Online Master of Public Administration and Policy

Online Master of Public Administration and Policy

What are the program
start dates?

What are the program start dates?

Spring 2024

January 8

Summer 2024

May 6

Fall 2024

Late August

At a Glance

Develop Public Affairs Leadership Skills in Our Prestigious Program

Learn how your leadership can add value to public service roles in government, nonprofit, or for-profit organizations. American University’s online Master of Public Administration and Policy (MPAP) program transforms our students into public service management leaders who enhance all of society, whether in their own communities or globally.

Our School of Public Affairs

You will gain a single, powerful degree when you gain the blended knowledge and experience from our two NASPAA*-accredited programs, the Master’s in Public Administration and Master’s in Public Policy.

Regardless of where you live and work, you can study at an institution with a long-standing reputation for excellence — our School of Public Affairs and learn from leading scholars with deep connections in public affairs. Enrolling in the program gives you immediate access to our vast network of policy experts, reputed faculty, and well-connected alumni.

*Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration

Program Objectives

Master Analytical Skills to Create Effective Public Policy and Administration Programs

Our MPAP degree prepares you with the leadership skills, insight, and critical thinking to craft public policies, lead public programs and monitor their implementation and success effectively. By graduation you can:


Analyze Administrative Problems and Craft Solutions

Apply knowledge of organizational management, leadership, structure and culture, human resource systems, and political and legal context of contemporary public service organizations.


Formulate, Evaluate, and Communicate Public Policy and Programs

Use acquired analytic frameworks and methodological skills, including statistics, economics, and politics while considering their responsiveness, accountability, effectiveness and equity.


Incorporate a Range of Constitutional and Ethical Values

Include values in policy and administrative analysis and actions, including respect for the diversity of people and perspectives in the policy process.


Apply Acquired Skill Sets, Expertise, and Values

Use new knowledge in real-world policy and organizational problems in a collaborative manner.

Program Rankings

Our Master of Public Administration and Policy program ensures you build real-world experience and your professional network to best serve you after graduation.

See How We Set the Standard


Prestigious and Experienced Faculty

Influential scholars within public administration, public policy, and organization development elevate the quality of instruction by sharing their real-world and practical experiences.


Two Strong Programs Combined

Gain a prestigious credential with blended experiences and knowledge from our nationally recognized, NASPAA-accredited master’s programs in public administration and in public policy.


Applied Curriculum

Choose the cases and activities you work on based on the causes or angles you’re interested in. In your capstone course, you will complete a policy analysis or administrative project for a real-world client.


Career Ready

AU delivers the best of both worlds with theoretical, foundational knowledge and how to apply them successfully in practice to the challenges in public administration and policy.

A Top-Ranked Online Master

AU was recognized by Princeton Review, Best Colleges 2022, with the title of College Gets High Marks. Ranked by U.S. News & World Report as:

America’s Best Grad School For:

Admission to American University’s online Master of Public Administration and Policy program requires an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university.

Applicants will need to submit:

*The application fee is typically waived if the application file is complete within a three week period.

Online Merit Scholarships

No Separate Application Required

Prospective students who have a cumulative 3.0 GPA or above (on a 4.0 scale) in their undergraduate program, or those with five or more years of active-duty experience in the military (regardless of their GPA score), can qualify for the Online Merit Scholarship in award amounts up to $12,000.

As part of your application process, your academic history and military experience will be reviewed to see if the scholarship can be applied; there is no separate application to fill out.

You’ll be notified of the scholarship status when you’re admitted to the program, or shortly thereafter.

To receive the scholarship, which is applied equally across the fifth through eighth courses of the program, you must remain in good academic standing.

A Proven Curriculum from a Recognized Institution

When you choose the online Master of Public Administration and Policy from American University, you will study a critical blend of topics in public administration and policy analysis that prepare you to make a real difference in society and advance your career.

Over the course of this program, you will develop knowledge and skills in public administration and policy analysis so you can:

  • Recognize, communicate, and contrast foundational concepts and issues in public policy and administration
  • Practice public administration constitutionally and legally by understanding the Constitution, due process, and equal protection rights
  • Master the foundations of policy analysis and economics to make informed public policy decisions
  • Understand the budget processes and assess financial implications of public decisions
  • Use data and quantitative methods to solve problems, conduct analyses, and evaluate public programs
  • Bridge theory and practice to successfully address complex organizational problems
  • Perform human resource management tasks in the public and nonprofit sector
  • Understand leadership theory and develop mindful leadership skills
  • Apply project management concepts to improve public sector and nonprofit performance
  • Synthesize the full range of your skills by applying it to a salient assignment in collaboration with a client organization


Together, our online faculty deliver a comprehensive understanding of core administrative, policy and analytic skills in an effective and engaging manner. Using their current work in Washington, DC they share the practical application of policy analysis and administration and provide unique insights into today’s challenges policy experts and administrators are facing.

The renowned faculty of our School of Public Affairs are experts in every aspect of public service and develop all courses for this MPAP degree. They work closely with course instructors, who mentor and guide students through the day-to-day learning process.

Our online MPAP courses are developed by faculty who:

  • Hold senior leadership positions at the American Society of Public Administration and the National Academy of Public Administration
  • Consult and train nonprofit organizations and federal and state agencies
  • Work with think tanks in Washington, DC
  • Spearhead critical government-funded public policy research
  • Lead state legislation implementation
  • Are frequently published in top public affairs journals
  • Are authors of leading textbooks in their field
  • Frequently win prestigious awards in the field
  • Regularly appear as expert speakers at conferences and in the media

Our instructors are well-connected professionals in government and the nonprofit sector who have deep connections with managing and analyzing public programs. They hold advanced degrees in public affairs and are part of our Department of Public Administration and Policy, which includes some of today’s most respected educators in their areas of specialization.

