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There are many options for advancing a public administration career with an affordable online MPA program. Online programs offer greater flexibility with more cost-effective solutions compared with the other Master’s in Public Administration degree programs. The cheapest MPA program options are typically offered by smaller regional colleges. To make those cheap online MPA programs even more affordable, be sure to find out if employer reimbursement is an option. Beyond just finding affordable online MPA programs, though, there are also several options for grants and scholarships that encourage the Public Administration course of study both at the local and national level. Check in with the program to see if they offer additional finance options or special cost-saving solutions that might make them the cheapest online MPA program. 

By taking full advantage of the financing, employer reimbursement, scholarships, grants, and other assistance, you will find cheap online MPA programs. The cheap online MPA programs offer students the opportunity to take classes and earn a master’s degree from anywhere at any time. So family and current job options are still in play. Students really can advance their career, and maintain that important work-home balance. 

Methodology: Ranking the Most Affordable Online MPA Programs

For working public service professionals who want to enhance their career without the burden of debt, Great Business Schools has ranked the most affordable online MPA degree programs. While the ranking is based on cost (as reported to IPEDS), all programs are also accredited and recognized for their positive impact on graduates’ careers. 

1. University of North Carolina at Pembroke

unc pembroke

Students who are looking for the most affordable online MPA programs will want to consider the UNC Pembroke MPA program. The program offers two options for students: an online MPA and a hybrid online MPA. The fully online program does not require students to spend any time on the school’s campus, so it offers greater flexibility for student education. The hybrid program combines online and on-campus classes for students who want to take some classes at the school.

UNC Pembroke focuses on providing students with an aggressive style of accomplishing their career goals. It recognizes that an MPA degree can apply to public careers, non-profit organizations, and even private-sector jobs that may interact with government bodies. By emphasizing career growth and recognizing opportunities, the program helps students focus on their personal plans for a long-term career.

Highlight: UNC Pembroke offers four MPA concentrations to help students focus on a specific area of public administration.

Degree: MPA

2. Valdosta State University

valdosta state u

Valdosta State University offers one of the most affordable online MPA programs for students who want to take the next steps toward their long-term career goals. The MPA program offers two concentrations online: public sector management and public policy. Students can select the concentration that fits their personal goals for a career and have the flexibility to work around any complex schedules that may limit their time.

The way Valdosta State University stands apart is the emphasis on going back to the basics. The program is designed for students who want to advance in a public sector career or who are planning to make a career change after completing an undergraduate degree that is not related to public administration. Students can start the master’s program with any undergraduate degree as long as they meet the standards for admission to the school.

Highlight: Valdosta State University offers assistance with Veterans benefits and other scholarships for military students.

Degree: MPA – Public Sector Management and Public Policy

3. Stephen F Austin State University

austin state u

The online MPA program at Stephen F Austin State University helps students with their long-term goals for a career in the public sector. The degree program prepares students to take on roles in public policy, the federal government, state governments, local governments, and non-profit organizations. Students learn the basic skills they need to take on active leadership roles in their communities. 

Stephen F Austin State University emphasizes real-world experience that helps students apply their skills and training to their careers. The focus on helping students connect to appropriate experiences offers the opportunity to gain connections within an industry and network for a student’s career. The program also teaches the leadership skills students need to take an active role as a leader in a job. It teaches students to manage others and work toward a specific goal while guiding a team.

Highlight: Stephen F Austin State University encourages students to learn with cutting edge technology and a user-friendly online system.

Degree: MPA

4. Southern University and A&M College

southern university

Southern University and A&M College offers an affordable Executive MPA program that is designed around the needs of working adults. It recognizes that students in the program may have a complex schedule due to job responsibilities or personal obligations. It emphasizes flexibility in the online program to help students keep up with their studies while they are working around a schedule. Students can access course materials and class assignments when it fits their schedules and at any time of the day or night.

