Public Administration, Master of Public Administration

Department of Politics and International Affairs

College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

The objective of our M.P.A. program is to improve the knowledge and skills of individuals already employed in public and nonprofit organizations and to prepare less-experienced students for careers in public service. We offer courses leading to the M.P.A. degree during the day, in the evening, and on weekends. Selected courses are offered in a web-based format. Consult your program advisor about details about these courses and applicability to your program of study.

  • To receive a master’s degree at Northern Arizona University, you must complete a planned group of courses from one or more subject areas, consisting of at least 30 units of graduate-level courses. Many master’s degree programs require more than 30 units.

    You must additionally complete:

    • All requirements for your specific academic plan(s). This may include a thesis.
    • All graduate work with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0.
    • All work toward the master's degree must be completed within six consecutive years. The six years begins with the semester and year of admission to the program.

    Read the full policy here.

In addition to University Requirements:

  • Complete individual plan requirements.

Minimum Units for Completion 39
Fieldwork Experience/Internship Optional
Progression Plan Link View Program of Study

Mission Statement

The purpose of the Master of Public Administration is to prepare both pre-service and mid-career professionals for leadership and management roles in public and not-for-profit sectors.  As the preeminent public MPA program in Northern Arizona, we play a unique role in serving the people and public institutions of this region at the county, municipal, state, tribal and federal levels. In addition to this regional focus, we aspire to serve students from throughout the state, the nation and even internationally. To make ourselves as accessible as possible, our classes can be taken both in-person at our residential Flagstaff campus, or online from anywhere with an Internet connection.

The NAU MPA also has a unique and innovative partnership with the Department of Applied Indigenous Studies that allows students to concurrently complete a certificate program in Indigenous and Tribal Nation-Building, Leadership, Management, and Administration. Because of this partnership, as well as our geographical proximity to a number of indigenous nations, students who are interested in tribal government and administration have access to educational resources and opportunities that are not available at most other institutions.

The curriculum of the NAU Masters of Public Administration builds a strong foundation in the theoretical and practical dimensions of public management and educates students within a program of study that facilitates intellectual development, promotes scholarship, and integrates the theory and practice of public administration with the promotion of public service values. Because effective leaders and managers need to be adaptable and creative, this degree provides a broad perspective on political science, leadership, implementation of policies, problem-solving, analysis, ethics, and improved organizational performance. Students will be able to use key concepts and analytical approaches from human resource administration, public budgeting, ethics and administrative law, within the context of the public service values of equity, accountability, transparency, access and responsiveness to diversity.

Our curriculum ensures that students can engage in the core competencies of enhancing leadership and decision-making, communicating effectively in diverse organizational settings, contributing to the public policy process, advancing a public service perspective, and using critical thinking and problem solving in organizational settings.

The faculty of this department are innovative teachers and researchers who engage students in their classes, research agendas and co-curricular activities. Faculty regularly encourage students to engage in research projects, therefore exposing them to professional political science research. Additionally faculty may guide students towards internships, help them to develop independent studies, and work with them to develop emphasis areas that suit their needs and interests. These broad opportunities and perspectives help students understand our diverse world.

Our goal is to train pre-career and in-service professionals to be active, engaged and informed participants in the public and not-for-profit sectors.
Learning Outcomes/Core Competencies
Graduates of the MPA program should demonstrate the ability:

