Master of Public Administration (MPA)

Master of Public Administration (MPA) 2017-02-24T15:19:18+00:00

Our Master in Public Administration degree is designed to prepare students to lead and manage in public service. It is offered in three locations — Blacksburg, Alexandria and Richmond, Virginia.

A dedicated faculty of scholars and practitioners teach in person in a classroom setting. Some courses are available online.

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School of Public Information and Policy, SPIA, Virginia Tech National Capital Region, Alexandria, VA, graduate students, classroom, professor and students

The curriculum focuses on three areas: management (12 credit hours), public service (6 hours), and public policy (9 hours).

Nine additional hours of elective credits allow students to focus on specific areas of study, either through a CPAP graduate certificate or by taking other graduate courses.

Master of Public Administration Program Fact Sheet

Policy Guide for the Center for Public Administration and Policy (PDF)

Who should pursue the Master of Public Administration?

  • If you want a career in a government agency, a nonprofit, or a philanthropic institution
  • If you want to advance your career to higher-level management or policy expert positions. See this chart about MPA employment.
  • If you want to gain managerial, analytic, and normative evaluation skills. Our Policy Guide lays out the competencies our graduates are expected to achieve.

A Highly Ranked Program

Best Grad Schools Rating US News and World Report
The Center for Public Administration and Policy is nationally ranked in the top 25 schools for public management / administration by U.S. News & World Report, out of nearly 300 schools.

Virginia Tech has also been ranked 15th in the 2015 Best Value Schools ranking of the 50 most innovative public service schools in the United States.

According to the survey, the rankings were based on U.S. News ranking for public affairs for:

  • number of degree programs
  • student-to-faculty ratio
  • strength of internship programs
  • QS Top Universities innovation ranking and
  • a ranking of innovative features.

Goals of the Master of Public Administration Program

  • Prepare students to enter public service in government at the local, state, regional, and national levels and in nonprofit organizations through the development of managerial and analytical skills and through professional experiences.
  • Instill students with an awareness of the normative foundations of governance and public service.
  • Attract and retain academically qualified and diverse students committed to public service.
  • Maintain a faculty committed to promoting student learning outcomes.

Our Mission: Virginia Tech’s Center for Public Administration and Policy

To promote good governance and the advancement of capable and ethical public service by providing outstanding education, research, and outreach in the theory and practice of public administration, management, and policy

Promoting capable & ethical public service

9:1 student-faculty ratio

1 program, 3 locations

90% of students say the MPA aided analytical skills

How Is the Degree Structured?

This 39-hour degree is open to full and part-time students.
All students complete the degree by assembling an online portfolio of their best work.
Classes are taught in small seminars.

The first of a sequence of two; provides theoretically grounded but practical knowledge on behavioral skills necessary for the public manager. These include the ability to lead, to supervise, to organize, and to communicate in public settings and in agencies serving the community and society.
The second of a sequence of two, teaches the techniques and technology necessary to manage public organizations efficiently and effectively and to be held accountable for administrative actions and programs. The general objective of this course is to develop an understanding of the organization as a complex system and develop skills in tools and processes used to manage the system and deal with the complexity. Topics include systems methods and approaches, program and project management, strategic planning, and tools to support decision-making.
TThis course surveys the basic concepts and practices of contemporary public budgeting at all levels ofgovernment, and considers the historic and contemporary relationships between and among the budget process; its political and economic contexts; the actors involved in setting budget priorities (whether public officials or citizens); and public policy and administration.
This course surveys the key personnel processes of public organizations, the contrasting norms and behaviors of participants, their impacts on policy, and their implications for democracy.
This course is one of the core requirements in public policy for both the Ph.D. and MPA programs in the Center for Public Administration and Policy. It provides an introduction to the traditions, assumptions, and diverse perspectives of the field of public policy inquiry. Explores the processes of policy-making and techniques of policy analysis in and for government, critiques the literature, and examines relationships with other fields and topics of public administration.
This course examines the theory and practice of public policy design and decision-making. The course combines an introduction to the basic tools of policy analysis – cost-benefit and multi-attribute analysis, decision-trees, and other analytical techniques – with consideration of the conflicting values and limitations on rationality that define policy decision-making in the real world. Prerequisites for entry in this course: Completion of PAPA 6214, 6514, and of an undergraduate or graduate Introductory Statistics course.
This course is intended to introduce students to (1) the multiple relationships that exist between theory and evidence in the pursuit of knowledge about public administration and public policy and (2) useful tools needed to make practical application of that knowledge at the strategic level of decision making in large, networked public organizations.Prerequisite: Statistics The core focus of this course is to help you develop a mindset about what might be termed “strategic methodology,” a personal sensitivity for the use of theoretical perspectives, evidence and systematic inquiry to help you contribute to strategic decision making at the policy level.
This course is designed to complement the materials in PAPA 5315, Behavioral Skills for Managers, and PAPA 5316, System Skills for Public Managers. The premise is that in order to understand and apply the skills of public administration and the systems within which administrators work, it is essential to understand the dynamics of public administration and democracy. The course covers the origins and development of the administrative state and surveys major theoretical approaches to public administration. The problem of values in administration, the political environment of bureaucracy, and questions of ethical behavior in administration are discussed.
This course provides a critical analysis of claims to justice and surveys major perspectives on ethics and public life. The course places a particular emphasis on the role of public managers and the ethical challenges of public administration in a constitutional democracy. The course combines readings of moral and political philosophy with examination of present-day cases, and invites students to subject their own views to critical examination.
9 credit hours selected from courses in CPAP, SPIA, or the University.
Project and Report (MPA Portfolio)

