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25 Best Master of Public Administration (MPA) Programs 2020

By the GradReports team | Updated 4/1/2020

We ranked the top 25 schools by median salary one year after graduation for Master's in Public Administration (MPA) graduates. The school with the highest median starting salary for MPAs is Harvard University, at $98,300 per year. The lowest median debt for the top 25 MPA programs is $20,525, for graduates of Anna Maria College. The range of median salaries for the top 25 schools is $60,700-$98,300.

Tuition, median salaries, and median debt were reported by the U.S. Department of Education in November 2019. View our methodology for more details about these rankings or read more about the top-ranked schools.

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Salary and debt data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Salary and debt data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Rank School Location Annual Tuition Median Debt Median Salary
#1 #1 Cambridge (MA) Cambridge (MA) $47,562 $35,839 $98,300
#2 #2 Paxton (MA) Paxton (MA) $10,530 $20,525 $90,000
#3 #3 San Francisco (CA) San Francisco (CA) $24,990 $49,417 $79,900
#4 #4 Washington D.C. Washington D.C. $30,834 $49,847 $76,900
#5 #5 San Francisco (CA) San Francisco (CA) $18,198 $33,787 $73,700
#6 #6 Poughkeepsie (NY) Poughkeepsie (NY) $14,500 $37,485 $71,700
#7 #7 La Jolla (CA) La Jolla (CA) $15,480 $32,587 $71,000
#8 #8 Blacksburg (VA) Blacksburg (VA) $29,629 $35,034 $70,100
#9 #9 Washington D.C. Washington D.C. $31,446 $55,500 $69,600
#10 #10 Riverside (CA) Riverside (CA) $14,130 $27,625 $68,000
#11 #11 New York (NY) New York (NY) $45,426 $69,633 $67,100
#12 #12 Philadelphia (PA) Philadelphia (PA) $38,630 $63,453 $67,000
#13 #13 Los Angeles (CA) Los Angeles (CA) $45,561 $69,754 $66,500
#14 #14 Hayward (CA) Hayward (CA) $17,921 $36,281 $66,400
#15 #15 New York (NY) New York (NY) $48,390 $71,273 $66,000
#16 #16 Northridge (CA) Northridge (CA) $17,831 $34,000 $64,200
#17 #17 New York (NY) New York (NY) $20,280 $25,114 $63,500
#18 #18 Evanston (IL) Evanston (IL) $54,620 $40,605 $63,200
#19 #19 Vermillion (SD) Vermillion (SD) $12,249 Not Reported $63,100
#20 #20 Saint Paul (MN) Saint Paul (MN) $9,257 $42,200 $62,400
#21 #21 Fairfax (VA) Fairfax (VA) $35,724 $41,000 $62,100
#22 #22 Villanova (PA) Villanova (PA) $19,005 $37,290 $62,000
#23 #23 Pittsburgh (PA) Pittsburgh (PA) $44,667 $31,392 $61,400
#24 #24 San Marcos (TX) San Marcos (TX) $16,749 $21,680 $61,100
#25 #25 Orange Beach (AL) Orange Beach (AL) $3,735 $24,353 $60,700

2020 Best Colleges Highlights

#1
Cambridge (MA)
Median Salary $98,300
Median Debt $35,839
Annual Tuition $47,562

Harvard University has a rigorous Master's in Public Administration (MPA) program that involves four semesters of full-time coursework, requiring students to complete at least 64 credits before graduating. This MPA is completed while in residence at the Harvard Kennedy School. Students are able to personalize their degree by choosing some electives and their preferred configuration of courses from a given set. For example, students will take four courses from each of these three areas: economics and quantitative analysis, management and leadership, and public ethics and political institutions. Within each of these sections, however, a student gets to choose which four classes to take. 

For students who wish to accomplish two master's degrees, Harvard University has an option for taking a second degree concurrently with an MPA. The second degree can be in law, business, medicine, or in another professional field offered by Harvard or a partnering institution. The total course load is lessened per degree when a student opts to complete two degrees.

