Master of Public Administration Online

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The Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree program is offered by the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy (“Price School”) at the University of Southern California. The program trains students to be leaders who will solve today’s critical social problems. It connects extensive research to real-world solutions to help graduates navigate a modern, interconnected socioeconomic and political environment. Students learn to demonstrate leadership while managing tough financial, leadership, human resource and project/program management problems.

About USC

USC is one of the nation’s leading research universities, and the Price School is a major contributor to that reputation. Price faculty rank third at USC in terms of per capita research grants, conducted through more than a dozen research centers, institutes and initiatives. The Online MPA program links the cutting-edge research to the practice of public policy and management to prepare graduates to be innovators and leaders in the field.

Top Ranked Master's in Public Administration

The Price School has worldwide recognition as a leader; U.S. News & World Report recently ranked Price 4th among 272 schools of Public Affairs in 2017. In addition, the Price School ranked:

  • 3rd in City Management and Urban Policy
  • 3rd in Health Policy and Management
  • 4th in Public Management/Administration
  • 6th in Nonprofit Management
  • 9th in Social Policy
  • 11th in Public Policy Analysis

Why USC’s Master in Public Administration

  • Overview
  • Interconnected and Comprehensive Curriculum
  • Community of Comprehensive Learning
  • Connect to Your Peers
  • Real-world Research
  • Diverse Academic Faculty


The USC Master of Public Administration program is a unique and multidisciplinary environment within the Price School that integrates all the major disciplines bearing on management and leadership in the modern, interconnected socioeconomic and political environment. The program connects cutting-edge research to the practice of public policy and management, equipping students with the skills required for all the challenges and opportunities of the ever-changing nature of public administration—sound management, analytical, and policy-making skills.


Interconnected and Comprehensive Curriculum

The contemporary curriculum of the USC Price online MPA program is designed to train students to take cutting-edge research about organization and social processes, combine it with practical experience and apply it to craft and execute successful problem-solving strategies. The program imparts students with a number of key skills: first, strong analytic capabilities to understand how to define and solve problems; second, political acumen to understand how to implement plans, given the organization and political constraints of the public sector; and third, excellent communication skills to be able to convince political actors and the broader stakeholders of the merit of your ideas.


Community of Comprehensive Learning

Analytic capabilities without political leadership or communication skills lead to great plans that are never implemented. On the other hand, political or communication skills, in the absence of analytic capabilities, lead to great-sounding programs that don’t achieve their desired ends. In the online MPA, students are trained to have the whole package. It’s the combination of these analytic, leadership and communication skills that create truly successful public managers.

A major part of the philosophy of the online Master’s in Public Administration is to create a community of learning, where students have multiple opportunities to learn from the faculty and each other. To that end, the program is unique in that it includes two residency components, one at the beginning of the program and one at the end. Students will meet for an intensive class session over a weekend at one of a small number of locations throughout the United States where they will meet their faculty and fellow classmates face-to-face.


Connect to Your Peers

The introductory residency will include a brief orientation to Price and the MPA program online, and the career services available to students. Students will also have the opportunity to meet with local alumni. The second residency occurs the week before graduation, in the form of a capstone event involving a number of presentations and studios, where students get to share their best work with others.

These residences will allow online students the opportunity to develop and solidify relationships with fellow students and alumni, reinforcing the professional networks for which the Price School is well-known.


Real-world Research

The USC Price School is renowned for both its capacity to apply expertise from multiple fields to a single issue and the depth of its contributions from each field. Its research provides vital data to important academic disciplines and helps shape real-world solutions.

Price faculty rank third at USC in terms of per capita research grants—a reflection of both faculty productivity and the quality of research. The USC Price research centers are actively examining today’s major issues; governance, economic development, philanthropy, immigration, sustainability, national security, transportation, population and healthcare. Students who are civic-minded and passionate about social change have the opportunity to participate in an environment renowned for cutting-edge public service research and application.

The combination of the curriculum structure and research-based learning satisfy the key outcomes of the online MPA degree program—building both fundamental skills necessary for long-term success and learning about new, modern subject areas. Click here to see work samples by current students or recent graduates in USC’s MPA program.


Diverse Academic Faculty

The USC Price School has 60 full-time faculty members—distinguished, award-winning scholars and professionals with a common commitment to research and teaching. The faculty includes: a Nobel Prize winner in economics; the Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; and six professors who have been elected as fellows to the National Academy of Public Administration, a nonpartisan organization chartered by Congress to help public organizations improve their effectiveness.

