2021 Best Online Public Administration Degrees [Bachelor’s Guide]

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Earning an online public administration degree could be the first step toward a career as a public servant. In public administration studies, you’ll learn about governmental structures, team management, program organization, and financial leadership.

Best Online Public Administration Degrees

Every community needs strong, capable leaders. Public administration professionals tend to provide leadership for government agencies or community organizations.

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Through your college studies, you can prepare to work in government, social service, and other public-focused sectors.

Online Bachelor’s in Public Administration Degrees

Bachelor’s in Public Administration Degrees

A bachelors program in public administration can help you develop skill sets that are highly applicable to management and leadership roles in government or nonprofit agencies.

People who work in this field understand public policy, organizational leadership, and fiscal responsibility. To prepare for a career in the public sector, you may study topics like government, constitutional law, and policymaking.

Other courses—such as program evaluation, project management, and budget analysis—can teach you leadership skills. There may also be classes on ethical issues involved in public leadership.

Some degrees in public administration offer concentration options. Choosing a concentration track could help prepare you for a specific type of career. Concentration options can include:

  • Business Regulations
  • Criminal Justice
  • Fire Management
  • Recreational Leadership
  • Security and Disaster Management

For example, those who study fire management might acquire the necessary skills to work for a city as a fire department captain. Professionals who hold a degree with a recreation management emphasis may run a parks department or a community rec facility.

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Of course, there are also generalist degrees in this field. Students who graduate with public administration degrees may qualify for a variety of leadership roles in government agencies. Potential careers in this field include city manager, regional planner, budget analyst, and facility director.

Nonprofit management is closely related to government administration, so this degree could also help prepare you for the nonprofit sector. Job opportunities in this area can include fundraiser, public relations specialist, and community service manager.

Public administration graduates may also apply their leadership skills and their knowledge of government regulations to jobs in the private sector.

Public Administration Careers and Salaries

Public Administration Careers and Salaries

Public administration is generally a management field. While not all graduates go directly into management roles, their work may involve the organization of personnel, systems, or activities. Eventually, they may advance to leadership positions.

Public administration professionals often work for government agencies at the local, state, or federal level. Public administration titles include operations manager, recreation manager, facilities manager, community relations manager, and administrative manager. These roles might involve running departments for a local government.

Public administrators can hold a variety of other government roles as well. For instance, emergency management directors create and implement plans for crises, and budget analysts oversee spending and financial planning.

In addition, city planners make decisions about land use and development, and tax assessors determine the value of properties for taxation purposes.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for management jobs is $109,760 per year.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers $118,430
General and Operations Managers $103,650
Administrative Services and Facilities Managers $98,890
Operations Research Analysts $86,200
Budget Analysts $78,970
Emergency Management Directors $76,250
Social and Community Service Managers $69,600
Human Resources Specialists $63,490
Public Relations Specialists $62,810
Property Appraisers and Assessors $58,650

Some public administrators hold top executive roles within a local government. They may hold elected roles, such as city mayor, or have appointed jobs, such as city or county manager.

Those who don’t work for the government may do nonprofit or community work. Public relations and fundraising can be common options. Professionals in these fields serve as liaisons between an organization’s leadership and community members.

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Public administration studies can also transfer over to private business environments. Top roles can involve government relations or regulatory compliance. The general management and organizational leadership skills learned in a public administration program could apply to a variety of business management jobs as well.

A degree in public administration could also pair seamlessly with training in law enforcement or nursing.

Public Admin Courses & Curriculum

Public Admin Courses

For public administration degrees, you may take a slate of courses about leadership and government, such as the ones listed below.

