Master of Public Administration Online

Program Details

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.

Cost of Attendance

The value of the USC Price Master of Public Administration extends beyond the specialized curriculum. Attracting one of the country’s most respected networks of public policy leaders, the program provides additional benefits that can lead to elevated opportunities for its distinctive graduates.

The following tuition details will help you to ascertain the costs of pursuing this unique degree. Prices are subject to change without notice. Consult your Enrollment Advisor for the most up-to-date tuition and fee information at 1-877-960-2042 or click here to learn more.


 In-Service students who meet
statistics requirements

 In-Service students who do not meet statistics requirements

Pre-Service students who meet statistics requirements

Pre-Service students who do not meet statistics requirements

Tuition (2016/17)

$1,800/credit unit

Total Units

40 ($72,000)

42 ($75,600)

41 ($78,800)

43 ($77,400)

App Fee





Books Total





Lab Fee





Residency Travel





Room and Board For Residency





Estimated Cost





* Most MPA students are classified as pre-service or in-service students at the time of admission. Pre-service students are those who enter the program with less than two years full-time work experience. In-service students are those with at least two years full-time work experience. Tuition rates and fees are based on Fall 2016 through Summer 2017. All information, prices and fees are subject to change without notice.


$90 Application Fee (non-refundable)

Financial Aid

The ability to pay for your education is always an important consideration. Many organizations offer tuition assistance to employees and, in some cases, cover 100 percent of tuition costs. Programs and policies vary among employers. Consult your human resources office to learn more about tuition assistance at your organization.

Many options are available to fund your graduate education. The USC Financial Aid Office administers federal and private programs to assist you.

For more information on applying for financial aid, please visit USC Financial Aid.

VA Yellow Ribbon Program

The USC Price School is proud to partner with the Veterans Administration to provide VA Yellow Ribbon benefits to qualified students. The Price School has allocated funds for five Yellow Ribbon Awards each year at up to $10,000 for each award. The Yellow Ribbon Program provides additional funding for veterans who wish to attend private institutions which can be used to meet any or all of unmet tuition/fee needs, but cannot exceed the total cost of tuition and fees. To qualify to receive Yellow Ribbon benefits, students must be eligible for the maximum benefit rate (100%) under the Post-9/11 GI Bill (based on service requirements).

To receive the Yellow Ribbon Program benefits students must be admitted to the University and registered for classes.

Once enrolled, submit the following packet to USC’s School Certifying Official:

●   Recent Certificate of Eligibility
●   Completed Application for Semester Entitlement (ASE) Form
●   Copy of a valid photo identification

Take your certificate of eligibility to the Veterans Certification Office and ask them to certify your enrollment to the VA, including Yellow Ribbon. Per federal regulations, eligible recipients will be selected on a first-come, first-served basis.

Please note: The college or university must certify your enrollment to the VA; you may not do so yourself.

Please contact the USC Veterans Certification Office for additional details.

Go here to learn more about the financial opportunities for Price School graduate students.

Admissions Requirements

An applicant’s potential for distinguished academic and professional achievement is the principal criterion for admission to the Master of Public Administration program. In assessing applications, the admission committee evaluates:

●   Past performance as evidenced by grades, work experience, and community service
●   Future promise as indicated by performance on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), and letters of recommendation
●   Commitment to educational and career goals, as demonstrated particularly in the writing sample

Most successful applicants will have attained at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA and an above average score on the GRE or GMAT. Individuals with 5+ years of professional experience and an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above may request to waive the GRE/ GMAT requirement, with the exception of those applying for scholarships. To be considered for this waiver or to determine whether specific professional experience meets the “5+ years” threshold, applicants should contact the Office of Recruitment and Admission before applying to the MPA. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis. Students may be admitted to the fall, spring, or summer semester.

To qualify for the program, applicants must meet the following admissions requirements:

●   USC Graduate Application
●   Application Fee
●   Undergraduate degree from an accredited institution
●   Official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended
●   Completed Price School Supplemental Form
●   Current resume
●   Three letters of recommendation, including at least one academic reference
●   Statement of purpose, approximately 1,000 words addressing:
– Why are you interested in pursuing the MPA?
– How will the MPA affect or enhance your career aspirations and goals?



