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Online Master of Public Administration and Policy

Program Length: 24 Months
Credit Hours: 36
Total Classes: 12
Cost per Credit: $2,000
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What are the program start dates?

Spring 2024

Summer 2024
May 6

Fall 2024
Late August

At a Glance

Develop Public Affairs Leadership Skills in Our Prestigious Program

Learn how your leadership can add value to public service roles in government, nonprofit, or for-profit organizations. American University’s online Master of Public Administration and Policy (MPAP) program transforms our students into public service management leaders who enhance all of society, whether in their own communities or globally.

Our School of Public Affairs

  • Is top-ranked nationwide
  • Has produced top-notch graduates for more than 80 years
  • Finished 5th in the nation for the number of Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) it had in 2022
  • Has finished between 1st, and never lower than 6th, in qualifying PMF candidates in 10 years

You will gain a single, powerful degree when you gain the blended knowledge and experience from our two NASPAA*-accredited programs, the Master’s in Public Administration and Master’s in Public Policy.

Regardless of where you live and work, you can study at an institution with a long-standing reputation for excellence — our School of Public Affairs and learn from leading scholars with deep connections in public affairs. Enrolling in the program gives you immediate access to our vast network of policy experts, reputed faculty, and well-connected alumni.

*Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration

Program Objectives

Master Analytical Skills to Create Effective Public Policy and Administration Programs

Our MPAP degree prepares you with the leadership skills, insight, and critical thinking to craft public policies, lead public programs and monitor their implementation and success effectively. By graduation you can:

  1. Analyze Administrative Problems and Craft Solutions

    Apply knowledge of organizational management, leadership, structure and culture, human resource systems, and political and legal context of contemporary public service organizations.

  2. Formulate, Evaluate, and Communicate Public Policy and Programs

    Use acquired analytic frameworks and methodological skills, including statistics, economics, and politics while considering their responsiveness, accountability, effectiveness and equity.

  3. Incorporate a Range of Constitutional and Ethical Values

    Include values in policy and administrative analysis and actions, including respect for the diversity of people and perspectives in the policy process.

  4. Apply Acquired Skill Sets, Expertise, and Values

    Use new knowledge in real-world policy and organizational problems in a collaborative manner.

Program Rankings

See How We Set the Standard

Our Master of Public Administration and Policy program ensures you build real-world experience and your professional network to best serve you after graduation.

  1. Prestigious and Experienced Faculty

    Influential scholars within public administration, public policy, and organization development elevate the quality of instruction by sharing their real-world and practical experiences.

  2. Applied Curriculum

    Choose the cases and activities you work on based on the causes or angles you’re interested in. In your capstone course, you will complete a policy analysis or administrative project for a real-world client.

  3. Two Strong Programs Combined

    Gain a prestigious credential with blended experiences and knowledge from our nationally recognized, NASPAA-accredited master’s programs in public administration and in public policy.

  4. Career Ready

    AU delivers the best of both worlds with theoretical, foundational knowledge and how to apply them successfully in practice to the challenges in public administration and policy.

A Top-Ranked Online MS

America’s Best Grad School For:

Ranked number 10

Best Public Affairs Program - 2023

Ranked number 4

Top Public Management & Leadership Program - 2023

Ranked number 6

International Policy & Administration - 2023

Admission Requirement
Curriculum Description
Careers and Outcomes
Student Experience

Admission to American University’s online Master of Public Administration and Policy program requires an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university.

Applicants will need to submit:

*The application fee is typically waived if the application file is complete within a three week period.

Online Merit Scholarships

No Separate Application Required

Prospective students who have a cumulative 3.0 GPA or above (on a 4.0 scale) in their undergraduate program, or those with five or more years of active-duty experience in the military (regardless of their GPA score), can qualify for the Online Merit Scholarship in award amounts up to $12,000.

As part of your application process, your academic history and military experience will be reviewed to see if the scholarship can be applied; there is no separate application to fill out.

