Master of Public Administration

Public administrators address many of our nation’s most pressing issues. These professionals are experts at identifying community and organizational improvements and implementing change—across all sectors—while running government agencies, serving in elected office, or leading in military, nonprofits, and nongovernmental organizations.

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Form Your Future

The NASPAA-accredited Master of Public Administration online program 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. Our prestigious, nationally recognized program provides valuable education and experience you can immediately apply in the workplace to make an impact.

Our primary mission is to prepare professionals, such as yourself, to become collaborative and innovative leaders to manage complex organizations and serve the public good, at home, and abroad.

USC Price offers an immersive and engaging multimedia curriculum, taught by expert faculty, that can be completed full-time in two years or less. In that time you will build analytical, political, and communication abilities through a comprehensive curriculum unlike any other online program.

Next Info Session: 4/11/23

Next Scholarship Deadline: 4/1/2023

Final App. Deadline: 4/1/2023

Career Outcomes

In recent years, our graduates have gravitated to diverse career opportunities:


Non-Profit Domestic


Private Sector


City/County/Local Government


State/Provincial/Regional Government


Federal Government


International Government/NGO

Recent Nonprofit Positions Taken

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


Recent Private Sector Positions Taken

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

Recent Government Positions Taken

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

Recent Public Policy Positions Taken

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

Recent Military Positions Taken

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

Program Details

Admissions & Application Requirements

All USC Price candidates must have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university in order to apply. An undergraduate GPA of 3.0 is recommended to apply to the Master of Public Administration online program.

For full application requirements and deadlines, visit our Admissions page. The USC Price Master of Public Administration online program is currently not authorized for students living in Puerto Rico. To complete your application, you must submit the following:

» Resume. Your resume should include a summary of your academic background, your professional work history and any other relevant work or volunteer experience you’d like to highlight. Two years of relevant work experience are recommended, but not required, to apply.

» Official transcripts. We recommend that you request transcripts when beginning the application, as the turnaround time can vary from school to school. USC requires official transcripts from all postsecondary schools (Including community colleges) you have attended, regardless of transfers or whether a degree was earned. Your application processing may be delayed if you fail to submit all undergraduate transcripts. Transcript submission is a two-step process. Step 1. Upload scanned copies of official registrar-issued transcripts to the online application. Please note that these must be official transcripts printed on university letterhead. Printouts from online student portals are not acceptable. Step 2. Request an official registrar-issued transcript be sent to the USC Office of Graduate Admissions.

If your university is in the United States and offers e-transcripts, advise the university to send the e-transcript to [email protected]. The transcript must originate from a secure site formally linked to the sending institution. If your university does not offer e-transcripts or is located outside of the United States, advise the university to send a sealed official transcript.

If sending your transcripts via regular mail,
University of Southern California
USC Office of Graduate Admission
3601 South Flower Street, Room 112
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0915
If sending your transcripts via courier service, such as DHL or FedEx,
University of Southern California
USC Office of Graduate Admission and Financial Aid
3601 South Flower Street, Tyler 112
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0915

» Statement of purpose.Your statement should be approximately 1,000 words. You will be asked to address the following questions: Why are you interested in pursuing the Master of Public Administration degree? How will a Master of Public Administration degree affect or enhance your career aspirations and goals?

» Letters of Recommendation. We require three letters of recommendation. These should come from professionals in your field who can provide meaningful input on your previous work experience and career goals. A letter of recommendation from a professor, faculty member and/or academic adviser who can provide meaningful input regarding your academic record is also welcome. We only accept recommendation letters through the application portal. In the Program Materials section, enter the names and email addresses of the three people you would like to write your recommendation letters. The system will email a link to your recommender to upload their letter.

» Test Scores. Price has discontinued the GRE/GMAT requirement for admissions review. Applications will be reviewed holistically.

» Application fee. There is a nonrefundable application fee of $90. USC offers several options for graduate application fee waivers including Military active-duty personnel, spouses, dependents or veterans. Click here to learn more and to determine if you qualify.