Our faculty’s academic credentials, real-world experience, and political and policy expertise provide a world-class education that prepares you for immediate success in your career.

Course Descriptions

Shape your approach to becoming a successful leader in public service. Our instruction offers hands-on, case-based learning and regular opportunities to work and interact with peers.

The online Master of Public Administration and Policy program consists of 12 courses that are each eight weeks long. The curriculum takes you through sequenced coursework in as few as 24 months, during which you take two courses per semester, including fall, spring, summer.

Public Administration and Policy Courses – 3 Credit Hours Each

This introductory course prepares you for advanced coursework and teaches the basic concepts to effectively lead public service programs in the governmental, nonprofit, and private sectors. You will become acquainted with public administration and policy as fields of study, and learn how to recognize, explain, and contrast foundational public administration concepts and issues.

You will explore public administration within political, legal, and social contexts to understand the three broad challenges you will face in your career as a public manager: administrative rationality in a democratic republic, organizational capacity and networks, and institutional opportunities and constraints. You will also gain practical knowledge through case studies and interviews with leading D.C. practitioners in the public, nonprofit, and advocacy sectors.

This course was developed by Senior Professional Lecturer and Director of Online Programs Dr. Sonja Walti. Walti is an international scholar in public policy who has served in consulting, advisory, and decision-making roles at various levels of government in the U.S. and abroad, including the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Italian Agnelli Foundation, and the Quebec Commission on Fiscal Imbalance. Her research on comparative public policy and public administration, policy analysis, comparative federalism, and environmental policy has been published in several major journals.

Course objectives:
  • Receive an introduction to public administration and policy and set the stage for advanced learning
  • Develop beginning skills for public policy analysis and analytic writing
  • Recognize, explain, and contrast foundational concepts in public administration
  • Explain and effectively communicate the range of issues that can occur in public administration
  • Identify causes of success and failure in governance and public administration
  • Diagnose problems and devise solutions for practical problems in public administration
The course covers the following topics:
  • The challenges of governing/organization matters
  • The political and cultural context impacting public policy and administration
  • The structure of the machinery of government
  • Operators, managers, and executives
  • Public financial management
  • Reform trends that have led to collaboration, networks, and public-private governance arrangements
  • Federalism and intergovernmental relations
  • Analysis, implementation, and change

Legal Issues in Public Administration explores the legal framework for contemporary public administration in the United States. You will master how to manage public sector organizations in a constitutional and legal manner and understand when to consult an attorney before taking legal action. You will also learn the principles of federal constitutional and administrative law that govern public administrators’ decisions, activities, and operations.

This course will explain how and why legal requirements must be integrated into general administrative processes, practices, and systems. In the process, you will gain non-technical constitutional competence, which is welcomed by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and required by the federal courts. Although the course deals with public management and U.S. law, many of the issues discussed are also pertinent to other political and administrative systems as well as to nonprofit management.

This course was created by distinguished Professor of Public Administration David Rosenbloom, a National Academy of Public Administration Fellow, a current member of the editorial boards of about 20 academic journals, and the winner of several awards for excellence in teaching and scholarship. Rosenbloom served on the Clinton-Gore Presidential Transition Team for the Office of Personnel Management in 1992.

Rosenbloom was cited by Supreme Court Justices as an authority on the first amendment rights of federal employees in Elrod vs. Burns (1976) and Branti vs. Finkl (1980). His book Public Administration: Understanding Management, Politics, and Law in the Public Sector was ranked the fifth most influential book published in public administration from 1990 to 2010.

Course objectives:

  • Critically reflect on assigned legal cases such as Sherbert vs. Verner and Goldberg vs. Kelly
  • Apply the First and Fourth Amendments, due process, and equal protection rights to administrative problems
  • Learn to manage the administrative law requirements for rulemaking, adjudication, and transparency as applicable to work-related situations
  • Examine the significance of a real-world case by playing the role of a media reporter or blogger reporting on it through your choice of delivery format (video, article, etc.)

The course will cover the following main subject areas:

  • Become aware that what you don’t know can hurt your agency financially
  • The courts and public administration: structuring the Fourth Amendment right to privacy
  • What is equal protection of the law?
  • Freedom of speech and religious freedom
  • Procedural due process, the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, outsourcing the Constitution to contractors and collaborators
  • Dealing with 18th-century constitutional designs for federalism and the separation of powers in contemporary America
  • Judicial review of administrative action and inaction

In this course, you will learn the basics of “speaking truth to power,” an eight-step approach to policy analysis that is professionally rigorous and politically relevant. Study how to translate good policy analysis into better policy by deeply understanding policy problems, carefully formulating solutions, and strategically engaging in dialogue with key decision-makers.

Through selected readings, lectures, discussions, and hands-on assignments, you will assimilate this approach and tailor it to your purposes. You will gain an appreciation for the difficulties of designing policy interventions that can survive not only mistaken assumptions about cause and effect but also flawed implementation processes.

Dr. Karen Baehler, a Scholar in Residence at American University, developed this course. Baehler has extensive experience in policy analysis that has included more than a decade of work for government agencies and think tanks in the Washington DC area, including the American Enterprise Institute, the Maryland Department of Human Resources, and the Roosevelt Center for American Policy Studies. She has published three books, 12 refereed journal articles, and three book chapters on policy-analysis topics.

