The Online MPA from the UNC-Chapel Hill
School of Government
The Online MPA from the UNC-Chapel Hill
School of Government
The Online MPA from the UNC-Chapel Hill
School of Government

Choose from four annual start dates
Choose from four annual start dates
Choose from four annual start dates

Why Earn an MPA Degree from the University of North Carolina Online?

For more than 80 years, the UNC School of Government has been delivering a practical, nonpartisan education and resources sought after by important North Carolina officials, including city managers, judges, and other elected representatives.

MPA@UNC is the online format of the on-campus MPA program, which is accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA). Whether you live across the state or across the country, you can complete the same esteemed program online and pursue a meaningful career serving others in the government, nonprofit, and private sectors.

MPA@UNC enables you to:

Attend a school top-ranked for public affairs by U.S. News & World Report1

Obtain an expert skill level in the areas of public administration and leadership.

Build a network of driven professionals from all over the country.

A GRE/GMAT waiver is available for qualified candidates. Apply by the upcoming priority deadline to have your application fee waived.

Learn from the Same Curriculum as Key North Carolina Administrators

Trust your MPA education to the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government, which has been providing nonpartisan education for decades.

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A Curriculum that Prepares Today’s Public Administration Professionals

The 45-credit online Master of Public Administration curriculum is designed to fit your career interests, whether you want to serve others as a government official or as a leader within a private or nonprofit organization. The program focuses broadly on implications at the local and state levels, preparing you to help meet your community’s needs.

Each class brings the importance of public administration to life, with real-world examples from faculty who share your dedication to service. Rather than completing a theoretical capstone project, you will finish your program by getting real-world experience in a public service role within the community.

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MPA Careers

MPA Benefits

The curriculum comprises engaging experiences and relevant coursework that provide a strong foundation while enabling you to customize your education to your goals:

Core Courses: 27 Credits

Start exploring the core topics of public administration, from organization theory and professional communication to human resource management and legal issues.

Public Administration Institutions and Values

Students will explore historical and contemporary social, economic, political, and ethical contexts of public administration and governance in the United States in order to evaluate current policy issues.

Organization Theory

Students will examine the evolution of organizational structure and develop an understanding of the critical elements of high-functioning organizations such as motivation, decision-making, diversity, conflict, and power dynamics.

Public Service Leadership

In preparation for leadership roles, this course allows students to explore their values, strengths, and weaknesses as a leader to develop personal insight and self-awareness.

Public Administration Analysis and Evaluation I

In this two-credit course, students investigate public administration problems central to their community or organization. By conducting policy research, they develop skills including data collection, program evaluation, and analytical reporting.

Public Administration Analysis and Evaluation II

This course is a continuation of Public Administration Analysis and Evaluation I, in which students focus on data analysis and effectively communicating the findings of their research project.

Professional Communication

Students practice communication skills such as networking, crafting a resume and cover letter, and writing policy requests to prepare to present themselves well in professional situations.

Human Resource Management

This course is an overview of traditional and contemporary human resource management issues and trends, as well as the primary functions and responsibilities of the department.

Public Financial Management

Students will explore the politics of budgeting, and how the government uses budgeting as a policy tool. In addition, students will learn about revenue and how to evaluate taxes.

Law for Public Administration

This course is an introduction to the legal challenges relevant to public administration. Students become familiar with the law and legal process by reading cases and engaging in discussion about topics such as administrative law and public ethics laws.

“The courses—particularly on public service leadership and organizational theory—have really exposed me to a broader range of leadership styles. I’ve learned how to lead in different ways and appeal to each of my colleague’s strengths and deficiencies.”

Justin Stirewalt, Class of 2019
Detective, Surry County Sheriff’s Office

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Elective Courses: 15 Credits

Choose from a range of course options, including federal policies and institutions, nonprofit
management, and economic development.

Federal Policies and Institutions

Students will study the motivations of public agency officials, interactions between bureaucracies and other political actors, and alternative strategies to control bureaucratic power and in public policy creation.

Government and Nonprofit Accounting and Reporting

In this course, students will develop skills for analyzing the financial condition, efficiency, and effectiveness of financial processes in a government or nonprofit organization.

City and County Management

This course explores the responsibilities of a city or county manager, including expectations of those in the role and the contemporary issues in departmental operations that impact how a manager’s performance can be perceived.

Productivity Improvement in Local Government

This course will review techniques used to improve productivity in local government and ways to overcome barriers to productivity improvement initiatives.

Nonprofit Management

This course will explore the unique challenges of nonprofit management and the techniques used to overcome them.

