About Our Curriculum

Improving modern public policy begins by acquiring management and leadership skills, and the Master of Public Administration at USC focuses on developing these professional abilities from the social and political perspective of a public administrator. Our curriculum cultivates a management, analytical and policy-making focus that crosses disciplinary and sectoral boundaries.

Explore topics in:

Organizational analysis
and design


Policy and program evaluation

Financial management and
budgeting


Negotiation and conflict
resolution

Economics for policy, planning and development


Team building and group dynamics

What Courses Will You Take?

Core Courses (14 Units)

PPD 540 Public Administration and Society – Gateway Course
This course introduces students to the field of public administration. It examines the major intellectual and constitutional foundations of American government and public administration as well as current trends. It introduces a theoretical approach to the study of public administration that emphasizes the interactive relationship between individuals and institutions. This gateway course to the MPA program should be taken during the student’s first semester.

PPD 500 Intersectoral Leadership
This course focuses on governance issues that arise when the public, nonprofit and for-profit sectors collaborate to address social problems. Of particular interest are the varied mechanisms in play across sectors and place-based approaches, not only in the United States, but also globally. Through analyses and applications, students can gain leadership skills in negotiation, conflict resolution, institutional design and problem solving.

PPD 501a Economics for Policy, Planning and Development (two 2-unit classes)
This course provides an analytic foundation based on microeconomic reasoning for the analysis of public sector problems. It explores how markets work to gain an understanding of private and social efficiency. It also addresses issues of uncertainty and the time value of money. This course concludes with a discussion of macroeconomic concepts of inflation, unemployment, growth and interest rates and why they are important to those who work in or interact with the public sector. No previous background in economics is necessary. PPD 501b: This course begins with a general introduction to the theory of the behavior of firms, consumers and markets. In developing economic models, students can explore how particular actions taken by the government theoretically and empirically affect market outcomes. Market failures will be addressed where the actions of the government can result in more efficient outcomes. This course concludes with a discussion of macroeconomic concepts and theory. PPD 501a should be taken prior to or during the same semester as PPD 501b.

PPD 546 Capstone in Public Administration
This capstone course for the Master of Public Administration program is normally taken during the last semester of study. The course provides students with an opportunity to apply the policy, political, organizational and operational skills taught in the program to the real-world challenges faced by public administrators. By synthesizing these skills, students can become equipped with the tools and techniques needed to address and resolve these challenges.

Management Competencies (12 units)

PPD 542 Policy and Program Evaluation
This course familiarizes students with policy and program evaluation concepts and techniques. Students develop skills in methods of collecting and interpreting policy research, program evaluation reports and policy analyses. Students will also become familiar with the limitations of statistical and other evaluation techniques. Students need to have satisfied the statistics prerequisite before enrolling in this course.

PPD 545 Human Behavior in Public Organizations
Students develop a better understanding of why people behave as they do in organizational contexts and how organizational behavior can be managed more effectively. The class focuses specifically on the kinds of behavioral styles and managerial processes required for contemporary organizations. Students will address personal, interpersonal and group-level factors that influence behavior.

PPD 541 Public Financial Management and Budgeting
This course surveys public financial management and budgeting. Students will learn how public organizations manage their financial affairs — the institutions, methods and techniques involved in the way they raise, collect, spend and manage money. They should gain an understanding of and the ability to analyze government budgets and will examine analytical tools, including trend and ratio analysis, growth rate, time value of money calculations, inflation adjustments and forecasting techniques. They will also become familiar with the composition of government revenues and expenditures. The course will conclude with an analysis of the overall financial condition of a government agency. Students need to have satisfied the statistics prerequisite before enrolling in this course.

Concentration Courses


Local Government (14 units)

PPD 651 Seminar in the Administration of Local Government
This course examines the administration of local government through research and case discussion. All levels of local government are reviewed: counties, cities, special districts and school districts, although the focus is on issues faced by public executives in cities and counties. Students have the opportunity to apply the skills learned in core courses to develop innovative solutions to complex urban problems.

PPD 673 Strategic Planning in the Public Sector
This course provides analysis/field application of action research models for strategic planning in public agencies. The design of effective public systems and the citizen and administrator roles in strategic decision-making are examined.

PPD 628 Urban Planning and Social Policy
This course examines the intersection of urban planning and social policy, two areas that are inextricably linked. Some portions of the class focus on policy development and implementation, while others explore land use regulation and environmental influences on social outcomes.