The USC Price School of Public Policy

Students acquire skills in organizational analysis and design, financial management and budgeting, economics, policy and program evaluation, negotiation and conflict resolution, and team building and group dynamics. The program concludes with a capstone course where students work in teams on a management-based project for a client.

About Our Curriculum

The curriculum cultivates a management, analytical and policy-making focus that courses disciplinary and sectoral boundaries.

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.

With core courses in budgeting, financial management, planning, practice and program evaluation, a foundation is laid to build upon through specialized concentrations in local government management, nonprofit management and public management.


Program Offerings


USC Price offers three concentrations that allow students to pursue a specialized public administration education:

●   Local Government
●   Nonprofit Management
●   Public Policy

By focusing your MPA degree, you create a direct inroad to the area of public service that most compels you.

Local Government
Faced with resource constraints and increased demands from diverse groups of citizens, local government managers 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. Students in the Local Government track will also earn a graduate certificate in City/County Management without having to take any extra units as long as they complete the prescribed courses.

Nonprofit Management
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.

Public Policy
The Public Policy track and accompanying certificate 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 course work by offering invaluable new perspective on the student’s primary area of study.


Core Courses (14 Units)    
Course Name
Course Number  Units
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 540 4
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 placed-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 500 2
Economics for Policy, Planning and Development (two 2-unit classes)
PPD 501a: This course provides an analytic foundation based on microeconomic reasoning for the analysis of public sector problems. The course 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 and consumers and of 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 501a/b 4
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.
PPD 546 4

Management Competencies (12 units)
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 542 4
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 545 4
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 will 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.
PPD 541 4

Concentration Courses

Local Government (14 units)
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 651 4
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 628 4
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 673 4
Human Resources Management in Public and Nonprofit Sectors
Merit principles, position classification, recruitment and selection, compensation, organizational development, labor relations; challenges and strategies for managing a diverse workforce.
PPD 685  2

Nonprofit Management (14 units)
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 675 4
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.
PPD 689 4
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 673 4
And one of the following:
Performance Management
Concept and practice of performance management; examination of performance measurement; analysis and reporting practices for organizational accountability and improvements; performance design, indicators, utilization of information.
PPDE 648 2
Human Resources Management in Public and Nonprofit Sectors
Merit principles, position classification, recruitment and selection, compensation, organizational development, labor relations; challenges and strategies for managing a diverse workforce.
PPD 685 2

Public Policy (14 units)
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 673 4
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 M.P.P. and Certificate in Public Policy students.
PPD 554 4
Public Policy Formulation and Implementation
Political and organizational perspectives on policy making process; agenda setting, policy design, adoption, implementation, evaluation, modification or termination. Policy leadership skills:negotiation and strategic mapping.
PPD 555 4
And one of the following:
Performance Management
Concept and practice of performance management; examination of performance measurement; analysis and reporting practices for organizational accountability and improvements; performance design, indicators, utilization of information.
PPDE 648 2
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.
PPD 685 2

MPA Capstone Course

The MPA capstone consists of a client-based project. Students work in teams of 5-6 on a semester-long project. At the end of the semester students produce a project for that client. The team that produces the best project across all capstone projects in the MPA in all modalities receives a cash prize at our annual Price School Awards Ceremony.

Click here to learn more about MPA Online Student Capstone Projects.

Residency Experience

The concept of community is an essential part of public administration, so the Price School seeks to foster a learning community for online students through two Los Angeles residencies that take place at the beginning and finish of your MPA degree. Students enjoy team-building exercises, group discussions and opportunities to meet the faculty, alumni and peers in the program.


Price School faculty members are distinguished scholars who share a deep and abiding commitment to research and teaching. 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. In addition to producing theoretical and applied research in these and other areas, many faculty members serve on the boards of leading academic journals and major public and nonprofit organizations. In all their work, they contribute to both the store of knowledge in their respective disciplines and to the formation of the next generation of civic and community leaders.

