Master of Public Administration

The MPA degree at North Carolina State University requires 40 credit hours of course work, including 8 core courses totaling 21 hours, and passing a comprehensive examination. Pre-service students must include an internship as part of the 40 credit hour requirement. Electives may include graduate courses in the PA department, other NC State departments, or inter-institutional locations. Students consult with their adviser to choose electives as part of a specialty or to create an individualized program.

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Cassandra Deck-Brown (MPA '95) is Raleigh's first African-American female police chief.

Full-time students typically complete the degree in two years; part-time students take from three to five years depending on work and personal obligations. Most classes are taught in the evening to permit full-time students to participate in internships and to accommodate the schedules of part-time students who work in public policy or nonprofit fields. Students should be familiar with the policies and procedures handbook, which covers in detail the responsibilities of program staff, including advisers, course requirements, the comprehensive examination, and program and university academic policies.

Our mission is to develop principled and skilled public service professionals who fulfill leadership roles within governmental and nonprofit organizations. We focus on practical and problem-solving skills and emphasize public service values -- including efficiency, effectiveness, equity and accountability.

Jerrell Coggburn, Program Chair, Public Administration

90% of our MPA graduates are working in the profession within six months of graduation.

Reported in our 2015 Annual Accreditation Maintenance Report

Specialization Information

The Masters of Public Administration program at NC State does not offer formal specializations. Instead, the program affords students the opportunity to tailor individualized public service specialties consistent with their interests and abilities, the university’s strengths, and labor market needs. Students work with their faculty adviser to select courses geared to their academic interests and career objectives.

The MPA program offers elective coursework in public management, nonprofit management, urban management, financial management, organizational leadership, public policy, and justice administration. The department also offers two graduate certificates, one in nonprofit management and the other in public policy:

Nonprofit Management   Public Policy

MPA students may also take electives in other departments at NC State or, through the Inter-Institutional Registration Program, at other North Carolina Schools including UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke University, NC Central University, UNC Charlotte, or UNC-Greensboro. 

Inter-Institutional Registration

MPA Learning Outcomes

Program: All Programs

These are the program objectives:

  1. MPA program: To develop students as generalist managers with mission-relevant competencies
  2. MPA program: Prepare students to be successful professionals in public service careers


Objective: MPA program: To develop students as generalist managers with mission-relevant competencies

  1. Graduates are expected to be able to lead and manage in public governance.
  2. Graduates are expected to be able participate in and contribute to the policy process.
  3. Graduates are expected to be able analyze, synthesize, think critically, solve problems and make decisions.
  4. Graduates are expected to be able to articulate and apply a public service perspective.
  5. Graduates are expected to be able to communicate and interact productively with a diverse and changing workforce and citizenry.


Objective: MPA program: Prepare students to be successful professionals in public service careers

  1. The MPA program includes a mix of pre-service and in-service students.
  2. The MPA program serves students from historically underrepresented groups
  3. Graduates are satisfied with their elective specialty coursework
  4. MPA internships develop students' professional skills and prepare them for the job market
  5. Graduating pre-service students are successful in job and internship placement
  6. Graduating in-service students are able to apply concepts and skills from the MPA program to their public service job


Courses

Core Courses

  • PA 510 - Public Administration Values and Institutions
  • PA 511 - The Public Policy Analysis
  • PA 512 - The Budgetary Process
  • PA 513 - Public Organization Behavior
  • PA 514 - Management Systems
  • PA 515 - Research Methods and Analysis
  • PA 598 - Effective Public Communications

Selected Electives

  • PA 507 - Public Policy Process 
  • PA 521 - Government and Planning
  • PA 522 - Intergovernmental Relations in the United States
  • PA 523 - Municipal Law
  • PA 525 - Organizational Development and Change Management
  • PA 530 - Financial Management in the Public Sector
  • PA 531 - Human Resource Management in Public and Nonprofit Organizations
  • PA 532 - Contract Negotiation and Mediation in the Public and Nonprofit Sectors
  • PA 535 - Problem Solving for Public and Nonprofit Managers
  • PA 536 - Management of Nonprofit Organizations
  • PA 539 - Fund Development
  • PA 546 - Seminar in Program Evaluation 
  • PA 550 - Environmental Policy 
  • PA 553 - Disaster, Crisis and Emergency Management and Policy
  • PA 598 - Special Topics in Public Administration
  • PA 640 - Grant Writing

Comprehensive Exams

Competency Examination Guide

Frequently Asked Questions

The written comprehensive examination is administered in January, May, and August. At the beginning of each academic year the exam dates for the next 12 months are announced.