Course objectives:

  • Demonstrate mastery of the eight steps of policy analysis, including theories and methods associated with each
  • Demonstrate ingenuity in solving problems, openness to competing perspectives, skepticism toward conventional wisdom, political awareness, and care for people affected by policies
  • Learn to write policy memos and provide oral policy recommendations
  • Record a short video response to a case study and provide feedback to other student videos
  • Craft policy advice that is professionally rigorous and relevant and articulates your vision of good policy analysis and its role in the policy process.

The course covers the following topics:

  • Speaking truth to power by relying on evidence to make a case for change
  • Verifying and detailing problems
  • Building an outcomes matrix to assess solutions while thinking outside the box
  • Moving from outcomes matrix to recommendations
  • Testing policy options using logic models as well as common sense
  • Learning from master policy analysts
  • Applying policy evaluation and politics

In this course, you will explore the relationship between economics and public policy and learn the concepts necessary to become an informed consumer of microeconomic-based policy analysis. You will develop an understanding of resource scarcity, opportunity cost, supply and demand, consumer and producer surplus, market equilibrium, competitive markets, economic efficiency, market failure, efficiency equity, and cost-benefit principles.

This course will also show you how to apply the basic principles of modern microeconomic theory to practical public policy problems and decisions. You will discover how to avoid unintended consequences of policy interventions by thinking critically about the resulting incentives and how individuals are likely to respond to them. These skills will help you recognize all relevant costs and benefits to avoid common pitfalls in decision-making.

This course was developed by Professor Seth Gershenson, who has been honored with the Emerging Education Scholar Award sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Gershenson’s approach to teaching and scholarship applies economic approaches to practical, policy-driven questions in policy areas such as education, including studying teacher behavior in response to financial incentives. He has completed grant work for the American Educational Research Association, the Spencer Foundation, and the W.E. Upjohn Institute.

Course objectives:

  • Learn to think like an economist to make sound decisions and avoid negative consequences
  • Design sound policy using principles of behavioral economics
  • Predict how consumers are likely to respond to incentives using marginal cost analysis
  • Use principles of game theory to describe and analyze how players make strategic decisions in competitive environments

The course will cover the following main subject areas:

  • How to think like an economist
  • Supply, demand, and elasticities
  • Externalities and property rights
  • Public goods and information
  • Perfectly competitive markets and profit maximization
  • Regulating monopolies
  • Behavioral economics

This course examines the importance of governmental budgeting and explains the federal budget processes for the executive and legislative branches. It will familiarize you with the role of the federal budget in national economic policy and explore how governments use taxes and other means to acquire and dispense resources. You will consider the relationships between budgeting and financial management, public policy, and politics. The course examines the different processes at the enterprise level (entire nation or entire state), agency level, and program level. While this course emphasizes budgeting and financial management in the federal government, it also includes numerous examples from the state and local levels of government and related to the nonprofit sector.

This course was developed by Albert C. Hyde, an Adjunct Professorial Lecturer at American University. He is the author or editor of numerous public administration textbooks, including an extensively revised 10th edition in July 2022 of Introducing Public Administration. Hyde was a senior staff member and consultant at the Brookings Institution from 1997 to 2009. Before starting his academic career, he was a Foreign Service officer with the U.S. State Department and a senior associate with the New York State Legislative Commission on Expenditure Review.

Course objectives:

  • Understand federal budget processes for the executive and legislative branches
  • Analyze technical budget articles and explain budgeting concepts
  • Define various types of government revenue and spending and the factors driving that revenue and spending
  • Compare and contrast government deficits and federal and state debt
  • Critically examine political budget proposals and determine their probable financial impact

Topics covered in this course include:

  • Budgeting terms
  • Mandatory vs. discretionary spending
  • Federal debt and debt limit
  • Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the president’s budget documents
  • Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis
  • Tax expenditures, balanced budgets, unfunded mandates, and trust funds
  • Capital budget writing and reviewing
  • Budget justifications
  • Budget execution and the alignment of budgeting, politics, and public policy

As a future leader in public affairs, whether as a public manager or a policy analyst, you will need to understand statistics. This course provides those foundations. You will learn how to think about and describe populations and samples, make inferences about populations from samples, and use samples to make predictions about population patterns. Policy professionals will explain how you can process and apply this knowledge. You will also gain hands-on experience using statistical software to work with large datasets, a skill that directly enhances your resume. By the end of the course, you will have a quantitative research project that you can use as a writing sample for interested employers.

Those who understand patterns and trends by means of quantitative data can make better policies and manage programs effectively. In your career, you will likely need to conduct or interpret quantitative analysis of data. You will also need to understand quantitative studies that may influence your decision-making. This course prepares you for both of these essential tasks.

This course was developed by Anna Amirkhanyan, Professor and Chair of DPAP American University.

Course objectives:

  • Understand how to use quantitative data as a tool for solving problems and conducting analysis
  • Learn from policy professionals who explain the process and application of this knowledge
  • Understand basic statistical principles so you can evaluate the quantitative analysis conducted by others
  • Review and understand a variety of quantitative studies that may influence decision-making at your workplace
  • Run basic statistical procedures with SPSS, a software program for statistical analysis and graphical presentation of data

Course topics covered include:

  • Introduction to statistics and data visualization
  • Descriptive statistics: Measures of central tendency and measures of dispersion
  • The normal curve and sampling distributions
  • Inferential statistics: Confidence intervals
  • Hypothesis testing
  • Measures of association: Bivariate measures, correlations, scatterplots, and regression analysis

While significant resources are used to evaluate policies and programs, not all evaluations successfully determine whether a policy or program works. This course will teach you how to distinguish high-quality from low-quality evaluations so you can critically consume evaluation studies. You will learn how to conduct and design evaluations and employ tools that measure whether programs and policies have achieved their objectives.

