Why should you consider earning an MPA degree online? Public administration programs have plenty to offer, and some think them to be the most recognized degree in the field of public service. The advantage of choosing to study public administration over political science or business is that you’ll receive a unique blend of government and management training. MPA degrees are ideal for students who want to work in administrative or policy positions within the nonprofit or public sectors. And enrolling in an online program means that you can earn your degree on your own schedule – whether that means taking your time or accelerating the path to graduation.
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Top 30 Cheap Online Master’s Degrees in Public Administration
Last year, nearly 70% of the master's degrees that Anna Maria College conferred were to MPA students. Granted, the school only offers a handful of graduate programs as it is. Even so, this statistic speaks to the popularity of the program - not to mention the time and attention that AMC professors devote to its success. Indeed, these efforts come across in the program's carefully crafted curriculum, which even includes a "Mid-Career Track" (complete with two course waivers) for participants with significant work experience. And of course, earning your master's in public administration online from AMC comes with access to career-oriented concentrations ranging from Criminal Justice to Fire and Emergency Services. Average Tuition & Fees: $10,530/yr Score: 100
Popularity, flexibility, and affordability converge to form Park University's online MPA program. In addition to having the cheapest tuition rate on this ranking, Park's accredited online master's degree in public administration also features a high-quality curriculum - complete with approval from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). Within that curriculum, you'll have a chance to specialize in one of six targeted areas. Choose a traditional topic (e.g. Criminal Justice or Public Management) or carve a more unique niche with a concentration in Global Governance or Management Information Systems. Average Tuition & Fees: $8,025/yr Score: 99.5
UNO's low tuition rates and flexible, customizable curriculum work together to make this the #3 best affordable master's in public administration online. But a closer look reveals that this program offers plenty of other attractive features, too. For example, the University of Nebraska Omaha was the first school in the country to earn NASPAA accreditation for its online MPA degree. Even more unique, the curriculum comes with a rare concentration in Aviation. On this track, you'll study transportation safety and finance, aviation administration and policy, and airport management. But if that's a little too unusual for you, rest assured that the program also offers standard concentrations in Public Policy, Local Government, and Criminology, among other topics. Average Tuition & Fees: $10,259/yr Score: 95.7
Believe it or not, CSU Northridge is one of the largest providers of MPA degrees in the entire country (third to Harvard and Columbia)! In fact, last year the university conferred degrees to nearly 600 students from the program. Of course, this popularity is partly due to CSUN's convenient online format. But it also arises from the school's partnerships with agencies across California, which it uses to deliver a cutting-edge curriculum and connect graduates with the best possible job opportunities. On top of all that, members of this affordable online MPA program can select concentrations in in-demand areas like Health Administration and Public Sector Management. Average Tuition & Fees: $12,317/yr Score: 95.2
The main mission of Troy University's cheap online master's degree in public administration is to provide you with one thing: opportunities. Whether you want to work as a policy or budget analyst, law enforcement administrator, grant writer, personnel specialist, or researcher, Troy's program will help you get there. How? By combining a solid core sequence with an extensive selection of concentrations. Indeed, Troy offers something for everyone, including unique tracks in Government Contracting and National Security Affairs. If you're interested in the former, you might also consider earning a 12-credit certificate in Government Contracting for a quick resume boost. Average Tuition & Fees: $11,521/yr Score: 89.53
Last year, nearly 100 students earned their MPA degree from UNC Pembroke. So what makes this program so popular? Maybe it's the engaging online delivery methods, which feature interactive lessons and live-streaming video. Or maybe applicants are attracted to the professionally-oriented concentrations in Health Administration, Public Management, Criminal Justice, and Emergency Management. On the other hand, UNC Pembroke's popularity could stem from its balanced curriculum, which melds theory with application and accommodates professionals from many different backgrounds. But more than likely, it's a combination of all these factors that make this one of the top master's in public administration online. Average Tuition & Fees: $11,053/yr Score: 88.03
