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Top Online Master of Public Administration (MPA) Programs in California for 2024: Online & On-Campus

If you want to make a difference in your community, online MPA programs in California offer the preparation you need. Whether you’re a current public administration professional looking to upskill or new to the field, read on to learn what California schools have to offer, the job outlook for MPA grads, and earning potential in the state.

Author: Kenya McCullum
Editor: STEPS Staff

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A landscaped golf course lined with tall palm trees under a clear blue sky, with mountains in the distant background. A modern, single-story building with large windows and a manicured garden is on the right.

There are 866,760 public administration professionals in California who play an integral role in ensuring members of their communities have the resources they need, including access to housing, public transportation, or social and community services. Skilled professionals are needed to fill these important roles. If you are in a public administration job and want to pursue a managerial position, in another field and want to change careers, or considering graduate program options, an MPA may be right for you.

Online MPA programs in California can help you reach your goals. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are dozens of California schools that offer advanced public administration degrees, including online and traditional programs.

To explore master of public administration programs in California, keep reading as we explore online MPA programs in California, as well as campus based degrees. We’ll also provide information on ways to fund your education and the job outlook for the public administration field.

Best Colleges to Earn a Master of Public Administration (MPA) Degree in California: Campus-based

To get started and see what master of public administration schools in California have to offer, we’ve spotlighted five top programs in the state. These schools were chosen based on qualities students look for: accreditation, affordability, convenience, and the student support. This is just the beginning — watch for our full list of the best MPA programs in California later this year.

University of Southern California

The image features the letters "USC" in large, bold red font on a transparent background, highlighting a notable California destination.

The University of Southern California’s MPA program is designed to help students sharpen their leadership skills in policymaking, analytics, and management. The curriculum has core classes that focus on institutions and organizations, as well as analytics. Specific coursework covers public and nonprofit organizational behavior, public policy and economics, fiscal management and budgeting, and public administration fundamentals.

Students can specialize in nonprofit, health, local government, and arts management. After completing their courses, those who have less than two years of public service work experience can complete an internship that includes 300 hours of real-world experience. The program’s required capstone course allows students to use the skills they’ve to craft a management or policy analysis for an organization.

Delivery:

  • Online
  • On-Campus
  • Part-Time
  • Full-Time

Graduate Programs:

  • Master of Public Administration

Specialization Options:

  • Local Government Management
  • Nonprofit Management
  • Health Management
  • Public Financial Management
  • International Development Governance and Comparative Public Administration
  • Arts Leadership

California State University, Northridge

The master of public administration at California State University, Northridge students choose one of two concentrations: Nonprofit Sector Management and Public Sector Management and Leadership. In the Nonprofit Sector Management specialization, students complete studies that cover budgeting, grant writing, fundraising, and stakeholder relations so they can develop the managerial skills needed to run a nonprofit organization. In the Public Sector Management and Leadership specialization, curriculum focuses on how professionals use quantitative methods to make sound organizational decisions, while considering the internal and external factors that impact the way they solve problems. Both tracks are designed for working professionals and tuition is $802 per credit.

Delivery:

  • Online
  • On-Campus
  • Full-Time

Graduate Programs:

  • Master of Public Administration

Specialization Options:

  • Nonprofit Sector Management
  • Public Sector Management and Leadership

California Lutheran University

Logo of California Lutheran University featuring stylized text in green and yellow on a white background, representing the spirit of travel and tourism in California.

The master of public administration at California Lutheran University provides the flexibility people need to balance full-time work and studies. Students can enroll in the campus-based program or take courses in online or hybrid formats. Also, students can begin in fall, winter, spring, or summer, selecting the time of year that works best.

Along with flexibility, California Lutheran University’s 15:1 student-teacher ratio allows professors time to share their theoretical and workplace expertise, help students with issues or challenges, and facilitate meaningful discussions to enhance learning.

Delivery:

  • Online
  • On-Campus
  • Part-Time
  • Full-Time

Graduate Programs:

  • Master of Public Policy and Administration

Top Online Master of Public Administration (MPA) Programs in California

You may be wondering how you’ll fit an MPA program into your busy schedule. Thanks to the convenience of online learning, you can study and continue to work, reaching your goals without sacrificing other responsibilities. Below are some examples of online MPA programs in California to consider, along with information about admission, curriculum, and any on-campus requirements.

San Diego State University

The online MPA program at San Diego State University can be completed in about 16 months and includes courses in public policy, administration theory, personnel supervision, and finance management. Core coursework focuses on public administration principles, qualitative and quantitative research methods, and public policy data analysis. Students may also take elective classes on policy design and analysis, negotiation in public service, and urban administration. You will complete a capstone course using what you’ve learned to explore a real-world problem and find a viable solution by analyzing data.

To be admitted, prospective students should have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and a minimum 2.85 grade point average. International students are expected to score at least 80 on the TOEFL or 6.5 on the IELTS.

