Night view of government building

Master of
Public Administration

Program summary

Enhance your ability to manage more effectively and to promote positive change in your organization. This NASPAA–accredited online MPA degree program, offered by Penn State Harrisburg’s School of Public Affairs, focuses on real-world skills that you can apply to your career immediately.

Application deadline

Apply by July 15 to start August 21

Credits and costs

39 Credits $1,007 per credit

Become an Industry Leader in Public Administration

There is an increasing need for leaders in the public sector as more federal employees prepare for retirement. This transition is energizing the already strong demand for trained public administration professionals in the nonprofit and nongovernmental sectors.

A master’s degree in public administration (MPA) is the accepted professional credential for public service professionals who are looking for marketability and opportunities for advancement. By earning this degree, you can gain the competencies required to become an effective leader who is in high demand and who has the flexibility to move between careers in multiple sectors.

Penn State Harrisburg's School of Public Affairs has partnered with Penn State World Campus to deliver their on-campus master of public administration program to adult learners who need the flexibility and convenience of studying online. Your classes are taught by the same instructors who teach this program on campus, giving you access to the same expertise and high-quality courses but in an engaging environment that promotes success at a distance.

As a student, you will have access to a host of proven student and career support services to help you reach your goals. These services are administered by experienced professionals who understand the public service environment and develop quality assistance programming to benefit and support students' educational progress.

Penn State's Online Master of Public Administration Degree Program

The MPA program is designed to help you enhance your ability to understand, analyze, and control your organizational environment to manage more effectively and to promote positive change in the public and nonprofit sectors.

Mission: The Penn State Harrisburg Master of Public Administration program seeks to advance the knowledge and skills necessary to manage and lead organizations engaged in public service in democratic and diverse societies.

Goal: The MPA develops ethical and skilled leaders and professionals able to work effectively in an increasingly globalized and diverse world, who are competent as managers and analysts skilled in oral and written communications, and who share a commitment to public service values and democratic processes.

In addition to blending theoretical and applied concepts, the curriculum covers organizational governance, finance, and administration while providing "real-world" experiences for the novice administrator. The MPA program is accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA), and offers elective courses from many areas including:

NASPAA Accredited seal
  • nonprofit management
  • policy analysis and evaluation
  • public budgeting and financial management
  • state/local government and administration
  • homeland security

Collaborative Experience, Practical Applications 

The master's degree curriculum uses a blend of web technology, print, and other media to maximize flexibility without sacrificing professor and student interaction. Communication tools including bulletin boards and email are used to foster a collaborative environment, providing you with the opportunity to learn from one another. The curriculum and course format can help you develop practical applications of the topics you study. Learn online when it is convenient for you, and immediately apply to your job what you've learned.

Online Graduate Certificate Programs

You may also apply for one of the graduate certificates in public administration offered online. Courses in the certificates are also part of the master's program, allowing you the flexibility to earn both at the same time — if you apply and are granted admission.

Who Should Apply?

If you are interested in a career in government, public management, health and human services, or other public or nonprofit organizations and want to make an impact on the issues and problems that affect the general public, this could be the program for you.


Master of Public Administration degree program requirements 

39 graduate credits (3 credits per course), which includes:

  • 21 credits in core courses
  • 12 credits in electives
  • 3 credits for a capstone course
  • 3-credit internship

The range of the core courses is balanced in the areas of managing organizations, making evidence-informed decisions, analyzing policy, and applying analytical methods to understand the dynamics of economic, organizational, political, and societal environments.

The elective course selections can be customized based on the students’ interests, including human resources, nonprofit management, policy analytics and evaluation, public budgeting and financial management, and state-local government and administration.

The capstone course offers students the opportunity to demonstrate competencies in problem identification, problem-solving, professional writing, oral presentation, group research, and presentation skills.

A 3-credit/150-hour internship is required of students who do not have at least two years of full-time relevant work experience that consists of supervisory, managerial, or professional work relevant to serving the public and nonprofit organizations. The internship is waived for students with this experience before they enter the program or who gain it by working full-time or part-time during their enrollment in the program. If this occurs, students must apply for the internship waiver.

Core course topics include:

  • research methods
  • organizational behavior
  • governmental fiscal decision-making
  • public organization and management
  • human resources in the public and nonprofit sectors
  • intro to policy analysis

Students accepted into the program may begin their course work during any academic semester. The typical student course load is expected to be three to four courses per year. At this rate, the MPA degree program can be completed in three to five years of study.