Southern University and A&M College stands out by emphasizing experience from a career or job. The school requires students to have at least three years of experience working in a middle to an upper management role in their jobs. If students have worked as a supervisor, a manager, or a similar role, they may qualify for the program; however, the school does require that at least two of the years of work experience are from a public sector position. 

Highlight: Southern University and A&M College is NASPAA accredited for the MPA program.

Degree: Executive MPA

5. American Public University

american public u

American Public University offers an online MPA program that helps students work on a career goal within the public sector. While the degree program emphasizes public sector work, it does recognize that students may want to change their career paths by taking courses after working in a different industry or in the private sector. Students are able to learn the basic skills they need to take on leadership roles in local governments, state and federal governments, or other jobs within the public sector.

American Public University offers nine concentrations in public administration that allows students to focus on a specific area of their careers. Students can learn about health policy, disaster management, national security, public policy, and other specialized fields of public administration. By focusing on a concentration that relates to student career goals, it is possible to gain insights into realistic solutions for specific public concerns.

Highlight: American Public University takes an accelerated approach to the online MPA program with eight-week-long courses.

Degree: MPA

6. Florida Gulf Coast University

florida gulf coast

Florida Gulf Coast University’s online MPA program prepares students for the challenges of working in the public sector. The degree program teaches students the skills they need to take on leadership roles in a non-profit organization or a government agency. It also allows students to change from a private-sector career into a public-sector job.

The way Florida Gulf Coast University differs from other programs is the focus on specialized areas of public administration. It offers two concentrations in public administration: public leadership and management or environmental policy and planning. It recognizes the concerns facing modern public officials and it strives to prepare students for the challenges they may face when working for a non-profit organization or government agency.

Highlight: Florida Gulf Coast University is NASPAA-accredited for its MPA program, so it meets the high standards set by the accrediting body.

Degree: MPA

7. University of West Florida

u west florida

The University of West Florida offers an MSA in Public Administration that prepares students to take on management and leadership roles in non-profit organizations or government positions. The degree program builds on previous training in management to help students gain an understanding of different methods of leading a team. It also provides students with the analytical and critical thinking skills they need to accomplish long-term goals.

The University of West Florida stands apart by taking an interdisciplinary approach to public administration. It recognizes that students need to develop a variety of skills to lead a team and it emphasizes the importance of organizational skills, economics, politics, and leadership skills in the online program. It teaches students to use a combination of skills to complete tasks and cooperate with others.

Highlight: The University of West Florida is among the 25 best colleges for public administration online.

Degree: MSA – Public Administration

8. California State University, San Bernardino

csu san bernardino

The online MPA program at CSU San Bernardino prepares students for the challenges they may face as a leader in public service. The program offers traditional on-campus classes as well as flexible online classes to fit the needs of students. The flexibility ensures that students are able to focus on their goals for a career and education rather than limiting student options for their education. It allows students to continue with their current careers and personal responsibilities while they finish a degree.

CSU San Bernardino offers three concentrations for students in the MPA program. Students can study public financial management, leadership, or cybersecurity as it relates to public administration. By focusing on a concentration that provides specialized skills, students are able to obtain specific jobs and responsibilities within a job.

Highlight: CSU San Bernardino is a NASPAA-accredited school for its online and on-campus MPA programs.

Degree: MPA

9. California State University, Dominguez Hills

csu dominguez hills

The online MPA program from CSU Dominguez Hills offers the opportunity to work in public service. The degree program prepares students to work in a leadership role for a government office, a government agency, or a non-profit organization. It may also apply to private-sector careers that relate to the government or work with the government.

CSU Dominguez Hills takes a multi-disciplinary approach to public administration. It emphasizes communication, teamwork, critical thinking skills, and leadership as critical aspects of working in a modern public service position. It also recognizes the importance of research to clarify information and ensure that appropriate data support important ideas or goals.

Highlight: CSU Dominguez Hills has a diverse student body and faculty, which provides students in the online program with a variety of perspectives and ideas about relevant topics and discussions in the classroom.

