The 5 Best Online Master of Public Service Graduate Schools in 2023

Online Master of Public Service - featured image

A broad and dynamic career path, the field of public service offers a wealth of opportunities for those who dream of serving and helping communities. However, this field goes beyond serving the public. It is important that you understand the best area that is suitable to your unique needs, interests, and strengths.

Online Master of Public Service - fact

Public service encompasses the public, private, and non-profit sectors. It presents a wide range of career choices, including public management, nonprofit management, human resource management, public administration, public financial management, and other disciplines.

At the entry-level, a bachelor’s in public administration or other related fields can serve as your gateway to start a rewarding career in the service of communities.


Overview

While pursuing a master’s degree in public service seems like a good idea, many find it challenging to divide their time and resources between their budding career and further education.

Fortunately, many colleges and universities all over the country offer public service online programs which are designed for working professionals.
This advanced degree can open doors for you to qualify for senior-level positions in the public or nonprofit sector.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, administrative services and facilities managers can earn a median pay of $99,290 per year.


Methodology

Acquire more advanced skills and in-depth knowledge of how public service works, policy-making and policy implementation, and other matters relating to leadership in society. These top-rated graduate schools let you earn a Public Service master’s degree online, with high-quality programs exhibiting excellence thru these features:

  • Delivered in 100% online or blended formats, wherein students who are mostly professionals can choose to attend synchronously or asynchronously,
  • A comprehensive Master’s in Public Service curricula with coursework that uncovers the complex nature of the discipline, and enables students to obtain the skills required to manage and overcome those challenges,
  • A number of concentrations that match the students’ objectives for advanced learning, 
  • Easy and full access to online tools and resources through a top-rated virtual learning platform or Learning Management System,
  • Online faculty or teaching personnel with an extensive background in Public Service,
  • Career assistance programs and student services to help online graduate students with job placement programs and career advice,
  • Financial aid for qualified online graduate students,
  • Full accreditation from academic agencies to show compliance with the standards of teaching and learning at the master’s level.

To learn more, see our Methodology page!


Top Online Master of Public Administration Programs 

Texas A&M University

Texas A&M University

Master of Public Service and Administration

Founded in 1997, the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University offers an online master’s degree in public service and administration.

The high-quality coursework in this program assures that students can gain in-depth and advanced skills in public service leadership, critical investigative methods within the public sector, and decision-making. To get admitted into the program, you will need to have at least five years of cumulative experience in the field.  

  • The online format of the program makes sure that you can fit the coursework around your work schedule.
  • The program culminates in the completion of an applied capstone project with the school’s governmental or nonprofit partners.
  • While the courses can be taken 100% online, the program requires just one week of campus residency for each year, amounting to two weeks.
  • You need to complete a total of 39 credit hours to earn the program, which can take you around two to three years.
  • The program offers multiple start dates, including spring, summer, and fall.
Standout Features of Texas A&M University’s Master of Public Service and Administration Program:

The program has accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA).

It allows you to choose among three available learning tracks, including Homeland Security, Nonprofit Management, and Public Management. This means you can specialize in your field and easily reach your career goals.

Did You Know?

Living by George H.W. Bush’s philosophy that goes, “Public service is a noble calling,” the school embodies the notion in their programs’ curriculum, research, and student experience.

Eventually, the school has become an acclaimed graduate institution for public and international affairs. Apart from the Master of Public Service and Administration, other programs on offer include International Affairs and International Policy.


Villanova University

Villanova University

Master of Public Service and Administration

Established in 1842, Villanova University has always put emphasis on critical thinking and serving others.

The university offers the Master of Public Service and Administration program has been offered for more than 30 years, highlighting its rich history and commitment to innovative learning. The program can now be earned both 100% online and in a hybrid format.

A good foundation for those who want to prepare for career advancement in government and in a nonprofit organization, this master’s degree program gives an introduction to a number of perspectives.

This includes ethics, philosophy, theology, history, society, and politics, some of the disciplines with a huge influence on the way government and nonprofit sectors are led and managed. The major is offered in partnership with the Department of Public Administration.

Prospective students can expect to gain first-hand knowledge of effective practices in government and nonprofit agencies while helping you build your network and develop professionally.

  • The major covers a variety of courses, including strategic planning, leadership, public policy, ethics, public budgeting, and organizational development.
  • The course is taught by a knowledgeable faculty with experience in the field, including managers at the federal, state, and local levels and executives of nonprofit organizations.
  • To get into the program, you must have a bachelor’s degree under your belt. It is also open to students who pursue a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies (BIS) or a Bachelor of Arts (BA).
  • You need to complete a total of 45 credits, 15 of which are devoted to core courses for Interdisciplinary Studies. The Public Service and Administration major makes up 30 credits for the 10 courses.
Did You Know?