Core Courses (21 credits)

  • 3

    Nature, function, and technique of governmental budgeting viewed as mechanism for allocating resources among alternative public uses.

  • 3

    Examination of research methodologies relevant to administration, planning, and public policy.

  • 3

    Conduct independent research in policy analysis, program evaluation, and public management.

  • 3

    Concepts and approaches contributing to effective use of human resources in public and nonprofit organizations; legal issues and requirements.

  • 3

    Introduction to the analysis of public policy within its organizational and political contexts, including an emphasis on an economic perspective.

  • 3

    Examination of concepts of human behavior in formal organizations, systems analysis, conceptual models, and decision processes.

  • 3

    Development of basic concepts and issues in public administration; administrative theory and public policy processes.

Capstone Course (3 credits)

  • 3

    Supervised student activities on research projects identified on an individual or small-group basis.

    • Prerequisite

      PADM 503

Internship (3 credits)

  • 3

    Supervised off-campus, nongroup instruction, including field experiences, practicums, or internships. Written and oral critique of activity required.

    • Prerequisite

      PADM 503

    • Note

      Required for students who have less than two years of relevant work experience.

Elective Courses (select 12 credits)

  • 3

    Theory of organizational change and development; case analysis of applications in actual situations.

    • Prerequisite

      HADM 510 or PADM 510

  • 3

    A survey of strategic planning purposes, approaches and methods, and expected outcomes in small and large organizations.

  • 3

    A study of the theoretical and practical issues involved in management and leadership of nonprofit organizations.

  • 3

    This course will examine theory, strategies, and practices for securing and managing resources for a nonprofit organization. The course will be offered every third semester.

  • 3

    This course is designed to enhance students’ ability to develop and use performance measurement systems in the public sector.

    • Prerequisite

      PADM 800

  • 3

    Theories and techniques of financial planning and control, with emphasis on their application in government and nonprofit agencies.

    • Prerequisite

      PADM 502

  • 3

    Accounting, reporting, and auditing principles and procedures for public sector agencies and nonprofit organizations.

    • Prerequisite

      PADM 502

  • 3

    The course covers the essential concepts of planning for the response to all hazards incidents.

    • Prerequisite

      HLS 811

Note: Students may customize a focus area by choosing courses that are of special interest to their career. Focus areas are not required and will not appear on a transcript but may be noted on a résumé.

Course Availability

If you're ready to see when your courses will be offered, visit our public LionPATH course search (opens in new window) to start planning ahead.

Costs and Financial Aid

Graduate Tuition

Graduate tuition is calculated based on the number of credits for which you register. Tuition is due shortly after each semester begins and rates are assessed every semester of enrollment.

2022–23 Academic Year Rates

How many credits do you plan to take per semester? Cost
11 or fewer $1,007 per credit
12 or more $12,082 per semester

Financial Aid and Military Benefits

Some students may qualify for financial aid. Take the time to research financial aid, scholarships, and payment options as you prepare to apply. Military service members, veterans, and their spouses or dependents should explore these potential military education benefits and financial aid opportunities, as well.

How to Apply

Deadlines and Important Dates

Your degree application, including receipt of all transcripts, should be received by the following deadlines to be considered complete.

  • Fall DeadlineApply by July 15 to start August 21
  • Spring DeadlineApply by December 1 to start January 8
  • Summer DeadlineApply by April 1, 2024, to start May 13, 2024

Applicants will be notified of a decision within 30 days after the deadline. You may apply several months in advance and indicate your planned semester start date in the application.

Admissions Help

If you have questions about the admissions process, contact our admissions counselors.

Information for accepted applicants can be found on the Penn State Harrisburg program page.

Admission Requirements

For admission to the Graduate School, an applicant must hold either (1) a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or (2) a tertiary (postsecondary) degree that is deemed comparable to a four-year bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution. This degree must be from an officially recognized degree-granting institution in the country in which it operates.

What You Need

Applications are submitted electronically and include a nonrefundable application fee. You will need to upload the following items as part of your application:

Official transcripts from each institution attended, regardless of the number of credits or semesters completed. Transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation. Penn State alumni do not need to request transcripts for credits earned at Penn State, but must list Penn State as part of your academic history. If you are admitted, you will be asked to send an additional official transcript. You will receive instructions at that time.