First Day: Public Policy Analysis, Organizational Behavior, and Management Systems Second Day:  Budgeting, Research Methods, and Ethics

The comprehensive exams are administered from 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. on two consecutive weekdays. There are no break periods, but food and beverages are permitted in the exam room.

The written exams are comprehensive, covering course material as well as general theories, concepts, and techniques of public management. Questions emphasize both theoretical and applied skills. While the questions are drawn from the core course subject matter, you should incorporate all course material into preparing your responses.

Students should bring pens, pencils and scratch paper. Calculators are permitted and should be brought. However, no notes are allowed. Exams are done on computers in a computing lab.

Preparation for the examination should begin with the first course the student takes. Notes taken in class and on textual material are invaluable in preparing for the exam. Review sessions are held twice a year, in the spring and fall semesters. Review session dates for the January exams are announced in September, and the for the May and August exams in February. 

The exam questions are written and graded by faculty who teach core courses. If more than one faculty member teaches a core course service on the examining committee rotates. Great care is taken by the examiners to ensure that student performance is not related to which instructor writes and grades the exam question. Members of the examining committee are appointed by the PA Chair. The grading scale for the exams is High Pass, Pass, Low Pass, or Fail.

Students will be informed of the outcome of their exam no later than the ten days following the examination.

The examining committee may recommend that a student who fails one or more sections of the exam retake all or specified parts of the examination. Students may retake the exam at a regularly scheduled examination period or, upon recommendation of the examining committee, at an earlier time.

Students who fail four or more sections of the comprehensive examinations will be eligible to be retested on these sections during the regularly scheduled comprehensive exam periods.  Students being re-examined will take the same test as the other students, but the re-examined students will not have to answer sections that they previously passed.

Students eligible to take the written comprehensive exams must have a graduate GPA of at least 3.0, have completed all core courses (and any prerequisite courses), filed a plan of Graduate Work and notified the PA Graduate Services Coordinator of the intent to take the exam. 

Contact Meggie Romick, Graduate Services Coordinator, to put your name on the exam list: mromick@ncsu.edu or 919-515-5159.


Multiple Masters Programs

University policies governing the transfer of courses into graduate programs require students to take a minimum of 48 credit hours to receive two unique degrees. (More credit hours may be required depending on the requirements of the  degree programs.) Students pursuing two Master’s degrees must meet all Graduate School requirements and the requirements of each degree program. This memo outlines the general framework for pursuing two Master’s degrees conterminously.

If you are interested in pursuing a MPA and a second Master’s degree you should contact Bruce McDonald, MPA Director. He will help you with the logistics and start laying out a plan. The process is easier than it looks.

To be admitted into a second Master’s degree program:

  1. Send a memo to the MPA Director indicating that you want to pursue a second NC State University Master’s degree coterminous with your MPA degree. (Include the name of the degree in your memo.) Similar to the personal statement submitted with your MPA application, this memo should state your professional reasons for pursuing a second Master’s.
  2. After the MPA Director approves the request, the PA Graduate Services Coordinator will send the DGP of the second Master’s program: (1) a copy of your memo approved by the MPA Director, (2) copies of the relevant sections of your file (all transcripts, GRE scores, and letters of recommendation), and (3) a request that the second program consider you for admission. You are responsible for supplying the other program with any additional materials they required to make a decision.
  3. The second program’s admissions committee will review your file and inform you and the MPA Director if you have been recommended for admission. If you are denied admission by the second program your request will not be approved. If you are recommended for admission, the DGP of the second program will send the Change of Degree Status or Curriculum form to the Dean of the Graduate School indicating the recommendation.
  4. The Dean of the Graduate School will notify you and both Programs if your request for admission to the second program was approved.

