When it comes to choosing the best public policy schools in the world or finding the right MPA program to meet your goals, you want to find ways to rank a school. Details about a master’s in public administration rankings system may vary based on the organization or group offering the ranking details. A few factors stand out for the tops schools for public administration when you look into different ranking systems.
A key factor to consider is your networking opportunities. Does the program offer internship opportunities? Does the school have mentorship programs to help students with networking? Before you decide on a school, you want to clarify the options available to help get your foot in the door for your career. That means you need to have a few options for networking that may range from events to meet alumni, mentorship programs, internships, or other options.
After evaluating the details related to networking, you want to look into the details of the school. As a rule, you want the school to have high standards for students and accreditation from a respected third party. You also want to evaluate the ways the school helps students gain hands-on or real-world experience in the program. By looking into rankings, networking opportunities, and the school’s standards, it is possible to find the best programs for your goals.
Methodology: Ranking the Best MPA Programs in the US
For civil service professionals who want to advance in their careers with an MPA, Great Business Schools has ranked the best traditional, on-campus MPA programs in America. Only accredited, respected institutions were considered, and the ranking is based on factors that demonstrate success for graduates: Tuition Cost, Salary Potential, and Reputation, with data from College Scorecard, IPEDS, Niche, and U.S. News.
1. Brigham Young University
Brigham Young University has one of the best masters of public administration programs due to the flexible options available. Along with a full-time MPA track, the college also has an Executive MPA specialization. As part of these programs, students take part in an Experimental Learning component that permits hands-on experiences with real-world consulting and planning clients. The traditional MPA program takes two years to complete while the Executive MPA requires an extra year of study, but classes are finished on a part-time basis.
Brigham Young University is a private college supported through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The college’s athletic teams are highly competitive and participate in NCAA Division I conference matchups. Over 140 players from the university have been eventually drafted by the NFL. The religious college does follow a very strict honor code with personal hygiene and personal relationship rules enforced by staff.
Highlight: Brigham Young University has a high return on investment rate with exceptional graduation and retention rates.
Degree: MPA – also Executive
2. Texas A&M University
When searching for the best MPA programs, review the inclusions of the degree from Texas A&M University. The Master of Public Service and Administration degree is made available through the college’s Bush School of Government and Public Service. Three tracks are available for the degree: Non-profit Management, Public Management, or Public Policy Administration. Time commitment is 21 months and a total of 48 credits needed for degree completion. Professional summer internships are required for most students to graduate.
Texas A&M University is a public college that was established in Texas almost 150 years ago. Starting as a men’s agricultural and mechanical college at first, the university now has a co-ed campus with dozens of degree programs. Among the college’s top degree programs are engineering, business, and education majors. The university is home to a famed volunteer program with the largest single-day volunteer event in the country.
Highlight: The program has an exceptionally high graduate rate with 95 percent of all MPSA students finishing all requirements within four years.
Degree: Master of Public Service and Administration
3. University of Texas at Austin
The MPA program from the University of Texas at Austin allows for three different learning tracks to earn a graduate degree in public accounting. The one-year program is geared toward bachelor degree holders in any discipline. The integrated track permits university students to earn both a bachelor’s in accounting and a MPA degree within a five-year program. Lastly, a four-year dual degree program is offered to include a bachelor’s in economics and an MPA.
The public University of Texas at Austin is one of the largest colleges in the United States. The university consists of 18 different schools and has a total enrollment in excess of 51,000. The college has a highly successful athletic department with numerous championship titles within the Division I Big 12 Conference.
Highlight: Many students take part in the study abroad program with hundreds of destinations available to choose from.
4. North Carolina State University
Those looking for the best MPA programs due to affordability and flexibility can apply to North Carolina State University. The MPA degree program prepares students for an advance career in the field of public administration. The degree requires a total of 42 credits for graduation with 18 credits customizable to the student’s career interests. An internship is required, but can be replaced with credits for professional experience.
North Carolina State University is part of the state’s University of North Carolina public college system. The college has three main campuses with most academic buildings found on the northern part of the campus. The college provides over 100 majors to choose from and offers a low tuition rate for in-state students. The campus is very active with more than 100 clubs and sports for students to join.
Highlight: North Carolina State University’s MPA program promises a high return on investment with the majority of graduates finding placement within six months after degree conferment.
5. University of Maryland
The University of Maryland offers different avenues to finish a graduate-level degree in public policy. Students can earn dual degrees within the department or pursue an accelerated degree that reduces the timeframe for graduation. The MPM is a short-term master level degree in public management for professionals with at least five years executive experience. The MPP degree requires two years of full-time study on public policy subjects. Dual degree tracks are popular at the graduate school with options such as MPA/MBA, MPP/JD, and MPS/MPA.
