MBA in Public Administration


Why might someone consider an online MBA in public administration? For those who have worked in public administration or who may be considering it as a career, the skills and knowledge gained from these programs prepare graduates for leadership roles in public administration, which can result in higher salaries and better job opportunities.

However, unlike some public administration master’s degree programs taught by schools of government that focus on political science, the core courses in an MBA program with a public administration specialty focus on the disciplines needed in the corporate world. As we explain below, those comprise fields like finance, economics, and marketing.

Although a public administration MBA prepares graduates for high-level positions in government, private businesses that work closely with public regulatory agencies or operate in regulated market sectors also hire these graduates. In California, classic employer examples might include local wired phone service providers like AT&T; cable TV vendors like Comcast; and power companies like Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E). But these days, examples might also include mobile carriers (e.g., Verizon Wireless, Sprint), satellite TV providers (e.g., Dish Network), and newer electricity providers that harness geothermal or wind power.

Moreover, for those who haven’t settled into a specific career track, graduates with a public administration MBA might find themselves with a broad range of job options in both the public and private sectors. Graduates who gain early on-the-job experience with organizations that might provide viable long-term career options find themselves better able to refine their choices and set objectives for their long-range careers.

In general, MBA programs initially teach business management fundamentals while challenging students to think strategically. Students first explore fundamental business concepts in general “core” courses focusing on marketing, accounting, business ethics, finance, statistics, project management, leadership, and other business administration cornerstones. Especially among the AACSB-accredited schools, only minor differences exist in these standardized core courses.

Upon satisfying core requirements, students then take courses focusing on public administration, which the programs organize into majors, fields of concentration, specializations, or simply offer as electives. These courses typically examine topics such as government budgeting, policy development, administrative law or intergovernmental relations, and can vary widely from one school to another.

Innovative online MBA programs in public administration providing online curricula like those in the following profiles offer students tremendous flexibility advantages. That’s because recent instructional technology advances now provide an online educational experience equivalent to instruction on campus, yet unconstrained by distance or time. As a result, these online programs offer tremendous opportunities to students who cannot leave jobs to attend classes on campus, or who wish to attend better out-of-state universities without the expense and hassle of relocation. Plus, for students who want to learn at their own pace, personalized online education provides an attractive alternative; motivated and gifted students, in particular, can thrive at the accelerated pace made possible by these online programs.

Online programs also save students money. Even when tuition rates are identical, the online MBA programs can present more cost-effective alternatives to on-campus programs because of savings on costs like relocation, childcare, and transportation.

The following guide presents seven public administration MBA degree programs offered online.

Featured Online MBA Programs in Public Administration

To develop discernment in students, Belhaven “integrates the sophisticated academic world, the practical and technologically dependent career world, and the eternal world of Christian faith” into their MBA curriculum. The school requires 12 core courses, which are cross-disciplinary; by illustration, courses on business principles integrate topics from financial accounting, mathematics, economic statistics, and economics. Moreover, several classes discuss applications of the Christian worldview to the field of business. For the public administration concentration, students choose three courses from a selection, including the administration of financial resources, economics and public policy, public and administrative law, and ethics and society.

Belhaven requires either a minimum 2.8 cumulative undergraduate GPA or nine hours of graduate work with at least a B in each course, and specifies at least one university math course with a C or better grade. Also, the school offers conditional admission to some applicants not meeting these requirements who otherwise demonstrate the potential for success in their MBA program.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi
Tuition: $540 per credit-hour, $24,300 for the degree
Time to Completion: Two years
Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Concordia says their online public administration MBA concentration “is for those in government service looking to delve deeper into the business side of their career.” This Lutheran university encourages government or government-related personnel (e.g., police officers, firefighters, nonprofit community agency employees) who seek promotions into management to consider their program. The specialization emphasizes how to connect departments within government to accomplish initiatives. The degree requires nine core courses along with concentration courses in administrative law, budgeting, public human resources, and intergovernmental relations. Instead of a capstone project, the specialization also requires an internship of at least 120 hours on-site. Admission requires an undergraduate degree but no GMAT scores.

Location: Mequon, Wisconsin
Tuition: $699 per credit-hour, $27,261 for the degree
Time to Completion: 2 years (estimated)
Accreditation: International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE)

Liberty’s public administration MBA prepares graduates for business leadership positions. Students gain insights into financial, professional, and administrative issues related to the federal, state, and local levels of government and non-profit organizations. Students also enhance their analytical capabilities concerning political and economic decision making on initiatives from local to international levels. Moreover, they acquire capabilities for business leadership while developing strategic, managerial, and financial skills. Courses emphasize the application of ethics to management practices and integrating the Christian faith.

Admission requires an accredited bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.0 GPA; Liberty may consider students with a GPA less than 3.0 for conditional entry, but they must also pass an additional graduate writing course. The school waives the GMAT for students who meet admission requirements. Liberty claims almost 90 percent of students receive financial aid, and extends tuition discounts to several groups including veterans, military, and emergency response personnel.

Location: Lynchburg, Virginia
Tuition: $565 per credit-hour, $25,425 for the degree
Time to Completion: 2.5 years
Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)

Like the other programs profiled in this guide, NCU’s online public administration MBA specialization also positions graduates for leadership roles. Students acquire the knowledge and skills needed by public administrators who oversee local, state, and federal government agencies; students explore areas like budgeting, government relations, personnel policies, politics, and urban planning. This university requires only six core courses for their MBA degree: managing people and teams, managerial decision-making, managing business finances, operations management, innovation and marketing, and strategic planning. The specialization requires three courses selected among a public administration introductory course and these topics: government and the public interest, municipal budgeting and finance, quality management in public administration, and public program evaluation. Students also investigate a workplace problem and recommend a solution as a final research project.