Degree: MPA

10. Indiana State University

indiana state

The online MPA program at Indiana State University provides the education students need to work in the public sector or a non-profit organization. The degree program emphasizes the importance of effective public policy and active measures to keep up with government standards. It recognizes the value of knowing how to create and maintain a budget for public services as well as transparency when working with private citizens to ensure public services are handled in an effective manner. 

Indiana State University stands apart from other programs by allowing students in any state to take the online courses and obtain an MPA degree. It also allows students from Canada to obtain a degree; however, it does not accept international students unless they are in the United States or Canada. It will allow military personnel to obtain a degree when they are stationed abroad.

Highlight: Students who are not working in a public service job or who do not have experience in the public sector must complete a three-credit-hour internship for the online degree program.  

Degree: MPA

How is the Job Market for an MPA?

Qualified leaders are always in demand, which is why the outlook for MPA jobs is steady. Most prospective students are asking, “What can I do with a masters in public administration?” The answer is simple. The range of MPA jobs include positions as a Public Housing Manager, Administrative Services Manager, Local Government Manager, Urban Planner, Political Scientist, a Fundraiser, or even a Budget Director. The skills required for the master of public administration jobs often include the ability to supervise/manage a team, create budgets, and raise funds via campaigns, planned giving, or solicitation of major gifts, as well as a range of administrative functions. 

How Much Can I Make with an MPA? 

The public administration salary can start at $56,000 with a bachelors degree, while the masters in public administration salary can be $68,000. That’s an important distinction because for some degrees the masters doesn’t make much of a difference. In this case, the masters in public administration salary outlook is better, with a projected growth of 7% through 2028. That improvement and higher starting salary may correlate to the higher level of responsibilities that the MPA may demand in the workplace, and the actual media rate for positions like Sales Managers can be $124,220, with Financial Managers seeing a median pay of $127,990. Computer and Information Systems Managers can see a median pay of $142,530. The other factor in the median salary is whether it’s in the public or private sector, with median salaries for Government Affairs, and Top Research Executives at $100,000+. 

Administrators continue to be in high demand because of their technical prowess and expertise, but these MPA jobs are continuing to evolve. That’s also part of why the outlook is solid, with the projection of 13.2% expected particularly in the most demanding fields. An administrator can call into nearly any category of job, from healthcare, teaching, real estate, law and legal practice, business, finance, or beyond. These jobs also offer more flexibility and potential for growth within each labor market, so the employees are less likely to quit and move to different career fields. They also need administrators in positions and companies around the world, which could mean greater potential for international migration and career advancement potentials. 

Can I Get a Job with an MPA and No Experience?

There are a number of jobs for MPA graduates with no experience. In fact, it’s likely that the skillset is so specified that the jobs are looking for candidates who have the technical skills and proven knowledge. That’s not to say that experience is not a considered factor in the hiring process. Entry-level positions are available in Public Administration because it’s a technical and evolving field. For those who are adept at managing people and money, while keeping all the projects and organizational details moving in the right direction, this would be an ideal opportunity to build a career and quickly access those high levels of responsibility and salary.

Of course, it’s never guaranteed that a person could find jobs for MPA graduates with no experience, but it’s more of a possibility than some other job outlook options. In some instances, the doctoral degree in MPA programs is even something that should be seriously considered. Education is important, and it is a valued commodity for Public Administration career choices. Particularly with the affordable online MPA programs, graduate-level degrees are more accessible, financially feasible, and attainable than ever before. Online programs allow students to finish the degree when and where they have time to do so while gaining experience as they go. The labor statistics also show the real value of pursuing an MPA degree (or a doctoral-level degree in Public Administration). It’s not a waste of time, but it’s also an important learning and growth potential for candidates in virtually every career field both in the US and around the world.  

Related Rankings:

25 Best Master of Public Administration

15 Best Online Master of Public Administration

10 Fastest Online Master of Public Administration