GPA and Test Scores — Postsecondary (undergraduate), junior/senior (last two years) GPA is required. 

GRE or GMAT scores may be required if GPA is less than 3.0.

English Proficiency — The language of instruction at Penn State is English. With some exceptions, international applicants must take and submit scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Minimum test scores and exceptions are found in the English Proficiency section on the Graduate School's "Requirements for Graduate Admission" page. Visit the TOEFL website for testing information. Penn State's institutional code is 2660.

References (3) — you will need to initiate the process through the online application by entering names, email addresses, and mailing addresses of three references. Upon submission of your application, an email will be sent to each reference requesting they complete a brief online recommendation regarding your commitment for success in an online program. Please inform all recommenders they must submit the form in order for your application to be complete.

Program-Specific Questions/Materials

Résumé — Upload your résumé (one-to two-pages) to the online application. 

Personal Statement — One to two pages of career and educational goals.

Start Your Application

You can begin your online application at any time. Your progress within the online application system will be saved as you go, allowing you to return at any point as you gather additional information and required materials.

Begin the graduate school application

  • Choose Enrollment Type: "Degree Admission"
  • Choose "WORLD CAMPUS" as the campus

Checking Your Status

You can check the status of your application by using the same login information established for the online application form. 

Technical Requirements 

Review the general technical requirements for this program.

Ready to Learn More?

Get the resources you need to make informed decisions about your education. Request information on this program and other programs of interest by completing this form.

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Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State master's degree?

Apply by July 15 to start August 21. How to Apply

Career Opportunities and Resources

Two women reviewing documents together

Successful Master of Public Administration (MPA) graduates may use their skills and knowledge to advance to middle- or upper-level management positions. You can use the knowledge gained from this program and the support of Penn State career resources to pursue careers in a variety of fields, depending on your goals.

Job Titles Related to This Degree

Many MPA graduates have successful careers as administrators for government agencies, larger corporations in the public and private sectors, and community organizations, as well as in other areas such as tribal politics, charities, criminal justice, and academia.

The following roles are often held by people with this type of degree:

  • Budget Officer
  • Development Director
  • Nonprofit Director
  • Public Affairs Director
  • Public Works Director
  • Social Services Director

Employment Outlook for Occupational Fields Related to This Degree

Estimates of employment growth and total employment are provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and are subject to change. While these occupations are often pursued by graduates with this degree, individual outcomes may vary depending on a variety of factors. Penn State World Campus cannot guarantee employment in a given occupation.

General and Operations Managers

employment growth (10 years)
total employment

Social and Community Service Managers

employment growth (10 years)
total employment

Public Relations Managers

employment growth (10 years)
total employment

Fundraising Managers

employment growth (10 years)
total employment

Career Services to Set You Up for Success

Student having a virtual meeting on a laptop with a career counselor

From the day you're accepted as a student, you can access resources and tools provided by Penn State World Campus Career Services to further your career. These resources are beneficial whether you're searching for a job or advancing in an established career.

  • Opportunities to connect with employers
  • Career counselor/coach support
  • Occupation and salary information
  • Internships
  • Graduate school resources 

Earn a Valuable Credential along the Way

A figure walking on a path that includes a certificate part of the way through their progress

Show mastery of specific subjects before your degree is complete. Thanks to shared courses across programs, students can often earn a certificate along with their degree in less time than if they earned them separately.

Certificate Programs Related to This Degree

The following certificates can be earned while completing this degree program:

Gain an understanding of homeland security issues that apply at all levels of government and national security, as well as in the private sector with this online homeland security graduate certificate program.

Learn more about the Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security  

Develop the skills needed to plan and manage budgets and financial systems. This online graduate certificate program is a good fit for administrators and financial professionals at government and nonprofit organizations.

Learn more about the Graduate Certificate in Public Budgeting and Financial Management  

Prepare for mid- and upper-level human resources or employment relations positions in the public sector. This certificate can provide you with core skills in personnel management, labor relations, problem solving, planning, and management of organizational change and development.

Learn more about the Graduate Certificate in Public Sector Human Resources Management  

NASPAA Accredited

NASPAA is the global accreditor of master's degree programs in public policy, affairs, and administration.

