Online Public Administration Master’s Degree


A picture representing this degree

Civil servants play a crucial part in day-to-day government operations and can make a meaningful impact on the country they serve.

Positions in the federal government are predicted to become more readily available since a wave of retirements is expected to hit the federal workforce. The average age of a federal employee is 47 and as of 2016, nearly a third of the federal workforce will be eligible to retire, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

With an online master’s of public administration degree, professionals can gain leadership and decision-making skills to advance to management positions within the government as well as the private and nonprofit sectors. Students in the program will examine public administration as it relates to research, theory, finance, leadership and strategic planning.

Course Work

Example courses
Administrative and public policy analysis
Policy analysis
Management information systems for public and health administration
Homeland security and defense in practice
Effective city management
Administrative law

Core course work includes classes on organizational management theory, governmental fiscal decision-making, human resources, analysis, research and strategic planning, among others.

Some schools allow students to choose a concentration such as human resources management, public affairs administration, health care administration, nonprofit management, emergency management, and homeland defense and security, among others.

Requirements for admission into an online master’s of public administration program vary, but most schools require applicants to have previous course work in the social sciences or a number of years of relevant work experience. Some schools may require students to complete an internship if they do not have relevant professional experience.

Find a Program for You

Get Matched U.S. News University Directory can match you with online programs that meet your criteria in a few simple steps.

Job Outlook

Median salaries*
Program manager, nonprofit organization $46,000
Contract administrator $53,000
Policy analyst $54,000
Public health administrator $61,000
Government program analyst $64,000
Executive director $70,000
City manager $85,000
Director of operations $90,000


Graduates with a master’s of public administration can find employment in a variety of occupations within the public, private and nonprofit sectors. Within the public sector, the federal government is known for offering employees high job security. The job security rate, or the percentage of employees who didn’t lose their jobs, was nearly 100 percent for all federal workers in 2010, according to USA Today.

However, federal employees often do not see big pay raises over the short term like their private sector counterparts. Most federal employees are paid on the general schedule classification and pay system, in which they earn grade and step increases due to experience and performance. The system has 15 grades, and those with a master’s degree typically start at the ninth. The average federal employee makes about $78,000 annually, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

Professionals who find employment in the private and nonprofit sectors work in a variety of capacities, from serving as a public health administrator to working as a city manager. Median salaries range from $46,000 for a program manager at a nonprofit to about $85,000 for a city manager. Those who assume executive positions, such as a director of operations, can make more than $90,000 annually, according to PayScale, an online salary database.

Find jobs for graduates with a master’s in public administration »

Featured Schools Offering This Online Degree