You’ll be notified of the scholarship status when you’re admitted to the program, or shortly thereafter.

To receive the scholarship, which is applied equally across the fifth through eighth courses of the program, you must remain in good academic standing.

When you choose the online Master of Public Administration and Policy from American University, you will study a critical blend of topics in public administration and policy analysis that prepare you to make a real difference in society and advance your career.

Details can be found on our Program Curriculum page.

Rewarding Career Paths Dedicated to Value in Public Policy and Public Administration

Whether you work at the local, state, federal or international level, you are ready to manage and lead effectively. Use your online Master of Public Administration and Policy degree and your professional network to develop a successful career in public service.

You graduate prepared to:

  • Devise and advise public policy
  • Project policy outcomes
  • Gauge budgetary consequences
  • Understand legal implications
  • Craft effective organizational solutions
  • Evaluate the success of a program or policy
  • Manage public service projects from start to finish
  • Lead employees in delivering public service

You will know how to manage and lead public, nonprofit, and private organizations that administer public policy and be prepared to conduct research and develop tools to implement public action.

With your abilities to grasp and solve complex problems to improve policies and public service delivery, you will easily adapt to, and advance within the sector and career you pursue.

AU Grads Work Status

Ninety-five percent of our graduates are working, in grad school, or both.1

35 percent Working in Nonprofit Organizations

38 percent Working in Government

27 percent Working in For-Profit Organizations

1 percent Working and Attending Grad School

3 percent Attending Grad School

See more real-world updates for graduates of this program.

Salary Range for Degree2

Note that 53% of professionals with an MPA or an MPP earn more than $75,001 a year.

  • 17% of Professionals earn $55,000 - 65,000
  • 10% of Professionals earn $65,000 - 75,000
  • 16% of Professionals earn $75,001 - 85,000
  • 7% of Professionals earn $85,001 - 95,000
  • 13% of Professionals earn $95,001 - 125,000
  • 7% of Professionals earn $125,000+

Satisfied with Current Job2

Overwhelmingly, professionals with an MPA or MPP are happy in their careers.

  • Level of Autonomy: 90.7%
  • Job Tasks: 89.7%
  • Value to Society: 89.2%
  • Work Environment: 89.2%
  • Level of Responsibility: 87.6%
  • Level of Challenge: 87%
  • Salary: 73.1%
  • Opportunities to be Promoted: 70.8%

Explore MPAP Roles on these Career Paths

Our graduates put their skills to use as project managers or program directors, or as public policy analysts, public affairs specialists, and consultants across all sectors.

Policy Analysis

Learning to use the different frameworks for policy analysis and applying logic and ethics to the understanding of government policy prepares you for a policy analyst role. Policy analysts may collect or research data related to a particular policy, estimate the effects of new proposed policies and make recommendations, evaluate existing programs, and communicate this information to public officials and other decision-makers.

Coursework prepares you to:

  • Analyze policy problems using statistical, economic, and budgetary tools
  • Produce a well-researched, logically constructed policy memo that examines policy problems and assesses and recommends potential solutions
  • Monitor and evaluate the outcomes, impacts, and performance of public, policy programs
  • Formulate your vision of strong policy analysis and its role in the policy process and develop your ethical grounding

The online Master’s in Public Policy and Administration prepares you for roles such as a level-2 public policy analyst, which typically requires 4-7 years of experience and has a median salary of $91,750.3

With continued experience, you could pursue a government liaison level-3 position and earn a median salary of $132,000 a year.4 In this role, you will monitor and analyze proposed legislation, emerging issues and trends and prepare reports to inform and support the organization.

With a decade of experience, you could become a government liaison level-4. At this point, you work independently and most likely in a specialized area. Your responsibilities revolve around solutions and possibly leadership in your area of expertise. You will earn a median salary of $172,000.5

Networking Associations

The Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management (APPAM) is committed to the improvement of public policy research, analysis, and education.