Navigating Nonprofit-Local Government Relationships in Organizations

This course will prepare students to hold positions in local government or nonprofits. Students will leave the course with an awareness of the public policy issues of concern to both sectors.

Grant Writing and Evaluation

Students will hone their grant-writing skills as they critique grant proposals, draft their own grant proposal, and learn about the role of program evaluation in grant writing and grant reporting.

Managing Economic Development

This course explores the practical application and implementation of various approaches to economic development. Students will learn through case studies and small group projects based on scenarios faced by real, local practitioners.

Technology and Community Engagement

This course relies on technology, from websites and surveys to social media activity, to form an understanding of community engagement and how it is an essential aspect of implementing policy initiatives.

Practicum and Applied Research Problem: 3 Credits

Complete a 400-hour service experience near your community, and compile artifacts demonstrating your professional and personal growth. A work experience waiver is available for qualified candidates.

Professional Work Experience

In this course, students examine, discuss, and write a paper about their professional work experience practicum. This document demonstrates the competencies they have developed and articulates their findings about public service leadership.

Applied Research Problem

Students apply and integrate their learning from their courses and public service work experiences to respond to an applied research problem. This coursework includes conducting literature reviews, collecting and analyzing data, and developing recommendations based on findings.

Immersion Experience: 1.5 Credits

Attend an optional immersion experience at UNC’s Chapel Hill campus, where you’ll dive into public affairs issues with classmates and faculty.


The public administration field offers a broad range of opportunities to serve others, and MPA@UNC gives you the freedom to forge your own path. As an online MPA student, you can choose to specialize in one of five areas. Each concentration features five electives, of which you must complete three.

Local Government
Engage citizens and build strong communities while advancing your career in consulting, law enforcement, or urban planning. Classes include City and County Management and Productivity in Local Government.

Public Management
Lead organizations such as school systems and community planning committees toward greater efficiency. Sample classes include Productivity Improvement in Local Government and Managing Economic Development.

Nonprofit Management
Provide essential services to individuals and communities as you learn about fundraising and marketing. Choose from classes in general nonprofit management, grant writing, and nonprofit-local government relations.

Public Health
Help public health organizations identify and deliver the 21st-century services increasingly needed by diverse populations. Courses cover topics including biostatistical applications and policy approaches to public health.

International Relations
Advance your career in NGO management or diplomacy as you study issues affecting international affairs. You will choose courses that explore international communication, global governance, and related studies.

Cross-University Courses

As part of our mission to deliver a practical public administration program, the UNC School of Government enables you to take classes from the following top institutions affiliated with our technology partner:

  • American University School of International Service
  • George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health
  • University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work
  • University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School

Past MPA@UNC students have taken cross-university courses in topics including intercultural communication, intellectual property, social and behavioral approaches to health, and policy and practice in social service organizations.


To succeed in your graduate-level courses, you need a strong grasp of how the U.S. government
functions. If you have not completed a college-level course in this topic before enrolling in the online
MPA, you may take the Introduction to American Government course through the UNC School of
Government. This course is offered at no cost to MPA@UNC students who have paid their enrollment

Customize Your Online MPA Degree to Your Career Goals

Learn how our approach replaces theoretical study with real-world case studies and in-person work experience.

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MPA Careers

MPA Benefits


MPA Application Requirements

The online MPA format is designed for high-achieving professionals with a commitment to service. Public service experience is not required to apply, but all applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution.

Your application should include the following items:

  • Online application
  • Statement of purpose
  • Resume
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Official score for the GRE, LSAT, or GMAT, or an approved waiver
  • Official TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE Academic scores, if applicable

A nonrefundable $95 application fee is required.

Upcoming Application Deadlines

Aspiring public administration professionals can start classes in January, May, August, or September. The admissions committee reviews applications on a rolling basis to provide a timely admissions decision whenever you apply.

Here are the application deadlines for our upcoming cohort:

January 2022September 21, 2021October 19, 2021November 10, 2021
May 2022January 18, 2022February 8, 2022March 2, 2022

For more information about applying to the program, visit the admissions page.

Connect with Service-Oriented Leaders Nationwide

Learn how the online MPA format puts you face-to-face with professionals who share your passion for serving the public and becoming stronger leaders.

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MPA Careers

MPA Benefits

What Can I Do with a Master’s in Public Administration?

Earning an MPA degree could enable you to start or advance your career in many fields depending on your interests, capabilities, and lifestyle. For example, an MPA could be the bridge you need to transition from military to civilian service, or you could use your MPA to pursue a career in politics or nonprofit management.

