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What to Look for When Considering M.P.A. Programs

By Peterson's Staff updated on Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The best part of pursuing an M.P.A. degree is the ability to learn an interdisciplinary approach that will help you to lead, implement policy, solve problems, and improve efficiency in organizations, institutions, and different levels of government. In your chosen graduate program in public administration, the courses you take will dip into areas of human resources, management, administration, statistics, budgeting, communications, ethics, and policy analysis; all while supplying you with what implications would affect the public sector.

Learning in a multi-channeled way not only broadens your horizons, but better prepares you to work in public service internships, and of course, potential employment opportunities.

Keeping a Broad View with a Specialized Focus

While keeping a broad view with a specialized focus sounds a little too ironic, it really isn't, when you consider how excellently M.P.A. programs do just that. When earning your M.P.A. degree, you will learn how interconnected levels of government function, how world events can effect budgetary funding, when to implement policy changes, and much more.

The program you ultimately choose should provide a good variety of core courses that can be applied to many careers but then also carry options to specialize in a particular sub-set of public administration. For instance, if you know you want to work in a non-profit charity organization after graduation, choose an M.P.A. program that offers courses like non-profit management and non-profit communication. If you're looking to work internationally, pick a program that offers courses like diversity or international management, international policy-making, international finance, and global citizenship.

M.P.A. Program Accreditation

Not only do accredited programs meet or exceed set standards for quality, but they also let you know that the education you receive will provide you with the necessary knowledge to competently work in the field.  When you look for employment, potential employers will note whether or not the program you attended was accredited. Though attending a school without accreditation may not be a deal breaker, you should still be aware that accreditation will increase the noteworthiness of your chosen graduate program.

M.P.A. programs are accredited by the membership association National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA), which is made up of graduate programs in public administration, public policy, and public affairs. To find out basic information about NASPAA accreditation, visit their Information for Students and Student FAQ pages.

Earning an Online Master's in Public Administration

Online education has the unfortunate stigma of lacking quality and not preparing students enough academically. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, in many ways, online programs are more rigorous to complete since students must take an active part in their education by posting on discussion boards, contacting professors, and writing out responses to classmates instead of relying on the motto "showing up is half the battle."

If you're not sure about the viability of attending an online M.P.A. program, the NASPAA provides a list of online accredited programs, which may help to ease your concerns.

Public Administration Programs
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