» Pre-service Internship Requirement. Pre-service students are required to complete a 300 hour internship and a one-unit Internship Seminar course (PPD 543). Students may choose to fulfill their internship requirement with their current employer. Otherwise, students will be required to secure an appropriate internship location on their own or with the help of the USC Price Career Services staff.

» International Students. Please refer to USC’s Office of Graduate Admissions website for additional items required for international students to apply. On this page you will find a comprehensive checklist to complete your application if applying from outside the US.

Are you ready to start your application? Begin Today »

Curriculum & Course Sequence

The MPA curriculum focuses on two areas of managerial competency: 1. institutions and organizations and 2. analytics. Within these areas, you will combine core classes with elective coursework to develop key skills relevant to your career goals.

You may select electives to develop your professional expertise and pursue a certificate in Public Policy or City and County Management.

The skills and knowledge you develop through your online courses and experiential learning activities will help you effectively lead institutions and organizations—across public, non-profit, and business sectors—that ultimately serve the global public good.

Please note the following course sequence is meant as a sample. Individual course plans will depend on course offerings, which vary by semester. Elective choices will vary depending on certificate track and course offerings for each semester.

Term 1
(9 total units)
» Fundamentals of Public Administration (4 units)
» Public and Nonprofit Organizational Behavior (4 units)
» Professional Residency in Public Administration (1 unit)
Term 2
(6 total units)
» Essential Statistics for Public Management (2 units)
» Analytic Elective (4 units)
Term 3
(8 total units)
» Economics for Public Policy (4 units)
» Management Elective (4 units)
Term 4
(8 total units)
» Elective Option 1 (4 units)
» Elective Option 2 (4 units)
Term 5
(5 total units)
» Public Financial Management and Budgeting (4 units)
» Capstone Residency* (4 units)
*This course occurs in the summer term.
Term 6
(4 total units)
» Capstone in Public Administration (4 units)

For a detailed breakdown of each course, please click here to view the course descriptions.


As a student, you may select electives to develop professional expertise and pursue a certificate in either Public Policy or City and County Management. Each certificate can be completed within the 40 total units (41 for pre-service students) of the degree program.

» Public Policy. The USC Price Certificate in Public Policy exposes students to policy issues of global interest, while fostering analytical skills built around the most forward-looking methodologies useful for advocacy, legislative impact, government policy setting and implementation across a spectrum of institutions.

» City and County Management. The USC Price Certificate in City/County Management is designed for students interested in acquiring the foundational training to advance a career in public service leadership. Working with top faculty and mentors, students gain professional skills and knowledge to achieve career aspirations managing and leading at the forefront of change.

Tuition & Financial Aid


The current tuition rate is $2,137 per unit. Students should expect a moderate increase in tuition each academic year.
Credits Required: 40 (41 for pre-service)
Estimated Total Tutition: $85,480 ($87,617 for pre-service)
New student fee: $50
Student programming: $20 for online students
Norham H. Topping Student Aid Fund fee: $8
Mandatory Fees: $250 MPA Lab Fee*
*This is a one-time charge for first year MPA students split upon enrollment in each residency.

Financial Aid

U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible to apply for federal student aid. Additionally, some employers may offer tuition benefits, including tuition reimbursement and low-cost loans. The University of Southern California Financial Aid Office (FAO) will provide you with the details of applying for financial aid, understanding your financial aid award and properly securing your loans. Visit the FAO website for detailed information regarding dates and deadlines and to find downloadable forms that are needed to process the financial aid application.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Graduates working in the public service field may qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. To qualify, you must have made 120 qualifying loan payments while employed by a qualifying employer. There is no income requirement for the PSLF program.

For more information regarding financial aid at USC, visit usc.edu/financialaid.