Villanova University makes education highly accessible to prospective students through its online programs.

The institution is also a huge supporter of military service men and women as they pursue their higher education goals through a variety of educational assistance benefits and resources such as the Yellow Ribbon Program.


Utah Valley University

Utah Valley University

Master of Public Service

An integrated university and community college, Utah Valley University has a commitment to education at its core. It is Utah’s largest public university.

One of their innovative offers is the Master of Public Service, which is specially designed to help aspiring administrators become dynamic leaders.

The courses are 100% online, making the program an ideal choice for working professionals who want to pursue advanced education, anytime and anywhere.

  • The program offers an applied and engaging public sector education by equipping you with broad-based knowledge, skills, and abilities in navigating the field of public administration and service.
  • It boasts of an interdisciplinary curriculum with an emphasis on managing, leading, and administering vital public services and public safety functions.
  • Some of the perspectives that the program focuses on include communications, ethical considerations, communications, strategic planning, research methods, and public policy issues.
  • With a reasonable tuition cost for the 6-semester program, the Master of Public Service degree at Utah University is one of the most affordable in the state.
  • Class sizes are kept small to ensure that students are given enough attention and allow them to build a long-lasting and productive relationship with their instructors.
Standout Features of Utah Valley University’s Master of Public Service Program:

The Master of Public Service program is pursued by a diverse cohort of professional backgrounds. About 30% of the MPS students come from a criminal justice background.

Another 30% have a background in emergency services or nonprofit management while the remaining 40% have experience in a variety of areas such as health services, the nonprofit sector, community services, and local government, among others.

Did You Know?

Committed to helping students achieve success in careers and in life, Utah Valley University is an open-admission institution. It offers a 15% lower than average tuition rate in the state of Utah and 42% lower than average tuition nationwide. Recently, the university was ranked number three for return on investment.


Ball State University

Ball State University

Master’s in Executive Development for Public Service

Ball State University believes that the quest for personal development begins with higher education. They are at the forefront of innovation and collaboration.

As a testament to this, they offer a Master’s degree in Executive Development for Public Service program that is geared towards executives, managers, or supervisors for government, for-profit, and nonprofit organizations.

  • This program is an ideal choice if you want to boost your leadership and administration skills with a strong focus on the human behavior of those who work for public service organizations.
  • It is possible to put your degree’s emphasis on several in-demand fields, including political science, psychology, communication, business, healthcare, higher education, and other disciplines.
  • The program can be earned fully online, depending on the courses you are going to choose. It is also available on-campus or in a hybrid format.
  • It is designed for working adults, allowing you to opt for evening and Saturday classes. As one of Ball State’s customizable and interdisciplinary programs, you will be able to design your degree to fit around your career goals through the help of your academic advisor.
  • The 30-credit program can be earned within two years.
  • The program is the only one of its kind in the state of Indiana that provides an option for face-to-face courses.
Standout Features of Ball State University’s Master’s in Executive Development for Public Service Program:

Unlike other public service and public administration programs, the Master’s degree in Executive Development for Public Service equips you with skills and knowledge that prepare you to demonstrate your expertise in a variety of specialized settings as opposed to specializing in one discipline. This means you have plenty of opportunities in a wide range of fields.

The program lets you choose among a broad range of degree emphasis. This includes Adult Education, Program Evaluation, and Staff Development; Business and Related Areas; Communications; Computer Science and Educational Technology; Educational Administration and Supervision; Health Science, Gerontology, and Wellness; Political Science; and Psychology.

Did You Know?

Ball State University has been recognized and ranked nationally, demonstrating its commitment to quality education that carries over to its online programs.

In fact, it has consistently earned top rankings from U.S. News & World Reports among the “Best Online Programs” in 2013. It also ranked 15th among the 2022 Best Online Programs for Veterans from the same publication.


Drury University

Drury University

Master of Public Service and Safety Leadership

Located in Springfield, Missouri, Drury University is a small private higher learning institution that is committed to personalized education in an innovative environment. One of their programs offers is the Master in Public Service and Safety Leadership.

This degree focuses on equipping prospective students with skills that will prepare them for leadership positions, all the while integrating all aspects of public safety along with operations, personnel management, and strategic practices and policies.

  • The curriculum was designed by public service and safety experts, ensuring its quality and competence in the field.
  • The program is taught by a faculty carefully selected from the diverse fields of public safety whose extensive experiences are valuable.
  • You can expect coursework that is a combination of practical learning experiences and projects that are easily applicable in real-life work settings.
  • This degree is also suitable for military service members who plan to transition into civilian service.
  • The program requires the completion of 30 credit hours and is available entirely online.
  • You do not need to submit GRE requirements to get admitted into the program.
  • While no thesis is required to earn this degree, you do need to design and complete a capstone project that fits your academic and career goals.
Standout Features of Drury University’s Master of Public Service Program:

The program is geared toward leaders of public safety and service from a wide range of backgrounds, including emergency management, public health service, emergency medical services, fire service, homeland security and public administration, and many more.