U.S. News & World Report has ranked the University of Maryland as a Top 25 Graduate School in the United States. The college has the benefit of being located close to the nation’s capitol with many graduates securing positions at federal agencies. The college is very active with 600 clubs and 60 fraternities and sororities.
Highlight: The University of Maryland prepares MPA students for public policy careers in legal, government, and social service industries.
Degree: MPP, MPM, MPS-MPA, EMPA
6. University of Georgia
The MPA program at the University of Georgia is geared toward professionals who plan to advance their careers in government or non-profit positions. To complete the program, 41 credit hours are required with classes taken over the course of four consecutive semesters. A capstone project is needed for degree conferment.
The University of Georgia is a large public college with more than 31,000 enrolled students. The college has the distinction of being the first state-supported higher learning institution in the United States. The college is part of the land and sea university program, which provides both agricultural and marine degree opportunities to students. Highly ranked majors at the University of Georgia include business, education, psychology, and biology.
Highlight: After four years, a total of 94 percent of MPA enrollees at the University of Georgia complete the degree track.
7. Binghampton University (SUNY)
The MPA program at Binghampton University is part of a collaborative effort with community non-profits. These organizations allow MPA students to gain hands-on experience in real-world settings. The programs from Binghampton University is fully accredited through the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA). Degree options include the traditional MPA with certifications in Local Government Management, Non-Profit Organizations, and Mass Atrocity Prevention.
Binghampton University is the graduate school of the State University of New York (SUNY). Located in the Southeastern part of New York State, the college is nearby recreational sites that offer hiking, cycling, and camping. The college is known for its sustainability efforts and is considered one of the most environmentally-friendly universities in the country. Top degrees available at the graduate school include business, nursing, and neuroscience.
Highlight: Dual degree options add value to the Binghampton University programs with choices such as MPA/MSW and MPA/MSN.
8. University of Utah
Earn a degree from one of the best masters in public policy programs at the University of Utah. The college has designed the programs to appeal to working professionals who are unable to attend courses full-time. The University of Utah’s MPA program is ideal for those needing flexible class times with evening and part-time courses available. The Executive MPA track is for those with five years managerial experience and feature week-long and weekend formats. A total number of 42 credits are needed for graduation.
The University of Utah, nicknamed the U, is a public college located within the metropolitan area of Salt Lake City. The university is site to some of the most groundbreaking research facilities in the country, including the Brain Institute and the Center for High Performance Computing. The college is also home to the only medical school in the state, the U of U School of Medicine.
Highlight: The U of U MPA degree can be paired with another degree such as MPH, MSW, or MHA.
9. Ohio State University
The Ohio State University’s MPA degree track is consistently ranked as one of the best MPA programs in the state. The program blends different public administration facets—including economics, data analysis, and policy creation. The program involves a 20-hour class time commitment per semester and most students work in a professional setting to earn additional credits.
As a state college, Ohio State University allows for in-state students to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees while paying an affordable tuition rate. The college is nationally ranked and consistently rated as a Top 75 National University by U.S. News & World Report. Athletics is a large part of campus life with the college participating in the Division I Big Ten Conference.
Highlight: Ohio State University has a MPA-DC option that allows students to earn credits while living and working in Washington DC.
10. Carnegie Mellon University
The MS in Public Policy & Management (MSPPM) degree track is part of Carnegie Mellon University’s graduate school Heinz College. The college aims to teach enrollees more than public policy. The curriculum includes data analytics and tech courses to leverage the degree for careers in cybersecurity, anti-terrorism task forces, and non-profit analysis.
Located in the industrial area of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University was first founded in 1900 by famed industrialist Andrew Carnegie. The university consists of seven different colleges with the university being particularly well-regarded for having top-ranked science and technology degree programs. Greek Life is popular on campus with about 20 percent of all students pledging the 20 fraternities and sororities available.
Highlight: The MSPPM degree from Carnegie Mellon University has a high job placement rate post-graduation with the majority of graduates gaining employment through the government, non-profits, and research institutions.
11. University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Making the ranking for one of the best masters in public policy programs, the University of Minnesota is a solid choice for prospective graduate students. The degree track is geared toward mid-career professionals that have at least 10 years of work experience. Most enrollees finish the degree requirements within three years of acceptance into the program. The majority of MPA degree seekers continue to work full-time and only take one to two classes per semester.