Visit Harvard University's website

#2
Paxton (MA)
Median Salary $90,000
Median Debt $20,525
Annual Tuition $10,530

Anna Maria College's online Master's in Public Administration (MPA) is a 36-credit-hour program designed to prepare students to apply business and strategic thinking to the public and nonprofit sectors. The general track has various options for specialization, such as conflict management, labor-management relations, and professional government management. There are also four other track options in addition to the general track: criminal justice, emergency management, fire and emergency services, and homeland security. Each of these tracks has modified courses to channel students' interests toward the information they want to gain, providing a practical way to enter a more specified field.

The curriculum used for the MPA covers different aspects of public administration, going into the theoretical and the practical. Students will have courses like Strategic Management of Human Capital, Ethical Theory, and Strategic Planning for Public Managers. The faculty is dedicated to providing relevant and up-to-date information aimed to help students find their desired public administration jobs. 

Visit Anna Maria College's website.

#3
San Francisco (CA)
Median Salary $79,900
Median Debt $49,417
Annual Tuition $24,990

The University of San Francisco has a Master's in Public Administration (MPA) program as well as an MPA program with an emphasis in health services administration. Both of these programs are completed through the School of Management and are designed to formulate students' ability to think, research, motivate, and lead in the public, nonprofit, and health care sectors. The MPA program requires 38 units to be completed, and students are given a flexible class schedule, enabling them to work and attend university at the same time.

Example courses include Navigating and Negotiating the Field of Practice of Public Administration, Core Value Driven Leadership and Ethics, Information Technology and E-Trends, and Quantitative Methods and Big Data. The University of San Francisco's MPA program started in 1978 and is committed to teaching a broad perspective on public administration, aiming to prepare graduates for ethical, humane, creative, and effective service. 

Visit University of San Francisco's website.

#4
Median Salary $76,900
Median Debt $49,847
Annual Tuition $30,834

The Master's in Public Administration (MPA) program at The George Washington University is offered through the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration, and the degree comes through the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. This program has a 40-unit requirement. The MPA program at The George Washington University began in 1963 and continued to build and grow, eventually leading to the establishment of the School of Public Policy and Public Administration in 2003. The goal of the MPA is to prepare students in research, analysis, leadership, and public service.

To complete this degree, students choose an area of focus from different fields, including budget and public finance; federal policy, politics, and management; public-private policy and management; policy analysis and evaluation; politics and management; international development management; managing state and local governments; and nonprofit management.

The program was designed to accommodate students who are working full time in addition to studying, and so students can choose to take classes full-time or part-time, with many classes available in the evening. There is also an option, for students interested, to combine the MPA with a JD from the GW Law School, making an MPA-JD dual degree.

Visit The George Washington University's website.

#5
San Francisco (CA)
Median Salary $73,700
Median Debt $33,787
Annual Tuition $18,198

San Francisco State University offers a Master's in Public Administration (MPA) at their College of Health and Social Sciences. The MPA program works through the School of Public Affairs and Civic Engagement (PACE) and has earned national accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration. This program focuses on finding and teaching innovative ways to serve the public and nonprofit sectors. 

The program requires students to complete 42 units. Usually, this course load is spread over seven semesters, which allows professionals time to work and complete their degrees. A student enrolled in the MPA program can choose a focus for their degree from seven options: nonprofit administration, public management, public policy, urban administration, criminal justice administration, gerontology, and environmental administration and policy. The program also makes room for students who have other ideas for areas of focus – there is an option that allows students to design a new elective emphasis. There is an internship requirement to complete the MPA program; however, this requirement can be waived for many students, if they submit the formal paperwork. 

Finally, San Francisco State University's MPA program will have you complete a Culminating Experience Requirement. For this, students will choose either a capstone course and a comprehensive written examination or a Master's Thesis option. This program's learning outcomes include preparation to engage in an ever-changing work environment, confidence to think critically and share new ideas, and the ability to manage and lead in public administrative roles. 

Visit San Francisco State University's website.