This course introduces you to a variety of research designs and related methodological tools useful for evaluating the need for a program or policy, its implementation, and its impact on key outcomes. You will learn how organizational, programmatic, and political factors can influence evaluation. The class examines policies and programs in a broad range of areas, including health, criminal justice, education, welfare and poverty.

This course was developed by Associate Professor Alison Jacknowitz, who also serves as the Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Department of Public Administration and Policy. Jacknowitz has won awards from American University for Outstanding Teaching in a Full-Time Appointment and Innovative Use of Technology in Teaching. Her research on issues related to poverty, the elderly, children and families have been funded by several major governmental and academic institutions, including Feeding America, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

The class will require and reinforce a basic understanding of regression analysis. You will apply concepts taught in PUAD 660: Quantitative Methods.

In this course, students will:

  • Learn to critique the validity of evaluation studies
  • Write evaluation questions and corresponding hypotheses
  • Develop a research design to answer an impact evaluation question
  • Create a data collection plan, including questionnaire development
  • Recognize how organizational, programmatic, and political factors can influence evaluation

Topics covered include:

  • Overview of program evaluation
  • Data and regression analysis for program evaluation
  • Validity
  • Evaluation of program theory and logic models
  • Randomized field experiments
  • Quasi-experiments
  • Non-experiments and process evaluation
  • Survey methods

Many daily challenges managers face originate from a need to coordinate and control organizational and individual action to meet program goals and broader social objectives. To address these challenges, public and nonprofit managers must understand the unique institutional context of public organizations and the behavior of individuals within them.

In this course, you will examine several theories that seek to explain the actions of organizations (organizational theory) and the behavior of individuals within organizations (organizational behavior). You will explore relevant research in public administration and bridge theory and practice in ways that will help you approach and successfully address complex management problems. You will accomplish this by studying relevant cases, submitting a paper describing the development of a hypothetical mini-survey, and completing a group paper and presentation of organizational analysis. Along the way, you will get a chance to gain insights into specific organizations and meet relevant practitioners.

The developer of this course is Assistant Professor Khaldoun AbouAssi. AbouAssi holds a Ph.D. in public administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University and served as an assistant professor at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M before joining American University. He has extensive practical experience, having worked for more than 12 years in public and nonprofit organizations in the Middle East. AbouAssi serves in leadership positions at the American Society of Public Administration and the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action.

Course Objectives

  • Explore relevant research in public administration
  • Bridge theory and practice to approach and successfully address complex management problems
  • Acquire the knowledge and abilities necessary to think critically about organizational action and the behavior of individuals within organizations
  • Learn tools and strategies for understanding, interpreting, and responding to the internal and external contexts of public organizations

Topics covered include:

  • Foundations
  • Public-private distinctions
  • Organizational structure, design, and technology
  • Politics, stakeholders, and bureaucracy
  • Decision making
  • Organizational goals and effectiveness
  • Work motivation and employee values
  • Workforce diversity
  • Communication, conflict, and negotiation
  • Group behavior and teams
  • Leadership and organizational innovation and change

This course provides the necessary foundation to perform human resource management responsibilities in the public sector. It will trace the history of the human resource function in the public sector and provide an understanding of the legal context in which human resource managers function, including constitutional protections and equal employment opportunity frameworks. You will learn and apply the skills associated with the primary functions of a human resource department through exercises and case studies. The course also develops your understanding of the legal, political, and practical issues facing public personnel managers.

The format and assignments for this class are designed to build the skills you need as an HR professional. Your assignments will test your abilities to conduct independent research and analysis and to clearly and concisely present your findings in various formats.

This course was developed by Dr. Vicky Wilkins, Interim Provost and previously the Dean of the School of Public Affairs Department of Public Administration and Policy. Prior to that, she served as an administrative leader at the University of Georgia. Wilkins has received six awards for outstanding teaching. Her research on human resource management, representative bureaucracy, bureaucratic discretion, gender and race issues, deservingness, and political institutions has been published in numerous leading public administration and policy studies journals. She is a member of the editorial board of three major journals in public administration.

Course Objectives

  • Gain an understanding of the legal context within which human resource managers in the public sector function
  • Apply the skills associated with the primary functions of a human resource department
  • Distinguish between HR practices in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the core functions of human resource management by applying knowledge to specific examples and cases
  • Critique human resource systems used by various public organizations and recommend (or not) adoption of that practice by a chosen agency

Topics covered include:

  • Human capital in the public sector (history and reform)
  • Constitutional protections
  • HR planning
  • Classification and compensation
  • Recruitment and selection
  • Training
  • Motivation, performance, and discipline
  • Survey methods used to assess human capital

Leadership is not just about having a plan or about having the answers. It’s far more complex. This course teaches you how to let go of the ingrained perceptions of leadership and problem-solving that limit the mind’s ability to see and solve. You will discover and expand your leadership style through individual and collective learning.

In this class, you will explore various leadership models and their strengths and weaknesses and learn to think critically about leadership based on real-world cases. You will learn how to connect leadership concepts and behaviors to other ideas, people, and realms of life. This course also includes exercises that raise issues about the practicality of your leadership style. This exploration of how your perspective shapes your view and enactment of leadership will help you develop your distinctive leadership approach.

This course on leadership was developed by Dr. Ruth Zaplin, Executive-in-Residence at our School of Public Affairs and the Director of International Programs in our Key Executive Leadership Programs. Zaplin served as a senior advisor and project director with the National Academy of Public Administration in Washington, DC, and founded the Academy’s Global Leadership Consortium. As a Senior Manager at BearingPoint, she led enterprise-wide transformation plans, large-scale government reform, workforce restructuring, and work redesign initiatives in both the public and private sectors.

