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MPA Program Supports Advancement of Military and Post-Military Careers

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Master of Public Administration helps continue service through military and civilian careers

Military service member discussing active duty and post military careers

MPA Online Benefits for Active Duty and Veterans

Serving in the military provides unique experiences and skills that are highly valued in public administration. Active duty military personnel and veterans from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard can pursue a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree through USC Price’s flexible online program to build upon their experience and either transition to a civilian career or continue serving in a military career.

Many of the skills developed in military training—navigating uncertainty, strategic leadership skills, effective decision-making, and more—are extremely beneficial in the public administration field. Building on military experience with an advanced degree can be a path to becoming more versatile as a higher-ranking officer or to adapting this existing skill set to a civilian job.  

An MPA degree is a professional degree that prepares individuals for leadership positions in government and non-profit organizations, as well as public and private sector organizations. At the University of Southern California, the MPA online curriculum focuses on two areas of managerial competency: 1) institutions and organizations and 2) analytics. Within these areas, students combine core classes with elective coursework to develop key skills relevant to career goals. 

Many who serve in the military do so with a strong sense of duty and a desire to help others. Pursuing a USC Master of Public Administration degree online allows active duty members and veterans to continue to serve their communities in a different capacity by working in public service and making a positive impact on society.

Life After the Military

There are many options for those interested in transitioning from the military and returning to civilian life. The online MPA from USC Price prepares students for a career working in city/county management, emergency services, criminal justice, nonprofit management, shaping public policy, leading in the private sector, and more.

Graduates can gravitate toward diverse career opportunities. At USC Price, 99.5% of MPA online graduates are employed in government, non-profits, or the private sector. Some recent examples include:


  • City Manager / Deputy City Manager
  • Community Development Director
  • Intelligence Officer / Senior Law Enforcement
  • Fire Chief
  • Director, Office of the Assessor
  • Public Information Officer
  • Management Analyst
  • Strategic Project Manager
  • Emergency Management Coordinator


  • Board of Directors Member
  • Executive Director
  • Grants Administrator
  • Social and Community Services Director
  • Postsecondary Education Administrator
  • Financial Literacy Advocate

Public Policy:

  • Legislator Senior Legislative Aide
  • Lobbyist
  • Government Affairs Director
  • Public Affairs Manager
  • Speechwriter
  • Director of Development
  • Senior Field Representation, State Senate Office
  • Deputy State Director, U.S. Senator
  • Deputy District Director, U.S. House of Representatives

Alumni Spotlight: Christopher Himes, US Naval Officer and Aviator

MPA Christopher Himes, military careers
Christopher Himes,
MPA Online ‘15

“When I first started researching what programs were out there, I was living in Pensacola, Florida, and I was also still serving in the Navy. So I couldn’t take a break, and then go to school, and then come back into service. I had to find something that adjusted to my schedule. So the online option was pretty much the only thing that I could go through, while I was still serving active duty in the military.”

“I’d only really been in the Navy, and as a pilot and officer aviator, that was my career skill set. I really needed to seek a challenging master’s program to give me that extra validation, to do what I wanted to do, which was go into local government. [The degree] makes me extra attractive as a potential candidate for some of the jobs that I was looking for.”

Christopher Himes graduated from the USC Price Master of Public Administration program online in 2015. Check out the full Q&A where Himes explains how after years in the Navy, the program was the next step in his public service career.

Military Careers

Highly decorated military and civilian leaders – including four-star generals, astronauts, Medal of Honor recipients, and officials in the highest levels of government service – chose to attend USC before, during, or after their military service. Many choose to advance their career within the military. Some recent examples of military positions our graduates have taken include:

  • Navy Lieutenant Commander
  • International Program Officer, U.S. Army
  • Legal Administrator, U.S. Army
  • Project Specialist, U.S. Army
  • Analyst, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Benefits of Online Learning 

For active military service members and veterans, pursuing higher education can be challenging due to their unique work and life circumstances. Fortunately, online education has made it easier to earn a degree. Benefits of earning a degree online include:

  • Flexibility: Online degrees offer a great deal of flexibility. The USC Price MPA online allows students to finish their degree while continuing in their current position by scheduling weekly evening online lectures. This can be especially helpful for those who may be deployed or have other unpredictable work schedules.
  • Convenience: Online learning is convenient, as it eliminates the need for commuting to a physical campus. This can be beneficial for military personnel who may be stationed in remote areas, frequently relocate or do not have access to traditional on-campus programs in their area.

There are additional benefits to receiving an MPA degree online. USC Price’s MPA online program offers:

  • A curriculum that combines core courses with electives and offers graduate certificates in either Public Policy or City and County Management. 
  • Two in-person campus residencies, which allow students to build hands-on skills and network with peers, alumni, and faculty in person. The residencies take place on USC’s campus in Los Angeles and include intensive class sessions, as well as social events and networking opportunities to connect colleagues, members of the Trojan Family and our campus community.  

Alumni Spotlight: Nicholas Brands, Army Officer

Nick Brands post-military careers
Nicholas Brands,
MPA Online ‘22

“I knew that the USC MPA was one of the top-ranked programs in the country, and the online capability made it a lot easier for me to complete while I was on active duty. I have a very unpredictable job, so I needed something that went along with that…I did the program across three different time zones over the span of about three years, and it was just a very hands-on program for me.”

“It was just such a positive experience, and it changed the way I viewed online programs. It ended up being exactly what I wanted in a master’s degree.”

Nicholas Brands graduated from the USC Price Master of Public Administration program online in 2022. In a USC Online article, Brands talks about how after years in the Army, the MPA program online helped him transition out of active duty and prepared him for a civilian career.

Support from the University of Southern California

The NASPAA-accredited Master of Public Administration program online is for working professionals looking to make a social impact while advancing in their current field, as well as for passion-driven individuals looking to make a career shift. The program welcomes active duty, military dependents and veterans, and among our alumni and faculty are both active duty and veterans of military service. 

We understand that pursuing a higher degree while on active duty or as a veteran can also present unique challenges. Active duty military personnel must be prepared to balance their work responsibilities with the demands of coursework, while veterans may face difficulties adjusting to civilian life and the academic environment. 

There are a number of dedicated resources available for military applicants and students at USC. Active-duty military and veterans can request an application fee waiver from the graduate school and the USC Veterans Certification Office can assist with using military tuition benefits. 

The USC Price School is also proud to partner with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide Yellow Ribbon benefits up to $5,000 for each award to qualified students. In addition, students will have the opportunity to work with a dedicated USC student success advisor who will support them throughout their time in the program to assist them with scheduling courses, accessing funding, planning for deployment, and more. All students are connected to a worldwide network of Trojan alumni who have also served.

Pursuing an online degree can be a great option for active duty military personnel and veterans looking to further their education and advance their careers in public service. Learn more about USC Price’s Master of Public Administration online.

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