2020 Best Online Bachelor's in Public Administration & Policy Degrees

By OnlineU Staff | Updated 11/24/2020
Quick Facts
Accreditation: NASPAA
Average Tuition: $26,016
Alumni Salary: $42,440

Online degrees in public administration focus on the implementation of public policies and the management strategies of local, state, and federal government agencies. Public administration degrees are available at all degrees levels but most commonly at the master's and bachelor's levels. You can view the 24 best online colleges offering MPAs and best bachelor's degrees, ranked by tuition and alumni salaries provided by PayScale.

The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) is the predominant accrediting agency for master's degree programs in public administration, and students should make sure that the school they plan to enroll in is accredited.

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2020 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's in Public Administration Degrees

2020 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's in Public Administration Badge

With low tuition rates and high average alumni salaries, the following 8 schools offer the best online bachelor's in public administration degrees. Ranked #1 is the University of La Verne, with a tuition rate of $19,350 and a reported mid-career salary of $102,200. Barry University, ranked #2 on the list overall, offers an annual tuition of $7,410 and has a reported salary of $81,000.

Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about OnlineU.

RankSchool Annual Tuition Mid-Career Salary
# 1 #1 University of La Verne $19,350 $102,200
# 2 #2 Barry University $7,410 $81,000
# 3 #3 SUNY Empire State College $10,943 $82,300
# 4 #4 Florida International University $10,376 $81,100
# 5 #5 Upper Iowa University $14,130 $80,800
# 6 #6 Roger Williams University $13,440 $73,900
# 7 #7 Central Michigan University $13,454 $57,700
# 8 #8 Austin Peay State University $13,007 $55,000
Salary data provided by Payscale Logo

2020 Online Colleges Offering Public Administration Degrees - Ranking Details

#1 University of La Verne

  • Annual Tuition: $19,350
  • Median Salary: $102,200
  • Locations: La Verne (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

Individuals interested in pursuing an online public administration degree may consider the Bachelor of Science in Public Administration from the University of La Verne. This program is available entirely online and at campuses throughout California. Adults can continue working in a full-time capacity while pursuing this accelerated degree either full-time or part-time. Those with previous college-level coursework can transfer up to 88 credits hours toward this degree. The public administration-specific curriculum requires 40 credit hours, with a combination of core classes and electives. Elective subjects include government management, business ethics, and information systems. Courses maximize flexibility with several start dates throughout the academic year and course terms of either eight, ten, or sixteen weeks. Accepted online students will participate in class discussions, watch videos, and create research reports while benefiting from small class sizes and the autonomy of online education. Coursework is available through the Blackboard learning management system. Distance learners have access to a range of resources, including academic advisement, an academic success center, career service, disability services, veteran support, access to the Wilson Library, and tech support. Interested candidates must submit a completed application and fee, official transcripts, and documentation of prior training. Additionally, applicants will partner with an academic adviser for a personal review of transcripts to determine potential transfer credit.

#2 Barry University

  • Annual Tuition: $7,410
  • Median Salary: $81,000
  • Locations: Miami Shores (FL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Barry University is a private institution in Miami Shores, Florida, with a foundation in the Catholic faith. Barry provides several fully online degree programs for nontraditional learners, including a Bachelor of Public Administration (BPA). The degree requires a total of 120 credits and is created especially for individuals who have engaged in at least two years of professional experience. The curriculum aims to teach students how to implement policies that strengthen communities. Students will navigate contemporary issues and administrative structures at the local, state, and federal levels. There are six start dates each year. Student resources include technical support during business hours and access to the school's library. Candidates should be at least 21 years old and motivated to complete their bachelor's degree on an accelerated timeline. Interested applicants can benefit from transfer credits through professional certifications and licenses, advanced testing options, or an Experiential Learning Portfolio (ELP). The ELP evaluates an individual's experience from professional and community activities. Applicants for the online BPA degree must submit official transcripts and a resume with at least two references. Successful graduates have the chance to pursue career opportunities in government organizations and the nonprofit sector. Barry University is a designated Military Friendly School.

