A Master of Public Affairs, or MPA, is one of the most versatile and valuable degrees available—a combination of the Master of Public Administration and the Master of Public Policy degrees. At the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs our students are prepared for public service jobs in our changing society in ways unmatched by other universities. Our MPA program builds leaders who will make a difference in our world.
Master of Public Affairs: A versatile and valuable degree
As an online student, you'll benefit from the flexibility of our 48-credit-hour program consisting of three components:
At a glance
1. Core Courses
10 courses, 24 credit hours
2. Advanced Electives
5 courses (15 hours) from your declared focus area, with up to an additional 3 courses (9 credit hours) of elective credit.
3. An experiential component
Completed through an internship or waived through prior professional experience.
Find the right balance for you
We recommend taking two courses a semester, but you may take more with permission from the faculty director. Summer courses are offered, too. Students in our program are able to juggle their careers, family obligations, and course work.
Course, elective, and experiential component details
Our core curriculum gives you the necessary knowledge and skills to progress in your career. These required courses prepare you to face the big issues in our society:
- Leading and Managing Public Affairs (3 credits)
- Social Equity and Justice (1.5 credits)
- Designing and Managing Complex Projects (1.5 credits)
- Statistical Analysis for Effective Decision Making (3 credits)
- Problem Solving for Effective Decision Making (1.5 credits)
- Public Management Economics (3 credits)
- Law for Public Affairs (1.5 credits)
- Policy Process and Institutions (3 credits)
- International Policy and Institutions (3 credits)
- Public Finance and Budgeting (3 credits)
- U.S. or Global Capstone (3 credits)
*Students can choose to take Policy Process and Institutions or International Policy and Institutions
You will choose at least five advanced elective courses to fulfill your degree requirements and tailor the curriculum to meet your needs. You may need to take more than five, depending on the number of credits you receive from your experiential component, to meet the 48 credits required for the degree.
Students are required to focus in at least one of the following MPA advanced curriculum areas: Public Management, Nonprofit Management, Policy Analysis, or Public Budgeting and Financial Management.
One of your electives can be the optional, weeklong residential program held at our Bloomington, Indiana, campus in early August.
Relevant experience is key to professional growth. That’s why, as an O’Neill Online student, you must do ONE of the following:
- Complete an approved internship
- Receive credit for prior professional experience or volunteer service
- Complete an independent or group research project (V590 or V601)
To see if you qualify for an experiential requirement waiver, forward your resume to
Accelerate your MPA with prior experience
Earn a credit hour reduction of up to 12 hours with prior experience, reducing the overall cost of the program and time it takes to graduate.
3-credit hour reduction: minimum of two years' technical, administrative, or policy-level work experience with a government, nonprofit, or private agency.
6-credit hour reduction: two to four years of relevant full-time managerial and/or policymaking experience in any sector, such as program leadership, budgetary oversight, organizational or staff development, fundraising, analysis, planning, or human resources supervision.
9-credit hour reduction: five to seven years of relevant full-time managerial and/or policymaking experience. At this point, at least one higher-level, multi-year assignment is expected, including responsibility for supervision of staff, budget preparation, or organizational control of public or nonprofit agencies.
12-credit hour reduction: eight or more years of relevant managerial and/or policymaking experience leading to one or more executive assignments.