The final course prior to graduation from the MPA program, students in this course assemble and present a portfolio of work completed while enrolled in the program. This portfolio serves as both a self-assessment and as a representation of the best work students produce through their core courses. Students must be sure to illustrate achieving mastery of all parameters defined in the CPAP Policy Guide. Students must pass this course prior to graduating from the program.

Meet our Alumni

Elizabeth Fox
Elizabeth Fox is a 2010 graduate who currently works at Slalom Consulting in Portland, Oregon. She is a Practice Leader responsible for overseeing a team of business consultants, as well as building new/maintaining existing business within the retail and healthcare domains.

“As a consultant, I found many of the VT MPA courses to be very useful, such as budgeting, management, ethics, and policy design. In my management class, we had an opportunity to work with the City of Alexandria and “A Partnership for a Healthier Alexandria” to support their community indicators initiative. It was awesome to apply knowledge gained through VT’s MPA coursework to help support a real-world cause.”

“I highly recommend this program to other working professionals who are interested in enhancing their careers in consulting or civil service. I worked full time while attending classes at VT, and integrated lessons learned in the classroom directly to my daily work. The coursework, classmate, and faculty all made my MPA experience very rewarding.”

To be admitted to the CPAP MPA program, an applicant must hold a bachelor’s degree (B.A. or B.S.) from an accredited institution of higher education and must have earned an undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 or higher.

International applicants must submit a TOEFL score.

Students may apply online through the Virginia Tech Graduate School. The total number of students in the MPA program in 2016 was 76.

Learn more about applying to the Master’s in Public Administration.

Tuition costs for Virginia state residents are under $2,500 per 3 credit hour course and for out-of-state residents are under $4,700 per 3 credit hour course for the 2016-2017 academic year.

For detail regarding graduate tuition costs, please see the website of the Virginia Tech University Bursar.

Financial aid is available. In addition, graduate assistantships are available to full time students.

For more information, please see the website of the Virginia Tech Graduate School.

CPAP MPA students have the opportunity to undertake internships during their course of study. Internships enable pre and early career students to gain work experience with the option of earning three elective credits. Students who will have three years or fewer of experience in either governmental or nongovernmental public affairs jobs at the completion of their coursework are required to undertake an internship. Internship activities normally include a full-time assignment in an organization for twelve weeks and complementary reflective writing activities under the guidance of an Internship Faculty Advisor. CPAP MPA students have secured internships at all levels of government, as well as in non-profits.

The organizations with which students held internships during the 2015 -16 academic year include:

  • the Virginia General Assembly (House Clerk’s Office),
  • Virginia Office of Government Relations,
  • Roanoke County Department of Finance,
  • The Old Church Gallery,
  • VT Graduate School,
  • Preserve Giles County,
  • the Roanoke Valley – Alleghany Regional Commission, and
  • the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
The MPA requires 39 credit hours of coursework.

Full time students are able to complete the degree in two years.

Part time students are required to enroll continuously in at least one course (3 credit hours) per semester. The length of the degree for part time students depends on the pace at which required coursework is completed.

Of the students who enrolled in 2012, 65% completed the MPA in two years and 80% completed the degree in four years.

A dual degree is available with the Master of Urban Affairs and Planning. Detail regarding program completion requirements can be found in the CPAP Policy Guide.

CPAP MPA graduates pursue their careers in public service in a wide range of organizations.

MPA 2014-2015 graduates now work in:

  • state government (22%),
  • local government (22%),
  • nonprofits (22%),
  • the private sector (22%), and
  • the federal government (11%).
Are you uncertain about enrolling in this program but would be interested in trying a class?

Many part-time, non-traditional students begin the MPA programs as a non-degree Commonwealth Campus student. If students perform well in the courses they take, they can build a case for admission into the MPA degree.

Students can take up to twelve credit hours (typically four classes) as a non-degree Commonwealth Campus student. And all credits earned are automatically transferred to the student’s transcript should they enroll in the MPA program.

Commonwealth Campus status is open to an applicant who holds an earned bachelors or higher degree from a regionally accredited U.S. university. International students in F1 or J1 visa status are not eligible for Commonwealth Campus status.

Get info on our non-degree programs

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