MPA Concentrations and Certificates

For a long time, public administration mainly focused on government roles. Today the field has expanded to also include nonprofit and public service organizations and private corporations. With the field bigger than ever, the demand for specialized professionals able to tackle and manage the unique demands of individual sectors is high.

That’s why USC’s online Master of Public Administration offers three concentrations and two certificate options. Our comprehensive curriculum empowers you to develop the skills to tackle your particular interests, leverage your expertise with efficiency and gain a specialized perspective on your field of choice.

Which Path Is Right for Me?

As an online student with USC’s MPA, you have the choice of one of three concentrations and two certificates that allow students to pursue a specialized public administration education:

Concentration Options

  • Local Government Management
  • Nonprofit Management
  • Public Policy

Certificate Options

  • City/County Management
  • Public Policy

By focusing your MPA degree or complementing your expertise with a certificate, you create a direct inroad to the area of public service that most attracts you.

Local Government Concentration

Faced with resource constraints and increased demands from diverse groups of citizens, local government professionals are increasingly being called upon to develop innovative, cost-effective ways to deliver high-quality public services. Over the past 65 years, USC has trained thousands of city managers, county managers, department heads and other local government officials who have taken leadership roles in this increasingly entrepreneurial environment.

Local Government coursework:

  • Seminar in the Administration of Local Government
  • Urban Planning and Social Policy
  • Strategic Planning in the Public Sector
  • Human Resources Management in Public and Nonprofit Sectors

Students who pursue the Local Government Management concentration can expect to develop a foundation in budgeting, financial management, planning, practice and program evaluation in addition to local government-focused topics, including strategic planning for the public sector and social policy.

City/County Management Certificate

Develop your local government management expertise even further with our City/County Management certificate option. This certificate allows you to explore topics in financial management, policy evaluation and the nonprofit sector without a two-year commitment. Students pursuing the Local Government concentration will earn the City/County Management certificate without any additional units.

“One of my goals is to become the city manager of Stockton, California, and create a positive impact in my community. So with the MPA education I want to come back to my community and take an active role in local government, specifically as a city manager.”
— Willie Joe Marquez, 2014 USC MPA online graduate

Nonprofit Management Concentration

The nonprofit sector is where change becomes a reality, dealing with some of society’s most daunting public problems and working to develop innovative solutions. The issues span from school reform to health care access, economic development to cleaner environments, affordable housing to greater mobility, and civic engagement to effective governance. For more than 30 years, the USC Price School of Public Policy has been a leader in research and education in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors.

Nonprofit coursework:

  • Nonprofit Management and Leadership
  • The Nonprofit Sector and Philanthropy
  • Strategic Planning in the Public Sector
  • Performance Management or Human Resources Management in Public and Nonprofit Sectors

All online MPA students develop a foundation in budgeting, financial management, planning, practice and program evaluation through core courses. Students who pursue the Nonprofit Management concentration can expect to explore a variety of specialized topics such as fundraising, nonprofit leadership, accountability, strategic planning and organizational development.

“I wanted to go to a very highly respected and highly rated school and program. I asked my professional friends and executives with nonprofits, and everyone said, ‘Go to USC.’ ”
— Laura Albers, 2015 USC MPA online graduate

Public Policy Concentration

The Public Policy track exposes students to policy issues of interest, while fostering analytic skills built around the most forward-looking methodologies. Designed as an alternative to a Master of Public Policy degree, students who choose the Public Policy concentration gain foundational knowledge and expertise to advance their career in public policy or related fields.

Public Policy coursework:

  • Strategic Planning in the Public Sector
  • Foundations of Public Policy Analysis
  • Public Policy Formulation and Implementation
  • Performance Management or Human Resources Management in Publicand Nonprofit Sectors

Students who pursue the Public Policy concentration can expect to develop a foundation in budgeting, financial management, planning, practice and program evaluation in addition to public policy-focused topics. Through this concentration, you can explore specialized topics such as strategic decision-making, policy design and implementation, analytic reasoning and ethics in policy analysis.

Public Policy Certificate

The USC Price Certificate in Public Policy exposes students to policy issues of interest, while fostering analytic skills built around the most forward-looking methodologies. Designed as an alternative for those who will not pursue the Master of Public Policy degree, students completing the certificate gain foundational knowledge and expertise to advance their career in public policy or related fields. In addition, the certificate complements other graduate coursework by offering invaluable new perspective on the student’s primary area of study.

“Honestly, USC was the first program I looked up. When you speak to people in the public sector, they know the USC name.”
— Greg Dirks, USC MPA online student