Admission Criteria & Requirements

Our admission requirements have changed. Applications submitted after April 1st, 2018 will no longer require the GRE. Required content for the Statement of Purpose has also changed. Please read the instructions below carefully before you submit your application. If you have any questions regarding the new admission requirements, please contact the main office at or 503-725-3921, or the Department Chair, Dr. Masami Nishishiba.

Application Review Schedule for Public Administration Admissions

For Fall Enrollment February 1st - June 15th
For Winter Enrollment September 1st - October 31st
For Spring Enrollment November 1st - January 31st

Important Applicant Notes

  • The application is open year-round, however, applicants are encouraged to submit the application materials early in the appropriate review cycle.
  • If you would like to request an off-cycle review of your application, between June 16th-August 31st, please send your request to the Department at
  • Your application will not be considered complete until all of your Letters of Recommendation are submitted.
  • You will be notified of the admission decision approximately 6-8 weeks from the time of submission (within the review cycle), with some variability. You will receive an email to check the application system to view your admission decision.
  • International Students:  We highly suggest completing your application early, since foreign transcripts must go through a pre-review process.

Required Application Materials

To apply to one of our programs, please have the following materials ready to submit:

University Requirements:

  • Scanned copies of your official transcripts from each post-secondary institution attended
  • Proof of English Language Proficiency through the submission of TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE-Academic exam scores (for applicants who have not earned a degree from a qualifying institution)

Department Requirements:

  • Three letters of recommendation. You will enter the email addresses of individuals familiar with your academic and/or professional capabilities. Preferably, two of the three letters should be from former instructors or from individuals with knowledge of your professional performance and potential. The letters will be collected within the application system.
  • A current resume
  • A statment of purpose approximately four pages in length as explained below
International Applicant Requirements:

Statement of Purpose

The statement should not exceed 4 pages in length and should be typed, double-spaced and in 12-point font. Your statement must address parts A, B, and C of the instructions presented below. Your responses will be assessed on both content and quality of writing.

In writing your statement, please keep in mind that the mission of the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government Public Administration Department is as follows: The Department of Public Administration at Portland State University is dedicated to preparing individuals for ethical, competent and effective public service in a range of roles in policy, management and leadership. We seek to improve practice by facilitating learning through community engagement, promoting scholarship, and encouraging reflection as we develop and work with leaders representing diverse communities across all domains of public service.

Statement of Purpose Part A (1 page, double-spaced):  

  • Discuss significant factors influencing your decision to pursue a Master of Public Administration degree at Portland State University. Include information regarding personal values, academic, and past governmental, nonprofit, or other community service experiences, if any, that will contribute to your success as a graduate student and later as a professional in the field.

Statement of Purpose Part B (2 pages double-spaced):

  • Describe a specific challenge in governmental or nonprofit service that interests you, including key contributing factors and explain why this issue is important.
  • Discuss ways that professionals in government or nonprofit organizations could respond to this issue and discuss the role you would like to play in addressing that challenge.

Statement of Purpose Part C (1 page double-spaced):

  • What is your understanding of the role of government or nonprofit professionals in governance and in the larger society? How has your education and experience to this point, if you have had any relevant experience, prepared you to address that task.

Criteria for Program Admissions

  • Bachelor's degree with a from an accredited college, university or equivalent
  • To be considered for regular admission, applicants are expected to have an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or the equivalent or a graduate GPA of 3.0.
  • All students for whom English is not the first language must demonstrate language proficiency by a recent TOEFL score of 550. This requirement may be waived if the applicant has completed a graduate degree at an English language based university.
  • Applicants should also review admissions criteria established by the Office of Graduate Studies.

The Admissions Process: What We Look For

The Department of Public Administration seeks to admit students who are committed to professional service in governmental or nonprofit organizations and have the potential to make a difference at the local, state, federal, or international level. We look for well-qualified applicants whose career goals are consistent with the department's mission and offerings and who will increase the diversity of our student body and the profession in a variety of important senses of the term.

The MPA application has several components. Each is an important factor in our decision making process.


In reviewing an applicant's academic performance, we consider the applicant's full record. Our students come from a wide range of undergraduate majors and fields of work.  


Applicants should show potential to be effective professionals who can blend public service values with knowledge and skills to address complex and persistent governance challenges. In the statement of purpose, applicants will be asked to discuss their values and the strengths they bring to their future work as a professional.

How We Decide

The Department of Public Administration gives each application careful consideration. Each application is reviewed by all of the members of the admissions committee. The evaluation is based on a review of the applicant's whole record and not on any set formula.

When reviewing an MPA application, the reader considers:

  • academic success - past performance (GPA) and future potential;
  • relevant values and commitment to professional service in governmental or nonprofit organizations
  • references from people who can attest to the applicant's ability to succeed in a graduate program and suitability for the profession; and
  • the student's statement of purpose - an expression of the applicant's values and commitment to professional service in governmental or nonprofit organizations.

Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) & Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP)

Graduate students who are residents of participating states*, admitted to the MPA and MPA:HA programs, and in good academic standing are eligible for WICHE/WRGP-related in-state tuition. Students must apply for this benefit and be approved by the PSU Office of Graduate Studies in advance of the benefit terms. Completed application forms must be submitted to Graduate Studies a minimum of four weeks before the beginning of the term the benefit is to start. More information and a link to the form can be found on the Office of Graduate Studies WICHE page.

*Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming.