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Best Online Bachelor's in Public Administration & Policy Degrees

By Jennifer King Logan | Updated 9/13/2022
Quick Facts
Accreditation: NASPAA
Average Tuition: $25,929
Alumni Salary: $41,950

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.

What Is Public Administration and Policy?

Earning a bachelor's degree in public administration and policy is a smart choice for those who want to serve the public by driving positive change. Students who graduate with this degree can move directly into the workforce, seeking public administration jobs in government agencies and nonprofit organizations, or they can prepare for higher-level administrative positions by earning an advanced degree, such as a master's degree in public administration.

Bachelor's of public administration degree programs explore the inner workings of governmental and nongovernmental organizations devoted to serving the public. Students discover why these organizations exist, how they serve specific demographic groups, and how public policies are established and implemented. They also study the economic, social, and legal factors that influence public service organizations and policies.

In addition to covering concepts and theories, public administration degree programs focus on practical administrative skills. Students learn how to conduct research, measure productivity, and manage budgets. They also start developing their abilities to manage others, identify public needs, develop solutions, and become agents of change. With this knowledge, graduates are equipped to help individuals, communities, and society at large through service.

Online Bachelor's in Public Administration and Policy Degrees

Online bachelor's in public administration and policy degree programs typically lead to a Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Public Administration (BPA) degree. Once enrolled, students typically need to earn 120-126 total credit hours to graduate. Full-time students usually complete a program in four to five years, while part-time students may need longer to finish all of the degree requirements.

A few online public administration programs are degree completion programs, requiring students to earn a minimum number of undergraduate credits — usually 60 but not more than 90 — or an associate degree at the same school or a similarly accredited institution before enrolling in the online program.

Admission requirements for these programs may include two or more years of professional work experience, a GPA of 2.8 or higher on all previous college coursework, strong recommendations, and a persuasive personal essay.

Courses in an Online Bachelor's Degree in Public Administration and Policy

Bachelor's degree programs in public administration are interdisciplinary, meaning they combine courses from political science, business, economics, and finance. Many programs offer concentrations and add-on certificates, so students may also take courses in criminal justice, environmental studies, or health care administration. A few programs have a foreign language requirement.

Public administration students can also choose from a wide range of electives. Some of the more common elective courses include federal and local government, ethics, organizational behavior, and business communications. Most programs require at least one internship, and several end with some type of capstone project or research seminar.

The following are three of the core courses commonly found in most public administration and policy programs:

Public Administration and Policy Specializations & Concentrations

Many schools offer areas of emphasis or concentrations within their public administration programs. Options include public policy and politics, law enforcement, emergency management, health care, and international relations. To fulfill the requirements for a concentration, students typically take three or four elective courses on that topic.

Some schools also offer undergraduate certificates that can be earned simultaneously with a degree in public administration. Here again, students take electives to earn certificates. Among the more common certificate subjects are civic leadership, environmental studies, public safety, and homeland security.

How Much Does an Online Bachelor's in Public Administration and Policy Cost?

The total cost of earning an online bachelor's in public administration and policy degree varies widely. Typical annual tuition rates range from approximately $6,500 to $31,500. Although online students do not have to pay for room and board or for transportation to and from school, they will need to pay for books, supplies, and other fees, which the College Board estimates to be at least $1,240 per year.

Some students may be able to help fund their college education by obtaining financial aid from the federal or state government or from the schools they attend. Online learners can also apply for private scholarships.

What Can You Do With a Public Administration and Policy Bachelor's Degree?

Many people who've earned an undergraduate degree in public administration and policy assume administrative and managerial roles in local, state, or federal government. Others work in public service as employees of nonprofit organizations, educational and health care institutions, nongovernmental organizations, or foreign service.

A bachelor's in public policy degree can also be used as the foundation for more advanced degrees. Those who are interested in higher-level positions may want to consider earning a Master of Public Administration (MPA), an MBA in Public Administration, a Master of Public Health, or a Juris Doctor degree.

