Graduate Program Public Administration

two PSU public administration students studying on a rooftop terrace

Public Administration Master's Degree Overview

The Masters of Public Administration (MPA) focuses on preparing students for administrative and leadership positions in governmental and nonprofit organizations. During the MPA program, students will participate in foundational courses in:

  • administrative ethics and values
  • administrative theory and behavior
  • public policy
  • administrative law and policy implementation
  • public budgeting
  • financial management
  • human resource management
  • analytic methods

The Masters of Public Administration program offers five specific fields of specialization:

  • Global Leadership
  • Human Resources
  • Local Government
  • Natural Resources
  • Nonprofit Management

In addition to these core classes, MPA students choose a field of specialization based on their academic and professional interests. This is an excellent opportunity to work closely with faculty and instructors widely regarded as top academics and practitioners in the areas of Global Leadership and Management, Local Government, Human Resource Management, Natural Resources Policy and Administration, and Nonprofit Management.

Degree Details

  • M
    On campus
    Total Credits
    Start Term
    Fall, Winter, Spring

Public Administration Master's Degree: Why PSU?

Unique Partnerships and Community Connections: Portland State is well-known for its focus on community service and engagement, and the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government is one of the best places to take advantage of the numerous community partnerships PSU has developed. Partnerships and cooperative arrangements exist within the Oregon University System (which includes Oregon State University, Oregon Health & Science University, University of Oregon, and more) as well as with multiple health, human service, community, and governmental agencies in Portland, across Oregon, and nationally.

Experienced and Committed Faculty: Our faculty members and instructors are leading researchers and practitioners in the field of public administration. Their diverse array of expertise, experiences, and interests include local and regional government, public finance and law, nonprofit management, leadership, sustainability, health management and policy, natural resources policy, and much more. Faculty members continually practice and expand their skills through scholarship and service, and our students have the opportunity to work closely with these leaders in the classroom, through funded research, and technical assistance projects. 

What can I do with a Master's degree in Public Administration?

Whether you are just entering the workforce or looking to take your career to the next step, the MPA will help you advance both personally and professionally. Our program focuses on integrating theory and practice to ensure that students emerge from this program with an education grounded in research and nourished through real-world experience. We prepare students beginning their careers to be competent and effective leaders in public affairs, and mid-career students to enhance their capacities as managers and leaders through the opportunities provided for reflection and integration of new knowledge. The core curriculum provides the skills and knowledge desired by employers today, while our specialization options allow you to hone your abilities in a 15-credit area focus of your choice.

Our students engage in community learning experiences throughout their degree. Many courses pair students with public organizations to complete program evaluations, provide technical assistance, and otherwise analyze public administration in action. These students devote significant hours as part of class teams, engage in short-term internships, and/or work in organizations or public agencies through their culminating field-based organizational experience.

For more information, please see our MPA Graduation and Employment Rates page.

Featured Courses

  • PA 511 Public Administration
  • PA 513 Administrative Ethics and Values
  • PA 533 Public Policy: Origins and Process
  • PA 534 Administrative Law
  • PA 540 Administrative Theory and Behavior
  • PA 551 Analytic Methods in Public Administration I
  • PA 552 Analytic Methods in Public Administration II
  • PA 582 Public Budgeting
  • PA 585 Financial Management in the Public Sector
  • PA 590 Human Resource Management in the Public Sector
  • PA 525 Grantwriting for Nonprofit Organizations
  • PA 536 Strategic Planning
  • PA 545 Organizational Development
  • PA 549 Cross-cultural Communication in the Public Sector
  • PA 554 Policy Analysis Research
  • PA 555 Program Evaluation and Management
  • PA 556 Public Contract Management
  • PA 558 Managing Public Projects and Programs: From Local to Global
  • PA 562 Managing Employee Performance in the Public Sector
  • PA 594 Enhancing Diversity in the Workplace

Fields of Specialization

The MPA program offers the following formal fields of specialization:

  • Nonprofit Management
  • Natural Resources Policy and Administration
  • Local Government
  • Global Leadership and Management
  • Human Resource Management

Students may also work with their advisor to design their own specially designed field of specialization. Students declare an intended field of specialization by the time they complete 30 credits of the MPA program by filing a “field of specialization” form with a proposed program of study. The specialization and program of study may be changed based upon consultation with the faculty advisor.

Requirements for the formal fields of specialization are:

  • Nonprofit Management: Four required courses and one elective course. One of the four required courses in this specialization substitutes for the required budgeting course in the core of the program, allowing students to take an additional elective course.
  • Natural Resources Policy and Administration: One required and four elective courses.
  • Local Government: Two required and three elective courses.
  • Global Leadership and Management: Two required and three elective courses.
  • Human Resource Management: Two required and three elective courses.

Get more details about each specialization.

Students are encouraged to work with their advisors to take advantage of course offerings in other academic units, as well as other professional experiences that may be recommended by faculty advisors.

At some point within their program of study students must satisfactorily complete one course the primary focus of which is diversity. This does not require additional credit hours or coursework beyond the 60 credit requirement and can include courses taken as skill development or specialization classes.


Portland State University is fully accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA)

NASPAA is the membership association of graduate programs in public administration, public policy, and public affairs. NASPAA’s Commission on Peer Review and Accreditation is the specialized accreditor of these master degree programs. NASPAA’s twofold mission is to ensure excellence in education and training for public service and to promote the ideal of public service.

The MPA, MPA:HA, and EMPA are NASPAA accredited degree programs.