PPD 685 Human Resources Management in Public and Nonprofit Sectors
This course introduces students to the field of human resources management in the public and nonprofit sectors. The history and evolution of merit systems at the federal, state, local and nonprofit levels are examined, as well as the theoretical framework underpinning the management of an organization’s human capital for the efficient and effective delivery of public goods and services. Operational concepts such as merit, compensation, job analysis, recruitment, performance evaluation, labor relations and employee safety are addressed. The challenges and opportunities facing organizations in the management of an increasingly diverse workforce are also explored.


Nonprofit Management (14 units)

PPD 675 Nonprofit Management and Leadership
This course presents students with a variety of perspectives on leadership and management in the nonprofit sector. Aspects of these leadership approaches apply to every sector, but this course emphasizes the unique challenges of nonprofit management. The role of boards, strategic planning, marketing and fundraising, financial management, and volunteer and human resource management are examined.

PPD 673 Strategic Planning in the Public Sector
This course provides analysis/field application of action research models for strategic planning in public agencies. The design of effective public systems and the citizen and administrator roles in strategic decision-making are examined.

PPD 689 The Nonprofit Sector and Philanthropy
This course examines the nonprofit sector and an array of public policy and management challenges from a multidisciplinary perspective. Students have the opportunity to define the boundaries of the nonprofit sector; review the history and evolution of the nonprofit sector; and examine the economic, political and social rationale of the nonprofit sector. Also explored are philanthropy, public funding and commercial revenues, and their implications for nonprofit organizations and their management. Public policies toward the nonprofit sector and their implications for stewardship and accountability are evaluated.

And one of the following:

PDE 648 Performance Management
This course covers the concept and practice of performance management; examination of performance measurement; analysis and reporting practices for organizational accountability and improvements; performance design, indicators and the utilization of information.

PPD 685 Human Resources Management in Public and Nonprofit Sectors
This course introduces students to the field of human resources management in the public and nonprofit sectors. The history and evolution of merit systems at the federal, state, local and nonprofit levels are examined, as well as the theoretical framework underpinning the management of an organization’s human capital for the efficient and effective delivery of public goods and services. Operational concepts such as merit, compensation, job analysis, recruitment, performance evaluation, labor relations and employee safety are addressed. The challenges and opportunities facing organizations in the management of an increasingly diverse workforce are also explored.


Public Policy (14 units)

PPD 673 Strategic Planning in the Public Sector
This course provides analysis/field application of action research models for strategic planning in public agencies. The design of effective public systems and the citizen and administrator roles in strategic decision-making are examined.

PPD 555 Public Policy Formulation and implementation
Covers political and organizational perspectives on the policy making process; agenda setting, policy design, adoption, implementation, evaluation, modification or termination. Policy leadership skills, negotiation and strategic mapping.

PPD 673 Foundations of Public Policy Analysis
Introduction to public policy analysis; issue diagnosis and policy design; analytic reasoning and argumentation; the role of the public policy professional; ethical issues in policy analysis. Open only to MPP and Certificate in Public Policy students.

And one of the following:

PPDE 648 Performance Management
This course covers the concept and practice of performance management; examination of performance measurement; analysis and reporting practices for organizational accountability and improvements; performance design, indicators and utilization of information. mapping.

PPD 685 Human Resources Management in Public and Nonprofit Sectors
This course introduces students to the field of human resources management in the public and nonprofit sectors. The history and evolution of merit systems at the federal, state, local and nonprofit levels are examined, as well as the theoretical framework underpinning the management of an organization’s human capital for the efficient and effective delivery of public goods and services. Operational concepts such as merit, compensation, job analysis, recruitment, performance evaluation, labor relations and employee safety are addressed. The challenges and opportunities facing organizations in the management of an increasingly diverse workforce are also explored.

Certificate Coursework

City/County Management Certificate Core Courses (16 Units)

PPD 500 — Intersectoral Leadership (2)
PPD 541 — Public Financial Management and Budgeting (4)
PPD 542 — Policy and Program Evaluation (4)
PPD 651 — Seminar in the Administration of Local Government (4)
PPD 685 — Human Resources Management in Public and Non-Profit Sectors (2)

Public Policy Certificate Core Courses (18 units)

PPD 500 — Intersectoral Leadership (2)
PPD 501ab — Economics for Policy, Planning and Development (4)
PPD 554 — Foundations of Public Policy Analysis (4)
PPD 555 — Public Policy Formulation and Implementation (4)

And one of the following:

PPD 560 Methods for Policy Analysis (4)
PPD 628 — Urban Planning and Social Policy (4)
PPD 689 — The Nonprofit Sector and Philanthropy (4)