  • Offers a yearly research conference, in which members are encouraged to present and interact with other leaders in the industry as well as in academia
  • Publishes the peer-reviewed Journal of Policy Analysis & Management
  • Provides many opportunities for students and professionals to exchange ideas and practices

Public Administration and Management

Studying topics in legal and financial issues, organization management, project management, and human resources gives you the grit, grace and skill sets needed to succeed in public administration and management roles. You graduate able to:

  • Analyze and resolve practical problems and decisions encountered by public managers
  • Manage projects and evaluate the effectiveness, efficiency, and budgetary implications of programs
  • Manage and lead employees in small and large public organizations with individual rights and duties in mind
  • Shape and influence organizations and their interactions with relevant stakeholders in the public and private sector
  • Develop and communicate sound advice for policymakers grounded in understanding the constitutional and legal context of public action

Public administration applies to a variety of potential career paths, including those in municipal, county, and state management as well as in the federal government. Public administrators work in a wide range of sectors, including:

  • Education
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Social Services
  • Law and Policy Enforcement
  • Utilities
  • Transportation
  • Urban Planning

In the federal government, salaries are publicized annually in General Schedule (GS) pay tables. A new employee with a master’s degree is typically paid at a GS-9 level. However, if you’ve already been working in a government role, your master’s degree could move you up two paygrades, from a GS-9 to a GS-11, or even from a GS-11 to a GS 13.

Each pay grade on the scale can also evolve within 10 steps to produce a salary range for that level.

  • GS-9 $47,097 – $61,227
  • GS-11 $56,983 – $74,074
  • GS-13 $81,216 – $105,579

Networking Associations

  • The American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) serves as an overarching body offering conferences, and webinars with sector-specific organizations in public administration.
  • The American Public Works Association (APWA) connects professionals in public and private organizations that provide products and services in this sector. APWA offers local chapters for members to meet, network and join task forces.
  • LinkedIn has more than 500 groups for “public administration,” including many that are geo-specific.
  • Job vacancies in the federal government are advertised through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s USAJOBS site.

Nonprofit Management

Throughout your coursework you will cover the unique operational, financial, and managerial aspects of nonprofit management so that you can graduate able to:

  • Lead and manage an entire nonprofit organization, both its internal relations as well as its relations with stakeholders and government entities
  • Meet organizational nonprofit challenges inherent in delivering public services
  • Account for the performance of public program delivery
  • Navigate budgetary and financial constraints in the public sector

Nonprofit work represents 10.2% of private sector employment and is responsible for 12.3 million jobs and $6.7 billion in wages annually.6

When you graduate with a master’s degree, you may start out as a program manager with a salary of $92,718 per year.7 With experience and success, you could become an associate director of a nonprofit, with a median salary of $126,516 a year,and after that, a program executive director with a median salary of $144, 828.9

Networking Associations

State and Local Management

Students looking to work at the municipal or state level are at an advantage with a combined degree in public administration and public policy. You will understand how to straddle the analytic and management tasks within the ever-present political context. Graduate able to use a lasting set of organizational, managerial, and leadership skills so you can:

  • Diagnose problems and devise solutions for practical problems, especially those at the state and local level
  • Assess budget proposals critically and determine the financial impacts of different courses of action
  • Define various types of government revenue and spending and the factors driving both

With these skills, students are prepared to enter their state or local government offices and improve how the local programs and government departments and agencies operate. Public service employees at the state and local levels may begin as researchers with a salary of $59,740 a year.10 They could progress to city management or a position managing a state’s department, and earn a median salary of $104,00 a year.11

Networking Associations

  • International City/County Management Association (ICMA), which establishes national standards for best practices in city and county management and offers training opportunities.
  • The Governing Institute publishes Governing magazine and regularly holds events and conferences in various parts of the country. The Institute also publicizes evolving best practices in government at the state and local levels.
  • Like their federal counterparts, state and city public administration professionals can advance their careers by joining the American Society for Public Administration. The ASPA serves its members through professional development initiatives and annual conferences.