Scholarship Opportunities

At USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, we are dedicated to increasing access to a high-quality public administration education. We offer several scholarships that are awarded to applicants who demonstrate the potential to become leaders in local government and public policy, based on academic merit and professional experience.

» The Dean’s Merit Scholarship, USC Price’s flagship scholarship, is available to applicants to USC’s online MPA program. Awards are based on academic merit, consist of partial tuition, and are renewable in the second year assuming satisfactory academic progress.

Scholarship Criteria: Academic merit
Deadline (Summer 2023 cohort): February 15, 2023
How To Apply: Submit a 300-word essay directly through the online application that answers the following questions:

  • Why are you considering completing your graduate studies at USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy?
  • Which USC Price faculty are you interested in working with, and why?
  • What do you consider USC Price’s most unique features to be?

» Professional Scholarships will be offered each semester to a limited number of incoming students beginning the online MPA program. To be considered for the scholarship, you will include in your online application a 200-word essay that explains your professional experience, career potential, and how this scholarship will help you. Also include whether you plan to pursue a certificate.

Scholarship Criteria: Professional experience
Deadline (Summer 2023 cohort): March 15, 2023
How to Apply: Submit a 200-word essay directly through the online application that explains:

  • Your previous experience related to city/county management, local government or public policy
  • Your potential for a successful career in those fields
  • How receiving this professional scholarship will assist you in achieving your career goals

» Military Service Members. There are a number of dedicated resources and scholarships available for military applicants and students, please review the dedicated Military Service Members section for more information.

» Agency Affiliations do not require a dedicated application unlike the other MPA scholarship opportunities. Applicants must indicate their affiliation to one of the following organizations by checking the corresponding box in the application: City Hall Fellow, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Coro Alumni, Coro Fellow, Korean Government, Public Policy and International Affairs Program, Peace Corps, or Teach for America.

Capstone and Residencies

At USC Price, we know that building hands-on skills and cultivating real-world connections are just as important as being able to attend courses online, and a critical part of the learning process. To that end, our curriculum includes a capstone project at the end of the program and two in-person residencies.

The capstone is the culmination of the Master of Public Administration online program. In teams of three to four students, you will consult with a client and produce valuable research. The course connects online students with senior decision-makers from local and state government, nonprofit organizations, criminal justice, federal agencies, private sector firms and key public sector service providers. During the course, students develop “soft skills” such as consulting, advising, and communicating while developing new networks of professional contacts and are responsible for the academic effort necessary to develop strategic solutions to real issues.

At the end of the course, you and your team will produce a project report and communications briefing for your client. You will meet with the client to present your findings, answer questions and suggest next steps.

The most outstanding project among all USC Price MPA student teams will receive a Haynes Award for academic honor (and a cash prize) at our annual Price School Awards Ceremony.

Your capstone is more than just a course — it’s an opportunity. During this portion of the program, you will network with senior public policy and government leaders, build hands-on skills, and examine how you can help communities create real-world solutions.


Our program includes two in-person campus residencies — one at the beginning of the program and one at the end — to allow you to build hands-on skills and network with your peers, alumni, and faculty in person.

The residencies take place on USC’s campus in Los Angeles and include intensive class sessions during which you will participate with faculty, peers and alumni. Residencies also include social events and networking opportunities to connect colleagues, members of the Trojan Family and our campus community.

The Professional Residency is an onboarding experience which includes a brief orientation to our MPA online program and services available to you throughout. The long weekend also includes educational seminars focused on digital literacy, communications and writing techniques, research, quantitative methods, and more. These seminars are delivered by the faculty who teach our courses. Beyond meeting local alumni, all your key faculty (including the dean) and your individual cohort coach, you can use this opportunity to tour the USC campus and stop by the bookstore for Trojan gear.

The Capstone Residency takes place during the week before graduation and includes a capstone event where you will prepare various presentations and studios and share your best work focused on a current problem with your peers and expert judges. Highly competitive analysis and presentation skills are rewarded with engraved USC medals to be worn with graduation robes. The experience is a final opportunity to develop and solidify relationships with fellow students and alumni, reinforcing the USC Price professional network that you can leverage long after graduation.