Course Objectives

  • Understand and recognize various approaches and theoretical bases of leadership
  • Identify the unique challenges of leading public sector organizations
  • Analyze and understand your authenticity along with your preferred approaches to leadership
  • Recognize and discuss real-life experiences that will provide opportunities to deal with a variety of leadership problems
  • Identify, research, and interview an executive leader in the public sector regarding their leadership philosophy, style, and practice. Write a report with a detailed overview of the leader that ties in course literature.

Topics covered include:

  • What is leadership?
  • Diagnosis of the leadership self
  • Traits of leaders and approaches to leadershi
  • The style approach to leadership
  • The situational approach to leadership
  • The contingency theory of leadership
  • The path-goal theory of leadership
  • Lead-member exchange theory
  • Women and leadership
  • Leadership and the art of the question
  • Organizational culture and leadership

“Performance” and “results” are two words used to describe what we expect from public management. Successful project completion makes an important contribution to both. A set of disciplines known as the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) aims to improve rates of successful project completion, but its success is unproven.

In this course, you will draw on academic and professional literature as well as case studies to critically examine the project management disciplines and their potential contribution to performance, particularly in the public sector and nonprofit settings. Class readings will identify good practice norms in project management, which you will test against the realities of actual projects, many of which failed. You will scrutinize standards for judging success and consider methods for explaining project outcomes. This course encourages you to challenge existing theories and approaches to help you build a distinctive understanding of project management.

Upon completion of the course, students are qualified to apply for certification as a Certified Associate in Project Management, awarded by the Project Management Institute (PMI). To qualify for the certificate, students need to pass the PMI’s three-hour examination, which contains 150 multiple-choice questions.

This course was developed by Dr. Karen Baehler, who is Scholar in Residence at the School of Public Affairs. Baehler has extensive experience in policy analysis that has included more than a decade of work for government agencies and think tanks in the Washington DC area, including the American Enterprise Institute, the Maryland Department of Human Resources, and the Roosevelt Center for American Policy Studies. She has published three books, 12 refereed journal articles, and three book chapters on policy-analysis topics.

Course Objectives

  • Learn how to apply project management analytical concepts
  • Acquire vocabulary, concepts, and tools of project management
  • Acquire deep knowledge of one project and the reasons for its failures and successes
  • Advance your critical thinking, argumentation, and writing skills
  • Form habits of good practice by applying selected PM methods to a specific project
  • Build habits of engagement, teamwork skills, and presentation skills

Topics covered include:

  • Public management’s perennial problems: Does project management offer solutions?
  • The project plan
  • Risk, contingency planning, and high reliability
  • Measuring, testing, and reporting progress
  • Structure, culture, and teams

This capstone course is the “culminating skills” component of the MPAP degree program. You will put to practice the material from the MPAP curriculum to demonstrate your preparedness to work professionally in the field of public administration and policy. The practicum gives you the opportunity to complete a real-world assignment on behalf of an external client; typically a government agency or a nonprofit organization selected from among the School of Public Affairs partnering organizations.

To complete the assignment over the course of the semester, you will be asked to work in small project teams using virtual collaboration and meeting tools. During that time, you will meet with your client organization on several occasions, including receiving your assignment, clarifying its scope, discussing intermediate deliverables, and finally, presenting your work. Throughout this experience, you will have an opportunity to observe other clients and teams and network with partnering organizations.

Senior Professional Lecturer and Director of Online Programs Dr. Sonja Walti is the developer of this course. Walti is an international scholar in public policy who has served in consulting, advisory, and decision-making roles at various levels of government in the U.S. and abroad, including the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Italian Agnelli Foundation, and the Quebec Commission on Fiscal Imbalance. Her research on comparative public policy and public administration, policy analysis, comparative federalism, and environmental policy has been published in several leading journals.

Course Objectives

  • Accomplish a significant applied policy or administrative analysis project on behalf of an external client
  • Assess mastery of MPAP curriculum content in application to examples of professional policy analysis or management, and identify opportunities for improvement
  • Share insights and experiences and develop a joint learning environment inside and outside the classroom
  • Learn from and closely interact with practitioners
  • Improve understanding of how the MPAP curriculum fits immediate and longer-term career objectives

Topics covered include:

  • Curriculum recap
  • Team formation
  • Kickoff meeting with the client
  • Development of a statement of work
  • Scoping of work and development of a work plan
  • Completion of research and deliverable(s)
  • Presentation of deliverable(s)
  • Critical appraisal of project process and outcome

Rewarding Career Paths Dedicated to Value in Public Policy and Public Administration

Whether you work at the local, state, federal or international level, you are ready to manage and lead effectively. Use your online Master of Public Administration and Policy degree and your professional network to develop a successful career in public service.

You graduate prepared to:

  • Devise and advise public policy
  • Project policy outcomes
  • Gauge budgetary consequences
  • Understand legal implications
  • Craft effective organizational solutions
  • Evaluate the success of a program or policy
  • Manage public service projects from start to finish
  • Lead employees in delivering public service

You will know how to manage and lead public, nonprofit, and private organizations that administer public policy and be prepared to conduct research and develop tools to implement public action.

With your abilities to grasp and solve complex problems to improve policies and public service delivery, you will easily adapt to, and advance within the sector and career you pursue.

AU Grads Work Status

Ninety-five percent of our graduates are working, in grad school, or both.1

See more real-world updates for graduates of this program.