#3 SUNY Empire State College

  • Annual Tuition: $10,943
  • Median Salary: $82,300
  • Locations: Saratoga Springs (NY)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

SUNY Empire State College, located in Saratoga Springs, New York, is a member of the State University of New York academic system. Students interested in pursuing an online degree in the field of public administration at SUNY have several options, including a Bachelor of Arts, a Bachelor of Science, or a Bachelor of Professional Studies in Business, Management, and Economics with a concentration in public administration. They also offer a Bachelor of Arts, a Bachelor of Science, or a Bachelor of Professional Studies in Public Affairs with a concentration in public administration. Virtual coursework for each program includes written assignments, focused readings, and participation in discussions. Online learners complete coursework asynchronously on their own schedules. They have access to library resources and the IT Service Desk with a live chat feature. Most working adults take two classes each term, dedicating about ten hours each week per course. SUNY Empire Online students can access the school's Peer Tutor Program, a free service that assists students in specific classes or general academic coaching. Interested individuals can submit an application for the fall, spring, or summer terms. Applicants must submit high school transcripts, college transcripts (if applicable), and a personal essay. SUNY Empire has strong military and veteran educational partnerships.

#4 Florida International University

  • Annual Tuition: $10,376
  • Median Salary: $81,100
  • Locations: Miami (FL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Florida International University (FIU), in University Park, Florida, has a robust e-learning platform that hosts dozens of online undergraduate degrees. One such program is the Bachelor of Public Administration (BPA) offered through FIU's Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs. Accepted students will be expected to complete coursework that emphasizes research, community engagement, policy development, and budget management. FIU uses the Canvas learning management system. These classes are not self-paced, so students must meet deadlines and work with peers on group projects. Undergraduates should expect to dedicate eight-to-twelve hours each week per three-credit course. All assignments are submitted through Canvas. This online degree requires 120 credit hours to graduate. Applicants may apply as freshmen and must submit high school transcripts and either SAT or ACT scores. Transfer students must submit college transcripts. Prospective online students can attend an online orientation that addresses student resources and questions. FIU's online learners can access technological services, receive direct faculty feedback, interact with an extensive alumni network, and utilize an academic coach for personalized support and degree planning. Those taking online classes share the same faculty members as their on-campus counterparts. Moreover, these faculty members have real-world experience in both government and nonprofit sectors, allowing them to share personal experiences and provide real-world examples.

#5 Upper Iowa University

  • Annual Tuition: $14,130
  • Median Salary: $80,800
  • Locations: Fayette (IA)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Students in pursuit of the Bachelor of Science in Public Administration at Upper Iowa University can choose a general program or a concentration in one of the following areas: Emergency Management, Fire Science, Law Enforcement, and Policy/Politics. Students in the 120-credit hour online program gain an in-depth understanding of the function, management, and operation of public organizations and programs through instruction in the U.S. government, public speaking, state and local government, and public administration. Online classes are delivered asynchronously, requiring no set login times and allowing students to access and meet weekly assignment deadlines at their own convenience. Prospective students must submit an official high school or college transcript, and first-year applicants are required to provide an SAT or ACT score report. Students admitted to the online bachelor's of public administration degree program may begin their studies on one of six start dates offered each year. Courses span five eight-week terms, and one six-week accelerated term in the summer. Online learners are supported through online academic success and library resources and remote tutoring available 24/7. Help Desk support is available during normal business hours, Monday through Friday, by phone, email, or live chat.

#6 Roger Williams University

  • Annual Tuition: $13,440
  • Median Salary: $73,900
  • Locations: Bristol (RI)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

The Bachelor of Science in Public Administration at Roger Williams University is designed to prepare students to begin public service careers in the government, private, or nonprofit sectors. Online students must complete 40 major credit hours and a total of 120 credit hours to graduate. The core curriculum includes instruction in city management, public policy, state and local government, and personnel and financial administration. Applicants are not required to submit ACT or SAT scores. At the discretion of the department and university, adult learners may substitute required credit hours with transfer coursework, military experience, training and assessments, and self-taught skills. All course content and assignments are accessed through Bridges, the university’s online learning platform. An assigned Resource Specialist guides and assists students throughout their time at Roger Williams University, from admission through graduation. Online learners are encouraged to “meet” with their resource specialists by phone or electronic communication regularly.

#7 Central Michigan University

  • Annual Tuition: $13,454
  • Median Salary: $57,700
  • Locations: Mount Pleasant (MI)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Central Michigan University offers a number of bachelor’s degrees for those interested in beginning or advancing a career in the public administration sector. Programs include the Bachelor of Applied Arts in Integrated Leadership Studies (Public Sector Leadership), the Bachelor of Science in Integrated Leadership Studies (Public Sector Leadership), the Bachelor of Science in Community Development (Public Administration), and the Bachelor of Science in Public and Nonprofit Administration. The coursework in each program varies, though at the core of the curriculum is public and community service at the local, state, and federal levels. Applicants are required to submit an official transcript demonstrating a cumulative minimum GPA of 2.0 in high school or college coursework to be considered for admission. Students pursuing any of the bachelor's of public administration online complete 120 credit hours of coursework in eight, 12-, or 16-week terms. Online learners access course content through the university’s virtual learning platform, complete weekly assignments, and meet due dates at their own convenience. Some courses may require students to log in at a set time for live lectures or discussions with peers and professors. Students can reach out to the Online Student Ally program for guidance, answers, and resources in learning virtually.