  • Budgeting for Public Agencies: This course will address setting and maintaining a budget in government settings, and the lessons may apply to nonprofit agencies as well.
  • Change in Organizations: You can learn how to guide your organizations through times of change or transition.
  • Communication for Public Leaders: Your time in this class can help you refine your written and oral communication skills so that you can effectively deliver messages and exchange ideas.
  • Ethics and Values in the Public Sector: This course teaches you to make ethical and legal decisions that benefit the public good.
  • Foundations of Public Administration: This introductory class provides a broad view of the field and helps you acquire foundational knowledge of concepts and terminology.
  • National Government: In this class, you’ll study the American system of governance, constitutional law, and how the federal government relates to state and local governments.
  • Project Management: You can gain skills for seeing projects from idea to implementation and handling responsibilities like budgeting and scheduling along the way.
  • Public Policy: During your time in this course, you’ll explore how policies are created or changed, and you’ll discuss the people and groups that may play roles in policy development.
  • State and Local Systems: You’ll study common leadership arrangements for state and local governments, especially those used in the area where your school is located.
  • Team Leadership: After taking this class, you may be better prepared to coordinate personnel and head up group initiatives.

Fulfilling the requirements for a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration usually requires amassing 120 credits.

How to Choose a Public Administration Online Degree Program

Public Administration Online Degree

If your goal is to become a public administrator, it’s strategic to select a college that offers an administration program with strong academics and a classroom style that’s a good fit for you. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a public administration program:

  • Accreditation. The most well-respected degrees come from regionally accredited colleges. In addition, the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) is a programmatic accreditor for master’s degrees in this field. If your school has a grad program with NASPAA accreditation, that could be a sign that the whole department aligns with industry standards.
  • Group work. Public administration professionals spend a lot of time collaborating and communicating with others. A college program that emphasizes group discussions and projects may prepare you well for this. Group work is a possibility even for online programs.
  • Online style. You may have options for synchronous courses, in which all students log in for online classes at the same time, or asynchronous ones, for which you set your own schedule. Also, a school’s online courses may stick with a traditional semester calendar or follow a fast-track schedule.
  • Specializations. If you have plans to use your public administration degree in a certain line of work, such as fire safety, homeland security, or disaster management, you may want to search for a college that offers a relevant concentration.

Other factors that may influence your decision could include cost, student services, and post-graduation placement rates.

Bachelor of Public Administration Admissions Requirements

Bachelor of Public Administration Admissions

A strong college application may help you gain admission to public administration programs.

The application materials may include:

  • Application form that includes personal information and academic plans
  • Letters of recommendation from academic or professional leaders
  • Official transcripts from any high schools and colleges you’ve attended
  • Scores from the SAT or ACT (not required at all schools)

Colleges with rolling admissions accept applications throughout the year, but others set firm deadlines for submitting materials.

Accreditation

Bachelor of Public Administration accreditation

Before enrolling in college, it’s strategic to confirm that your school holds regional accreditation. This can offer assurance that your coursework will provide a reputable, rigorous academic experience.

Regional accreditation is the most respected form of college accreditation. If you study at a regionally accredited school, there’s a better chance that you’ll be eligible to transfer your credits elsewhere at some point. Having a regionally accredited degree could help you get into a master’s program, too.

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Also, regional accreditation can be an asset when you’re looking for jobs. Employers may put more trust in a degree from an accredited institution.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Bachelor of Public Administration financial aid

Going to school is an expense, but it’s also a way to invest in your future. If you qualify, a well-rounded financial aid package can help you pay for college.

For starters, you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form is instrumental for obtaining federal funding like grants and loans. Many states have similar programs. As a result, you may qualify for multiple grants. You may get to choose between two different loan programs based on which has the best interest rate.

For even more funding opportunities, you can look into scholarships. You can ask your college if there are funds for public administration students, and you can consider applying for outside scholarships as well. Professional organizations and community associations may have opportunities.

You can see if your employer contributes to college costs, too.

Public Policy and Administration Professional Organizations

Public Policy and Administration Professional Organizations

Belonging to an industry organization can enhance your skills and understanding as you prepare for a career in this field.

Here are some public policy and administration professional organizations:

Through your membership, you may network with other professionals, learn about industry developments, join webinars, qualify for discounts, or receive access to online resources.

What Is a Public Administration Degree?

degree in public administration

A degree in public administration is a college program that trains students to hold leadership roles in organizations that serve the public.

The classes for a public administration degree can cover topics like federal government structure, program evaluation, public budgets, and funding and grants. You may be able to choose a degree concentration like pre-law, business relations, or disaster management.