Learn More about the distinguished Price School Faculty.

Academic calendar

Spring 2018 Jan. 10 – April 24, 2018
Summer 2018 May. 9 – August 21, 2018
Fall 2018 Sept. 5 – December 18, 2018

*Dates are subject to change.


Student Testimonials

Tayo Adeyefa | USC MPA Summer 2015 Graduate, Online Program
USC’s network combined with its rigorous program focused on theory and practice helped me prepare for networking opportunities with leaders at Deloitte and prepare me for their rigorous interview process. The breadth of opportunity at Deloitte will fulfill one of my career goals to work in different sectors (private, public and nonprofit) and industries and making a professional and personal commitment to impact my community and the world.

Andrea Faizi | USC MPA Summer 2015 Graduate, Online Program
This program has given me the tools necessary to advance in my career both from an academic and personal development standpoints.

Christopher Foster | USC MPA Spring 2014 Graduate, Online Program
Graduating from USC with my MPA was an excellent achievement. It was both very fulfilling and   rewarding. The program changed the way I viewed the world as a whole. The professors challenged me to expand my mind and to explore all possible solutions to challenges my organization and I may face. I would recommend anyone looking to expand their skill set analytically to apply to this program.

Brian Heaviside | USC MPA Summer 2014 Graduate, Online Program
Not only has the degree opened new doors and opportunities, but it has given me the tools needed to solve complex issues within the community and organization I work for.

Melissa Park | USC MPA Spring 2013 Graduate, Online Program
As a MSW at USC I specialized in Community Organization and Public Administration. I graduated in 2004 and have been working in the field and slowly progressing in my career. However, getting the MPA took that training and knowledge to a higher level. It helped strengthen skill sets already present and developed new ones that have absolutely helped make me a much better supervisor and leader. It has increased my confidence and has led to job opportunities I never even considered. As a result I was sought out by a CEO for a start-up company and am now in transition from my current position as supervisor in the prison system to being the Director of private start-up! It’s exciting, amazing and I know without doubt this would have not happened if not for getting my MPA at USC!

Paige Roberts | USC MPA Spring 2015 Graduate, Online Program
I have much broader knowledge on public administration issues, and I have a deeper appreciation for research. Also, I am a much more informed consumer of published studies and a much savvier participant in discourse.

Allison Smith |  USC MPA Spring 2014 Graduate, Online Program
The MPA OL program allowed me to work full-time while developing expertise in public administration theory and management. I was able to being lessons directly into the real world and use my day-to-day work as case study for class. The cohort experience brought the MPA OL program to life despite the distance learning format. I worked with such talented people who were established in their fields – I was able to engage with a well-rounded group in every project and make long last personal and professional connections in my classmates. After graduating from the MPA OL program, I was able to take my career to the next level. Through the program, I had gained consulting experience and was able to offer my expertise to a variety of organizations before settling into a new job in a new city where my salary more than doubled.

Ramona Renena Smith | USC MPA Spring 2013 Graduate, Online Program
The MPA online program provided me the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong goal to obtain an MPA from a distinguished university from home. The program was designed to be challenging, supportive and directly geared toward my career path. My career is well established and I was able to lend my life and work experience to the conversation while learning updated strategies and technology of the younger generations. I have made lifelong friends and connections that I truly cherish.

Joslyn Treece | USC MPA Summer 2013 Graduate, Online Program
I entered the online MPA program as a mid-career professional and was extremely impressed with the high caliber of instruction and the professionalism, dedication and contributions of my fellow students. It was a rewarding experience on many levels and one I would strongly recommend to others interested in the Price School. Fight On!

Julie Wyne | USC MPA Spring 2015 Graduate, Online Program
The USC MPA program expanded my knowledge of public and nonprofit sector organizations and issues/challenges facing those organizations. I made excellent connections with other students and USC professional staff and am proudly a part of the Trojan family. The connections I have made will last a lifetime and I value them tremendously.