Salary Range for Degree2

Note that 53% of professionals with an MPA or an MPP earn more than $75,001 a year.

Salary Range % of Professionals

Satisfied with Current Job2

Overwhelmingly, professionals with an MPA or MPP are happy in their careers.

Explore MPAP Roles on these Career Paths

Our graduates put their skills to use as project managers or program directors, or as public policy analysts, public affairs specialists, and consultants across all sectors.

Learning to use the different frameworks for policy analysis and applying logic and ethics to the understanding of government policy prepares you for a policy analyst role. Policy analysts may collect or research data related to a particular policy, estimate the effects of new proposed policies and make recommendations, evaluate existing programs, and communicate this information to public officials and other decision-makers.

Coursework prepares you to:

  • Analyze policy problems using statistical, economic, and budgetary tools
  • Produce a well-researched, logically constructed policy memo that examines policy problems and assesses and recommends potential solutions
  • Monitor and evaluate the outcomes, impacts, and performance of public, policy programs
  • Formulate your vision of strong policy analysis and its role in the policy process and develop your ethical grounding

The online Master’s in Public Policy and Administration prepares you for roles such as a level-2 public policy analyst, which typically requires 4-7 years of experience and has a median salary of $91,750.3

With continued experience, you could pursue a government liaison level-3 position and earn a median salary of $132,000 a year.4 In this role, you will monitor and analyze proposed legislation, emerging issues and trends and prepare reports to inform and support the organization.

With a decade of experience, you could become a government liaison level-4. At this point, you work independently and most likely in a specialized area. Your responsibilities revolve around solutions and possibly leadership in your area of expertise. You will earn a median salary of $172,000.5

Networking Associations

The Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management (APPAM) is committed to the improvement of public policy research, analysis, and education.

  • Offers a yearly research conference, in which members are encouraged to present and interact with other leaders in the industry as well as in academia
  • Publishes the peer-reviewed Journal of Policy Analysis & Management
  • Provides many opportunities for students and professionals to exchange ideas and practices

Studying topics in legal and financial issues, organization management, project management, and human resources gives you the grit, grace and skill sets needed to succeed in public administration and management roles. You graduate able to:

  • Analyze and resolve practical problems and decisions encountered by public managers
  • Manage projects and evaluate the effectiveness, efficiency, and budgetary implications of programs
  • Manage and lead employees in small and large public organizations with individual rights and duties in mind
  • Shape and influence organizations and their interactions with relevant stakeholders in the public and private sector
  • Develop and communicate sound advice for policymakers grounded in understanding the constitutional and legal context of public action

Public administration applies to a variety of potential career paths, including those in municipal, county, and state management as well as in the federal government. Public administrators work in a wide range of sectors, including:

  • Education
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Social Services
  • Law and Policy Enforcement
  • Utilities
  • Transportation
  • Urban Planning

In the federal government, salaries are publicized annually in General Schedule (GS) pay tables. A new employee with a master’s degree is typically paid at a GS-9 level. However, if you’ve already been working in a government role, your master’s degree could move you up two paygrades, from a GS-9 to a GS-11, or even from a GS-11 to a GS 13.

Each pay grade on the scale can also evolve within 10 steps to produce a salary range for that level.

  • GS-9 $47,097 – $61,227
  • GS-11 $56,983 – $74,074
  • GS-13 $81,216 – $105,579

Networking Associations

  • The American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) serves as an overarching body offering conferences, and webinars with sector-specific organizations in public administration.
  • The American Public Works Association (APWA) connects professionals in public and private organizations that provide products and services in this sector. APWA offers local chapters for members to meet, network and join task forces.
  • LinkedIn has more than 500 groups for “public administration,” including many that are geo-specific.
  • Job vacancies in the federal government are advertised through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s USAJOBS site.

Throughout your coursework you will cover the unique operational, financial, and managerial aspects of nonprofit management so that you can graduate able to:

  • Lead and manage an entire nonprofit organization, both its internal relations as well as its relations with stakeholders and government entities
  • Meet organizational nonprofit challenges inherent in delivering public services
  • Account for the performance of public program delivery
  • Navigate budgetary and financial constraints in the public sector

Nonprofit work represents 10.2% of private sector employment and is responsible for 12.3 million jobs and $6.7 billion in wages annually.6

When you graduate with a master’s degree, you may start out as a program manager with a salary of $92,718 per year.7 With experience and success, you could become an associate director of a nonprofit, with a median salary of $126,516 a year,8 and after that, a program executive director with a median salary of $144, 828.9

Networking Associations

Students looking to work at the municipal or state level are at an advantage with a combined degree in public administration and public policy. You will understand how to straddle the analytic and management tasks within the ever-present political context. Graduate able to use a lasting set of organizational, managerial, and leadership skills so you can:

  • Diagnose problems and devise solutions for practical problems, especially those at the state and local level
  • Assess budget proposals critically and determine the financial impacts of different courses of action
  • Define various types of government revenue and spending and the factors driving both

With these skills, students are prepared to enter their state or local government offices and improve how the local programs and government departments and agencies operate. Public service employees at the state and local levels may begin as researchers with a salary of $59,740 a year.10 They could progress to city management or a position managing a state’s department, and earn a median salary of $104,00 a year.11

Networking Associations

  • International City/County Management Association (ICMA), which establishes national standards for best practices in city and county management and offers training opportunities.
  • The Governing Institute publishes Governing magazine and regularly holds events and conferences in various parts of the country. The Institute also publicizes evolving best practices in government at the state and local levels.
  • Like their federal counterparts, state and city public administration professionals can advance their careers by joining the American Society for Public Administration. The ASPA serves its members through professional development initiatives and annual conferences.