Government Consulting

Students who expect to work in this challenging field must have an in-depth understanding of the way that different organizations function in the public and private sectors. They are often called to seamlessly switch between working in government and operating in a for-profit environment. You graduate able to:

  • Understand how public organizations are structured and their limitations compared to private companies
  • Develop best practices for public organizations within the required framework established by a constitutional and administrative law
  • Strategize to analyze the effects of programs and policies
  • Respond to requests for proposals and manage projects on time and on budget

Joining a consulting firm is a common career path for graduates in public administration and public policy. Consultants bring specialized competencies to the table to assess a program’s efficiencies and make reform and improvement recommendations to programs. Typically, students who wish to start on the path of government consulting start as management analysts or auditors.

At the government level, the median income for management analysts is $81,090per year.12 With many years of experience, government consultants may become an executive in government with an annual salary near $104,730 a year, or choose to work within professional services and earn an average salary of $208,000 or more.13

Networking Associations

Government consultants enjoy access to a premier consulting association:

  • The Institute of Management Consultants USA (IMC USA)
    • The IMC USA offers a professional certification in management consulting and a variety of networking events, such as roundtables, forums and workshops in its local chapters.

Budgeting and Financial Management

Coursework in the MPAP curriculum prepares you to balance competing needs to determine the most effective method in how to finance important public programs. It prepares you to grasp the political and legal contexts that public budgets operate within at all levels of government. Graduate ready for this career path able to:

  • Examine problems and assess alternative courses of action
  • Track program performance and conduct cost estimates and evaluations
  • Evaluate policies and budget priorities based on:
    • Factors driving revenues and expenditures
    • The efficacy of revenue-generating programs
    • Tradeoffs and priorities between alternative revenue-raising and expenditure programs
    • The budgetary effects of expenditure programs on the population as a whole, as well as on the debt burden of future generations

Government funds at any level require careful management to ensure that resources are used effectively and efficiently.

Public administration and policy graduates working in financial management help ensure that budgets for policy initiatives and goals are in line with the needs of constituents. They may create budgets, estimate budgetary impacts, account for funds, analyze the use of funds, collect fees and some taxes, or study the implications of the use of public funds.

People in this field often start out as budget analysts in local, state or federal government, where 46% of them work and earn between $77,000 and $87,000 a year.14 With experience, you could step into a financial manager role in government and earn an average income of $123,010.15

Networking Associations

  • The American Association for Budget and Program Analysis supports public finance professionals across the country through their peer-reviewed journal, Public Budgeting & Finance, summer internships for students, career development resources, and yearly conferences.
  • You will find numerous groups online, including Public Finance International, and several national and regional groups devoted to public finance on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Career Services

American University’s Career Center offers its services to online and on-campus students as well as to all alumni, so you will continue to receive support for as long as you need it.

This means you will have access to resources for your job search, career advising, internships, and scholarships. You can also network, look for jobs, and apply for positions by making an account at AU Career Web, our online career search tool.

Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF)

Online MPAP Graduates Join Esteemed PMF Program

Every year, approximately 6,000 public administration and policy graduate students apply for the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) program in hopes of joining its prestigious ranks. The PMF program, established by executive order in 1977, was designed to provide a pipeline of qualified professionals who could bring their skills and expertise to the federal government.

Landing a fellowship means a paid, two-year appointment working for the federal government. Alumni of the program include senators, diplomats, and federal program directors — becoming a PMF finalist can jump-start the careers of civil servants and provide them with a powerful network.

