The growth of online education has brought to light the importance of distinguishing the reliability of degree programs prior to enrolling. There is tremendous growth in the field of online education that continues to grow in relationship to new innovations in technology. With this growth, you may see more and more online education program arise, claiming that their programs are high quality and reliable. This is not enough confirmation for students that plan to find meaningful careers from their degrees.
The most effective method of verifying a degree program’s quality is through program accreditation. Program accreditation is a thorough review of the curriculum and requirements that are set forth for the targeted degree program. There are numerous agencies across the country that provide accreditation for different degree programs, depending on their discipline. For MPA programs, the primary organization to seek out for a list of accredited schools is the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA).
The NASPAA is the leading source of accreditation for programs that focus on public administration, public affairs, and public policy. This organization works hard to ensure that universities offering these programs have well-rounded programs that teach required courses within the right sequence. If you notice the NASPAA seal on a degree’s webpage, you can rest assured that the education you receive through this program is reputable and heavily reviewed. The accreditation process is continued throughout the length of degree program availability to ensure that the programs are always in compliance with the national standard.
Accreditation means more than just being approved for delivery for MPA programs. Accreditation is a seal of approval by the accrediting agency, which indicates that the degree program has met all of the course recommendations, learning topics, and reviews set forth by national regulations. Accreditation can be found at both the regional and program level. For MPA programs, you should ensure that your chosen program is specifically accredited rather than just the university having regional accreditation.
NASPAA Data on Accredited MPA Programs
100% Online MPA Programs
If you currently have a job, a family, or just do not have the extra time to consider a full-time college experience, there are options for you to pursue a higher degree in public administration. 100% online MPA programs can be found at many universities, which can be a life-changing factor for individuals that fall in some of the above-mentioned categories. Online degree programs consist of the same coursework, instructors, and topics as traditional programs, without the added inconvenience of having to attend classes in person.
Online MPA programs can be found at universities all over the country. There are currently 29 NASPAA-accredited programs for you to choose from (NASPAA; 2017). These programs are considered 100% online and do not have an in-person requirement for attendance. Students that choose to take this route for their degree may be expected to take part in online discussion topics, online testing, and independent critical thinking and analysis. Online programs can provide students with the opportunity to schedule their courses around their lifestyle rather than trying to work their life around daytime or evening courses.
Most online MPA programs have a credit hour requirement between 38 – 45. This requirement may consist of core courses, electives, and even capstone requirements for some universities. At full-time enrollment, students may be able to complete this degree program in 1 1/2 to 2 years. However, students that have a busier schedule can stretch the degree program out by using the part-time enrollment option. Check out the list of 100% online NASPAA-accredited degree programs below.
- Arkansas State University:: Online Master of Public Administration
- DePaul University:: Online Master of Public Administration
- The University of Central Florida:: Online Master of Public Administration
Hybrid MPA Programs
MPA programs can allow students to delve deep into the properties of effective leadership, project development, and ethical practice. With this being said, some universities have decided that there are some topics that are better delivered in an in-person environment rather than offering all courses in an online setting. In order to accommodate for the busy lifestyles of dedicated students, programs have been developed that provide a subtle blend of both online and traditional coursework. These types of programs can benefit students that still desire the traditional in-person setting but also need the convenience of some online courses.
Hybrid programs may consist of courses that can be taken online and courses that must be attended on campus. These programs are best suited for individuals that benefit more from contact learning rather than relying completely on independent studies. As you move forward into your research on suitable colleges, you may find that more and more universities are offering both online and traditional coursework options to their students. If you are confident that there are some courses you would rather take in-person, hybrid offerings may be your best bet for a good quality education.
In terms of completion time, hybrid programs are similar to both online and traditional degree programs. Hybrid programs can allow students to take a majority of their courses online while still appearing for those that should be taken in person. This can allow for full or part time scheduling, depending on what each student requires. Take a look at some NASPAA-accredited programs that offer courses in both traditional and online format below.
- Albany State University:: Master of Public Administration
- Eastern Michigan University:: Master of Public Administration
- Florida Atlantic University:: Master of Public Administration
Full Time vs. Part Time Programs
In the current day and age, it is unrealistic to assume that all students have the financial ability to go to college full-time without having a steady source of income throughout their experience. In addition to this fact, more adults than ever are going back to college to obtain a college degree. These factors make financial readiness a huge component to consider in this important life decision. When you are planning to advance your degree to the MPA level, you have different options for attending courses. Full and part-time programs are available depending on what you require as a working professional.
Full time degree programs are those that consist of at least 12 credit hours per semester. For most programs, this is around 4 courses per semester. Often referred to as the “full load”, this type of scheduling requires direct course involvement as well as out-of-class study times. The full time option is a great option for students that have the opportunity to attend school full time or for those that are coming directly from bachelor’s level program. Most students choose the full time route since it has the fastest completion time. On average, most full time MPA programs can be completed in around 1 1/2 to 2 years.
Part time degree programs can provide the most flexibility for busy college students. Students that are holding full-time jobs or just keeping a career part time may benefit from part time programs due to their already demanding schedules. Some students choose to take 6 to 9 credit hours per semester, which lightens their load and allows for a subtle split between working and studying. The completion time of part time MPA programs can range from 2 to 4 years, depending on the amount of credit hours a student chooses to take each semester.
Depending on where you stand in your personal and professional life, each of these paths may have benefits that are more suitable for what you require. For a lot of students, the rate that they complete a degree program is not the most important priority. Having the option to take courses at a full time rate or at a much more manageable part time rate adds to the attractiveness of obtaining a higher degree in public administration.
Types of Pubic Administration Degrees
Public administration specialists can be found in varying sectors of society. At the government level, you may have more of an interest in policy development or leadership for educational programs, healthcare development, or even legislation. For non-profit interests, you could pursue concentrations that are more focused on the leadership components of administration or even finance. Public administration is a field that includes all of the components that are pertinent to society.
Specializations in a degree program can provide you with more expertise within a field that you plan to pursue a career in after graduation. While public administration on its own is an excellent choice for a degree program, most students want to have something more to accommodate their need for focus throughout their degree program. When applying for jobs after graduation, it can be helpful to have a designation on your degree to communicate your knowledge and experience to your intended employer.
Choosing this degree program can set you on track for working in the private and public domains, which is a wide range of possibilities in terms of job availability. Depending on what your interests are, there are multiple specializations available for this degree program for you to choose from. Some of the most popular concentrations for the MPA degree are listed below for you to browse.
- Public Policy and Management
- Non Profit and Community Leadership
- Emergency Management
- Healthcare Policy
- Education Policy