MPA Curriculum: Courses in a Public Administration Program

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Two public administrators discuss a policy paper.Whether they work in nonprofit organizations or government agencies, public administrators identify issues that need attention and work with stakeholders to develop solutions that help communities and support their residents. Working to improve the daily lives of others can be a uniquely satisfying career.

An advanced degree such as a Master of Public Administration (MPA) can offer students the knowledge and expertise they need to identify and work to solve social issues. An MPA curriculum is designed to prepare students to administer the complex business and leadership tasks that enhance life in a community.

MPA Application

The first step toward earning an MPA is understanding the application process, including education and admission requirements.

MPA applicants are required to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, either in public administration or a related field. This provides the building blocks that a graduate program will build on. Part of the application is an official transcript from the institution where the student earned the degree.

Applicants also typically write a letter of intent as part of the application process. Also known as a personal statement, the letter’s purpose is to demonstrate why the student is interested in a career in public administration. The letter highlights the applicant’s educational background, work experience, and relevant extracurricular activities, and why the applicant is interested in studying at the specific institution.

Additionally, applicants commonly need to submit a resume that highlights any academic awards and contains details about their work experience, professional affiliations, and any volunteer or service work they have done.

Letters of recommendation are also typically part of the MPA application process, with the number of letters depending on the institution. These letters may be written by professors or supervisors from a relevant job or internship.

Some institutions may have additional application requirements for international students, such as a minimum benchmark for a TOEFL or IELTS exam to confirm English language proficiency.

MPA Courses

Although the names may differ, students can expect to see these classes in an online MPA program  curriculum:

Organizational Leadership

Through an organizational leadership course, students learn about the different leadership techniques used to guide an institution toward its overall vision. The coursework features techniques that students can apply to lead both personnel within an organization and the public.

Financial Management in Government

The financial standing of a public institution widely impacts its ability to govern. This course teaches students how to create budgets, manage financial assets, and coordinate other finance-related affairs for government institutions.

Strategic Communication and Outreach for Nonprofit Management

Nonprofit organizations are restricted in how they can acquire funding. Therefore, they must use strategic communication to build their credibility and attract volunteers or donors. This course shows students how to use strategic communication techniques, such as emotional messaging, to win support from the public.

Research Methods in Leadership and Public Affairs

This course provides students with the tools to perform research for public institutions. These include different research methods that public leaders might use, such as collecting data from the public using questionnaires. Students can use the techniques they learn to collect and analyze data that can impact policy and to keep the public informed about trends that may impact their lives.

Policy Analysis for Public Affairs and Leadership

The policymaking process has several stages. In this course, students learn how to navigate some of the key steps, including policy formulation, adoption, and evaluation.

Leading public institutions requires an aptitude for motivating and managing large groups of people. To help them grow in their capacity as public administrators, professionals can enroll in a Master of Public Administration program. Upon completing the required MPA courses, graduates should have developed a flexible range of professional skills and knowledge that is well suited for administrative positions in the public sector.

Skills Promoted in an MPA Curriculum

Public administrators have the unique responsibility of leading large populations through policymaking, planning, and direct management. Succeeding in this role requires a diverse professional skill set that includes the following proficiencies:


Public servants communicate with business leaders, community members, and other public administrators on a near-daily basis, adjusting their method of communication for each scenario. For example, explaining to constituents why they should support a critical public initiative may require an educational style of communication that incorporates information about how the initiative will impact their lives.

Alternatively, negotiating policy with other civil servants might be achieved with a persuasive communication style that relies on facts and research findings to support an idea. To ensure that graduates can adapt their communication style to the task at hand, a typical MPA curriculum includes continual opportunities to learn fundamental communication skills, such as writing, listening, speaking, and presenting.

Policy Development and Analysis

Policies are the guiding principles that public institutions use to coordinate their activities. Public administrators are often responsible for recommending, developing, implementing, and/or managing these policies. To ensure that their institutions are moving in the right direction, public administrators must evaluate the effectiveness of policies and rewrite them when necessary. Doing so requires a thorough analysis of the policies in question.

An MPA curriculum teaches students the foremost methods of analyzing public policies, giving them the expertise they need to create and continuously improve policies to ensure they are serving the community’s best interests.

Financial Management for Public Institutions

At times, public and nonprofit administrators are tasked with managing an organization’s finances. While the principles of finance are relatively static across disciplines, the ways that public, nonprofit, and private institutions use financial practices can be radically different.

Public employees must operate within a strict political framework that defines what they are allowed to do when handling public funds, even if those rules result in a financial loss for the institution. Through their coursework, MPA students learn how to collaborate with their colleagues and constituents to draft good financial plans that keep cash flows properly organized.


It is impossible to govern large populations using uninformed generalizations. Instead, public servants must know how to use data-driven research to create a basis for their ideas. This research can be used for a range of different purposes, such as informing policy decisions or identifying a public health concern. Through advanced education, public administrators can gain practical experience conducting data analysis that reflects the types of research they will perform in their careers.

Learn More About a Career in Public Administration

A career in public administration can entail bettering a community and the lives of its residents. From supporting broad government programs to directing locally focused nonprofit initiatives, public administrators have fulfilling jobs focused on improving society.

Ohio University’s online Master of Public Administration can help prepare you for a meaningful career. The program offers four concentrations –– Public Leadership and Management, Non-Profit Management, State and Local Government Management, and Crisis and Emergency Management –– designed to help you gain expertise in key public administration concepts and develop the skills to effectively apply your knowledge into actionable plans. You’re already driven to serve. Watch this video and find out how Ohio University can teach you the skills to lead.


Learn more about earning your online Master of Public Administration from Ohio University.


There are more than 800,000 public administration professionals in the U.S. And their roles stretch from government to nonprofits to the private sector. How do you want to grow in the field? Earn a specialized MPA online from Ohio University. You can choose from three concentrations: Environmental and Energy Policy, Nonprofit Management, or Public Leadership and Management.

Choose the Environmental and Energy Policy concentration, and you can learn to shape laws…surrounding national energy policies and delve into issues involved in environmental impact. Select the Nonprofit Management concentration and focus on building successful nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations, along with strategies that help raise funds and awareness. Innovations in social entrepreneurship is another important emphasis. Pick the Public Leadership and Management concentration and develop the applied skills required to advance the business of public administration, and make help policy decisions to stimulate economies. No matter what concentration you choose, OHIO’s online MPA prepares you to make an impact in any sector, wherever you are.

Find your path now. Visit us online at or contact us at 800-893-2640.