In 2022, about 7% of PMF applicants became finalists, and only 33% of those were selected for a fellowship.16

The extensive testing, resume evaluation, and essay writing processes are intense, and for most, the PMF experience ends with the application process. But with support from peers and faculty, the number of PMF appointments to American University grads outnumbers those from all other universities in the nation — in 2022, 41% of our PMF finalists were awarded a fellowship.16

Dedicated to Your Success

American University actively encourages its top students who are interested in a federal public service career to apply for the PMF program and provides detailed online information sessions.

After applying, candidates must take an online test and submit a résumé and transcript. Top-performing, first-round candidates are named finalists and are eligible for an appointment as a Fellow with a participating federal agency.

While it’s a challenging process, American University prepares its candidates for each stage.

First step: The online test

One secret to the school’s success: American University has a Blackboard site set up with study guides and offers prep workshops for students who plan to take the three-hour test.

For finalists: Connections and networking

If selected, finalists have one year to apply for positions available only to Fellows. Last year, there were 550 finalists. American University connects its finalists with alumni through networking sessions in which finalists receive tips on applying for these positions. This dramatically improves their chances of success when applying. Because of the school’s efforts and support, 98 percent of American University’s finalists become Fellows.

Built to address the real-world needs of policy professionals and public administrators, the online MPAP program offers experiences that truly prepare graduates to make a difference. With many opportunities to collaborate, network, and take on realistic challenges, the program produces outstanding graduates.

Alumni Employers

As passionate change-makers, our alumni are responsible for using their policy skills to make an impact. You can join an incredible set of AU alumni who work in diverse roles across sectors and organizations.

  • Accrediting Commission of Career
  • Schools and Colleges
  • Achieve Now
  • Administrative Office of the U.S.
  • Courts
  • Booz Allen Hamilton
  • Center for Coalfield Justice
  • Chicago Department of Cultural
  • Affairs and Special Events
  • City Year Los Angeles (AmeriCorps)
  • Office of the Inspector General – Social Security Administration 
  • For Our Future 
  • Committed to Change
  • Crossroads Treatment Centers
  • Forward Majority Action
  • Hamilton County Job & Family Services
  • Health & Medicine Counsel of Washington
  • International Justice Mission
  • Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • Mount Sinai Health System
  • National Cancer Institute
  • National Transportation Safety Board
  • Nevada Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence 
  • Rhode Island Department of Labor & Training
  • South Dakota Unified Judicial System
  • U.S. Air Force
  • U.S. Coast Guard
  • U.S. House of Representatives
  • U.S. Marine Corps
  • U.S. Navy
  • U.S. Senate
  • Volunteers of America
  • Washington State Department of Commerce

We’re especially proud of our faculty—prominent scholars and real-world professionals at the top of their fields who value mentoring students as much as they value excellence in the classroom. Through their teaching, scholarly achievements and first-hand experience, you’ll gain a special entry point to public administration and policy.

Visit our Program Faculty page to learn more about our faculty. 

Learning Online

American University welcomes its online students as a part of its community. As an online student, you’ll learn from the same outstanding faculty and be held to the same learning standards as students who attend courses on campus. On-campus and online programs deliver the same outcomes, and important support systems, like career resources, are set up for online learners as well. The only difference is you’re allowed to learn when and where it’s best for you so you can earn your degree and advance your career without putting the rest of your career and life on hold.

We Bring AU to You

Our digital campus was intentionally designed based on extensive research behind what makes online learning successful. We combine advanced technology, hands-on experiences, and full access to the American University community. Here, you’re not an online student, you’re an AU student.

Rigorous Courses

Online courses are as challenging as their on-campus counterparts and taught by the same connected faculty members and prominent lecturers.

100% Support

New-student orientation, 24/7 help desk for technical issues, a student services coordinator, financial aid advisers, and more are all available to ensure your success.

Expert Faculty

Home to some of the most acclaimed scholars and thought leaders in the world, you’ll learn from award-winning scholars and policymakers, diplomats, authors, artists, attorneys, scientists, journalists, and more.