NASPAA–Accredited Public Administration Programming from the Penn State Harrisburg School of Public Affairs 

The MPA program is accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA). NASPAA is the recognized global accreditor of master's degree programs in public policy, affairs, and administration. Their mission is to ensure excellence in education and training for public service and to promote the ideal of public service. 

Number of Students

As of the fall semester 2021, there were 166 students enrolled in the MPA program (12 on-campus, 154 online).

Time to Graduation

For the class which began in 2016–2017, 53% of HB students and 31% WC students graduated in two years and 86% of HB students and 67% of WC students graduated in four years.

Completion Rates, Academic Year 2016-17
Modality Initially Enrolled Graduated within 2 years Graduated within 4 years
Residential 15 students 53% 86%
Online 115 students 31% 67%

Employment of Graduates

Graduates of our resident MPA program most often find employment within local or regional government, domestic-oriented nonprofits, and the private sector (non-research). Graduates of the online program are most often employed in national and local/regional government, the private sector, and domestic-oriented nonprofits. 

A graph illustrating the residential graduate placements from the Master of Public Administration program, as of 2021-2022


Residential MPA Graduate Placements 2021-2022 Academic Year (100% Response Rate)  
Job Placement Number of students
City, County or other Local Government   0
Foreign Government or International 0
Military   0
National or Central Government in the USA  1
Nonprofit/NGOs Internationally – Oriented   0
Nonprofit Domestic - Oriented  1
Obtaining Further Education   0
Private Sector – Not Research/Consulting   0
Private Sector – Research/Consulting   0
Quasi – Governmental 0
State, Provincial or Regional Government   3
Unemployed – Not Seeking Employment  0
Unemployed – Seeking Employment  0
Unemployed – Seeking Employment  0
Total Graduated  5
A graph illustrating the online graduate placements from the Master of Public Administration program, as of 2021-2022.


Online MPA Graduate Placements 2021/2022 Academic Year (85% Response Rate)
Job Placement Number of students
City, County or other Local Government  12
Foreign or International Government   0
Military   5
National or Central Government in the USA 5
Nonprofit/NGOs Internationally Oriented  1
Nonprofit Domestic – Oriented  10
Obtaining Further Education 0
Private Sector – Not Research/Consulting 9
Private Sector – Research/Consulting 1
Quasi-Governmental   1
State, Provincial or Regional Government   6
Unemployed - Not Seeking Employment  0
Unemployed – Seeking Employment 5
Status Unknown  10
Total Graduated  65


Students who do not have two years of relevant employment experience must enroll in P ADM 595: Internship. This course requires 150 hours of service. Examples of our students' internship placements in the past two years include:

City of University Park/Town of Highland Park, Texas
Tompkins County Planning Department, New York
Georgia Shift, Georgia
American Red Cross, Colorado
Department of Defense – Defense Logistics Agency, Pennsylvania
Tioga County Department of Probation and Parole, Pennsylvania

Student Services

Penn State has a variety of services available to ensure that students are receiving the necessary support throughout their higher education journey. Once admitted into the program, Public Administration students will have access to the MPA Administrative Support and Student Success Assistant in addition to many other avenues for support.

Contact Us

To learn more about the Master of Public Administration, offered in partnership with the Penn State Harrisburg School of Public Affairs, please contact:

World Campus Admissions Counselors
Phone: 814-863-5386
Email: [email protected]

For MPA program information, please contact:
Autumn Wise
Penn State Harrisburg
School of Public Affairs
Phone: 717-948-6773
Email: [email protected]


  • Jane Beckett-Camarata
    • Degree
      Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University
    • Degree
      M.P.A., American University
    • Degree
      B.S., Business Administration, Syracuse University

    Dr. Jane Beckett-Camarata teaches such master's courses as Governmental and Nonprofit Financial Management, Governmental and Nonprofit Accounting and Reporting, Budgeting, and the MPA Capstone. She has extensive previous experience as a state government financial manager and researcher. She researches and publishes in the areas of state and local government fiscal stress, debt management, operating budget volatility and debt management, bankruptcy, type and timeliness of local government financial reporting, capital budgeting and infrastructure finance, and intergovernmental transfers.

