beginning of each cohort based on cohort interest, faculty availability, and department approval. Current electives offered include:

  • PA 530: Negotiation and Bargaining in the Public Service (3 Units)
  • PA 620: Seminar in Urban Administration (3 Units)
  • PA 640: Policy Design and Analysis (3 Units)
  • PA 640.02 Seminar: Assessing Government and Nonprofit Performance (3 Units)
  • PA 640.05: Policy Design and Policy Analysis (3 Units)

* In-person components are available virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions. Once restrictions are lifted and in-person education resumes at each site, these services will be held as previously planned.

Please note that current students must be admitted and meet all requirements to register for specific courses. Current students will receive course registration links via email. Contact us here for more details.

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Out-of-State Applicants
While we welcome out-of-state students, SDSU Global Campus currently cannot accept applications from students residing in some specific states. Please check back often, as this list of approved states does change. View the list of authorized states here.

The supplemental application deadline for spring 2023 has been extended to October 28, 2022. The SDSU application deadline (through Cal State Apply) is still September 30.

Admission Requirements

To be eligible for admission to the online Master of Public Administration program, you’ll need to hold a bachelor's degree in any major from a regionally accredited university. Your competitiveness in the application process will be largely based upon your professional and past academic accomplishments in the field of public administration. You should also have:

  • A minimum overall 2.85 GPA
  • TOEFL (target score of 80) or the IELTS (score of 6.5) if you’re an international applicant

We understand that every student's academic journey is unique, and we encourage you to contact one of our Student Service Representatives to find out what you'll need to successfully apply to the program.

Application Instructions

To apply for the online Master of Public Administration, you’ll need to complete the following steps:

  • Apply to the University through the Cal State Apply application
  • Submit the following materials to SDSU Graduate Admissions:

    Enrollment Services
    Graduate Admissions, Document Processing Unit
    San Diego State University
    San Diego, CA 92182-8225
    • Official transcripts (in sealed envelopes) from all postsecondary institutions attended
      • Students who attended SDSU need only submit transcripts for work completed since last attendance
      • Students with international coursework should submit both the official transcript and proof of degree. If documents are in a language other than English, they should be accompanied by a certified English translation.
    • English language scores (TOEFL), if your medium of instruction was in a language other than English
  • Due by October 28, 2022: Submit a supplemental application, which consists of the following materials:
    • Three Letters of Recommendation
      • Letters should come from a person familiar with the applicant's professional accomplishments and/or academic ability and accomplishments.
    • Internship Waiver Request Form
      • The internship waiver request form ensures that full-time professionals will be excused from the internship requirement. This form will be accompanied by a letter from a current or past supervisor(s), on organization letterhead, describing the applicant's professional experience. This letter is required in addition to any letters of recommendation submitted on behalf of the applicant.
    • Résumé
      • A professional résumé describing the applicant's work history is required, including academic work, professional, and volunteer work history, and/or community service.
    • Statement of Purpose, Personal*
      • In a maximum of three pages, respond to the following prompts:
        • Describe your personal commitment to public service and social equity, using examples from your personal experience.
        • Any personal experiences that have prepared you for graduate study.
        • The online MPA program is highly intensive; students complete the entire degree in 16 months whereas on-campus students who work full time normally might complete the degree in three years or more. Describe the strategies you will use to balance competing demands on your time (school, work, family) and be successful in the program.
        • Include any additional information you believe is important for the admissions committee to consider when reviewing your application.
    • Statement of Purpose, Professional*
      • Please respond to the following prompts using no more than 500 words:
        • Describe your professional goals and how you believe the MPA degree will contribute to these goals.
    • ​​Writing Sample
      • ​Please submit a professional work document, school paper, or another document that exemplifies your writing skills.

*The SDSU Application will also have a section for a statement of purpose. Please type “submitted to department” on that form.

The School of Public Affairs requires all applicants to submit their supporting documentation through Interfolio no later than the stated application deadline. Your application will not be considered complete until your application and all supporting documentation are submitted. For an overview of the admission process, please refer to our Road Map.

Contact Us For Assistance

Financial Aid

This program is approved for financial aid. To begin the financial aid process, visit the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships website. There, you'll be able to access the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

We encourage you to apply for financial aid as soon as possible.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Will my degree say “online”?

No, it won’t. Upon graduation, you’ll have earned the same business degree as SDSU’s on-campus students — a Master of Public Administration from San Diego State University.

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How are elective courses selected?

Elective courses will be decided at the beginning of each cohort based on cohort interest, faculty availability, and department approval. There is a list of current elective courses offered in the Courses section of this page; however, all elective courses are subject to change.

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How is the program structured?

Our Masters of Public Administration is fully online and mostly asynchronous, which means you can study and learn mostly on your own schedule. The program consists of required courses and electives that can be completed in as short as 16 months.

For each course, you can expect to spend 135 -180 hours per course (17-23 hours per week for 8-week courses and 23-30 hours per week for 6-week courses) on coursework and lessons.

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What is the program format?

Courses in our online Masters of Public Administration program feature a mostly asynchronous virtual instruction (MA) learning modality. This means:

  • Unless otherwise noted, instruction is provided through a combination of recorded and limited direct instruction with academic activities, quizzes, etc., at the arranged times and dates described in the footnotes and syllabus. Content may be open for restricted periods of time.
  • Students may be expected to attend any live sessions necessary to complete the course.
  • Final exams or assignments will be listed in the course syllabus and may need to be completed at a set time and date.
  • Faculty and instructors are available for office hours and instructional support when needed.