The public University of Minnesota-Twin Cities has a large student body with more than 50,000 undergraduates and graduates currently enrolled in degree programs. The college’s campus stretches across both Minneapolis and St. Paul with the central campus located in Minneapolis. Campus life is very active with 600 available clubs, 30 Greek Life organizations, and dozens of athletic teams. The study abroad program is very popular with the college offering programs through 200 affiliate universities located around the world.
Highlight: The MPA program has an exceptionally positive track record with graduates securing leadership positions within employers such as the State of Minnesota, Department of Human Rights, and the Native American Training Center.
12. University of Colorado Denver
The MPA program at the University of Colorado is one of the few hybrid (online/campus) options available to public administration degree seekers. A total number of 36 credits are needed for graduation with up to nine transfer credits accepted. An accelerated option allows for degree requirements done within 12 months while the Executive option permits 30 credits for graduation with part-time course loads allowed.
The University of Colorado-Denver features a downtown location in city of Denver. The campus size is only 126 acres, but courses for more than 130 majors are held within the college’s academic buildings. No college sports teams are found on campus, but students are offered the chance to participate in intramurals. Top-rated programs at the college include nursing, family medicine, business, engineering, and education.
Highlight: The University of Colorado has a near-perfect graduation and retention rate for their MPA program.
13. University of Washington
Comparing the best masters of public administration programs is challenging, but students have highly favorable reviews of the degrees from the University of Washington MPA program. The curriculum is focused on both teaching policy theory and analyzing real-world case studies on management theories. The degree track is very customizable to appeal to student interests with only nine courses needed for graduation. The rest of the 72 credits needed for graduation are earned through electives, a 400-hour internship, and a capstone project.
The University of Washington is the oldest public college located on the West Coast. Founded in 1861, the college has grown from a small 10-acre campus to more than 634 acres spread across the city of Seattle.
Highlight: UW is home to dozens of federally-funded research institutes in disciplines that include child health, cystic fibrosis, language learning, stem cell research, marine energy, and many more.
14. Columbia University
Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs offers a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree program recognized among the best Masters of Public Administration programs available. Students enrolled in one of the best Masters in Public Policy Programs generally complete the MPA degree in about 21 months. Columbia’s best MPA programs require applicants to hold an undergraduate degree from an accredited school, plus three to five years of professional/internship experience. MPA degree candidates have the option of including this program as a dual degree.
Columbia University was established in 1754 by royal charter of a British Monarch. The school’s NYC campus covers nearly 300 acres and serves more than 33,000 students studying from four undergraduate colleges/schools plus fifteen professional/graduate colleges/schools.
Highlight: Columbia University holds the distinction of being one of the nine colonial colleges and the oldest institution of higher learning in the Empire State of New York.
15. George Mason University
George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government offers a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree program recognized among the best MPA programs in the nation and internationally. As one of the best Masters in Public Policy Programs, GMU’s is ranked first in the greater Washington DC area. NASPAA – The Network of Schools of Public Policy Affairs and Administration accredits each of GMU’s best Masters of Public Administration programs. GMU’s MPA program is available on a full-time or part-time schedule.
George Mason University was founded in 1949. GMU was initially a branch of the University of Virginia but became an independent institution of higher education in 1957. The school operates several campuses in Fairfax County, VA (and several campuses abroad), which serve more than 35,000 students.
Highlight: George Mason University was founded by the author of Virginia’s Declaration of Rights, a precursor to the US Bill of Rights.
16. Texas Tech University
Texas Tech University’s School of Public Administration offers a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree program ranked as one of the best Masters of Public Administration programs available. TTU’s MPA program has received accreditation from the NASPAA – The Network of Schools of Public Policy Affairs and Administration. Students graduate prepared to enter the public or private sector as analysts, managers, and leaders. TTU’s MPA program is ranked among the best MPA programs in the country. Students enrolled in one of the best Masters in Public Policy Programs have the option of selecting from four concentrations – Nonprofit Management, Healthcare Administration, Public Management, and Environmental Policy and Administration.
Texas Tech University was established in 1923 as a public institution of higher education. Texas Tech University’s campus covers nearly 1,900 acres and serves more than 38,000 students vying for degrees offered by the university’s thirteen schools/colleges.
Highlight: The author J. Michener declared TTU’s campus the most beautiful west of the Mississippi River, alongside Stanford University.
17. Arizona State University
Arizona State University’s School of Public Affairs/Graduate College offers a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree program recognized among the best Masters in Public Policy Programs in the nation. Ranked as one of the best Masters of Public Administration programs, ASU’s MPA degree program received accreditation by the Network of Schools of Public Policy Affairs and Administration (NASPAA). US News recognizes these best MPA programs among the best in eight MPA categories. Degree candidates must complete 42 credit units (within six years) to graduate with an MPA degree.