#8 Austin Peay State University

  • Annual Tuition: $13,007
  • Median Salary: $55,000
  • Locations: Clarksville (TN)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The Bachelor of Science in Public Management at Austin Peay State University is designed to provide students an education in the fundamentals of working in a managerial role in the public sector. Students in the 120-credit-hour program may concentrate their studies in General Management or Criminal Justice. The curriculum includes general education and public management courses. Applicants are required to submit high school and, if applicable, college transcripts and an ACT or SAT score report. Students transferring from another college or university who are unable to submit an official score report and who have not completed college-level coursework in English, math, or history must take a placement test. Most online classes require the completion of assignments by a set due date, though students have the flexibility of completing the coursework whenever it is most convenient for them. Some courses also require students to log in at specific times for live class discussions. Students are assigned an online academic advisor to work with throughout their time at APSU. They are also provided academic support through online tutoring, library and career resources, and Help Desk assistance by phone or email.

Overview of Online Public Administration

Public administrators need to understand how business and management principles apply in a service-oriented organization. Associate programs in public administration introduce students to the basics of office management and client service and prepare graduates to become social and human services assistants. A bachelor's degree is the usual entry-level requirement for public agency and nonprofit management positions. Students can expect to take courses like fundraising and budgeting, organizational behavior, and program evaluation in public agencies. A master's in public administration is a professional degree that combines practical courses with fieldwork in a mission-driven organization. Students obtaining doctoral degrees will do research into public administration practices, in order to enter high-level administrative roles or college-level instruction positions.

Online Bachelor's Degrees in Public Administration

A bachelor's degree in public administration adds to the skills learned in associate degree programs, but also introduces concepts for those who are starting fresh in public administration. In addition to advancing the necessary public administration skills, online bachelor's degree programs offer additional communication and management skills.

Program Requirements

In order to enroll in a bachelor's program in this field, students must have graduated high school with a diploma or completed their GED. Some programs also require potential students to provide SAT or ACT exam scores. Students who are transferring with an associate degree may have slightly different admission requirements. Online bachelor's degrees in public administration can typically be completed in four years and require anywhere from 90 to 120 units.

Curriculum

Online bachelor's degrees in public administration will include courses on social issues, government, politics, economics, and law in addition to the standard leadership, finance, and management courses. Specific classes might include sociology, public speaking, public administrative ethics and theory, sustainable communities, social science research methods, principles of macroeconomics, business statistics, and environmental policy.

The Importance of an Accredited Online Public Administration Degree

When students are determining which online college or university to attend, it's important to pay attention to accreditation. Accreditation is the process educational organizations use to ensure that students are receiving quality educations that include relevant knowledge and skills. Since there is only programmatic accreditation available for master's in public administration degree programs, students at the associate, bachelor's, doctoral, and certificate levels should focus on regional accreditation when selecting a school to attend. If a school has been regionally accredited, students can rest assured that they are getting the education they deserve and that their classes will transfer to other accredited universities.

For a master's in public administration, the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) sets the standards that determine which concepts public service degrees should include. NASPAA accredits specific degree programs rather than colleges or departments, but they only look at master's degree programs. The organization examines programs that deal with public policy, public administration, public affairs, and non-profit management. Many fields require that students earn a degree from an accredited university in order to be eligible for licensure, but public policy careers don't require that same certification, making it optional to attend a college that has been accredited. But, as previously mentioned, it's always a good idea since it ensures that students receive a quality education.

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NASPAA Accredited Online Master's Degrees in Public Administration

Master's degrees are the most common level of online degrees in public administration. They are good choices for students hoping to pursue careers such as city administrators, analysts, city planners, and human resource directors. These six schools offer online master's programs in public administration that are accredited by NASPAA.

All schools on this list are regionally accredited, non-profit institutions that offer accredited online master's in public administration programs.