Mostly Asynchronous courses may be preferable for students in different time zones as they provide the flexibility to do work on your own schedule at your own pace. However, these courses may require group activities and arranged meetings with faculty.

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What else does SDSU Global Campus offer?

When you enroll in an academic program at SDSU Global Campus, you’re joining the San Diego State University community even if you’re not on campus. This means that you’ll have access to many of the same services, programs, cultural centers, clubs, and resources that SDSU’s on-campus students enjoy. Click here to learn more.

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I’m interested. How do I get started?

Ready to take the next step? Click here to connect with the SDSU Global Campus Welcome Center.

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NASPAA Accredited Logo     Best Online Colleges MPA Logo     TOP 50 Online Public Administration Master's Colleges

Related Links

Online MPA Graduate Webinar
School of Public Affairs (SPA) faculty
MPA Online Brochure
MPA Roadmap
Financial Aid Options

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Want to Learn More?

Submit this web form and we’ll be in touch to answer all your questions and explain the next steps in the process. Or, you can reach a program recruiter by emailing recruiter.global@sdsu.edu or by calling (619) 594-7700.

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Courses

2023 Spring2023 Summer2022 Fall2023 Winter
P A 0501.02 Nonprofit Organizations and Government
How nonprofit organizations interact with government institutions, influence and pressure government through policy advocacy and activism, and partner with government in contracting, public service provision, and policymaking.
Course Date(s)

Register
P A 0530 Negotiation and Bargaining in the Public Service
Specific issues such as strategies, the effects of threat, the physical setting, use of a third-party observer and theories of advocacy. Emphasis on analyzing simulations of the bargaining process and developing effective negotiation skills. Prerequisite: Public Administration 301.
Course Date(s)

Register
P A 0600 Scope of Public Administration
The development of public administration as an academic discipline; a systematic evaluation of the rise and operations of large-scale public bureaucracies.
Course Date(s)

Register
P A 0604 Methods of Analysis in Public and Urban Affairs
Research design for problems and cases in public affairs; summarizing and organizing data; methods of projection; sampling theory and application; using census and other secondary data sources.
Course Date(s)

Register
P A 0605 Seminar in Applied Research
Qualitative and quantitative research designs to address public affairs issues.
Course Date(s)


Register
P A 0606 Seminar in Quantitative Approaches to Public Administration
Advanced techniques for analyzing problems in public and urban affairs; emphasis on computer applications.
Course Date(s)

Register
P A 0620 Seminar Management Urban Government
Selected problems in the management of urban governments. Maximum credit six units applicable to a master’s degree.
Course Date(s)

Register
P A 0630 Seminar in Public Personnel Administration
Analysis of selected problems in personnel administration; special emphasis on organizational development and consultation skills as emerging personnel functions. Maximum credit six units applicable to a master's degree.
Course Date(s)

Register
P A 0632 Seminar of Organization Development in the Public Sector
Organization development theory and practice. Emphasis on organizational diagnosis, intervention theory, team building and process consultation skills as they apply to public sector organizations.
Course Date(s)

Register
P A 0640.01 Seminar: Emergency Services in Public Management
Selected topics. May be repeated with new content. Maximum credit six units applicable to a master's degree.
Register
P A 0640.02 Seminar: Assessing Government and Nonprofit Performance
Selected topics. May be repeated with new content. Maximum credit six units applicable to a master's degree.
Course Date(s)

Register
P A 0640.03 Crafting and Executing Strategy
This class focuses on the strategy of senior management and the establishment of meaningful goals and objectives that align with the organization’s mission and guide decision making. Identifying key stakeholders, resource commitments, implementation and evaluation methods represent the core elements of the class. Assessing existing organizational strategic plans and processes will help inform each student’s development of a strategic plan for an organization of their choosing.
Course Date(s)

Register
P A 0640.04 Seminar: Budgeting for the Public Sector
In this course, you will learn tools and acquire skills to conduct budget analysis, with an emphasis in local government administration. Through a combination of instructional methods, you will learn fundamental concepts and issues pertaining to the financial operation of state and local governments, stages of the budget process, differences among budget formats, best practices, capital and operating budgets. Requires familiarity with both spreadsheet and word-processing software, namely Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word.
Course Date(s)

Register
P A 0640.05 Policy Design and Policy Analysis
Selected topics. May be repeated with new content. Maximum credit six units applicable to a master's degree.
Course Date(s)

Register
P A 0642 Seminar in Administrative Theory
Organization and management; the executive role, decision making; bureaucracy; authority and power; communication and control and organizational system; tactics and strategies in effective management.
Course Date(s)

Register
P A 0650 Seminar in Public Financial Management
Economics and politics of the public sector. Theories of public expenditure analysis and revenue generation. Issues of ethics and efficiency in government financial policy.
Course Date(s)

Register
P A 0660 Administration and Public Policy Development
Social, political and administrative problems involved in governmental program development and change.
Course Date(s)

Register
P A 0795 Capstone Seminar in Public Affairs
Needs assessment and program/policy design, development, or evaluation for public service problems and opportunities. Group projects and reports with community stakeholders. Knowledge integration attained throughout city planning, criminal justice, and public administration graduate programs.
Course Date(s)


Register