Arizona State University was established in 1885 before the Arizona Territory was adopted as a state. ASU operates several campuses located throughout Phoenix’s metro region. The school’s total student enrollment exceeds 100,000. ASU is organized into seventeen colleges/schools.
Highlight: Arizona State University’s online student enrollment exceeds 37,000, while its total student enrollment is considered one of the largest in the country.
18. University of Alabama at Birmingham
The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Political Science & Public Administration offers an MPA – a Masters of Public Administration – degree program that is universally considered among the best Masters of Public Administration programs in the country. As a nationally recognized university offering some of the best Masters in Public Policy Programs, UAB’s coursework has received accreditation from NASPAA, the Network of Schools of Public Policy Affairs and Administration (NASPAA). UAB’s best MPA programs have been designed to accommodate busy working professionals with evening classes and hybrid distance learning part-time options. Full-time students generally complete UAB’s MPA coursework in 24 months.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham was founded more than 50 years ago, in 1969. UAB’s Birmingham campus is home to nearly 22,000 students studying for degrees offered by the school’s twelve academic divisions.
Highlight: The state of Alabama estimates that about 1 of 31 jobs in the state are related to the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
19. Mississippi State University
Mississippi State University offers a Master of Public Policy and Administration (MPPA) degree program accredited by the NASPAA – the Network of Schools of Public Policy Affairs and Administration. MSU’s best MPA programs are offered in a traditional delivery format or an intensive accelerated semester delivery format. MSU provides coursework recognized among the best Masters in Public Policy Programs in the country. The MPA degree program offered by MSU requires degree candidates to complete 42 credit units. Considered among the best Masters of Public Administration programs available, students must also complete a three-credit unit internship.
Mississippi State University was established in 1878. Mississippi State University’s urban covers more than 4,000 acres and serves a student enrollment that exceeds 22,000 studying from MSU’s twelve schools/colleges. MSU’s campus is often used on tour stops for musicians like Bon Jovi and Bob Dylan.
Highlight: MSU operates pastures and woodlands within its experiment station and another 80,000 acres across Mississippi.
Degree: Master of Public Policy and Administration
20. University of Arizona
The University of Arizona offers one of the best MPA programs in the nation. Degree candidates studying for a degree endorsed as one of the best Masters of Public Administration programs can attend as full-time or part-time students, but complete the degree program in six years or less. A full-time course of study for 42 credit units can be completed in a 1.5-year delivery or a two-year delivery format. The curriculum for U of A’s best Masters in Public Policy Programs includes Public Organizational Theory, Public Management, Nonprofit Management Statistics, and Public Management Ethics, to name a few.
The University of Arizona was established in 1885 as the result of the Morrill Land Grant Act before it achieved statehood. U of A operates as an institution of higher education with nineteen colleges/schools that serve nearly 46,000 students.
Highlight: The University of Arizona holds the distinction of being affiliated with different teaching medical centers.
21. University of Central Florida
The University of Central Florida’s School of Public Administration offers a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree program recognized among the best Masters in Public Policy Programs across the country. UCF’s best Masters of Public Administration programs required the completion of 42 credit units, plus a culminating capstone project. Degree candidates of UCF’s best MPA programs must also complete an internship in the student’s area of interest if the student has no public experience before graduation.
The University of Central Florida was established in 1963 as a legislative act of the Florida government. UCF is a space-grant institution of higher education serving nearly 70,000 students studying for degrees offered on its central Florida campus about fifteen minutes from downtown Orlando.
Highlight: The University of Central Florida’s campus holds the distinction of serving more students than any other campus in Florida.
22. University of North Texas
The University of North Texas College of Health and Public Service offers a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree program. UNT’s MPA coursework has been recognized as the number one program among the best Masters of Public Administration programs in Texas. The MPA program offered by UNT is also considered one of the best Masters in Public Policy Programs in the country by US News. Graduates of UNT’s best MPA programs work in the fields of emergency management, state or federal agencies, city governments, and non-profit organizations.
The University of North Texas was established in 1890, and it currently holds the distinction of being the state’s Flagship state school of the University of North Texas system. UNT operates with thirteen colleges/schools that serve nearly 40,000 students.
Highlight: The University of North Texas was originally founded as a teacher training institute.