Their diverse disciplinary backgrounds and areas of research interest include economics, international relations, urban planning, organizational behavior, philosophy, political science, psychology, public administration, public policy, sociology and social ethics. The faculty are leading thinkers about public sector problems, publishing dozens of articles and books every year and active participants in public debates through being interviewed by the media, writing offers, testifying to Congress and other legislative bodies and heading up commissions. They’re at the frontier of what research is all about, reviewing the most current ways of thinking in terms of how to deal with real problems. The education received at Price School is constantly enriched by the service experiences of their professors.

Who Should Choose USC’s
Online Master’s in Public Administration

USC Price Online Master’s of Public Administration students come from many demographic groups and professional backgrounds. Regardless of circumstances or credentials, they share our common goals:

  • Contribute to effective policy change
  • Lead and manage for the public good and improve the quality of life
  • Develop the analytic reasoning skills to solve problems and make critical decisions
  • Have the skills and abilities to work across government, nonprofit or private sectors
  • Promote transparency, accountability, efficiency, competence, and justice in public service
  • Develop an appreciation for diverse perspectives from an ever-changing workforce and citizenry
  • Be prepared to pursue a management-level career
  • Public Management & Government Professionals
  • Nonprofit Professionals
  • Law Enforcement / National Security / Military

The USC Master of Public Administration online degree program focuses on public entrepreneurship. The capacity for leadership is especially important in a world of rapid change, where the future will be unlike the past and present. In such a world, successful managers must be able to forge relationships among neighborhoods, businesses, nonprofit organizations and city hall. Successful management in the public sector requires a capacity to integrate regional and local considerations and the ability to achieve desired outcomes within a complex tapestry of intergovernmental fiscal pressures, regulations and the political process. The program equips students with the tools to create new solutions to public problems—critical thinking, analytical reasoning, leadership and problem solving. The Price School is ranked 6th in Public Management/Administration, and students benefit from a teaching community that is at the forefront of research and real-world solutions. Their motto is knowledge in action—they train students to take cutting-edge research about organization and social processes, combine it with practical experience, and apply it to craft and execute successful problem-solving strategies.

Mark Alexander, MPA ’90

City Manager, City of La Cañada Flintridge, CA
USC has built a reputation for its commitment to local government and city management specifically. This is why I chose USC to pursue my MPA education. I appreciate the School's efforts to continually innovate in the way it approaches the teaching of public administration. Its communication with the "real world" in identifying skills needed within the profession and its commitment to advancing interdisciplinary study and directing partnerships with government and private industry enhances the training of our future managers and better prepares them for the challenges that wait. Next - Clarisse Young
Mark Alexander

Clarisse Young, MPA ’06

Special Assistant to the Senior Advisor of Communications and Public Affairs, U.S. Department of Labor
The USC Sol Price School of Public Policy helped immerse and transition me into my current job at the U.S. Department of Labor. Every day, I come to work with the mission to serve and protect American workers, prepare them for new and better jobs, and ensure the safety of America's workplaces. USC Price was where I learned how to apply practical leadership skills to be successful in public service and government. What's also great about USC Price is the alumni network all across the country, especially in the Washington, D.C., area where I have continued to build relationships and stay connected to the USC Price community. Previous - Mark Alexander
Clarisse Young

No matter how complicated it may be to obtain the legal designation of a nonprofit, at their core is a common thread of service. Nonprofits like the Red Cross, Teach for America, Amnesty International and United Way are among the most recognized, but there are more than 1.6 million NPOs in the United States alone.

Leadership and vision are required in every sector of public administration, but nonprofit management has its own unique challenges. Interacting with boards and intersectoral stakeholders, fundraising and marketing, and volunteer and human resource management are issues with particular considerations distinctive to nonprofits. The USC Master of Public Administration online program directly addresses these concerns in its Nonprofit Management specialization. Students and graduates of the USC Master in Public Administration have access to a wealth of NPO resources, including research centers like the Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy. And with Price alumni in just about every major U.S. metropolitan area, plus internationally, MPA graduates can find support for their efforts nearly everywhere they look.