Professional Residency (For new students)
Fall 2023 dates: October 6-8, 2023

Student Support

As a Master of Public Administration online program student, you have multiple dedicated individuals working every day to support your success in the program. Each professional fulfills a distinct primary focus, but all are useful to engage with frequently as they will help you navigate our program with greater success.

Office of Academic Programs

Counseling related to academic and administrative policies is provided by two program administrators, Cyndee McDougal and Cole Yamada. The Office of Academic Programs is the focal point for the administration of the master’s programs within the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, and is primarily concerned with monitoring student progress, university compliance, and more.

Cohort Coach and Mentorship Program

You will be provided with a Cohort Coach, a program alumnus who will serve as your individual “go-to person” and often as a front-line professional mentor. Your Cohort Coach is a valuable resource for professional development and any questions, issues, or concerns you may have in your educational journey. The coach works alongside students in the first Residency, serving as a type of TA while providing valuable tips on time management, communicating within the program and about the program as you work to organize your life for academic success. After the first semester, your coach will host monthly meetings for your cohort to touch base and ask questions or explore information about certificates and career opportunities. In the past, the cohort coach alumni have provided job interview coaching, help negotiated salaries for new jobs and provided dozens of introductions to the Trojan Family and our network of professional job leads. Alumni of the MPA online program often seek out new graduates to help grow their organizations so it is advantageous to stay in touch with the network, coaches and their contacts.

Military Service Member Support

The USC Price MPA online program welcomes active duty, military dependents and veterans.  Among our alumni (and faculty) are both active duty and veterans of military service. Many of the skills you developed in military training—navigating uncertainty, strategic leadership, effective decision-making, and more—are extremely valuable in the public administration field. Whether you are continuing to serve or transitioning out of the military, building on your experience with an advanced degree can be a path to becoming more versatile as a higher-ranking officer or to adapting your skill set to a civilian job. An MPA online degree from the Price school will rigorously prepare you for a career working in city/county management, emergency services, criminal justice, nonprofit management, shaping public policy, leading in the private sector, and more.

There are a number of dedicated resources available for military applicants and students. Active-duty military, veterans, spouses and dependents can request an application fee waiver from the graduate school and the USC Veterans Certification Office can assist with using your 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, you will have the opportunity to work with a dedicated USC student success advisor who will support you throughout your time in the program, to assist you with scheduling courses, accessing funding, planning for deployment, and more. And you’ll connect to a worldwide network of Trojan alumni who have also served.

Why USC Price

Our multifaceted, NASPAA-accredited Master of Public Administration online program is top ranked nationally. Our program delivery emphasizes the digital transformation occurring in public administration, and offers connections to expert faculty, dedicated cohort coaches, and an extensive alumni network who will all work collectively to empower you as an agent of change.

Are you ready to start your application?

An Extensive Alumni Network

Make and keep connections with thousands of USC Price alumni who benefit from a wide range of career resources, networking opportunities, and alumni events and seminars. Each year the Price School’s annual homecoming event also offers the chance for former students to celebrate and reconnect with fellow alumni, with activities the whole family will enjoy.

USC Price alumni are united for life and stay closely involved with the school long after graduation.

“I think it was a really great way, especially when you go through the residency project or the capstone project, to have an opportunity to build strong relationships with your cohort and with folks that you are working so hard with. The program itself is such a unique experience and opportunity.”

Liz Oh

USC MPA 2021 Graduate, Online Program

“If someone in public service wants that spark in their career, the [MPA] online program is a great path towards new opportunities. The USC network is a very large community that is great in supporting fellow Trojans, regardless of field of study.”

Godfrey Gozos

USC MPA 2021 Graduate, Online Program

Are you ready to form your future?

Call (213) 764-5999, email [email protected], or fill out our form to request more information.