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Arkansas State University

5 Things to Look for in an MPA Program

A Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree is the primary professional degree for a management career in public service. Graduates of an online MPA program are ready to assume a variety of leadership roles in all levels of government (federal, state and local), for nonprofit organizations, in multinational corporations and in the private sector. Completing an online MPA program is a significant investment, so knowing what to look for in a top MPA program is extremely important.

Students must consider many factors when selecting an MPA program to make sure it offers courses that will match their interests and career goals — as well as their budget. The five factors below are just some of the things to look for in an MPA program.

Admissions Criteria

A bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite for enrolling in an MPA program. Some MPA programs give course credit to students who have prior work experience in public service. Most MPA programs require an application, application fees, standardized test scores and letters of recommendation. It is important to check all admissions requirements before applying and to make sure the college or university is accredited by a qualifying organization.


Coursework for MPA candidates includes required core courses and, typically, a capstone, thesis or internship component. The field of public administration is broad, and coursework can vary from one MPA program to another. Many schools offer dual degrees that combine an MPA with another degree, such as law.


U.S. News & World Report publishes an annual list of colleges and universities, ranking them on academic quality. This list and others like it can help students choose the MPA program that best suits their needs.

Career Services and Networking Opportunities

Most business schools and universities have a career services department that helps place graduates with employers. A good placement record can indicate a high-quality program.

Networking is essential for any MPA program. Almost all online MPA programs host networking events to help students meet employment recruiters and alumni from various industries. Look for activities such as academic competitions, workshops, seminars, social mixers, association activities, and career fairs.


The costs of an MPA program vary greatly by school, but many schools offer financial aid. Assessing the benefits of an MPA degree in terms of higher earning potential and added skills and knowledge can help students determine whether the financial investment of an MPA program is worth it.

Learn more about the A-State online MPA program.


The Balance: 8 Factors for Choosing an MPA School

NASPAA: What are the MPA & MPP degrees?

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