Penn State's curriculum for this 36-credit course of study is intended to educate persons who aspire to leadership positions in public service careers in government and nonprofit organizations. The course work includes 18 credits of core courses, 15 elective credits, and a 3-credit master's project. Up to 6 credits of 400-level courses may be taken as electives, with the advanced approval of a departmental adviser.

In addition, a 3-credit (300 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.

Core course topics include:

  • research methods
  • organizational behavior
  • governmental fiscal decision making
  • public organization and management
  • human resources in the public and nonprofit sector
  • 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.

Elective Courses from Many Areas 

  • homeland security
  • human resources
  • nonprofit management
  • policy analysis and evaluation
  • public budgeting and financial management
  • state-local government and administration

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.

Course List - Master of Public Administration

Core Courses (18 credits)
Title Abbreviation Description Credits
Public Organization and Management P ADM 500 Development of basic concepts and issues in public administration; administrative theory and public policy processes. 3 credits
Governmental Fiscal Decision Making P ADM 502 Nature, function, and technique of governmental budgeting viewed as mechanism for allocating resources among alternative public uses.

Prerequisite: P ADM 500
3 credits
Research Methods P ADM 503 Examination of research methodologies relevant to administration, planning, and public policy.

Prerequisite: demonstrated working knowledge of IBM SPSS
3 credits
Human Resources in the Public and Nonprofit Sectors P ADM 505 Concepts and approaches contributing to effective use of human resources in public and non-profit organizations; legal issues and requirements. 3 credits
Introduction to Public Policy Analysis P ADM 507 Introduction to the analysis of public policy within its organizational and political contexts, including an emphasis on an economic perspective. 3 credits
Organizational Behavior P ADM 510 Examination of concepts of human behavior in formal organizations, systems analysis, conceptual models, and decision processes. 3 credits
Required Course (3 credits)
Title Abbreviation Description Credits
Research Topics P ADM 594 Supervised student activities on research projects identified on an individual or small-group basis.

Prerequisite: P ADM 503
3 credits
Internship (3 credits)
Title Abbreviation Description Credits
Internship P ADM 595* Supervised off-campus, nongroup instruction, including field experiences, practicums, or internships. Written and oral critique of activity required.

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

Prerequisite: P ADM 503
3 credits
Elective Courses (15 credits)
Title Abbreviation Description Credits
Agricultural Biosecurity: Protecting a Key Infrastructure AGBIO 520 Course will explore intentional and unintentional threats to the agriculture-food system, history, and current approaches for safeguarding this key infrastructure. 3 credits
Disaster Communication CAS 553 This seminar provides students with a comprehensive understanding of the multifaceted nature of disaster communication across phases of a disaster. 3 credits
Police Administration CRIMJ 408 Principles of administration as they relate to a police organization; and policy development.

Prerequisite: CRIMJ 100 or CRIM 100 and CRIMJ 210 or CRIM 210
3 credits
Alternatives to Incarceration CRIMJ 430 Control and treatment of offenders in the community, probation and parole organizations, diversion programs, innovative sentences, supervision techniques.

Prerequisite: CRIMJ 100 and CRIMJ 113 and CRIMJ 230 or permission of program
3 credits
The Juvenile Justice System CRIMJ 441 (US) Historical and contemporary view of the juvenile justice system. Focus on analyzing components of the system, their interactions, processing, and handling of youths.

Prerequisite: CRIMJ 100
3 credits
Labor and Employment Law HRER 501 Legal context of employment in the United States. 3 credits
Homeland Security and Defense in Practice HLS 404 This course analyzes, evaluates, and critiques homeland security plans in practice.

Prerequisite: P ADM 401
3 credits
Comparative Homeland Security and Related Methods HLS 540 The course will address international cooperation in Homeland Security and compare select national approaches as well as teach related practical methods of analysis.

Prerequisites: HLS 801, HLS 803, HLS 805, and P ADM 802 (In certain cases, students may be eligible for a prerequisite waiver based on prior academic or professional experience.)

3 credits
Disaster Psychology HLS 558 Explores psychological impact of disasters and terrorist attacks on victims, families, rescuers, and society and methods of reducing negative effects.

Prerequisite: permission of the program

3 credits
Strategic Planning and Organizational Imperatives in Homeland Defense and Security HLS 804 The homeland security framework depends on strategic planning and organization. This course examines the key issues associated with these. 3 credits
Fundamentals of Homeland Security HLS 811 Fundamentals of Homeland Security provides foundational knowledge about homeland security policy, strategy, organization, and legal issues in the U.S. context. 3 credits
U.S. Military’s Domestic Imperative: Homeland Defense and Defense Support of Civil Authorities HLS 832 Provides an overview of the homeland defense mission and defense support of civil authorities during disasters, and the distinctions between the two.
Prerequisites: HLS 801
3 credits
U.S. Homeland Security Law HLS 875 This course assesses the controlling authorities that pertain to homeland security, from the U.S. Constitution to major federal statutes, court decisions, and executive directives.  3 credits
Organizational Change and Development P ADM 511 Theory of organizational change and development; case analysis of applications in actual situations.

Prerequisite: H ADM 510 or P ADM 510
3 credits
Issues in Human Resources P ADM 512 A survey of major human resource issues such as job stress, burnout, and the many forms of discrimination in organizations.

Prerequisite: P ADM 505 or P ADM 510 or H ADM 510
3 credits
Strategic Planning P ADM 516 A survey of strategic planning purposes, approaches and methods, and expected outcomes in small and large organizations. 3 credits
Nonprofit Organizations: Management and Leadership P ADM 518 A study of the theoretical and practical issues involved in management and leadership of nonprofit organizations. 3 credits
Performance Measurement and Management P ADM 521 This course is designed to enhance students’ ability to develop and use performance measurement systems in the public sector.

Prerequisite: P ADM 500
3 credits
Government Financial Management P ADM 522 Theories and techniques of financial planning and control, with emphasis on their application in government and nonprofit agencies.

Prerequisite: P ADM 502
3 credits
Governmental and Nonprofit Accounting P ADM 523 Accounting, reporting, and auditing principles and procedures for public sector agencies and nonprofit organizations.

Prerequisite: P ADM 502
3 credits
Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations P ADM 557 Study of the impact of a federal system of government on the administration of public functions. National-state-local dimensions. 3 credits
Multifaceted Approaches to Homeland Security HLS 802 Examination of the roles of the public and private sectors and the military in preparing, mitigating, and responding to disasters.

Prerequisite: P ADM 401
3 credits
Strategic Planning and Organizational Imperatives in Homeland Defense and Security P ADM 803 The Homeland Security framework depends on strategic planning and organization. This course examines the key issues associated with these.

Prerequisite: P ADM 401
3 credits
The Politics of Terrorism PL SC 439 Analysis of political terrorism as a violent alternative for peaceful change and traditional warfare in the nuclear age.

Prerequisite: CRIMJ 100 or PL SC 014 or permission of program
3 credits
Psychological Foundations of Leadership PSY 532 Students will examine the social and psychological processes underlying leadership in organizations. 3 credits
Foundations of Behavior, Motivation, and Attitudes at Work PSY 539 Students will examine the psychological and social processes underlying behavior, motivation, and attitudes in work settings. 3 credits

Elective courses available in the following areas:

  • government administration
  • human resources management
  • information resource management
  • policy analysis 
  • criminal justice

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.