Josie Noah, MPA, MPL ’09

Commitments Manager, Environment & Energy, Clinton Global Initiative
Before enrolling in USC's MPA program, I had an understanding of the public sector, but more from an international perspective. What USC added was a deep dive into what it meant to be a public servant and the importance of providing opportunities for individuals living in poverty. Next - Kate Kuykendall
Josie Noah

Kate Kuykendall, MPA ’08

Public Affairs, Peace Corps
I was interested in a career with the federal government, and that's why I pursued the public administration degree. I was looking for a background and understanding of the way government works and how public management evolves. The coursework helped me get my current job–which I actually got before I graduated. Previous - Josie Noah
Kate Kuykendall

Members of the U.S. military join for a variety of reasons as diverse as the members themselves. But at its core, the military is grounded in service for a greater good; personal sacrifice in the interest of protecting a way of life. The military breeds discipline, confidence and leadership wrapped in a code of ethics. This combination is well-suited for civilian life as a public servant working in the “business” of government.

Much like military professionals, graduates of the USC Master’s of Public Administration program are unique in that they don’t just want the world to be a better place; they take an active, collaborative role in making it so. They “roll up their sleeves” and jump right in. The program teaches its students to deal professionally in tough situations under pressure, with public service the undercurrent goal. And it trains them to think for themselves when designing solutions to those situations; not just to not to necessarily take a prescribed methodology, but to be entrepreneurial—be a leader, think innovatively, take a risk, accept responsibility.

For military professionals seeking to enter the public or private sectors after their term of service the MPA can be the key to a successful civilian career.

Erroll Southers, MPA ’98

Associate Director of Special Programs, USC Sol Price School of Public Policy
Since 2003, Southers has taught a master's-level "Homeland Security and Public Policy" class, which is structured on the contemporary discourse of terrorism post-September 11. He is also the associate director of the USC Homeland Security Center for Risk Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE), a national interdisciplinary research facility focused on economic and risk analysis of the U.S. Furthermore, Southers is a founding member and past president of the USC Price Alumni Association. "When it comes to my relationship with USC, it's all about giving back," he said. "There's nothing I wouldn't do for this school and this university. I'm just incredibly grateful to be involved." Next - Paul Chabot
Errol Southers

Paul Chabot, MPA, ‘99

President and CEO, Chabot Strategies, LLC; Lt. Commander/Intelligence Officer, U.S. Navy
The MPA program exceeded my expectations. The faculty was always there to provide guidance and support. The program provided me a wide array of skill sets that I can immediately apply to almost any field. What I found unique about USC was its mentorship of the program. Through the mentorship program, I was able to expand my network of connections, which helped me set my sights on a successful career path in government. Previous - Erroll Southers
Paul Chabot

Why Choose a Master’s in Public Administration

New Solutions in Public Service (Social Entrepreneurship)

In today’s world of dynamic change and globalization, social challenges have become increasingly complex. Solving society’s most pressing issues—including sustainability and the environment, healthcare reform, immigration, infrastructure, urban development, social planning and policy, affordable housing and governance—requires innovation and collaboration. These issues call for leaders who are able to move beyond their areas of expertise and work across the public, private and nonprofit sectors to find vital solutions.

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The USC Master of Public Administration is designed for those passionate public servants who are motivated to make a change, believe they can make a difference and want to change the world. Within the story lines of a challenging and complicated public administration environment, the reality is that the right people can really make a difference. [1 of 5] - Next

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There are spectacular success stories about people who have overcome the odds by being innovative thinkers, in direct contrast to the general perception of public management. But to be able to make a real difference, public service needs very astute, analytic thinkers with highly honed political skills. To really be a player who can make significant and meaningful contribution, you have to go to a top-notch program. [2 of 5] - Next

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Public management is often very public; out in the world, we read news of increasing complexity and drastically fewer resources. As such, the idea of how to run successfully government programs is getting more and more difficult. The USC Master of Public Administration program emphasizes ethical integrity and having a "can-do" attitude—graduates have earned a reputation for their ability to enter tough situations and "clean house." [3 of 5] - Next

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Not only do MPA graduates want a better place to work and live; they want to take an active role in making it a better place to work and live. They have a need to do things for the public good; working across multiple sectors, ensuring community involvement and addressing fiscal challenges. The Price School MPA online takes public service to a whole new level—public or social entrepreneurship; new solutions to public policy. [4 of 5] - Next

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Students are groomed to be change agents and to take on leadership roles in transforming their organizations. They receive skills and training that help them develop the character of a trustworthy public manager. The Master of Public Administration program prepares students to look at management and policy issues from a public service perspective. Through its interdisciplinary approach, the Price School educates students to serve as innovators—and leaders—in their field. The school’s degree programs draw on the expertise of faculty and practicing professionals to create a learning environment whose breadth and depth sets the Price School apart from all schools of its kind. [5 of 5] – Back to Beginning