The Best Master’s in Public Administration Programs in the US

If you are considering pursuing a career in government or at a nongovernmental organization, earning a master’s degree in public administration is an excellent way to kickstart your professional life, set yourself apart from other candidates in the hiring process, and learn how to be an effective administrator. 

MPA programs prepare students for many different jobs, from municipal government positions to nonprofit organizations like the Salvation Army and more. 

The curriculum for these programs typically includes a range of topics, such as economics, business management, social theory, and political science. Students in MPA programs will learn the fundamentals of public administration and how to develop and implement effective policies. 

Public administration is a superb field of study for those who are natural leaders or have a passion for public service.

These careers are not only potentially very rewarding, but also growing. There are over 1.3 million jobs in the public administration sector as of 2021, which is expected to rise.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market for public administrators who hold advanced degrees is projected to grow by at least 10% over the next decade.  

Of course, it is crucial to think carefully when choosing a school at which to earn an MPA. Finding the right program for you involves knowing what your professional aspirations are, what your academic needs and preferences are, and what different schools have to offer. 

Here are 10 of the best master’s in public administration programs in the US. These schools were selected because of their top ranking in major publications, such as US News and World Report and Niche

University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy (Chicago, IL)

University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy
Kenneth C. Zirkel, Harris School of Public Policy at the Keller Center, CC BY-SA 4.0

Established in 1890, the University of Chicago is an excellent private university offering more than 100 graduate degree programs, including many joint and dual degree options. U Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy offers multiple degrees relating to public administration. 

One of these is the master of public policy, a two-year professional degree program that emphasizes empirically motivated critical thinking and in-depth policy analysis.  

There is also a one-year MA in public policy, intended for students who already hold advanced degrees but wish to deepen their understanding of public policy and related areas of inquiry. 

Harris also offers the Pearson Institute International Policy and Development Certificate for students interested in studying international affairs. Students in this program can take a selected list of elective courses to earn the certificate.

Indiana University O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs (Bloomington, IN)

A public research university with more than 40,000 students, Indiana University is home to one of the best master’s programs for public affairs in the United States. 

Offered through the Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, the masters in public affairs program at the college is tied for being the #1 program of its kind in the country, according to US News and World Report. 

In addition, the university has been ranked best in the nation in terms of their program offerings relating to environmental policy and management, nonprofit management, and public finance. 

As of the 2020-21 academic year, an impressive 98% of students who complete Indiana U’s MPA program have been able to either secure employment or enroll in further graduate studies upon graduation. 

Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government (Cambridge, MA)

Harvard University is globally recognized as one of the most prestigious institutions for higher education in existence, so it comes as little surprise that the school’s MPA is also world-class. 

According to US News and World Report, Harvard’s public affairs programs are tied for third best in the country.

In addition, the school is ranked #2 in the US in terms of their program offerings relating to two different subject areas falling under the public administration umbrella: health policy and management and international global policy and administration.

Offered through the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard’s MPA is a two-year program with a highly flexible curriculum. MPA students can custom-tailor a program of study that suits their academic interests and professional goals.

Syracuse University Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs (Syracuse, NY)

Syracuse University Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

A prominent private school located in urban Syracuse, NY, Syracuse University is home to one of the most highly-revered MPA programs in the country. 

In fact, Syracuse’s MPA program was the first-ever program of its kind to be established in the United States. 

The program is a part of the Public Administration and International Affairs Department of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

Students in Syracuse University’s MPA program can personalize their degree experience by choosing from eight different study areas. 

On top of that, the school offers six certificates of advanced study that can be earned simultaneously with the MPA.

Home to 14 different research centers, Syracuse also gives MPA students ample opportunities to work with faculty members on meaningful works of academic inquiry.

University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs (Athens, GA)

Although not quite as highly-revered of a school as Harvard, when it comes to their MPA program offerings, the University of Georgia is on par with the elite Ivy League school. On US News and World Report’s ranked list of best public affairs programs, the University of Georgia also occupies the #3 spot among all colleges in the country.

In addition, the MPA is the most highly-ranked graduate program at the school. The MPA in public administration is one of two degrees offered by U Georgia’s Department of Public Administration and Policy, with the other being the PhD in philosophy. 

The MPA program is offered through the School of Public and International Affairs; the MPA program is designed to prepare students for a wide range of careers in government and/or the nonprofit sector. 

University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy (Los Angeles, CA)

The University of Southern California, an esteemed private university that was founded in 1880, is home to the Sol Price School of Public Policy. 

USC Price offered a world-class master’s in public administration program, which also ties with Harvard and University of Georgia for #3 in the country, according to US News and World Report. 

USC Price gives students the option to take the MPA program either online or in-person. There are also two different certificate programs for those who wish to specialize in a particular area of study: public policy is one, with the other being city and county management.

Select students in the MPA program are given the opportunity to be a part of the City County Management Fellowship

Founded in 2006, the fellowship program allows graduate students to gain real experience in public administration under the guidance of USC faculty, staff, and local public administrators.

University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy (Ann Arbor, MI)

One of the top universities in the United States, the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor is a large public university with an excellent MPA program. 

The Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at UMich offers two different degree programs for students interested in careers in public administration. 

One of these is the master of public policy, a two-year program focused on analyzing policies. The other option is the master of public affairs.

While the MPP program requires the completion of 48 credit hours of relevant academic study, the MPA program is shorter, consisting of just 30 credits, typically taken over two semesters.

According to US News and World Report, U Mich ranks #1 in the nation in terms of its program offerings relating to social policy. 

University of California – Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy (Berkeley, CA)

The University of California – Berkeley has been ranked the #1 public university in the entire world for nine consecutive years, coming in #4 in terms of both public and private universities. The school is home to the Goldman School of Public Policy, which offers a world-class master’s program in public affairs.

According to the school, the average student in the MPA program is 35 years old and has 11 years of work experience. 

In light of these statistics, one can conclude that Berkeley’s MPA is an excellent choice of program for established professionals looking to further their careers and deepen their pre-existing understanding of public administration.

Berkeley’s MPA consists of 30 credits, generally taken over one year. Students in the program benefit from small class sizes and numerous opportunities to network with industry leaders.

Arizona State University School of Public Affairs (Tempe, AZ)

According to Niche, Arizona State University is the #1 college in Arizona, also ranking first in the state in terms of student life, business programs, and diversity. It follows that the university’s MPA program offerings are also top-rated.

Offered through the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, the ASU MPA program consists of 42 credits. The school has many different options for personalizing the program’s duration, focus, and curriculum.  

Students in the MPA program at ASU can choose among four specialty areas, if they so desire. These are urban management, emergency management, nonprofit administration, and public finance. 

The school also offers several accelerated degree program options, enabling students to simultaneously complete a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in as little as five years. 

Texas A&M University Bush School of Government and Public Service (College Station, TX)

The first institution of higher education to be established in the state of Texas, Texas A&M University is a well-revered public school located conveniently between Houston, Dallas, and Austin. The school is most well-known for its agricultural programs, but its offerings relating to public administration are also top-notch. 

The Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University offers a master of public service and administration that has been ranked as one of the country’s top programs of its kind, according to US News and World Report.

The school’s MPSA has also been named’s “Intelligent Pick” for best public administration master’s program. It is offered both online and in-person, with three different concentration tracks: public management, nonprofit management, and public policy analysis.