A few of the occupations open to public administration bachelor's degree holders include:

Social and Community Service Managers

Annual Median Salary: $74,000
Job Growth Rate: 15%

Social and community services managers coordinate the actions and programs of organizations that support the well-being of particular demographic groups, such as veterans, children, or people experiencing homelessness. The specific job responsibilities for these roles vary but may include managing employees or volunteers, gathering data on program participants, and budgeting for the program's expenses.

Public Relations and Fundraising Managers

Annual Median Salary: $119,860
Job Growth Rate: 13%

Public relations and fundraising managers with a background in public policy often work for nonprofit organizations. A public relations manager creates content that builds awareness for the organization and helps communicate its message. A fundraising manager designs and implements strategies for raising money for the organization, such as planning fundraising campaigns and events and applying for grants.

Administrative Services and Facilities Managers

Annual Median Salary: $99,290
Job Growth Rate: 9%

Administrative services and facilities managers help organizations run efficiently and maintain safe, secure facilities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, their duties vary depending on the size and type of the organization but may include managing staff, monitoring budgets, and ensuring compliance with regulations.

What to Look for in a Public Administration and Policy Program

When you're trying to decide which program is the best online bachelor's degree in public policy for your needs and goals, there are many factors to review. Besides cost, some other important considerations regarding an online degree include:

Accreditation

Is the school accredited by an approved institutional accreditation agency? Enrollment in an accredited school is required for you to be eligible for federal financial aid, and it may be required to transfer credits to another school or for acceptance into graduate school. Some public administration programs are also accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA), which ensures the program is founded on accepted public service values. To check for institutional and programmatic accreditation, use the databases provided by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education.

Faculty and Staff

Are some of the program's faculty members experienced public administrators? Studying with a combination of academics and practicing professionals may give you both the historical foundation and current, practical knowledge you want. These instructors and other staff members could become members of your professional network and may be willing to mentor you.

Location

Is the college or university's location important to you? A few online public administration programs are hybrid, meaning that you may need to attend some on-campus classes or other learning activities, which could add travel expenses to the cost of your degree. Additionally, you may want to consider the school's location as it relates to resident and nonresident tuition fees.

Student Services

Does the school provide counselors who can help you prepare for your career or address potential mental health issues? Also, keep in mind that many online public administration programs require internships, which you may need to coordinate on your own if you're an online student. You may want to confirm that resources are available to online students before enrolling in an online program.

Online Program Format

Does the program's online format work for you? Some online programs feature asynchronous courses that allow you to complete assignments on your own time as long as you meet the deadlines. However, other programs feature synchronous courses, which require you to join in virtual class meetings at designated times. Be sure you choose a format that fits your schedule, personal preferences, and available resources.

Questions About Online Bachelor's Degrees in Public Administration and Policy

Is Public Administration a Good Major?


Yes, public administration is a good major. Because it is an interdisciplinary major, you'll acquire knowledge and skills in a range of subjects, including public service, business management, and finance. This degree provides a firm foundation for several possible career paths in public service, business, and entrepreneurship.

What Can I Do After a BS in Public Administration?


Graduates who've earned a BS in public administration have several career options. You could find work with organizations that have a mission to serve the public through governance, health care, policing, emergency disaster management, agriculture, or other specialty areas. You could also pursue a career in business, or you could earn a graduate degree to prepare for higher-level jobs in research, academia, and public program development.

What Is the Difference Between Public Policy and Political Science?


Public policy is a branch of political science. Public administrators study public policy to understand how public institutions and organizations work and how they can be influenced to better serve people. Political scientists, however, look at much broader issues, including public policy but also governments, political processes and systems, and political behavior.

Where Can I Work With a Public Policy Degree?


Graduates with public policy degrees can work in many types of government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Some public policy jobs can be found in small organizations that provide services to a single community at the local level, while others may be found in large organizations that serve vast groups at the state or even national level. Public policy degree holders can also work in all types of business organizations.

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