If you can handle a quick pace and want to complete your degree as quickly as possible, then the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley has the perfect program for you. By delivering courses in accelerated, seven-week modules, UTRGV allows MPA students to enroll and graduate in as little as one year. No other school on our MPA degrees online ranking offers such a short timeline. Of course, speed is not all that this program has going for it. Other highlights include a comprehensive curriculum (with a particularly unique class in political leadership) plus a recently revamped capstone that requires participants to design a product for a real-life client. Average Tuition & Fees: $10,280/yr Score: 82.72
Like most schools on this online master's degree in public administration ranking, Florida International University has earned NASPAA accreditation for its MPA. So how does FIU stand out, then? Interestingly, some of the program's best features arise outside of the classroom. For example, MPA students have access to a superior alumni network specifically for public service and nonprofit jobs. Plus, FIU's Career Services Department has a dedicated coordinator that works exclusively with students in the public administration program. Of course, the academics are plenty strong, too. In fact, the curriculum supports specializations in an impressive five distinct areas of study. Average Tuition & Fees: $17,650/yr Score: 82.15
Interested in criminal justice, government administration, or homeland security? You're in luck; Wayland Baptist University offers specialized MPA degrees in each of these areas. All three of WBU's online master's degrees in public administration split their coursework evenly between core and concentration classes (18 credits each). This means you'll have plenty of space to stretch out and explore your chosen area of specialization. For example, Homeland Security concentrators can take classes in crisis communication, terrorism, international legal systems, espionage, conflict resolution, and much more. And like most programs, this degree also incorporates a capstone to help you synthesize your knowledge and apply your skills to real-world problems. Average Tuition & Fees: $11,800/yr Score: 81.22
You can earn your degree from the University of Montana without ever setting foot on campus - or leaving your house, for that matter. After enrolling in this NASPAA-accredited master's in public administration online, you'll gain access to an extensive list of web-based classes - including plenty of elective options. In fact, you can choose from dozens of courses to tailor your degree to a specific topic. Pre-approved specializations include Public and Nonprofit Administration, but the department will also approve coursework in Environmental, International Development, or Local Government Administration. And while UM encourages students without professional experience to pursue an internship, it is not a requirement for graduation. Average Tuition & Fees: $13,224/yr Score: 79.86
According to U.S. News, Indiana University - Bloomington houses the #1 top MPA degree online. Indeed, the program's high-quality curriculum and unique perks easily set it apart from the crowd. For example, IU's School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) operates a Career Development and Alumni Relations office that works to connect current students with hiring organizations across the country. And if you're currently working in the field, you can take advantage of the program's "prior professional experience credit" and save significant time (and money) in earning your degree. Yet another perk? SPEA offers "advanced curriculum areas" that you can use to acquire targeted expertise in Policy Analysis, Public Financial Administration, and more. Average Tuition & Fees: $19,859/yr Score: 77.35
The MPA curriculum at the University of South Florida is one of the most extensive that you'll find on this master's in public administration online ranking. To earn their degree, USF MPA students must complete a full 45 credits (15 classes) of coursework. However, the core sequence is fairly standard in both length and content; it includes eight courses in subjects like "Public Budgeting" and "Ethics and Public Service." That leaves you plenty of room to customize the rest of your degree with electives. You can focus on a particular topic - Nonprofit Administration or Budgeting and Financial Management, for example - or pick an eclectic mix to suit your unique interests and goals. Average Tuition & Fees: $15,777/yr Score: 76.34
Given its reputation for online learning, it should come as no surprise that National University offers an efficient, highly-structured MPA program. Organized through a series of key learning objectives, National's online MPA curriculum will guide you through a sequence of increasingly complex lessons. You'll start with "Foundations of Public Administration"before moving onto advanced topics in ethics, urban planning, and grant administration. Finally, you'll tackle a two-month capstone project under the guidance of a faculty advisor. Working individually or with classmates, you'll research a pertinent topic, analyze the data, and prepare both written and oral reports. Average Tuition & Fees: $11,232/yr Score: 75.7
