When considering graduate degree options, students are often faced with the difficult decision of determining exactly which degree path is best for them. A Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree shares some common curricular characteristics with a number of similar graduate options, however, each is uniquely designed to produce professionals with specialized skill sets.
What is an MPA?
Designed for those seeking leadership roles in the public or nonprofit sector, UNC's MPA helps students develop skills in project and program management, policy implementation, public financial management, and human resources. Students complete a curriculum that revolves around core principles of public administration:
Public Organization Management
Public Finance and Budgeting
Political and Legal Processes
Upon graduation, students emerge prepared for careers in government, criminal justice, nonprofit management, urban planning, analysis, government affairs, advocacy, and national security.
MPA vs. MPP
Professionals who aspire to obtain careers in government have two major options for graduate education: an MPA or a Master of Public Policy (MPP). Both degree paths help students understand global concepts from social, economic, and political contexts, emphasizing ethical policy communication.
How does an MPP differ from an MPA?
Aimed at students interested in analyzing, evaluating, and solving policy-related issues, an MPP degree focuses heavily on concepts such as data management, statistical analysis, policy analysis and creation, and financial modeling. Unlike an MPA—which prepares students for leadership-focused careers—MPP graduates tend to be more qualified for analytical roles in fields such as health policy, advocacy, environmental policy, government, nonprofits, and consulting.
MPA vs. MBA
Both an MPA degree and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree focus heavily on leadership and operations management; and many aspiring public service leaders are unsure which path to pursue.
How does an MBA differ from an MPA?
Designed for aspiring business leaders, MBA programs focus on skills such as human resource management, strategic thinking, business expertise, financial analysis, and consumer targeting.
Depending on their specialization, MBA graduates tend to be prepared for careers in fields such as marketing, financial advising, entrepreneurship and consulting, whereas MPA@UNC graduates learn to apply their leadership skills toward careers in public service.
MPA vs. MPH
Those interested in the dynamic and quickly growing field of public health often weigh two options: an MPA or a Master of Public Health (MPH).
How does an MPH differ from an MPA?
MPH programs prepare students to work administratively and on the ground in key areas of public health. This degree option is suited for those who feel certain they want to pursue a career in public health and healthcare and who want to work closely with a community or population to address and prevent public health problems.
MPH programs typically place greater emphasis on theoretical exploration of population health, health policy, epidemiology, and patterns of disease. MPA programs focus more heavily on program implementation and management within these fields. For individuals who have a more general interest in public service, the MPA degree is a more versatile choice, as it can lead to a wider range of career options.
The UNC School of Government's Master of Public Administration program is among the most well-respected and highly ranked in the United States. Faculty members are deeply engaged in matters of public administration and advise public officials at all levels. The wealth of expertise that faculty members bring to the classroom—including online MPA classrooms—help prepare students for the leadership roles they need to make a meaningful difference in their communities.
The MPA@UNC curriculum covers a range of topics and ideas, all with the common goal of promoting practical and interpersonal leadership skills.
To learn more about MPA@UNC, request information today.
Take the Next Step
Advance your career in public administration by earning an MPA degree online from UNC.