Students who expect to work in this challenging field must have an in-depth understanding of the way that different organizations function in the public and private sectors. They are often called to seamlessly switch between working in government and operating in a for-profit environment. You graduate able to:

  • Understand how public organizations are structured and their limitations compared to private companies
  • Develop best practices for public organizations within the required framework established by a constitutional and administrative law
  • Strategize to analyze the effects of programs and policies
  • Respond to requests for proposals and manage projects on time and on budget

Joining a consulting firm is a common career path for graduates in public administration and public policy. Consultants bring specialized competencies to the table to assess a program’s efficiencies and make reform and improvement recommendations to programs. Typically, students who wish to start on the path of government consulting start as management analysts or auditors.

At the government level, the median income for management analysts is $81,090per year.12 With many years of experience, government consultants may become an executive in government with an annual salary near $104,730 a year, or choose to work within professional services and earn an average salary of $208,000 or more.13

Networking Associations

Government consultants enjoy access to a premier consulting association:

  • The Institute of Management Consultants USA (IMC USA)
    • The IMC USA offers a professional certification in management consulting and a variety of networking events, such as roundtables, forums and workshops in its local chapters.

Coursework in the MPAP curriculum prepares you to balance competing needs to determine the most effective method in how to finance important public programs. It prepares you to grasp the political and legal contexts that public budgets operate within at all levels of government. Graduate ready for this career path able to:

  • Examine problems and assess alternative courses of action
  • Track program performance and conduct cost estimates and evaluations
  • Evaluate policies and budget priorities based on:
    • Factors driving revenues and expenditures
    • The efficacy of revenue-generating programs
    • Tradeoffs and priorities between alternative revenue-raising and expenditure programs
    • The budgetary effects of expenditure programs on the population as a whole, as well as on the debt burden of future generations

Government funds at any level require careful management to ensure that resources are used effectively and efficiently.

Public administration and policy graduates working in financial management help ensure that budgets for policy initiatives and goals are in line with the needs of constituents. They may create budgets, estimate budgetary impacts, account for funds, analyze the use of funds, collect fees and some taxes, or study the implications of the use of public funds.

People in this field often start out as budget analysts in local, state or federal government, where 46% of them work and earn between $77,000 and $87,000 a year.14 With experience, you could step into a financial manager role in government and earn an average income of $123,010.15

Networking Associations

  • The American Association for Budget and Program Analysis supports public finance professionals across the country through their peer-reviewed journal, Public Budgeting & Finance, summer internships for students, career development resources, and yearly conferences.
  • You will find numerous groups online, including Public Finance International, and several national and regional groups devoted to public finance on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Career Services

American University’s Career Center offers its services to online and on-campus students as well as to all alumni, so you will continue to receive support for as long as you need it.

This means you will have access to resources for your job search, career advising, internships, and scholarships. You can also network, look for jobs, and apply for positions by making an account at AU Career Web, our online career search tool.

Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF)

Online MPAP Graduates Join Esteemed PMF Program

Every year, approximately 6,000 public administration and policy graduate students apply for the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) program in hopes of joining its prestigious ranks. The PMF program, established by executive order in 1977, was designed to provide a pipeline of qualified professionals who could bring their skills and expertise to the federal government.

Landing a fellowship means a paid, two-year appointment working for the federal government. Alumni of the program include senators, diplomats, and federal program directors — becoming a PMF finalist can jump-start the careers of civil servants and provide them with a powerful network.

In 2022, about 7% of PMF applicants became finalists, and only 33% of those were selected for a fellowship.16

The extensive testing, resume evaluation, and essay writing processes are intense, and for most, the PMF experience ends with the application process. But with support from peers and faculty, the number of PMF appointments to American University grads outnumbers those from all other universities in the nation — in 2022, 41% of our PMF finalists were awarded a fellowship.16

Dedicated to Your Success

American University actively encourages its top students who are interested in a federal public service career to apply for the PMF program and provides detailed online information sessions.

After applying, candidates must take an online test and submit a résumé and transcript. Top-performing, first-round candidates are named finalists and are eligible for an appointment as a Fellow with a participating federal agency.

While it’s a challenging process, American University prepares its candidates for each stage.

First step: The online test

One secret to the school’s success: American University has a Blackboard site set up with study guides and offers prep workshops for students who plan to take the three-hour test.

For finalists: Connections and networking

If selected, finalists have one year to apply for positions available only to Fellows. Last year, there were 550 finalists. American University connects its finalists with alumni through networking sessions in which finalists receive tips on applying for these positions. This dramatically improves their chances of success when applying. Because of the school’s efforts and support, 98 percent of American University’s finalists become Fellows.

Built to address the real-world needs of policy professionals and public administrators, the online MPAP program offers experiences that truly prepare graduates to make a difference. With many opportunities to collaborate, network, and take on realistic challenges, the program produces outstanding graduates.

Alumni Employers

As passionate change-makers, our alumni are responsible for using their policy skills to make an impact. You can join an incredible set of AU alumni who work in diverse roles across sectors and organizations.

