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Masters in Public Administration Requirements

Master of Public Administration Requirements

The MPA degree does not require a specific category of undergraduate training. Students who enroll in Master of Public Administration programs come to the profession with many different undergraduate backgrounds. A liberal arts degree is probably a better background than a BS in one of the sciences, only because of the wide range of social situations that may be involved in a public administration career. There are going to be a few undergraduate prerequisites for most programs in statistics and some sort of quantitative math. Many programs are also geared for students who have a few years of public service work experience and have chosen public administration as a career path based on experience. Many schools also look favorably on a record of volunteerism.

Core Requirements

Despite disclaimers about math prerequisites, most quality MPA programs have a substantial dose of math-oriented studies incorporated into the curriculum. Syracuse University includes classes in statistics, quantitative analysis, and managerial economics in the public sector into its one year MPA program. Budgeting is also a compulsory topic in most MPA curricula because of the hidebound nature of public budget formulation. In most jurisdictions it is a complex process that involves multiple layers of scrutiny, culminating in a series of public hearings before a legislative body.

Classes in public organizations and management provide the macro view of administering large, complex, and often antiquated bureaucratic structures. The amount of inertia built into the management organizations in older, established municipal and regional government organizations can be a wearing administrative challenge. Some of the more extended MPA programs include classes in organizational development and change management that, while critical in business administration programs, only get occasional recognition in MPA degree programs.

Areas of Specialization

Many MPA programs forego specialization options in favor of a strong, well rounded overall curriculum. Others like the University of Southern California offer several, some of which may be invaluable in public administration environments. The emphasis on Civil Infrastructure offers courses in Infrastructure Finance, Project Permitting Approval, Infrastructure Management, and Transportation Policy & Planning. These are detailed areas of expertise that could take years to learn on the job. The permitting issue is an interesting and often overlooked public works issue: every construction project must pass the permitting tests, whether the project is public or private.

Health Administration is one of the more common areas of specialization for the MPA. Classes in this area of emphasis may include Legal Issues in Healthcare Delivery, Management of Managed Care Organizations, and Public Health Issues. There will almost certainly be a course in Health Information Systems. This area of concentration can prepare the MPA graduate for work in public or private health systems management.

Other areas of specialization include Urban Planning, Environmental Management, and Economic Development. All of these areas of public endeavor have land use as a central issue. Economic development is often focused on redevelopment, or revitalization of urban areas, which often involves partnership with private developers. Environmental management inevitably enters the discussion of redevelopment efforts. In these fields classes in Public/Private Enterprise, Mixed Use Planning, Smart Growth, and Environmental Policy are generally found in the curriculum requirements.

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