23. University of Illinois at Chicago
The University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs offers one of the best Masters of Public Administration programs available. Recognized as one of the best Masters in Public Policy Programs, UIC has received accreditation by NASPAA – the Network of Schools of Public Policy Affairs and Administration. Degree candidates must complete 54 credit units; however, the school offers accelerated options for their best MPA programs. Students must complete a professional portfolio as well. Students have the option of five areas of concentration – Public Policy, Urban Management, Finance, Nonprofits, or Public Management.
The University of Illinois at Chicago was established in 1982. The University of Illinois at Chicago serves more than 33,000 students vying for the degrees offered by sixteen colleges/games.
Highlight: UIC operates two campuses, one at the heart of the city by the famous Chicago Loop and another that is a member campus of the University of Chicago system.
24. University of Texas at Dallas
The University of Texas at Dallas offers one of the best MPA programs in the nation. UT Dallas’ Master of Public Health program, as a recognized best Masters of Public Administration programs, require degree candidates to complete a minimum of 36 credit hours, with 39 credit hours for those student required to complete an internship. Coursework included in one of the best Masters in Public Policy Programs includes Policy Making, Quantitative Methods, HR Management, and Organizational Theory, to name a few.
The University of Texas at Dallas was established in 1961. UT Dallas began as an independent school but joined the University of Texas system in 1969. The University of Texas at Dallas operates with two campuses and serves nearly 30,000 students studying for degrees offered by eight schools/colleges.
Highlight: The University of Texas at Dallas proactively recruits on an international basis for the school’s chess team.
25. University of Maryland Baltimore County
The University of Maryland Baltimore County School of Public Policy offers a Master of Public Policy (MPP) degree program that recognized among the best Masters in Public Policy Programs available. Degree candidates enrolled in UMBC’s best Masters of Public Administration programs must complete 37 credit units to graduate in one of four concentrations – Health Policy, Social Policy, Analytic Methods, and Public Management. UMBC’s best MPA programs require students to complete an internship should they have no public policy experience.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County was established in 1966 as a member school of the University of Maryland system. UMBC is the fourth-largest member school with a student enrollment that exceeds 13,000.
Highlight: The University of Maryland Baltimore County was the first public institution of higher learning in Maryland that offered classes to all races.
Degree: Master of Public Policy
What is Public Administration?
When you are evaluating potential job opportunities and career paths, you may have concerns about the public administration definition and how it may apply to your goals. What is public administration? The position focuses on leadership as it applies to government and organizations. The primary goal of professionals working in public administration is to work toward the greater good of a nation or group.
A degree in public administration prepares students to take on leadership roles and to work within a local, state, or federal government. Professionals may work in law enforcement, the transportation industry, public health services, government services, disaster relief, or related roles in different fields or industries. It may also offer opportunities to work in private organizations.
Is a Master of Public Administration the Same as a Master of Public Policy?
A common question that may arise when looking into a master of public administration degree program is how it differs from a master of public policy. The degree programs can seem similar at first glance; however, it does have a few differences that may help students clarify the best options for their goals.
The first consideration when evaluating MPA vs MPP programs is the level of research involved in the degree. In the case of an MPP program, the focus is on research and academic theories. An MPA program focuses on active measures to implement policies in the public sector. While both programs study similar topics, the primary actions taken by professionals with the degrees may vary.
A secondary MPP vs MPA consideration is the leadership roles available to professionals. The MPA vs MPP salary may reflect the focus on leadership within MPA programs, but students should expect some variation in the differences based on experience, location, and specific job responsibilities. As a general rule, a professional with an MPA degree will have more opportunities for advancement due to the focus on leadership skills in the degree program. An MPP may have opportunities to advance in their careers, but the options related to leadership may be limited. Both degree programs focus on similar topics of study, so students want to clarify whether they want to actively work in the public sector, or prefer to focus on research roles.
Should I Choose an MPA or MBA?
A concern may arise when comparing MPA vs MBA programs. You may be unclear about the differences between the programs, since both emphasize leadership roles. A key difference is the job sector for each degree. As a general rule, an MPA opens doors in the public sector and government positions. An MBA focuses on the private sector and offers options in businesses, corporations, or related career paths.
The MPA salary vs MBA salary is comparable in many cases. You can expect to earn similar amounts after gaining work experience and developing relevant skills for a career path.
While the salary is similar, the topics you study in school may vary significantly. MBA programs may focus on topics related to finance, accounting, and business. On the other hand, an MPA program may focus on policy, government, and leadership. Both programs may have similarities in certain areas; however, students will want to clarify their goals before focusing on a specific degree program. Students who want to work in a corporate environment or a large company may find that an MBA is a better choice. For those who want to work in government, policy, or non-profit organizations, an MPA program may be a better choice to fit their goals.