At CSU Dominguez Hills, online learning differs significantly from the on-campus experience. But this isn't a bad thing; rather, faculty modifies their web-based lessons to maximize interactivity and understanding. For example, while traditional students meet weekly in one three-hour block, online learners will log into Blackboard for discussions and assignments several times throughout the week. This approach ensures a high level of engagement as you take classes in public management, budgeting, policy analysis, and more. And to really get the most bang for your buck out of CSU's affordable online public administration master's program, you can add a concentration in Criminal Justice, Nonprofit Administration, Public Management, or Health Care Policy. Average Tuition & Fees: $12,153/yr Score: 75.2
As an executive degree, the University of Texas A&M's online MPA differs from other programs in that it focuses exclusively on career advancement for current full-time public service professionals. From the very beginning, the curriculum dives into challenging topics like economic analysis, quantitative methods, and public policy formation. And the challenges continue in an intensive, two-semester capstone class. Here, you'll collaborate with your classmates and a local government agency or nonprofit organization to tackle a relevant public service issue. Given the high-level curriculum and rigorous expectations, it's clear that UTAM - College Station has one of the top online master's degrees in public administration for experienced professionals who want to enhance their career prospects. Average Tuition & Fees: $13,989/yr Score: 74.27
In many ways, UC Colorado Springs' MPA program is virtually indistinguishable from the other schools on this list. The 36-credit curriculum includes a standard core sequence that covers topics like organizational management, ethics, public finance, and leadership. In addition, you'll complete a final capstone or thesis paper, plus an internship (for those lacking sufficient work experience in public service). But there's another reason that UCCS stands out on our online master's degrees in public administration ranking: graduate certificates. That is, you can apply your electives to simultaneously earn both your MPA and a 15-credit certificate in Nonprofit Management, Homeland Security, or National Security Intelligence, among other options. Average Tuition & Fees: $15,068/yr Score: 70.68
The typical applicant to Indiana State's MPA program is a mid-career professional who wants to expand their opportunities by earning a graduate degree. Since many of these students work full-time, the program provides flexibility in the form of part-time enrollment and convenient online delivery (including both asynchronous access and web-based videoconferencing). As for coursework, the curriculum aims to build on candidates' foundational knowledge and enhance their current abilities. The required core even includes two advanced seminars in "Public Administration" and "American Administrative Institutions and Public Policies." In addition, you can choose from some concentrations that are relatively uncommon for this online public administration master's programs ranking. Average Tuition & Fees: $10,757/yr Score: 68.17
For students looking to get in and out of a degree program as quickly as possible, San Diego State University offers an enticing option. That's because its cheap online master's degree in public administration takes a mere 16 months to complete! However, speed and affordability don't take the place of quality at SDSU. Participants take on a full 36-credit curriculum, complete with four electives, a capstone, and two on-campus experiences (one each the beginning and end of the program). But thanks to an accelerated pace that lets you take two courses at a time in two-month modules, you'll be out the door - and on with your career - in no time. Average Tuition & Fees: $12,814/yr Score: 68.03
Interested in an online program but worried about losing the interactivity of traditional classes? Look to the University of North Dakota, where live web courses will bring you together (virtually) with your classmates one night a week. This format allows for dynamic discussions and real-time lessons as you study health policy, public personnel, administrative ethics, and more. On another note, UND has perhaps the top master's in public administration online for social entrepreneurs. That's thanks to its concentration in Social Entrepreneurship, which includes classes in political advocacy and the creation and management of social enterprises. Average Tuition & Fees: $14,643/yr Score: 66.02
At the University of West Georgia, it doesn't matter if you've spent years in public service, are completely new to the field, or are looking for a mid-life career change. UWG's accredited online public administration master's program can handle students from virtually every background; all you need is a strong work ethic and an interest in government work. Once admitted, you'll dive into a rich core curriculum that covers all the standard topics, including organizational theory, budgeting, policy analysis, administrative law, and more. In the second half of the program, you'll pick electives and complete a Comprehensive Research Project. This project will require you to analyze a relevant program, policy, or issue in public administration. Average Tuition & Fees: $11,709/yr Score: 65.59