Along with the master’s degree, you also have the opportunity to earn the 12-credit-hour Public Safety Leadership Certificate.

Did You Know?

A regionally accredited institution, Drury University has continuously received accolades and recognition. Recently, it ranked among the “Best Colleges 2022” as listed by the U.S. News & World Reports. This demonstrates the university’s high-quality education.

Beyond education, the university is also committed to a more sustainable future. Every year, more than 300 bicycles are ridden on campus. About 25% of these are maintained through Drury’s D.Cycle bicycle loan and maintenance services program.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the field of Public Service?

Public service is often equated to government services and policy changes, but it actually encompasses multifaceted fields, including nonprofits and nongovernment organizations, healthcare organizations, public safety, social welfare, public health, public administration, administration, and more. Services for the public may be run by the government, just like in the case of fire or police departments.

They can also be provided by independent contractors from private companies, non-government organizations, or nonprofit agencies. This is true in the case of trash pickup, a service fulfilled by a contractor but financed by the jurisdiction.

Is a Master’s in Public Service and Administration program worth it?

If you are one of those whose passion lies in serving others, influencing a system for the better, and furthering a cause, then earning an MPS program is worth it. You can take it a step further by earning a master’s degree, which can help in your career growth and development.

This advanced degree will lead you to higher levels of management and leadership roles in government agencies, nonprofit sectors, and other related fields.

What career paths can I take when I earn a Master of Public Service and Administration degree?

An online MPS program can give you plenty of opportunities in a variety of sectors.

Some of the most common jobs for an MPS graduate include becoming financial aid officers, benefits administrators, hospital administrators, criminal justice administrators, public administrators, consultants, political analysts, city managers, urban and regional planners, budget managers, and community relations managers, and many more.

You will be able to work in a variety of fields, including cyber security, homeland security, emergency management, forestry, public health services, and so much more.

What can I expect in Public Administration programs?

As a public service student, you can expect a variety of courses geared towards understanding everything that goes into public service and policy.

You might need to delve into the history of public administration and discuss ethics in public service. Some of the courses will cover crisis management, urban planning, and other aspects of services in the nonprofit and public sectors.

Most MPS programs culminate into a capstone project, foregoing thesis requirements. There are others that offer specialization tracks and learning concentrations. A lot of them also allow customizations to help you pursue your professional goals.

You need to keep in mind that like most public administration online programs, many master’s of public service programs require a bachelor’s degree for admission. The bachelor’s degree should be in public service and administration or other related fields.

How much do Public Service online programs cost?

The cost of MPS programs may vary from university to university. It can cost somewhere between $10,000 to $80,000, or possibly more. It might also depend on whether you live in-state or out-of-state, with the latter usually being more expensive.

Online MPS programs can be less costly if we take out the need for additional expenses like transportation and on-campus living costs.

Fortunately, many institutions offer some kind of financial aid, such as federal financial aid in the form of student loans, scholarships, or grants. An online program might not always be eligible for financial aid, but you can check on the university of your choice.

Is there a difference between Public Service and Public Administration?

It may seem confusing. Most people think of public service and public administration as relatively the same. Both aims to improve the management and administration of public services. However, there are some differences, especially if we put it in the context of degree programs.

A public service degree program is mostly designed for a more diverse setting, encompassing industry, military, health, and human services, government and so much more.

It helps with the advancement of the nonprofit sector as it strives to meet increasing demands with decreasing philanthropic and government funding. Courses in Public Service include public administration, public policy, an overview of the nonprofit sector, public budgeting, the vocation of public service, and so much more.

A public administration program, on the other hand, is a good learning foundation if you aim to serve as a manager in the executive arm of various sectors, including the government, nonprofit, and nongovernmental organizations.

A master’s in public administration requires you to complete courses that tackle public administration theory, financial management, organization theory, human capital management, applied data analysis, and leadership ethics, among many others.

Both programs often require the completion of a capstone project or a thesis, depending on the program requirements from university to university.


Key Takeaways

  • Working professionals seeking to expand their knowledge base and skill sets while pursuing a more advanced and rewarding career should consider earning an online master’s degree in public service or other related fields.
  • Most public service programs are designed to provide a solid foundation for those who aim to land leadership or management roles in government and nonprofit agencies. The skills and experience in these programs are integral to ensuring successful public sector management.
  • When choosing a public administration or public service online degree, it is important to remember that an accredited institution is ideal as you can be assured of a quality graduate program to launch a more advanced career, whether in the public sector or in a nonprofit organization.

Dr. Jared Goff
Chief Editor