  1. To lead and manage in public governance, including being able to
    1. Apply theories of management, leadership and organization to deliver effective governance in public and non-profit organizations
    2. Apply theories of public institutions and constitutional governance to ensure that practices are aligned with constitutional principles
    3. Assess the major theories of human resource management to select approaches that will best support the professional development and management of human resources in various areas
    4. Apply current legal requirements guiding human resource management in public and non-profit settings
    5. Demonstrate a working understanding of the budgeting process in public and non-profit settings, including the ability to create, read and analyze a budget.
    6. Apply ethical reasoning to administrative design and decision-making in the context of public management and leadership.
  2. To participate in and contribute to the policy process, including being able to
    1. Demonstrate a broad and deep understanding of one or more political or policy areas
    2. Demonstrate an understanding of how budgetary issues impact the policy process
    3. Demonstrate knowledge of theories of the policy process as expressed in models of governmental behavior and decision-making
    4. Demonstrate knowledge of constitutional and public service values and principles guiding the policy process and its outcomes in the context of federalism
    5. Conduct research and present findings in writing
  3. To analyze, synthesize, think critically, solve problems and make decisions, including being able to
    1. Compare and contrast different theories of management, leadership and organization in terms of each theory’s assumptions, applications, insights and limitations.
    2. Compare and contrast different theories of public institutions and constitutional governance in terms of each theory’s assumptions, applications, insights and limitations.
    3. Formulate, develop and support arguments and recommendations in written essays and research papers
    4. Design quantitative and qualitative research projects, analyze data and draw conclusions
    5. Use ethical and practical reasoning in class assignments and discussions
    6. Explain and apply different models of decision making.
  4. To articulate and apply a public service perspective, including being able to
    1. Describe the importance of democratic and constitutional values in public management
    2. Analyze and explain how different theories of public management and organizations define and attempt to realize democratic and constitutional values
    3. Define and discuss the importance of equity, transparency, participation, accountability and diversity in public management and organizations
    4. Define and discuss efficiency and effectiveness from a public service perspective
  5. To communicate and interact productively with a diverse and changing workforce and community, including being able to
    1. Critically reflect upon the nature and consequences of diversity (e.g. race, gender, class, ethnicity, religion, culture, nation), and develop an understanding of how this diversity both alters and is altered in a world characterized by global interaction
    2. Demonstrate professional behavior in terms of demeanor, personal presentation, ethics, and civic participation in experiential learning and classroom settings.
    3. Write effectively and persuasively about the key principles, theories and issues of public administration.
    4. Speak and/or interact in diverse public and professional settings.

Additional Admission Requirements
  • Individual program admission requirements over and above admission to NAU are required.

  • The NAU graduate online application is required for all programs. Admission to many graduate programs is on a competitive basis, and programs may have higher standards than those established by the Graduate College.

    Admission requirements include the following:

    • Transcripts.
    • Undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution with a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale ("A" = 4.0), or the equivalent.

    Visit the NAU Graduate Admissions website for additional information about graduate school application deadlines, eligibility for study, and admissions policies.

    Ready to apply? Begin your application now.

    International applicants have additional admission requirements. Please see the International Graduate Admissions Policy.

    • A bachelor’s degree in a closely related discipline
    • Cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above or  6 units of subsequent coursework at the graduate level with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better
    • Three letters of recommendation
    • A writing sample
    • A personal statement or essay
    • Resume or curriculum vitae
Master's Requirements
  • Take the following 39 units:

    Core Coursework in Public Administration (24 units):

    Seminar or Independent Study plus field work experience after you have completed the Public Administration coursework (6 units):
    • Seminar: POS 681, with a grade of "B" or better (6 units) OR
    • A combination of field work experience, POS 608 (3 units), and Independent Study, POS 697 (3 units)
    Select 15 units of electives which may include the POS courses listed below or other NAU courses chosen in consultation with your advisor. Note that POS 428 or POS 581 can be taken twice with different topics. Concentration Area
    You may choose a concentration from a particular field or take several interdisciplinary courses that comprise a coherent area of study.

    Areas from which you may select a concentration or area of study include, but aren't restricted to, Criminal Justice Administration, Educational Administration, Environmental Management, Applied Sociology, and Tribal Government. 

    Choose all courses in consultation with your academic advisor. You may count up to two 400-level courses toward this degree if they haven't previously been counted toward a bachelor's degree.
  • Be aware that some courses may have prerequisites that you must also successfully complete. For prerequisite information, click on the course or see your advisor.