Public Administration School – Selecting a College and Curriculum

In order to establish a solid career foundation in the field, attending a respected public administration school that maintains quality programs is paramount. Leuenberger and Bartle (2009) pointed out that, in terms of the pursuit of a public administration career, “[p]rofessionals should select training programs that best match their career and subfield goals” (p. 110). There are many schools in the United States and abroad that offer public administration degrees and finding the public administration school that offers a curriculum that aligns with your career objectives should be the primary mission.

…finding the public administration school that offers a curriculum that aligns with your career objectives should be [your] primary mission”

Choosing a Public Administration School

There are a number of factors that should be taken into consideration when selecting which school’s public administration program is right for you. These factors include the curriculum offered, the accreditation maintained, the tuition rates, and the admission requirements. There are other factors as well, such as the financial aid options and the school’s physical location. However, a prospective student must assess his/her individual needs and determine the factors that carry the most weight. For example, an individual that is working full-time and has family obligations may strongly consider attending an online public administration school.

When choosing a public administration school, it is very important that you look into the accreditation that the school maintains. One of the main accrediting bodies for the master of public administration (MPA) is the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA). A school’s program that has been accredited by the NASPAA will, no doubt, be highly respected in the public administration community.

Public Administration Curriculum

The curriculum that you will find at virtually every public administration school will be relatively similar. However, there will be differences between the curricula and areas of concentration, which can make one more appealing than the other in terms of aligning with your career goals. In addition, a school must be capable of making adjustments to the curriculum to stay current. Rabin, Hildreth, and Miller (2007) shared that, “rather than decide to expand degree offerings, a university may redesign the curriculum of an existing program in order to respond to the need for change while drawing upon particular assets of its faculty” (p. 336). Adjusting to changes in the field is something that a public administration school must do in order to ensure that its students are prepared for real-world challenges.

Ethics is an integral part of virtually every program offered by a public administration school. Even prior to “Watergate,” public administration schools were, as Rabin Hildreth, and Miller (2007) explained, “already looking for ways to integrate ethical considerations into the public administration curriculum in a manner that would be systematic, principled, and academically defensible” (p. 165). Considering that almost everything they do garners a tremendous amount of press coverage, public servants, especially elected officials, are constantly under the scrutiny of the public. Lapses in ethics that end up being publicized can lead to public outrage and distrust of the government. Therefore, it is no surprise why ethics is, and will continue to be a focal point for public administration schools.

Public Administration SchoolAnother area that has become an indispensible part of a public servant’s background is administrative law. Not every school’s core public administration program includes administrative law, yet it remains a desirable attribute of prospective public servants. Beckett and Koenig (2005) explained that, “the relationship between law and administration is central to the operation of democratic government, and it has great impact on public policy” (p. 34). For example, look at all of the agencies in the federal government that develop and maintain rules and regulations. These agencies, such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are in need of public servants that have a background in administrative law.


Beckett, J. & Koenig, H.O. (2005). Public Administration and Law. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, Inc.

Leuenberger, D.Z. & Bartle, J.R. (2009). Sustainable Development for Public Administration. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, Inc.

Rabin, J., Hildreth, W.B., & Miller, G.J. (2007). Handbook of Public Administration (3rd ed.). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

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