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 with two on-campus experiences — one at the beginning and one at the end of the program.
To accommodate the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we've temporarily extended or relaxed some of the application requirements for our graduate degree and advanced certificate programs. We want to ensure that all students can apply for our programs, even if they are currently unable to schedule tests or report transcripts.
Please review the official policy change notice from the Division of Graduate Affairs to learn how these changes may affect your application process.
San Diego State University's Master of Public Administration Program (MPA) is ranked the #1 program in the CSU and ranked 5th in California by US News and World Report (2012).
Applications will be accepted Oct. 1, 2020–Apr. 1, 2021 for the next cohort that is scheduled to begin in August 2021. Please sign up for the mailing list if you'd like to be notified of application deadlines.
In each two-month module, students take two accelerated courses as part of an online peer cohort. Students receive a brief break (generally two weeks) between modules. The final module consists of a capstone research course where students develop an applied research project. The capstone research project is presented to a panel of professional practitioners and faculty during the final on-campus experience.
Online MPA Sample Schedule: 16-month program with eight-week modules and breaks
|PA 600 Scope of Public Administration
PA 604 Methods of Analysis
|PA 606 Quantitative Approaches
PA 660 Administration and Public Policy Development
|PA 630 Public Personnel Administration
|PA 650 Public Financial Management
|PA 642 Administrative Theory
PA 792 Capstone Project
Last 12 months
Over 10 years
The Master of Public Administration degree program provides the knowledge and skill sets for students in management careers in government, community agencies, private not-for-profit organizations, planning and consulting firms and private sector companies that work in partnership with the public sector. The courses, as well as the faculty who teach the online courses, are the same as the campus-based degree program. Students must take seven required courses that include: Public administration theory, research methods (2), administrative theory, public personnel administration, public finance management and public policy. Students take four electives that are tailored to the interests of each cohort. Examples of electives that may be offered include urban government administration, employer/employee relations, nonprofit relations and government, administrative behavior and comparative public administration. Students finish the online MPA program by completing a capstone course addressing a challenge at their place of employment.
Applicants holding a bachelor's degree in any major from a regionally accredited university are eligible to apply for admission to the online Master of Public Administration program. The applicant's competitiveness will be largely based upon professional and past academic accomplishments in the field of public administration.
See above table for application deadlines. Admission to the Master of Public Administration degree program is based on the SDSU Application. Submit your application for the Public Administration (MPA) External Degree. The following is needed to complete your application: Official transcripts, GRE test scores, two letters of recommendation, resume, internship waiver and statement of purpose. For an overview of the admissions process, please refer to this Road Map.
- Overall grade point average. A minimum grade point average of 3.0 in undergraduate work is considered desirable, but a 2.85 GPA (on a 4-point scale) may be acceptable for admission.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the requirements outlined below that applicants for graduate study at SDSU submit scores for the GRE or GMAT are suspended for the Spring and Fall 2021 admissions cycles.
In addition, a number of students were admitted conditionally for Fall 2020 without submitting standardized exam scores, an earlier accommodation to the pandemic. Conditions established at the time were that those students must submit official exam scores by the end of the calendar year. Those conditions have been waived.
GRE Score. Applicants are required to take the verbal, quantitative and analytical sections of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). An overall target score in the 35th percentile or better on each of the sections of the exam is considered minimum. The minimum may be waived in certain circumstances. The GRE exam is waived only for applicants who already hold an advanced degree (i.e. MBA, MS, MA, JD, etc.) from an institution that is a member of the Council of Graduate Schools. Applicants can sign-up for the GRE test through the Educational Testing Service (ETS).
- Two 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.
- Resume. A professional resume describing the applicant's work history is required.
- *Statement of Purpose. 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.
- Describe your professional goals and how you believe the MPA degree will contribute to these goals.
- 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.
*The SDSU Application will also have a section for a statement of purpose. Please type “submitted to department” on that form.