To file your plan of work (University policies assume 30 credit hour Master’s degree. Because the MPA is a 40 credit hour degree, you may be able to include over the university minimum as part of both degree programs. The following policy will expedite approving your plans of work.):

  1. Students must submit separate plans of work through the Student Information System (SIS). After your admission to the second program has been approved, the Graduate School will set up a second “career” (this is SIS language for degree program/plan of work) in SIS. Once both careers are established, you can add courses to the separate plans of work, both of which must meet the respective requirements of the specific degree programs.
  2. Once entered and submitted, the proposed plans of work will be routed electronically to the respective program advisors and Directors for approval.
  3. Multiple masters students must also submit two Patent Agreement Forms to the Graduate School, one for each degree program.

MPA Fast Facts

Master of Public Administration (MPA)

The Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina approved NC State's MPA program in 1968, and it graduated its first two students in August 1969. The program has graduated over 1500 MPA students, who have gone on to serve the public through positions in state, local, and federal government and nonprofit agencies.

The Network of Schools of Public Affairs, Policy, and Administration (NASPAA) accredits MPA degree programs (for information, see http://accreditation.naspaa.org/resources/roster-of-accredited-programs/). NC State’s MPA degree was included in the roster of programs in substantial compliance with NASPAA guidelines in 1980 (prior to NASPAA accrediting programs), initially accredited in 1986, and reaccredited in 1993, 2000, 2007 and 2014.

The MPA program is delivered by the Department of Public Administration (PA), which is housed in the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA), College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHASS), at North Carolina State University (NC State).

The mission of NC State’s MPA program is develop principled and skilled public service professionals who fulfill leadership roles within governmental and nonprofit organizations. We focus on practical and problem-solving skills and emphasize public service values -- including efficiency, effectiveness, equity and accountability.

The mode of delivery for the MPA program is primarily classroom: very few courses are available in either on-line or hybrid modes. All required core classes are currently taught only in classrooms. Current on-line courses include a hybrid course in public and nonprofit accounting (where classes meet both in person and on-line) and a cultural competency course (taught all on-line).

Most classes are taught on NC State’s Raleigh campus in the evening (6:00 to 8:45 PM) to permit full-time students to participate in internships and to accommodate the schedules of part-time students.

NC State’s MPA is a 40 credit hour degree program consisting of:

  • 21 credit hours of core classes covering the program’s required core competencies
  • 19 credit hours of elective credit
  • Economics, statistics and American government requirements
  • Students lacking the equivalent of one year of full-time public service experience must complete a 3 credit hour internship as part of their elective coursework (see “Internships and Internship Placements” below for more information)

Full-time students (those taking 9 credit hours or more per semester) typically complete the degree in two years; part-time students (those taking less than 9 credit hours) take from three to five years, depending on work and personal obligations.

The MPA program at NCSU does not offer formal specializations. Instead, the program affords students the opportunity to tailor individualized public service specialties consistent with their interests and abilities, the university’s strengths, and labor market needs. Students work with their faculty advisor to select courses geared to their academic interests and career objectives.

The MPA program offers elective coursework in public management, nonprofit management, urban management, financial management, organizational leadership, public policy, and justice administration. The department also offers two graduate certificates, in nonprofit management and in public policy

MPA students may also take electives in other departments at NC State or, through the Inter-Institutional Registration Program, at UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke University, NC Central University, UNC Charlotte, or UNC-Greensboro. https://www.ncsu.edu/grad/catalog/interinstitutional.html​

Multiple Masters:

Students in the MPA program have the option to pursue multiple masters degrees.  MPA students may be able to count selected graduate courses on the Plans of Work for more than one degree. The policies governing transferring courses from one degree to another are spelled out in the Graduate School’s Administrative Handbook. Students must fulfill all requirements of each degree, including being admitted by each program. University policy is that 18 credit hours of the 30 credit hour minimums for each degree program must be unique to that degree program. The remaining credit hours may be applied to both degree programs. The MPA program further requires that at least 25 of the 40 credit hours included on the MPA Plan of Work be from PA-designated courses (i.e., the 18 hour core plus at least 7 additional PA credit hours). Students interested in pursuing two Masters simultaneously should meet with the PA Director of Graduate Programs or Chair for more information on current university policies and procedures.

MPA/JD Dual Degree:

In addition to multiple masters, the MPA program offers a joint JD/MPA program. Since Fall 2010, NC State and Campbell University’s Wiggins School of Law have partnered to offer a dual MPA/JD degree program. Students must be admitted to both programs, separately, and declare their intention to pursue dual degrees. By allowing certain courses to satisfy requirements for both programs, students pursuing MPA/JD dual degrees can earn both degrees in as few as four years.