Public management graduates tend to pursue positions in government agencies. Community and nonprofit agencies can benefit from these professionals as well. Public administrators can also help private businesses negotiate government relations.

What Can You Do with a Public Administration Degree?

Public Administration Degree salary

Some public administration graduates become emergency management directors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, state governments pay a median annual salary of $66,730 for this position. Local governments pay a median of $70,130 each year.

Others take management roles in community or social service organizations. The median annual salary for social and community service managers who work for local governments is $87,720.

Public administration majors may also become budget analysts. With an annual median of $86,480, the federal government typically offers the highest salaries for this role. The state median is $70,650, and the local government median is $74,870.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelors in Public Administration Online?

An online degree in public administration can generally be completed in 4 years or less. Schools that rely on traditional semester calendars usually offer two sets of 16 week courses each school year. Four such years is usually enough time to complete a bachelor’s degree program with full-time study.

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Online campuses may have a different scheduling approach, though. Many focus on offering shorter classes that last around half the time of a traditional semester. Students tend to only take one or two classes during each of those terms. By enrolling in these shorter classes all year long, you may be able to finish in less time.

What’s the Difference Between Public Policy vs. Public Administration Bachelor Degree?

It’s possible to start a government career with studies in public policy or public administration.

Public Policy Public Administration
  • Addresses putting policies into place
  • May include more data and statistics training
  • Can lead to jobs in legislation and lobbying
  • Primarily leads to jobs in the public sector
  • Focuses on putting policies into action
  • May include more management training
  • Can lead to jobs in management and organizational leadership
  • May have applications in both the public and private sectors

Both of these disciplines are included in the broader category of public affairs.

What’s the Difference Between a Bachelor’s in Public Administration vs. Business Administration?

As their names suggest, both public administration and business administration can lead to administrative careers.

Public Administration Business Administration
  • Focuses on the public sector—government and community agencies
  • Includes courses on government and public policy
  • May lead to jobs like community service manager or urban planner
  • Focuses on the private sector—private businesses
  • Includes courses on accounting and marketing
  • May lead to jobs like cost accountant or human resources specialist

Some public admin students do end up working in the private sector, and vice versa. If you can’t decide between the two, you might consider getting a business administration degree with a concentration in public administration.

What’s the Difference Between a BA vs. BS in Public Administration?

For your degree, you could get a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Public Administration.

BA in Public Administration BS in Public Administration
  • Includes a greater emphasis on communication and management
  • May require foreign language studies
  • Often leads to jobs in community and social service
  • Includes a greater emphasis on statistics and analytical thinking
  • May involve additional administration courses instead of a language
  • Often leads to jobs in budget analysis

Either degree option could lead to a successful career in this field.

Is a Public Administration Degree Worth It?

Is a Public Administration Degree Worth It

Yes, a public administration degree is worth it for many professionals. The studies completed in this program could provide a strong foundation for leadership roles in government and community agencies. They can also be a stepping stone to graduate degrees in law or public policy.

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Management is a growing field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 5% growth rate over the next ten years for management jobs in general. Social and community service management roles, in particular, are expected to see a 17% growth rate.

Universities Offering Online Bachelors in Public Administration Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

California Baptist University

California Baptist University

California Baptist University offers a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration. Students must complete 48 credit hours dedicated to the program and additional education requirements to graduate. To be eligible for the program, applicants must have a GPA of 2.0 or higher and a high school diploma.

California Baptist University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

Central Methodist University

Central Methodist University

Central Methodist University offers a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration.

Both degree programs give students opportunities to participate in field experiences, internships, and other hands-on learning experiences. To be eligible for the program, applicants must have a GPA of 2.5 or higher, a GED score of 2250, an ACT score of 21, or an SAT score of 1050.

Central Methodist University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Franklin University

Franklin University

Franklin University offers a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration. Classes are offered online and are 6 to 12 weeks long. To graduate, students must complete 120 credit hours. To be eligible for the program, applicants must submit official high school transcripts or transcripts from any other schools attended.

