Online Master of Public Administration Curriculum

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Public administration is a satisfying career path that entails serving the public as a government or non-profit official or other public servant. A public administrator’s primary duty is to identify public issues that may need attention and then work with the community stakeholders to develop effective solutions. A Master of Public Administration (MPA) curriculum is designed to expand students’ ability to administer the complex business and leadership tasks that enhance life in a community.

Skills Promoted in an MPA Curriculum

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


Public servants need to communicate with business leaders, community members, and other public administrators on a near-daily basis while using the appropriate 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 style of communication that uses 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 non-profit administrators are also tasked with managing an organization’s finances. While the principles of finance are relatively static across disciplines, the ways that public, non-profit and private institutions use financial practices can be radically different, as public and non-profit organizations are not typically profit-driven in the same way as private companies. 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 reflect the types of research they will perform in their careers.

Common Courses Offered in a Master of Public Administration Curriculum

Although the title of each course may differ depending on the institution, students should expect to see the following classes in an online Master of Public Administration program:

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 leading 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. Through this course, students learn how to direct 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 an MPA curriculum, graduates should have developed a flexible range of professional skills and knowledge that is well-suited for administrative positions in the public sector.

Learn More

Our online Master of Public Administration at Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs can help you build the skills to address public needs in effective, efficient, and imaginative ways. We want you to put big ideas into action by helping you develop as a project manager, communicator, policy analyst, and financial mind. With an expert understanding of public administration and the professional tools to back it up, you can lead a career of consequence for your constituents.


Recommended Readings:

10 Traits of a Successful Public Administrator

How you can prepare for a post-MPA-degree interview in the field

Public Administration: Building More Diverse Public Organizations and Businesses