  • Younhee Kim
    Ph.D., Public Administration, Rutgers University-Newark

    Dr. Younhee Kim is an associate professor of public administration in the School of Public Affairs at Penn State Harrisburg. Her research interests are in the broad areas of public and performance management, focusing on performance measurement, public entrepreneurship, information technology and e-governance, and citizen participation. Her recent work has appeared in numerous journals and edited books. Dr. Kim has taught various courses, such as Public Policy Analysis, Strategic Planning, Intergovernmental Relations, Public Information Technology, State Government, and Organizational Development.

  • Daniel J. Mallinson

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Political Science, Penn State
    • Degree
      M.A., Political Science, Villanova University
    • Degree
      B.A., Political Science, Elizabethtown College

    Dr. Daniel J. Mallinson is an assistant professor of public policy and administration in the School of Public Affairs at Penn State Harrisburg. His research interests focus on state and local politics and policy, with specific experience in policy diffusion, agenda setting, federalism, environmental policy, and drug policy. He teaches courses on public policy analysis, state government administration, and research methods.

  • Goktug Morcol

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Public Administration, Virginia Tech
    • Degree
      M.S., Political Science and Public Administration, Middle East Technical University
    • Degree
      B.S., Sociology, Middle East Technical University

    Dr. Goktug Morcol is a professor of public policy and administration. He has authored, edited, and co-edited seven books. His articles have appeared in Public Administration Review, Administration & Society, Administrative Theory & Praxis, Policy Sciences, Journal of Urban Affairs, and others. He served as the first chair of the Section on Complexity and Network Studies of the American Society for Public Administration. He is editor-in-chief of Complexity, Governance & Networks.

  • Bing Ran

    Ph.D., Management Sciences, University of Waterloo

    Dr. Bing Ran is an associate professor in the School of Public Affairs at Penn State Harrisburg. His research interests focus on areas that include collaborative governance networks, social entrepreneurship and hybrid organizations, knowledge management and knowledge integration, and organizational identity and image. He teaches such courses as PADM 505, 510, 511, and 571, and he serves as professor-in-charge for the Graduate Certificate in Public Sector Human Resource Management.

  • Glenn Silverstein

    • Degree
      Ph.D., University of Delaware
    • Degree
      MBA, University of Delaware
    • Degree
      M.A., University of Delaware

    Dr. Glenn Silverstein's primary teaching assignments include the introductory graduate survey course for public administration and human resource management. He also teaches courses on leadership and ethics. His research interests include leadership in the public sector, public sector pedagogy and teaching methodologies, and public sector ethics.

  • Odd J. Stalebrink

    • Degree
      Ph.D., School of Public Policy, George Mason University
    • Degree
      M.Sc., Business Administration (finance), Jönköping International Business School, Sweden
    • Degree
      B.Sc., Business administration (accounting), Jönköping International Business School, Sweden

    Dr. Odd J. Stalebrink's research and teaching specializations are in the areas of public budgeting and financial management. His scholarly work has appeared in numerous peer-reviewed journals including, but not limited to, Financial Accountability & Management, Critical Perspectives on Accounting, Journal of Public Budgeting Accounting & Financial Management, Accounting Forum, The American Review of Public Administration, Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, International Journal of Technology, Policy and Management, and Public Budgeting & Finance.

  • Michele Tantardini

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Public Affairs, Florida International University
    • Degree
      M.Sc., Management of Public Administrations and International Institutions, Bocconi University

    Dr. Michele Tantardini is an assistant professor of public administration at Penn State Harrisburg, School of Public Affairs. He earned his doctorate focusing his studies and research on the relationship between performance information use and organizational social capital. His current research agenda focuses on three main topics: performance management, social capital, and public service motivation. His teaching interests are in performance management, organizational theory and behavior, and human resource management.

  • Triparna Vasavada

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Public Administration, SUNY Albany
    • Degree
      M.P.A., SUNY Albany
    • Degree
      M.A., Economics, Gujarat University, India
    • Degree
      B.A., Economics, Gujarat University, India

    Dr. Triparna Vasavada is an associate professor of public administration. Her research interests are nonprofit management, gender and leadership, and social network analysis. She teaches research methods and nonprofit management courses. Her work has appeared in American Review of Public Administration, Administration & Society, and Public Management Review. She has presented papers at conferences, including the American Society for Public Administration, International Society of Third-Sector Research, and Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action.

Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State master's degree?

Apply by July 15 to start August 21. How to Apply