Admission requires a bachelor’s degree in business from an accredited university; “evaluation track” applicants without business degrees must take two additional foundation courses including an intensive three-week course covering 15 subject areas.

Location: San Diego, California
Tuition: $946 per credit-hour, $29,680 for the degree
Time to Completion: 16 to 41 months
Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
5The University of Mary, Gary Tharaldson School of Business

The online public administration MBA from the University of Mary requires 13 core courses, plus three concentration courses in public administration foundations, leadership in the public sector, and budgeting in public finance. The core courses include human resources, management and organizational behavior, the legal environment of business, and ethics, among others.

The school requires applicants to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with an undergraduate GPA of 2.5 overall, as well as GMAT scores with a minimum score cutoff (550) before students can take “MBA specific courses.” The school will drop the GMAT requirement for students who take three additional foundation courses in finance, accounting, and economics.

Location: Bismarck, North Dakota, with other branches in Arizona, Montana, Minnesota, and Kansas
Tuition: $600.00 per credit-hour, $23,400 for the degree (estimated)
Time to Completion: 20 months minimum
Accreditation: International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE)

Professors to Know from Schools with Online MBA Programs in Public Administration

  • Jama Bradley, PhD - Northcentral University

    Dr. Jama Bradley is a professor of business whose areas of expertise include project management, higher education, and information systems management, three areas closely related to public administration. Notably, she’s worked in leadership positions both in the corporate world and in education. She also served as an innovation consultant with Product Innovation Educators and is a member of two prominent organizations: the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the Product Development Management Association. She earned her PhD from the University of Tennessee and holds graduate certificates in project management and information systems management from the Keller Graduate School of Management.

  • William G. Goetz, MBA - University of Mary

    William Goetz serves as the director of the new public administration program at the University of Mary’s Gary Tharaldson School of Business. Professor Goetz was the chief of staff for two successive North Dakota governors, a five-year chancellor of the North Dakota University System, and served as a North Dakota state senator and representative for two decades. He also served as chief academic officer at the Dickinson State University School of Business and Management. Professor Goetz holds an undergraduate degree from Minot State University and an MBA from the University of North Dakota.

  • Wendy Orthober, CPA - Concordia University Wisconsin

    Professor Orthober serves as an adjunct professor who has been teaching accounting since 2008. A practicing CPA for over 27 years, she started her career in public accounting with Ernst & Young in Chicago, then joined Marshall & Ilsley’s internal audit group. She next joined M&I Capital Markets, followed by Mason Wells Private Equity. Professor Orthober served as Mason Wells’ chief financial officer for seven years, managing limited partner reporting, information systems, and financial and tax accounting functions. Currently, she oversees all the financial and tax reports for over 150 limited partners in five funds. Professor Orthober holds a degree in accounting from Miami University and a CPA licensure in the State of Wisconsin.

Admission Requirements: Online MBA Programs in Public Administration

From the programs above, here are typical, common application requirements to earn admission to these online MBA programs in public administration:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • A GPA from an undergraduate university above each school’s specified minimum level
  • Some schools ask for GMAT or GRE scores, but often waive testing for students meeting specific requirements
  • A personal statement of objectives
  • Letters of recommendation
  • International students must complete the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).


Educational accreditation means that a university offers a curriculum which adheres to quality assurance standards in academic disciplines. In the United States, external private, non-profit organizations evaluate educational institutions and certify that the schools comply with applicable standards by awarding accreditation status. Several organizations confer accreditation for online MBA programs in public administration.

Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), formerly known as the American Association of Collegiate Schools of Business, has provided quality assurance services to accredited business schools since 1916. In general, AACSB-accredited schools have the highest-quality faculties, deliver relevant and challenging curricula, and provide educational and career opportunities unavailable at other schools. The organization emphasizes faculty research in providing students solid knowledge foundations. The AACSB has awarded accreditations to about 780 schools in 90 countries, mainly those affiliated with major research universities, and awarded specialized accounting program accreditations to an additional 185.

Only about five percent of the 16,000 schools worldwide granting business degrees have met the AACSB’s rigorous accreditation standards, and AACSB-accredited institutions offered 90 percent of the Economist's 2016 top 100 full-time MBA programs. Accredited schools include the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, and the Harvard Business School.

Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)

The newer Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) was founded in 1989 to accredit schools, including two-year institutions like community colleges, with an emphasis on teaching instead of the research emphasis common to the AACSB-accredited institutions. The ACBSP focuses on tangible learning outcomes and quality improvement, especially as workforce demands change. About 2,983 ACBSP-accredited programs exist worldwide.

International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE)

A third agency, the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE), believes academic quality and business education excellence are best evaluated in terms of the educational outcomes of an academic business entity relative to its mission, rather than by prescriptive standards relating to academic resources.

Douglas Mark
Douglas Mark

While a partner in a San Francisco marketing and design firm, for over 20 years Douglas Mark wrote online and print content for the world’s biggest brands, including United Airlines, Union Bank, Ziff Davis, Sebastiani, and AT&T. Since his first magazine article appeared in MacUser in 1995, he’s also written on finance and graduate business education in addition to mobile online devices, apps, and technology. Doug graduated in the top 1 percent of his class with a business administration degree from the University of Illinois and studied computer science at Stanford University.