Master of Public Affairs (MPA)

Earn your MPA from a leader in public affairs education

With an MPA from the O’Neill School, your education builds on five decades of growth and scholarship. The O’Neill School is one of the largest and most-respected schools of its kind, consistently recognized as one of the best among all Master of Public Affairs programs.

Jumpstarting your MPA journey is easy. The GRE is not required and you may qualify to earn up to nine credit hours with prior experience. Choose to complete your MPA in residence, online, or as a hybrid option, allowing you to switch between in-residence and online delivery as needed.

98%employment or continuing education rate for grads (2020-21)

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MPA overview

Watch an overview of the Master of Public Affairs program at the O'Neill School. 

Description of the video:

O’Neill is the place where you come to learn about how to make a real difference. Whether it's in local, state, or federal government. Whether it's in consulting or contracting or whether it's in nonprofits. O’Neill creates leaders and we are expected to go out into the world after this and make a difference. We also have a lot to fix and make better. The O’Neill MPA is designed to prepare students to lead organizations and create positive change in the world. We combined a rigorous core curriculum with a rich experiential component to deliver the skills, the knowledge, and the hands-on learning needed to provide value to employers on day number one. I work with Deloitte consulting. We are a technology company and a consulting company, and we help public sector organizations solve big problems. One of the reasons I come on campus to recruit O’Neill students is, I know the critical thinking skills that they will have. I know the analytics background that they will have. Learning those kinds of skills at O’Neill early on really helped me stand out and I think those skills transferred directly into the workplace. The main thing that we're looking for is talented people who can help us solve problems and O’Neill has that in spades. We pride ourselves on having one of the most flexible programs possible. We do this by offering so many different concentrations. We also do so by allowing students to move back and forth between the online and the residential program and by taking as many electives as they'd like to take. Part of what makes O’Neill so unique is the professors that we have here. Those within academics are the top in their field. Those with prior professional experience understand what you're going to be walking into after you leave O’Neill. Students benefit from faculty expertise in the classroom, as well as through close mentorship, guiding them through coursework and even beyond graduation as they continue into their careers. The foundation that O’Neill helped me build in my career is invaluable. I made professional connections that helped me not just launch my career but to this day I run across O’Neill alumni in my daily work. As an O’Neill student you'll gain instant access to a powerful network of more than 36 000 alumni around the globe. They help offer guidance and mentorship and real-world connections. You're going to have a network that you can depend on. You're going to have the resources and the skills that usually only come from years in a field. We want people who are not only smart, that's important, but they care about making the world a better place. Doing good is at the top of everyone's priority list here and it's great to be in a school where that is our motto.


Washington, D.C. Accelerator Program

Interested in a career in the nation’s capital? Our D.C. Accelerator program combines the traditional MPA with an immersive one-year experience in Washington, D.C.

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Learn to lead for the greater good

Our interdisciplinary nature sets us apart. It’s a program based on doing, designed to prepare skilled, principled, and creative leaders.

You’ll learn how to address society’s complex, interconnected problems through a traditional public administration and policy analysis curriculum blended with recent academic advances in leadership and governance. And, you’ll graduate with the skills you will need for a career in any sector—public, private, or nonprofit.

  • American Red Cross, Manager 
  • Booz Allen Hamilton, Energy Communication Specialist - Senior Consultant 
  • Chicago Housing Authority, Senior Energy Analyst
  • Crowe Horwath LLP, Healthcare Consultant
  • Cummins, Corporate Responsibility Program Manager
  • Deloitte, Business Technology Analyst
  • Federal Election Commission, Campaign Finance Analyst
  • GAO, Analyst
  • Grant Thornton, Global Public Sector Associate
  • Habitat For Humanity, International Senior Analyst
  • Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Project Manager - Wetlands, Lakes, and Streams
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness, Development Associate
  • Nestle, Safety Health and Environmental Specialist
  • New York City Department of Education, Co-Director, Mastery Collaborative
  • PWC, Management Consultant Senior Analyst
  • The Nature Conservancy, Urban Conservation Program Associate
  • U.S. Agency for International Development, South Syrian Assistance Platform Program Management Assistant
  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration Officer
  • United Nations, Project Assistant
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency, Presidential Management Fellow and Environmental Protection Specialist

“I have had one-of-a-kind opportunities to learn from and research with world-renowned professors and scholars in the energy and environmental policy fields. The MPA program has equipped me with applied skills to lead for the greater good and make a difference in my community.” 