Graduate Programs:

  • Master of Public Administration

Program Features:

  • Full-Time
  • Fully-Online

University of Southern California

The image features the letters "USC" in large, bold red font on a transparent background, highlighting a notable California destination.

To be admitted to the MPA program at the University of Southern California, prospective students should have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Tuition is $2,244 per credit, and students may be eligible to receive a variety of scholarships from the school, including awards African-American, Asian Pacific, and LGBTQ+ students, and veterans.

During their studies, students learn the fundamentals of public administration, how to use data analysis to make sound decisions, and how the economy fuels public policy. Coursework includes organizational behavior for expertise on how public agencies and nonprofit organizations operate effectively. The program requires students to participate in on-campus intensives to network with fellow students, professors, and alumni. During their MPA program, students can earn a certificate in public policy or city and county management.

Graduate Programs:

  • Master of Public Administration
  • Certificate in Public Policy
  • Certificate in City/County Management

Program Features:

  • Full-Time
  • Partially Online

California Baptist University

The MPA program at California Baptist University combines public administration education with the biblical principles. Upon completion, graduates have knowledge and understanding of public policy processes necessary for management roles in public governance. The curriculum also focuses on critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills preparing graduates to work in public administration with the empathy and ethics that make them effective leaders.

The $650 per credit program takes about 16 months to complete. The 36-credit program covers the history of public administration, finance and budgeting, human resource management, and research methods. Students also take classes specifically designed to enhance their leadership abilities, such as conflict resolution, labor negotiations, public sector law and ethics, and public administration and economics.

Undergraduate Programs:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration

Graduate Programs:

  • Master of Public Administration
  • Doctor of Public Administration

Program Features:

  • Full-Time
  • Fully-Online

Financial Aid and Scholarships for MPA Students in California

Earning a graduate degree can be a significant investment, even if you find one of the most affordable MPA programs in California. There are ways to defray the cost of your education, with scholarships, grants, and loans from a variety of sources. You may also be able to receive financial aid from the state or federal government, private companies, or industry organizations.

For example, the Stephen K. Hall ACWA Water Law and Policy Scholarship, provided by the Association of California Water Agencies, is a $7,000 award given to graduate and undergraduate public administration students who are focusing their studies on water resources.

Another significant source of funding is through the colleges and universities that offer on-campus and online MPA programs in California. For example, schools like the University of Southern California, the University of La Verne, and California State University, Fullerton provide awards and resources for their public administration graduate students.

Job Outlook and Earnings Potential for MPA Graduates in California

There are several ways to use a master of public administration in California. In fact, several jobs in the public administration sector are expected to experience significant growth in the coming years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there will be a more than 35 percent increase in jobs for medical and health services managers in California, and training and development managers will see an increase of 19.6 percent between in the next six years.

Additionally, you can receive a significant return on your investment after finishing an online MPA program in California. For example, urban and regional planners earn $107,920 per year, BLS reports, while management analysts make $119,370.

To learn more about the earning potential and job growth specific professions will experience, see the table below.

Job Growth Rate
(2020-2030)
Average Annual Openings (2020-2030)Annual Mean Wage (2023)
Urban and Regional Planners7.9%730$107,920
Budget Analysts8.5%410$102,990
Training and Development Managers19.6%650$168,130
Management Analysts16.9%14,500$119,370
Medical and Health Services Managers35.5%6,430$156,140

Sources: Projections Central; Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2023

California Public Administration Professional and Student Resources

When you graduate from an online MPA program in California, the learning doesn’t end. As a successful public administration professional, you’ll want to continue learning about the field and stay current regarding new laws, regulatory policy and more. To help you continue your education and network with others in the field, we’ve put together the following resources to refer to while still in school or after you’ve completed your degree.

  • California State Association of Public Administrators, Public Guardians and Public Conservators
    This organization represents the needs of public administration professionals throughout California. Member benefits include access to legislative education, networking opportunities, and certifications. Also, the organization keeps members abreast of public administration job opportunities in the state. Members can participate in synchronous or asynchronous online training.
  • American Society for Public Administration
    The American Society for Public Administration has been working on behalf of public administration practitioners, as well as academics and students, since 1939. The group hosts a job board, organizes events including an annual conference and educational programming, creates publications, and provides opportunities for members to connect.
  • The Business of Government Hour
    The Business of Government Hour is a podcast that features discussions about the work of government executives. Some of the topics explored include payment integrity, managerial resilience, managing government risk, and becoming a growth leader.
  • Public Administration Review
    The Public Administration Review is a research journal that includes articles on the theory and practice. Published by the American Society for Public Administration, topics explored in this publication include community policing, unethical public service leadership, crowdsourcing data in public administration research, and municipal fiscal health.
  • Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management
    The Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management advances the public administration profession through research and education. The organization provides peer-reviewed research journals, organizes an annual conference, and supports students who are interested in public policy.