The MPA program currently has 61 students.

No. The MPA program does not currently offer an accelerated bachelor/MPA option.

The MPA program's full-time, tenured and tenure-track faculty members are all academically qualified, possessing doctoral degrees in relevant disciplines. All are active in scholarly work, researching and publishing in the PA discipline and its various subfields, teaching courses where they have demonstrated subject matter expertise, and serving the community and profession through applied research and roles in professional associations.

The program’s instructional faculty also includes professionally-qualified public service practitioners.  These practitioners are selected based upon their professional roles and experiences (e.g., the program routinely hires public information officers to teach the PA 601 Professional Communications course; a former assistant city manager of Raleigh teaches the PA 520 Urban Management course; the current city planner and budget director for the Town of Cary teach the PA 521 Government Planning and PA 512 Public Budgeting courses, respectively; a professional consultant in the field of assessment and development teaches the PA 640 Grant Writing course; etc.).

There are currently 15 full time faculty and 7 adjunct practitioner faculty members. Faculty profiles can be found here https://spia.ncsu.edu/people/faculty_staff/?tag=pa

The university determines tuition and fees for the MPA program annually. Detailed information can be found on the university’s Cashier Office website:  http://www.fis.ncsu.edu/cashier/tuition/

The PA Department has a limited number of one-year graduate assistantships for full-time students. The assistantships carry a stipend of $10,000 and tuition and health insurance through the Graduate Student Support Plan. All full-time students who apply by the February 1 priority deadline are considered for assistantships at the time that they are admitted. The Internship Coordinator works with students who do not receive financial aid to identify temporary jobs.

Applicants should submit the following items through the on-line application system at:

  • The Graduate School application and application fee (currently $75 for domestic and US permanent residents, $85 for international)
  • A personal statement (one-page summary of career goals and the ways the MPA will help achieve them)
  • A resume (appended to the personal statement)
  • Three letters of reference (at least one academic reference is suggested but not required)
  • One copy of transcripts from all previous undergraduate and graduate college work
  • Applicants should have the Educational Testing Service submit an official report of their Graduate Record Examination scores (Verbal, Quantitative and Analytical Writing scores only) to the NC State Graduate School. GMAT and, in some cases, LSAT scores will also be accepted. (LSAT scores will only be accepted for those applicants who can demonstrate quantitative aptitude via other means, including performance in intermediate statistics, quantitative methods, or mathematics at the undergraduate level.)
  • International applicants for whom English is a secondary language must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). There are currently three versions of the TOEFL, for each of which the Public Administration Department has a minimum acceptable score: the paper-based (minimum score 600); the computer-based (minimum score 250); and the internet-based (minimum score 100). An official report should be submitted by the Educational Testing Service to the NC State Graduate School. The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is also accepted for demonstrating English proficiency.

The MPA program does not have minimum grade point average or standardized test score requirements, but admission to NC State’s MPA program is selective. The program seeks a mix of pre-service and in-service students from diverse backgrounds. In 2015-2016, the average undergraduate grade point average for new enrolling MPA students was 3.45 and the average GRE score (verbal + quantitative) was 301.

Application Deadlines (including submission of all required supporting materials)

Fall Semester

  • May 15
  • March 1 for International Students
  • February 1 for full consideration for financial aid

Spring Semester

  • Nov. 1
  • July 15 for International Students

In the 2014-2015 graduating class, 17 graduates were places in non profits, 10 in local government, 5 in higher education, 4 in the corporate world, 3 in state government, 2 in the federal government, and 2 in continuing education.

In the 2014-2015 graduating class, 17 graduates were places in non profits, 10 in local government, 5 in higher education, 4 in the corporate world, 3 in state government, 2 in the federal government, and 2 in continuing education.

Current MPA students have internships with:

  • Wake County Emergency Management
  • NC State Institute for Nonprofits
  • Institute for Emerging Issues
  • NC Common Cause
  • NC Chamber
  • Duke University Sanford Policy School  
  • NC Growth
  • NC Office of State Personnel
  • Prevent Blindness NC
  • City of Raleigh Attorney Office
  • Wake County District Attorney Office

The five-year MPA degree completion rate (for students entering the program in 2010) is 92 percent, with the rate being slightly higher (93 percent) for full-time students compared to part-time students (90 percent).