Southern Utah University

Southern Utah University's two-year online public administration program explores the topic in a social, cultural, historical, political, and economic context. Each student can customize their path, blending necessary elements with written communication skills. The program includes 21 units of core classes, up to 12 units of electives, and up to six units of experiential learning (either an internship, thesis, or professional project) that must equal at least 36 units overall. The required courses include Theory of Public Administration, Public Sector Economics, Administrative Law, Research Methods for Public Administration, Public Human Resource Management, Critical Thinking and Ethics in the Public Sector, and Capstone in Public Administration. Available electives include those on higher education, policy, leadership, law, and analysis. While the program was recently accredited by NASPAA, it is also accredited through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

Texas A&M International University

The Master of Public Administration program at Texas A&M International University requires students to have at least three years of management experience. This program also admits international students as well. The 42-unit MPA program has 33 units of required courses, which include Advanced Methods of Social Research, Organization Theory, Administrative Ethics, Human Resources Management, and Principles and Politics of Public Budgeting. Students must also complete a project or an internship as well as three elective courses. The university also offers an additional certificate in Non-Profit Leadership and Management that MPA students may obtain, though they must apply for the program separately. Tuition can range from $2,000 to $6,000 per year depending on whether or not you're a resident of Texas.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is another one that is designed with working professionals in mind, facilitating an easier path to a master's degree while maintaining a job. With a focus on the necessary skills for government and non-profit roles, this master's program is consistently ranked as one of the top online programs in the country. With a flexible curriculum, students can organize their classes into a schedule that works best for them; the program can be completed in anywhere from 18 months to five years. Courses in UNC's program equate to 45 required credits, including 27 units of core classes like Public Service Leadership, Human Resource Management, and Law for Public Administration. Another 15 units of electives are required as well, in hopes that the classes will aid in students' competency and cultivate new skills. Students may choose from Federal Policies and Institutions, Technology and Community Engagement, and Productivity Improvement in Local Government. Another three credits are split between work experience and a professional portfolio.

The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington's master's program teaches students something that other colleges may not: how to face some of the unique challenges of working as a manager in an urban area. Most of the courses last for eight weeks, featuring topics like Ethics in Public Service, Foundations of Urban Research and Analysis, Public Budgeting, Intergovernmental Relations, and Non-Profit Institutions. Students must also choose between two specific electives: Capital Budgeting, and Personnel Management and Conflict Resolution in the Public and Non-Profit Sector. The MPA program can be finished in two years and three-course classes come out to around $1,275 each at a rate of $425 per unit. At 39 required credits, the total for the program overall comes to around $16,000.

University of Baltimore

Their two-year master's program requires 42 units that will prepare students to think critically, learn how to research, and determine what your civic responsibilities are when you're working in public service jobs. There is also a heavy focus on interacting with both peers and professors despite the fact that courses are entirely online. Students can choose from four different specializations, including public policy and administration, health-care policy and administration, budgeting and fiscal administration, and public and non-profit management. The website provides a list of recommended elective courses for each specialization, which students should definitely check before determining their class schedule. No matter which specialization a student chooses, there are also 33 units of required core classes to take. Some of these courses are Bureaucracy and the Political Process, Statistical Applications in Public Administration, and Legal and Ethical Environment of Public Administration. A three-unit internship is also required, though it may be waived with proof of significant professional experience in the public sector.

University of San Francisco

With 13 courses equaling 39 credits, students can earn an online graduate degree in public administration at the University of San Francisco without ever having to take the GRE. The program teaches students about the public good through avenues like organizational behavior, policy analysis, budgeting, information technology, strategic planning, and program implementation. Nine core classes are required, including Information Technology and E-Trends, Program Evaluation and Monitoring, Strategic Planning, and Core Value Driven Leadership and Ethics. Two additional electives are also required. Students may choose to have an additional concentration in health services administration, which is designed for those who hope to go into healthcare management. Following graduation, the majority of students end up in state, local, and federal government. Others work for non-profits, or even for companies in the private sector.

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Careers in Public Administration

Individuals with online degrees in public administration may go on to pursue a variety of careers. A public administration degree at any level helps prepare students to work at a variety of government agencies, private businesses, or non-profit organizations. While certificates, associate degrees, and even bachelor's degrees can earn students entry-level jobs, master's or doctoral degrees may help them find more advanced positions.

In addition to education, experience plays an important role in which jobs students land in this career field. Some students may go on to work in law enforcement or criminal justice at state or city governments, law or consulting firms, or anywhere that utilizes managers, analysts, planners, or certain types of specialists. Working in public administration requires a wide range of abilities and knowledge, but mainly the ability to multitask. Once hired, students will find themselves analyzing, organizing, and evaluating everything from budgets to events and clients. Working in public service can be rewarding as it offers many different options and paths.

References

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