Marist College's MPA program aims to transform you into the ideal public administrator. In other words, it will instill you with critical thinking and problem-solving skills while shaping you into a leader who can motivate others and encourage creativity in diverse groups. These abilities will come to you as you tackle challenging core classes like "Innovation in Public Administration" and "Technology Management for Public Managers." Next, you'll customize this affordable online master's degree in public administration with one of four concentrations. Options include Emergency Services, Healthcare Administration, Public Management, and Ethical Leadership. Average Tuition & Fees: $14,040/yr Score: 63.3
University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus
For an intensely career-focused MPA program, look no further than the University of Colorado Denver. The degree's targeted concentrations are designed to tailor your skills to particular occupational areas, including Crime Analysis; Nonprofit Organizations; and Environmental Policy, Management, and Law. (Note, however, that some concentration courses may not be available online). While pursuing this affordable master's in public administration online, you'll also have to decide between completing a final seminar course or writing a thesis. Speaking of affordable, UC Denver offers a significant discount to out-of-state applicants; instead of the traditional rate, non-residents only pay 120% of in-state tuition. Average Tuition & Fees: $16,282/yr Score: 62.87
More than most schools on this master's in public administration online ranking, EKU's program prioritizes flexibility and customizability. At its core, the curriculum aims to help you "hone your leadership and managerial skills." But beyond that, this degree is what you make of it. You'll even have an opportunity to design your own personalized area of concentration by combining electives from across the graduate school catalog. For example, past students have crafted specializations in areas like Homeland Security and Occupational Safety. If this level of freedom seems a bit too daunting, rest easy: you can always opt for EKU's pre-approved concentration in Community Development. Average Tuition & Fees: $12,720/yr Score: 62.8
If you're interested in emergency management, check out the MPA program at Sam Houston State. In addition to traditional public administration coursework, SHSU's curriculum also incorporates specialized classes like "Global Disaster Politics" and "Emergency Management" that will prepare you to handle any crisis you may face on the job. Aside from this unique specialization, Sam Houston's affordable online public administration master's program also stands out for the personalized attention it offers. In fact, the school caps course enrollment at 20 students to ensure that you get plenty of time to interact with your professors. Average Tuition & Fees: $10,995/yr Score: 62.8
Northern Michigan University's flexible MPA program can accommodate current public admin professionals as well as those who are new to the field. The curriculum starts with a series of essential classes (e.g. "Public Budget Management") to benefit students of all skill levels. Next, you'll have a chance to branch out by completing four electives. Select an assortment of topics or group your courses around a particular concentration, such as Criminal Justice Administration or State and Local Government. And when you're almost ready to graduate from this top MPA degree online, you'll wrap things up with a final capstone or thesis paper. Average Tuition & Fees: $10,326/yr Score: 61.58
Compared to other top online public administration master's programs, Arkansas State's degree puts a much stronger emphasis on management skills. In fact, one of the program's main goals is to help candidates obtain executive and director-level positions within their current fields of employment. To assist in this effort, ASU has developed a curriculum that includes a specialized track in Public Management. This track incorporates all the topics you'll need to emerge as a leader on the job, from financial management and policy analysis to administrative behavior. In addition, the program offers an optional internship course and an MPA capstone that helps you build a professional portfolio. Average Tuition & Fees: $8,231/yr Score: 59.35
At the University of Texas at Arlington, public administration is a versatile discipline that could lead to careers in government, business, consulting, or the nonprofit sector. To capture this versatility, the school's accredited online master's degree in public administration offers classes that span from "Foundations of Urban Research and Analysis" to "Intergovernmental Relations" and "Public and Non-Profit Human Resources Law." The curriculum also includes an internship course that is required for students with less than a year of work experience in public service. But even if you qualify for an exemption, you'll still have to take a final capstone class. Here, you'll conduct research and write a comprehensive paper on a topic of professional interest. Average Tuition & Fees: $13,068/yr Score: 59.21