Instructions for submitting official transcripts and GRE test scores
One set of official transcripts of all previous post-secondary work (except for classes taken at SDSU) and GRE scores are to be sent to the following address:
Graduate Admissions, Document Processing Unit
San Diego State University
San Diego, CA 92182-7416
Instructions for submitting two letters of recommendation, résumé, internship waiver, and statement of purpose
The School of Public Affairs requires all applicants to submit their supporting documentation using our online document submission system, Interfolio. To login and submit the required documents, use this link: https://apply.interfolio.com/67154
Your application will not be considered complete until your application and all supporting documentation is submitted.
In addition to the above application process, International applicants are required to take the TOEFL (target score of 80) or the IELTS (score of 6.5).
What distinguishes this program from other online MPA programs?
San Diego State University is an exceptional applied research university and the only university among the California State University's 23 campuses to be designated as a Carnegie Research Intensive University. The university's quality and distinction have been demonstrated in numerous ranking systems.
SDSU has offered a Master of Public Administration degree program for nearly 50 years. Thousands of alumni from the MPA program serve in leadership positions throughout the United States. The program is accredited by NASPAA, which is the national standard for the profession. This accreditation ensures instruction is on the cutting edge of the field and meets nationally established education standards.
SDSU's MPA program is ranked #1 in all the CSU schools and #5 in California. In addition to having access to respected scholars and accomplished practitioners in their fields, students receive individualized academic and professional development support during their journey in the MPA program.
How much does the Master of Public Administration program cost?
The tuition will be approximately $509 per unit (subject to change). This is highly competitive with online MPA programs throughout the nation. Each class is three units.
Are there additional expenses?
In addition to tuition, students are responsible for course materials such as textbooks and software to support coursework. Travel and accommodations for the two on-campus experiences at SDSU are also the responsibility of the student.
What type of academic work does a student complete in an online course?
All course activities are asynchronous, meaning students do not have to be online at any particular day or time to participate. There are weekly assignments which could include discussion board responses, group exercises and papers based on reading assignments. Classes also require the completion of research projects and most classes require completion of exams.
Is an internship required?
The internship requirement is waived for most full-time public or non-profit sector professionals. In rare cases when an applicant has been accepted into the program without a minimum of two years of professional experience, enrollment in an internship course would be required.
May I start the program early through Open University?
Enrollment through Open University is not permitted. All students must go through the application process stated above.
May I take just one or two courses to supplement MPA work I'm completing at another university?
Unfortunately, we cannot accommodate students attending other universities into our online MPA program. The Master of Public Administration program is designed to be self-contained so only students who have been vetted through our application process, and who have demonstrated a commitment to complete the entire program will be accepted.
I have taken graduate-level courses in the past. Will these units transfer?
No units can be transferred into the online MPA program. The program is designed to be self-contained and to build a learning community among all the students. As such, it is important that all students take the same courses at the same time.
If I find two classes per module too much given my full-time job, can I take one course during some modules?
This is discouraged since the program is designed as a cohort model. However, we anticipate starting a new cohort approximately once each year, so there will be options in the future to make up coursework.
Will my diploma designate that I received my degree online?
The diploma that online MPA graduates receive is the same diploma received by students who completed the MPA program on campus. The modality of the program is not listed on the diploma.
Will I be able to participate in on campus graduation ceremonies?
All MPA students, including those enrolled in the online Master of Public Administration program, are invited to participate in the School of Public Affairs' annual awards ceremony and SDSU's graduation ceremony in May following completion of the program.
Are there career advising services for students?
The School of Public Affairs offers comprehensive, personalized career advising and professional development services for all MPA students.
List of Courses Offered
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- PA 600 Scope of Public Administration
- PA 604 Methods of Analysis in Public and Urban Affairs
- PA 606 Seminar in Quantitative Approaches to Public Administration
- PA 0630 Seminar in Public Personnel Administration
- PA 0642 Seminar in Administrative Theory
- PA 0650 Seminar in Public Financial Management
- PA 0660 Administration and Public Policy Development
- 792 Capstone: Seminar in Public Affairs
- PA 530 Negotiation and Bargaining in the Public Service
- PA 620 Seminar in Urban Administration
- PA 640 Policy Design and Analysis
- PA 640.02 Seminar: Assessing Government and Nonprofit Performance
- PA 640.05 Policy Design and Policy Analysis