Here are some ways UNC’s online MPA could help you make a larger impact within the three most common employment sectors for public administrators:


Citizens increasingly expect the government to provide more services with greater efficiency. With an MPA, you could be prepared to lead government initiatives while mobilizing citizens and entire communities as a local public relations manager or urban planning committee member.


Many government management principles carry over to the nonprofit sector, especially as nonprofits interact with government agencies through grant proposals. With an MPA, you could join a nonprofit organization as a grant writer or fundraiser, or you could pursue a career in advocacy.


Although private-sector professionals don’t implement government initiatives, they do interact with the government through public-private partnerships and contracts. MPA graduates could use their public administration knowledge to pursue roles as consultants, program managers, or strategic analysts.

Learn more about careers in public administration.

Why Choose an MPA over a Related Degree?

The Master of Public Administration is one of several degrees that prepares you to serve the public while advancing your leadership and communication skills. If you are deciding between an MPA and a related degree, it is important to understand how the curricula differ, and how each degree prepares you for a different path.

Master of Public Policy (MPP)
The focus of the MPP degree is on ensuring graduates have the ability to compile, evaluate, and utilize data sets to write and suggest policy changes. While the MPA teaches thorough skills in analyzing and utilizing data, the focus of the MPA is on developing the necessary leadership and management skills to successfully plan, implement, and manage complex policies and changes across public organizations and their respective communities.

Master of Business Administration (MBA)
The MBA is a popular leadership degree option for professionals seeking advancement in areas such as finance, marketing, and operations. While both the MBA and MPA focus on leadership and financial understanding, the MPA curriculum is more rooted in understanding organizational development, strategic planning, leading teams, and implementing change across communities and public sector organizations like governments and nonprofits.

Master of Public Health (MPH)
The MPH is a degree to prepare individuals to dive deep into global public health issues, especially in the areas of research and policy-making. The MPA is a versatile leadership degree that prepares graduates to become a leader and pursue careers in areas of their public sector interest, one of which includes healthcare management and administration and in public and global health service organizations.

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MPA Careers

MPA Benefits

The Benefits of Earning an Online MPA Degree

Continue working while pursuing your master’s

When you can attend classes from anywhere with an internet connection, you don’t have to put your career on hold, and you can apply what you are learning in your role every day.

Do work that benefits your own community

MPA curricula often include relevant in-person work experience. If you choose an online program with national connections, you can help people in your community while earning academic credit.

Build a diverse network of aspiring public servants

Online programs often enable students to attend classes from across the country, which could expose you to a more diverse group of professionals than an on-campus MPA program would.

An Immersive Online Experience

Our online MPA format is designed for professionals seeking a top-ranked program that fits their busy schedules. We have designed the online campus to facilitate your learning and engagement with other students and faculty.

While enrolled, you will:

  • Discuss everything from organization theory to public administration legal principles during live, online classes of about 15 students.
  • Complete multimedia coursework—accessible on and offline—that prepares you to pursue employment in government, nonprofit, and private settings.
  • Get in-person experience working with public officials and members of your community at a relevant site near your area.
  • Have opportunities to interact with faculty and classmates and discuss key issues at optional on-campus immersions at the UNC campus in Chapel Hill.

How UNC Supports Your MPA Journey

MPA@UNC provides a rich student experience throughout every step of earning your degree. It begins with your admissions counselor, who will guide you through the application process, and continues with our faculty and student support teams, who offer one-on-one mentoring and professional guidance.

Throughout the program, you will also interact closely with faculty who are sought after every year for their expertise on government matters at the local, state, and national levels. Faculty are available to you during online classes and one-on-one office hours.

Military Student Support

UNC fully supports our military-affiliated MPA students, including service members, veterans, and military family members. The online MPA format will support you whether you want to continue serving in the military or transition to civilian service.

As an MPA@UNC student, you will be fully integrated into the Tar Heel community.

  • Apply to join student organizations, including the Carolina Society of Future Leaders and the UNC-Chapel Hill student chapter of the International City/County Management Association.
  • Access academic resources including tutoring services, a virtual computer lab, and a writing center. If needed, you will also have access to technical support during each live class session.
  • Work with our career services team to define your career path and search for positions in your area as you hone your interviewing skills and refine your resume and cover letter.

Ready to Become a Leader in Public Administration?

You have the professional experience and the passion for service needed to make a lasting difference in your local, state, or national government. The next step is to earn a Master of Public Administration from a top-ranked school. Start making progress today, and request information about MPA@UNC.

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