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    Jun 13, 2024  
American University Catalog 2023-2024 
American University Catalog 2023-2024

Public Administration (MPA)

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Offered by the Department of Public Administration and Policy , School of Public Affairs , the mission of the Public Administration (MPA) program is to instill the knowledge, skills, and values necessary to manage and lead with distinction in government and related organizations that serve the public good in the U.S. democratic context and abroad.

Admission to the Program

Applicants must meet the minimum university requirements for graduate study. Admission decisions are based on each applicant’s academic record, two letters of recommendation, test scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), and an essay written by the applicant on his or her background and career interests. Applicants may substitute test scores from similar tests, such as the GMAT or LSAT, for the GRE where appropriate. Applicants who received their undergraduate degree more than five years prior to their date of application may waive the requirement for test scores by submitting a statement describing their professional experience. The department values applicants who have acquired practical experience before beginning their professional degree program. Admission decisions are based on each applicant’s total record and not on any single strength or deficiency.

Degree Requirements

  • 39 credit hours of approved graduate work
    • Students who successfully complete the SPA Key Executive Leadership Development Program may apply to reduce the overall degree requirement for the 39-credit hour MPA by up to 6 credit hours​
  • Capstone Experience: PUAD-610 Public Administration Capstone (3)  

Course Requirements

Quantitative Methods (3 credit hours)

Complete 3 credit hours from the following:

Note: Students may test out of PUAD-601 Quantitative Methods for Policy Analysis I (3)  and PUAD-605 Quantitative Methods for Public Managers (3)  and substitute other courses with approval.

Economic Analysis (3 credit hours)

Complete 3 credit hours from the following:

Note: Students with completed equivalents to PUAD-630 Public Managerial Economics (3)  and PUAD-670 Economics for Policy Analysis (3)  may substitute other courses with approval.

Public Budgeting and Finance (3 credit hours)

Complete 3 credit hours from the following:

Concentration (12 credit hours)

  • 12 credit hours from electives that can comprise an (optional) area of concentration. Areas include: nonprofit management (with optional arts management focus); international management; public management (with optional management consulting or human resources focus); state and local management; public financial management; policy analysis; public policy (with optional social policy or health policy or education policy or environmental policy or science and technology policy focus); applied politics; race, policy, and administration; and cyber policy and management. Students may create special areas of concentration with the approval of their academic counselor


Students without a significant professional work background participate in either a for-credit or non-credit internship. Students taking a for-credit internship complete PUAD-691  as part of the concentration; students taking a non-credit internship complete a survey on the experience

Combined Bachelor’s Degree and Public Administration (MPA)

American University offers students the opportunity to earn both undergraduate and graduate degrees through its combined bachelor’s/master’s programs. See Admission to a Combined Bachelor’s/Master’s Program  and Combined Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees  for more information.

In addition to meeting the minimum university requirements for combined bachelor’s/master’s programs:

  • Admission requires a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.00, a completed application form (available from the Department of Public Administration and Policy (DPAP) and submitted to the BA/MPA advisor), a written faculty recommendation, an essay on the student’s interests and abilities in public administration, and an interview with an academic advisor
  • Undergraduate students may apply up to 15 credit hours of approved graduate-level coursework to satisfy the requirements for both degrees. Students take courses in statistics, economics, public administration, and other courses approved by DPAP

Public Administration (MPA) and Washington College of Law JD or LLM

For approved dual degree programs, see Public Administration (MPA) and Juris Doctor (JD)  and Public Administration (MPA) and Master of Laws (LLM) .

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