Franklin University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Liberty University

Liberty University

Liberty University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Public Administration degree program. All classes can be taken online and are 8 weeks long. To be eligible for the program, applicants must apply online, have a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher, and submit official transcripts from all schools attended.

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

National University

National University

National University offers a Bachelor of Public Administration. The program can be completed online and offers classes that are 4 weeks long.

To be eligible for the program, applicants need a high school GPA of 2.0 or higher. Those who do not meet the GPA requirement may submit petition letters to have their applications reviewed by the program committee.

National University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Park University

Park University

Park University offers a Bachelor’s in Public Administration. Students may choose to complete the degree with an emphasis in Business Relations, Criminal Justice, Fire Service Management, Homeland Security, or Public Service. Applicants may apply online and must have a high school diploma or a GED.

Park University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Point Park University

Point Park University

Point Park University offers a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration. To graduate, students must complete 120 credit hours. The program is made up of courses that are 8 weeks long and can typically be completed in 2 to 4 years. Those interested in the program may apply online with copies of their high school transcripts.

Point Park University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Roger Williams University

Roger Williams University

Roger Williams University offers an online program for a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration. To graduate, students must complete 120 credit hours. Classes can be taken completely online or through a hybrid format. When applying, applicants are connected with advisors to assist them through the process.

Roger Williams University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University offers a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Public Administration. To graduate, students must complete 120 credit hours. Those interested in the program may apply online at any time with transcripts from all schools previously attended.

Southern New Hampshire University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

St. Petersburg College

St. Petersburg College

St. Petersburg College offers a Bachelor of Applied Studies in Public Safety Administration. Students must complete 120 credit hours with an emphasis in Criminal Justice, Fire Science, or Emergency Management and Homeland Security. To be eligible for the program, applicants must have a GPA of 2.0 or higher and 60 transferable credit hours.

SPC is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Troy University

Troy University

Troy University offers a Bachelor’s in Political Science with an emphasis in American Politics and Public Administration. To graduate, students must complete 120 credit hours. To be eligible for the program, applicants must have a GPA of 2.0 or higher with an ACT score of 20 or an RSAT score of 1030.

Troy University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Maine – Augusta

University of Maine at Augusta

The University of Maine—Augusta offers a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration. To graduate, students must complete 121 credit hours. Applicants may apply online and must submit official high school transcripts and transcripts from any post-secondary institutions attended.

The University of Maine at Augusta is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

University of Maryland Global Campus

University of Maryland Global Campus

The University of Maryland Global Campus offers an online Bachelor’s in Public Safety Administration. To graduate, students must complete 120 credit hours. Those interested in the program must have a GPA of 2.0 or higher and must submit copies of their official high school transcripts.

UMGC is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth

University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth

The University of Massachusetts—Dartmouth offers a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration. To graduate, students must complete 120 credit hours. Those interested in the program may apply online. Applicants must submit official high school transcripts, SAT or ACT test scores, and a personal statement.

The University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix

The University of Phoenix offers a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration. Students must complete 120 credit hours to graduate.

The program is offered online and can typically be completed in 4 years. To be eligible for the program, applicants must have a high school diploma or an equivalent degree and must submit official transcripts and ACT or SAT test scores.

The University of Phoenix is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Getting Your Public Administration Degree Online

Public Administration Degree Online

If your career goal involves serving the public, then a degree in public administration can help you build the necessary foundation.

You can learn to operate in government settings, provide strong leadership, communicate with others, manage financial matters, and work for the good of your community. Your studies can help qualify you for jobs with government agencies, nonprofit organizations, or private businesses.

Online college classes can also lead to a degree in this field. You can earn a reputable, online degree from accredited universities, and studying online may help you fit school into your busy schedule. This is often the case with an online bachelors, online MPA programs, or even an online Doctor of Public Administration degree program.

Why not start checking out online public administration programs today?

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Jordan Meeks
WRITTEN BY
Jordan Meeks
Jordan is pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy and earned her Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management and her Bachelor's in Business Administration. Jordan's research focuses on adults returning to college and online degree programs.