Collaborative Learning

Use virtual tools to talk about your coursework, work in teams with classmates, build strong connections, network with others and ask your professor questions and turn in assignments.


The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

Military Education Benefits

American University is dedicated to supporting military service members, veterans, and their families.

As an online student of the Master of Public Administration and Policy program, you can transform your military experience and leadership skills into new career possibilities as you earn your degree, regardless of where you live or are stationed.

We support a full range of military education benefits such as:

  • Post-9/11 GI Bill
  • Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB)
  • Tuition Assistance (TA)
  • Yellow Ribbon Program

Additionally, if you’ve served in any branch of the U.S. military on active duty within the past three years, you’re eligible for an application fee waiver. We accept transfer credits from military coursework, have a dedicated Office of Veterans Services to help connect you to benefits, and maintain an active Veterans Services Support Network.

We welcome you to learn more about our military benefits and how to apply for them.

Take Your First Step Today

Become an American University student. A passion for public service, an emphasis on active leadership, and a global outlook are the hallmarks of the American University learning experience. We create graduates who stand out from their peers as active, socially aware, and compassionate leaders who work toward creating meaningful change in our world.

Join Us.

To learn more about American University’s Master of Public Administration and Policy program, request more information, request an appointment, or call us toll-free at 855-725-7614

Program FAQs

Admission requirements for the online Master of Public Administration and Policy program include a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university.

Applicants will need to submit the following:

All applicants are considered for the Online Merit Scholarship in award amounts up to $12,000 during the application review — no separate application is required.

*The application fee is typically waived if the application file is complete within three weeks.

A TOEFL score of 600 (or 100 on the internet-based test), a minimum score of 68 on the Pearson Test of English, or a minimum IELTS score of seven (7) is required. Additionally, applicants with international transcripts must have them evaluated course by course. For a list of acceptable evaluators, go to

Applicants will complete a phone interview with the Program Director and will need to submit:

Yes, it is not a requirement to have an undergraduate degree in public administration and policy.

The program can be completed in 24 months at a full-time pace of two courses each semester. Taking more than two courses per semester is not recommended due to the rigor of the program.

No, there are no specializations offered. This program is structured to blend the core curriculum of the campus Master of Public Administration and Master of Public Policy.

GRE requirement is currently being waived. Although the MPAP program does not require the GRE, students with a GPA below 3.0 are encouraged to take the GRE for further evaluation. LSAT scores can also be evaluated in place of the GRE.

Our application deadline varies based on the term you are applying for. Please note that the earlier you submit your application, the sooner you will know whether you’ve been awarded the Online Merit Scholarship. Please contact our online admissions advisors for a specific timeline as to when your application file needs to be fully submitted.

Our fall semester starts in late August. The spring semester starts in January. The summer session begins in May.

Graduate students enrolled at least part-time in a master’s program may be eligible for federal loans. To apply, students must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Our FAFSA number is 001434.

The final course in your Master of Public Administration and Policy is to demonstrate what you’ve learned by performing policy analysis or a management project for an external client.

Professionals with a Master of Public Administration and Policy are typically employed in the public, for-profit, and nonprofit sectors in the United States and abroad. Learn more about our graduates’ success.

When you graduate with a Master of Public Administration and Policy degree, you will be prepared for a variety of nonprofit jobs, depending on your experience within the field, including:

  • Nonprofit Program Manager
  • Nonprofit Budget Analyst
  • Nonprofit Operations Manager
  • Director of Development
  • Chief Operating Officer
  • Chief Executive Officer

Yes. A significant portion of our graduates have entered careers with nonprofit organizations.

American University is pleased to offer the Online Merit Scholarship to students who demonstrate undergraduate excellence and continue to graduate studies as well as to incoming students who have five years or more of active-duty military experience. Scholarships are available to students who meet the eligibility requirements. Contact an admissions counselor for more information.

Yes, online students can easily request a Student ID online to take advantage of all the same resources as our on-campus students.