  • Accrediting Commission of Career
  • Schools and Colleges
  • Achieve Now
  • Administrative Office of the U.S.
  • Courts
  • Booz Allen Hamilton
  • Center for Coalfield Justice
  • Chicago Department of Cultural
  • Affairs and Special Events
  • City Year Los Angeles (AmeriCorps)
  • Office of the Inspector General – Social Security Administration 
  • For Our Future
  • Committed to Change
  • Crossroads Treatment Centers
  • Forward Majority Action
  • Hamilton County Job & Family Services
  • Health & Medicine Counsel of Washington
  • International Justice Mission
  • Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • Mount Sinai Health System
  • National Cancer Institute
  • National Transportation Safety Board
  • Nevada Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence
  • Rhode Island Department of Labor & Training
  • South Dakota Unified Judicial System
  • U.S. Air Force
  • U.S. Coast Guard
  • U.S. House of Representatives
  • U.S. Marine Corps
  • U.S. Navy
  • U.S. Senate
  • Volunteers of America
  • Washington State Department of Commerce

Learning Online

American University welcomes its online students as a part of its community. As an online student, you’ll learn from the same outstanding faculty and be held to the same learning standards as students who attend courses on campus. On-campus and online programs deliver the same outcomes, and important support systems, like career resources, are set up for online learners as well. The only difference is you’re allowed to learn when and where it’s best for you so you can earn your degree and advance your career without putting the rest of your career and life on hold.

We Bring AU to You

Our digital campus was intentionally designed based on extensive research behind what makes online learning successful. We combine advanced technology, hands-on experiences, and full access to the American University community. Here, you’re not an online student, you’re an AU student.

Rigorous Courses

Online courses are as challenging as their on-campus counterparts and taught by the same connected faculty members, influential guest speakers and prominent lecturers.

100% Support

New-student orientation, 24×7 help desk for technical issues, a student services coordinator, financial aid advisers and more are all available to ensure your success.

Expert Faculty

Home to some of the most acclaimed scholars and thought leaders in the world, you’ll learn from award-winning scholars and policymakers, diplomats, authors, artists, attorneys, scientists, journalists and more.

Collaborative Learning

Use virtual tools to talk about your coursework, work in teams with classmates, build strong connections, network with others and ask your instructor questions and turn in assignments.

Military Education Benefits

American University is dedicated to supporting military service members, veterans, and their families.

As an online Master of Public Administration and Policy student, you can transform your military experience and leadership skills into new career possibilities as you earn your degree regardless of where you live or are stationed.

We support a full range of military education benefits such as:

Additionally, if you’ve served in any branch of the U.S. military on active duty within the past three years, you’re eligible to waive the application fee. We accept transfer credits from military coursework, have a dedicated Office of Veterans Services to help connect you to benefits, and maintain an active Veterans Services Support Network.

We welcome you to learn more about our military benefits and how to apply for them.

Take Your First Step Today

Become an American University student. A passion for public service, an emphasis on active leadership, and a global outlook are the hallmarks of the American University learning experience. We create graduates who stand out from their peers as active, socially aware, and compassionate leaders who work toward creating meaningful change in our world.

Join Us

To learn more about American University’s Master of Public Administration and Policy program, request more information, request an appointment, or call us toll-free at 855-725-7614

Program FAQs

Admission requirements for the online Master of Public Administration and Policy program include a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university.

Applicants will need to submit the following:


All applicants are considered for the Online Merit Scholarship in award amounts up to $12,000 during the application review — no separate application is required.

*The application fee is typically waived if the application file is complete within three weeks.

A TOEFL score of 600 (or 100 on the internet-based test), a minimum score of 68 on the Pearson Test of English, or a minimum IELTS score of seven (7) is required. Additionally, applicants with international transcripts must have them evaluated course by course. For a list of acceptable evaluators, go to

Applicants will complete a phone interview with the Program Director and will need to submit:

Yes, it is not a requirement to have an undergraduate degree in public administration and policy.

The program can be completed in 24 months at a full-time pace of two courses each semester. Taking more than two courses per semester is not recommended due to the rigor of the program.

No, there are no specializations offered. This program is structured to blend the core curriculum of the campus Master of Public Administration and Master of Public Policy.

GRE requirement is currently being waived. Although the MPAP program does not require the GRE, students with a GPA below 3.0 are encouraged to take the GRE for further evaluation. LSAT scores can also be evaluated in place of the GRE.

Our application deadline varies based on the term you are applying for. Please note that the earlier you submit your application, the sooner you will know whether you’ve been awarded the Online Merit Scholarship. Please contact our online admissions advisors for a specific timeline as to when your application file needs to be fully submitted.

Our fall semester starts in late August. The spring semester starts in January. The summer session begins in May.

Graduate students enrolled at least part-time in a master’s program may be eligible for federal loans. To apply, students must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Our FAFSA number is 001434.

The final course in your Master of Public Administration and Policy is to demonstrate what you’ve learned by performing policy analysis or a management project for an external client.

Professionals with a Master of Public Administration and Policy are typically employed in the public, for-profit, and nonprofit sectors in the United States and abroad. Learn more about our graduates’ success.

When you graduate with a Master of Public Administration and Policy degree, you will be prepared for a variety of nonprofit jobs, depending on your experience within the field, including:

  • Nonprofit Program Manager
  • Nonprofit Budget Analyst
  • Nonprofit Operations Manager
  • Director of Development
  • Chief Operating Officer
  • Chief Executive Officer

Yes. A significant portion of our graduates have entered careers with nonprofit organizations.

American University is pleased to offer the Online Merit Scholarship to students who demonstrate undergraduate excellence and continue to graduate studies as well as to incoming students who have five years or more of active-duty military experience. Scholarships are available to students who meet the eligibility requirements. Contact an admissions counselor for more information.

Yes, online students can easily request a Student ID online to take advantage of all the same resources as our on-campus students.

Program Resources | Industry Updates


Home to some of the most acclaimed scholars and thought leaders in the world.


Home to some of the most acclaimed scholars and thought leaders in the world.


Home to some of the most acclaimed scholars and thought leaders in the world.