Complete your degree in just 18 months while enjoying small class sizes and personalized support at Norwich University. Courses enroll no more than 15 students, making it easy to get one-on-one attention from your professors - many of whom have a professional background in public administration. Another reason Norwich has one of the top online master's degrees in public administration? The curriculum puts a heavy focus on career development. Indeed, you'll design your own capstone project to address an issue in your current workplace and even develop a final portfolio to showcase your skills to employers. Average Tuition & Fees: $19,249/yr Score: 59.07
Texas A&M International University is another school on this MPA degrees online ranking that has earned accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy Affairs and Administration (NASPAA). As such, you can trust that TAMIU's MPA curriculum offers a quality education and will prepare you for a successful career in the nonprofit or public service sector. The course plan doesn't come with any concentrations, but you can still explore areas of personal interest through electives. Plus, you'll hone your practical skills while gaining real-world experience through a required project or internship. Average Tuition & Fees: $9,604/yr Score: 57.71
Villanova's accredited, skills-focused MPA program seeks to create "ethical, intelligent, and creative leaders" who will "make a difference in their communit[ies]." To achieve this goal, the curriculum addresses key concepts like organization theory and public personnel management. In addition, this affordable online MPA comes with two optional specializations: Nonprofit Management and City Management. The former covers topics like fundraising and ethics, while the latter provides coursework in strategic planning, public networks, and urban politics. And in both cases, you'll have to demonstrate your knowledge by passing a comprehensive exam before graduating. Average Tuition & Fees: $18,017/yr Score: 57.56
Methodology: Here's How We Rank Schools
At Best Value Schools, we help students of all ages get the best possible value for their education. When choosing the best schools and programs, we prioritize tuition rates, student debt, financial aid opportunities, graduation rates, and the availability of online programs.
We source unbiased data from government and educational databases like the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 6,374 schools across the U.S. We organize that data into five weighted categories to compile our school rankings.
Full-time faculty percentage, student-to-faculty ratio, student retention and graduation rates
Tuition rates, median student debt, and financial aid
Admission and enrollment rates
Number of program options
Online Enrollment Score
Portion of learners taking at least one online course
You can read more about our comprehensive evaluation process on our methodology page.
Featured Online Programs
Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.
Online learners often place a premium on affordability in their search for schools, and for a good reason. When you have a job and a family, the financial commitment you’re willing to make to college is a significant decision. Luckily, this list can be your guide.
The 30 Best Online MPA Programs Ranking Methodology
For this ranking, we looked for public and private (non-profit) colleges and universities that offer MPA degrees online. Because the focus of this list is on affordability, we only considered programs with average* tuition rates of $20,000/year or less.
*For public schools, we calculated the average value of their in-state and out-of-state rates.
After compiling a list of all the colleges that offer online master’s degrees in public administration and meet the above criteria, we then collected data in four categories:
Program Popularity: How many graduate students choose to earn their degree in public administration over another option that the school offers (that is, how much more attractive is the MPA program than alternatives, like an MBA for example)? To find out, we looked at both the number of master’s students who earned their MPA in the most recent school year as well as the percentage of all master’s program graduates that that number represents.
Concentration Options: Does the program provide specialized pathways that allow students to develop their expertise in a particular topic (e.g. criminal justice or nonprofit management)? If so, how many of these concentrations does the curriculum offer?
Flexibility:Does the program allow students to customize their program through electives? If so, how many of these classes (including concentration courses) are incorporated into the curriculum?
Affordability: What is the average annual cost of attendance?
After collecting and sorting all the information, we ranked the candidates according to their performance in each area. Finally, we summed up the results and gave each school a final score using a curve so that the top-scoring program earned an even 100 points.
Read more about the best cheap online public administration master’s programs below!
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