Jona Jaha, MPA Student, Fulbright Scholar  

The MPA Program

2years to complete

48credit hours

Consider a dual degree

Get more education in less time with a dual degree—earning two master's degrees in less time than it would take to earn each degree separately. Combine your MPA with an MAAA, MSES, or MIA degree and further your career possibilities. 

Learn more about our dual degrees:

Our program mission statement, goals, and values

To foster a distinguished community of principled, creative, and skilled practitioners and leaders who serve the public good from an interdisciplinary and global perspective.

  • Instilling the interdisciplinary knowledge and skills needed to effectively address problems through objective and evidence-based analysis, implementation, and evaluation of policies;
  • Positioning our graduates to excel in the public, non-profit, and private sectors where they contribute to the public good by addressing social, economic, environmental, and governance challenges efficiently, effectively, and equitably;
  • Developing students from diverse backgrounds who can understand and manage the complexity and dynamics of contemporary issues in public affairs;
  • Fostering and modeling professional ethics such as fairness, compassion, accountability, transparency, and respect for the rule of law;
  • Producing high-quality policy-oriented research and professional service that focuses on significant issues in public affairs, and creating innovative opportunities for students to learn from and collaborate with leading scholars and practitioners.

  • Being dedicated to service in the public interest, and contributing to the public;
  • Utilizing skills and creativity to address public problems;
  • Exhibiting professional ethics, including accountability and transparency;
  • Using resources efficiently and responsibly;
  • Acting with caring and compassion, demonstrating equity and fairness, and respecting views expressed by citizens and public servants; and
  • Upholding the public trust and democratic ideals, such as the rule of law, the protection of individual liberties, and intellectual freedom.

Competency #1: To lead and manage in the public interest

Definition: To understand and improve how organizations operate individually and collectively to address social, economic, environmental, and administrative problems. To understand different forms of governance and how they are used in partnerships across public, nonprofit, and private sectors to advance the interest of society.

Learning outcomes:

  1. To analyze situations that involves interaction between the public, nonprofit, and private sectors.
  2. To use theory and models of organizational behavior, while taking into consideration the political, institutional, legal, and ethical context and other environmental constraints.
  3. To discern the impact of leadership styles and cultural values on organizational operations.
  4. To appropriately apply strategic decision-making techniques and models.
  5. To identify and demonstrate understanding of the characteristics of successful leaders.

Competency #2: To participate in and contribute to the policy process

Definition: To use knowledge and skills to effectively address social, economic, environmental, and administrative problems through appropriate policy processes.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. To identify the structure, function, and similarities and differences between the public, nonprofit, and private sectors, the legal frameworks in which the sectors operate, and how each sector affects the public policy process.
  2. To utilize the results of appropriate quantitative or qualitative methods to inform decision making in the policymaking process.
  3. To effectively identify stakeholders and develop strategies to collaborate with them.

Competency #3: To analyze, synthesize, think critically, solve problems, and make evidence-informed decisions in a complex and dynamic environment

Definition: To develop quantitative and qualitative skills to address policy problems and inform decision making within the policy process.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. To collect, analyze, interpret, and present data using appropriate models and methods.
  2. To apply critical-thinking skills to the resolution of public problems.
  3. To understand the politics of the policymaking process; role of politics in determining the kinds of policies that are adopted.

Competency #4: To articulate, apply, and advance a public service perspective

Definition: To develop awareness of individual and organizational responsibility and service to the public and one's organization, and a commitment to ethical practice and professional excellence.

Learning outcomes:

  1. To recognize legal, political, economic, and cultural constraints on policy formation and program administration.
  2. To develop the knowledge and skills necessary to take personal responsibility for performing one's work in an ethical and professional manner.

Competency #5: To communicate and interact productively and in culturally responsive ways with a diverse and changing workforce and society at large

Definition:To communicate and work effectively and in diverse settings. Dimensions of diversity include, but are not limited to, age, culture, ideology, race and ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. To communicate effectively with an understanding of diverse institutional and cultural norms.
  2. To work effectively in a diverse team and deal effectively with conflict.
  3. To comfortably and respectfully discuss societal problems and solutions with diverse groups.

Learn from the best

Our faculty members are scholars, practitioners, and educators. Their wide-ranging research and service activities around the globe result in practical and professional applications of public affairs theories in the classroom, where they draw not just from their own education but also their experience.

Learn more about faculty research

Take the first step toward a top-ranked MPA degree
50 years at O'Neill