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Master of
Public Administration

Program summary

This NASPAA–accredited online Master of Public Administration (MPA) program focuses on leveraging public policy, policy data analysis, and organizational effectiveness to help communities better serve their constituents. Offered by Penn State Harrisburg’s School of Public Affairs, this program offers real-world skills that you can apply to your career immediately.

Application deadline

Apply by December 1 to start January 8

Credits and costs

39 Credits $1,017 per credit

Cultivate the Skills Needed to Make a Real Difference

Public administrators are responsible for taking policy decisions made by community leaders and implementing them in a strategic way that ensures stewardship and stability of public resources. The Penn State World Campus MPA focuses on the numerous intersections between law, public policy, government, and even the private sector. As a student in the program, you can cultivate your leadership style, perfect your decision-making and problem-solving skills, and develop awareness for addressing public-sector issues.

Expand Your Skill Set

The MPA curriculum blends theoretical and applied concepts and incorporates an internship and a capstone research project to give you the opportunity to hone your skills in the field. Choose your electives as you see fit to match your career aspirations and interests, and prepare for your career by learning to:

  • communicate complex ideas effectively
  • build relationships with stakeholders
  • improve collaboration among diverse teams
  • use data to develop budgets, predict results, and evaluate success

The Penn State Difference

The Penn State World Campus Master of Public Administration is the perfect program for those that have a passion for and commitment to public service. This advanced degree is an excellent qualification for those who aspire to be difference makers in their communities. Our faculty’s connections with local governments and nonprofits provide students with first-hand access to see how government works and how they can become a helpful part of it.


The Penn State World Campus program in public administration 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.

Your Experience Matters

You don’t have to have a background in public service or experience in the realm of law and public policy to make a difference in your own way. No matter your undergraduate degree, our MPA program can build upon your past education and experience and prepare you to take on roles as a leader or an administrator in the public sector.


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.

2023–24 Academic Year Rates

Tuition rates for the fall 2023, spring 2024, and summer 2024 semesters.

How many credits do you plan to take per semester? Cost
11 or fewer $1,017 per credit
12 or more $12,203 per semester

2024–25 Academic Year Rates

Tuition rates for the fall 2024, spring 2025, and summer 2025 semesters.

How many credits do you plan to take per semester? Cost
11 or fewer $1,027 per credit
12 or more $12,325 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.

  • Spring DeadlineApply by December 1 to start January 8
  • Summer DeadlineApply by April 1 to start May 13
  • Fall DeadlineApply by July 15, 2024, to start August 26, 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 December 1 to start January 8. How to Apply

Career Opportunities

Two women reviewing documents together

Nearly every aspect of our lives in our communities has been influenced by a public administrator. Penn State’s online MPA program was designed to allow you to pursue whichever specialization best suits your aspirations. Our curriculum design allows you to choose your electives to best meet your goals, including our capstone research project and internship.

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 

Who Should Apply?

If you are interested in a career in government, public management, policy process, 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.

No matter your undergraduate degree, our MPA program can build upon your past education and experience and prepare you to take on roles as a leader or an administrator in the public sector.

Earn a Valuable Credential Along the Way

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

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.

Certificate Programs Related to This Degree

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

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  

Set Your Own Pace

Whether you are looking to balance your studies with your busy life or finish your degree as quickly as possible, you can go at a pace that will suit your schedule.

Looking to fit your education into a busy life?
You can complete courses at your own pace while maintaining your professional and personal responsibilities. Most students take just one or two online courses per semester.

Looking to earn your degree as quickly as possible?
Most graduate-level programs recommend a slower pace, and you should consult with your adviser if you would like to take three or more courses in a semester.

A Trusted Leader in Online Education 

Penn State has a history of more than 100 years of distance education and has been a leader in online learning for more than two decades. Our online learning environment offers the same quality education that our students experience on campus.

This program’s convenient online format gives you the flexibility you need to study around your busy schedule. You can skip the lengthy commute without sacrificing the quality of your education and prepare yourself for more rewarding career opportunities without leaving your home.

Information for Military and Veterans

Are you a member of the military, a veteran, or a military spouse? Please visit our military website for additional information regarding financial aid, transfer credits, and application instructions.

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 protected]

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

Learn from the Best

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 in an engaging environment that promotes success at a distance.


  • 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 December 1 to start January 8. How to Apply