Jul 13, 2024  
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog 
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Public Administration, M.P.A.

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Karen Miller, Ph.D., Department Chair

Julie Cencula Olberding, Ph.D., Graduate Program Director


Program Description

The Master of Public Administration (MPA) is an applied 36 credit hour degree designed to prepare students for careers in public service and public management. Classes are small, permitting faculty to personalize instruction and allowing students to develop the knowledge and skills necessary for competitive employment in the public and related sectors, including government agencies, hospitals, universities, and other nonprofit organizations. It is the only MPA program in the Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati region accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA), and one of only six in the state of Kentucky.

The MPA degree can be completed in a fully online format or in hybrid format with a mix of in-person and online classes. To accommodate students’ work schedules, in-person and online synchronous classes are taught on weekday evenings. Other formats include online asynchronous classes, independent study, and study abroad. Classes have a mix of lectures, seminars, small group discussions, service learning, and/or computer-based work (e.g., data analysis and GIS).

The MPA program takes approximately two years to complete with students enrolling in 6 credit hours per semester in the fall, spring, and summer semesters. Students can accelerate this pace by taking 9 to 12 credit hours per semester, or they can choose a slower pace (due to work or other commitments) by taking 3 credit hours per semester or by not enrolling in summer sessions. For more current information about the MPA program, consult the website at nku.edu/mpa.

In addition to the MPA degree, the department offers Nonprofit Management & Leadership and Emergency Management & Leadership graduate certificates, each of which requires a total of 12 credit hours. Students can efficiently earn a dual MPA degree and graduate certificate for a total of 39 credit hours (more information below). Also, our MPA courses are part of a few graduate micro-credentials at NKU including: 1) Leadership in the Public Sector; 2) Community and Economic Development, 3) GIS and Mapping; 4) Arts Administration, and 5) Serving Veterans and Families. Each micro-credential requires a total of 6 to 9 credit hours. More information at: https://nku.edu/microcredentials.html.

Office of the MPA Program

The main office of the MPA program is 555 Founders Hall. For more information call (859) 572-5326, e-mail mpa@nku.edu or visit nku.edu/mpa.

Program Mission Statement

The NKU MPA program prepares and develops students to manage and lead in governments, nonprofits, and related organizations to address the fundamental need for diverse, ethical, and effective public service professionals in the Northern Kentucky / Greater Cincinnati region and beyond.

  • Our MPA students enhance their knowledge and skills through engaged and experiential learning including capstone projects, service learning, student philanthropy, internships, study abroad, and research with faculty members.
  • In addition, our MPA students deepen their public service values through co-curricular and extracurricular activities such as: special events and guest speakers; mentoring and connections through our Advisory Board and alumni network; service and social activities organized by our student organization; and engagement with our chapters of the Pi Alpha Alpha global honor society and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA). 

MPA Core Competencies

  1. The ability to lead and manage in public governance.
  2. The ability to participate in and contribute to the policy process.
  3. The ability to analyze, synthesize, think critically, solve problems and make decisions.
  4. The ability to articulate and apply a public service perspective.
  5. The ability to communicate and interact productively with a diverse and changing workforce and citizenry.

The program systematically collects information from various sources to assess these core competencies. These sources include student surveys, alumni surveys, capstone portfolio reviews, capstone project evaluations, internship evaluations, service-learning project assessments, and feedback from stakeholders including MPA Advisory Board members, and regional employers.

Admission Process

Students applying for admission into the MPA program are divided into two applicant categories: in-career and pre-career. In-career applicants are those who demonstrate five years of professional experience pre-career students are all other applicants. Each applicant must provide the following items:

Completed online application for graduate admission.

Official transcripts showing all college/university coursework completed at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The applicant must possess a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university with a cumulative GPA of 2.75 or higher (scale of 4.0).

At least two recommendation letters or completed forms from persons qualified to evaluate the applicant’s potential for successful performance in the MPA program.

A statement of purpose describing the applicant’s career goals, how the MPA program will support attainment of those goals, and any additional information such as relevant academic or professional experience (300 to 400 words).


In-career students must submit the following items:

A current resume documenting five years of work experience in the public or related sector.

A portfolio of two to three work products (singular or team efforts) that demonstrate professional activities.


Pre-career students must submit the following item:

A writing sample (either an academic paper or work product).

Dual MPA Degree and Graduate Certificate

Students may complete a dual MPA degree and graduate certificate, either in Nonprofit Management & Leadership or Emergency Management & Leadership. To do so, students must submit separate applications for the MPA degree and for the graduate certificate via apply.nku.edu. Students seeking the dual MPA degree and Nonprofit Management & Leadership certificate must take the three core courses for the certificate. Similarly, students seeking the dual MPA degree and Emergency Management & Leadership certificate must take the two core courses for the certificate. Further, all dual students must complete an additional 3 credit hours of MPA electives beyond the 36 credit hours for the degree, raising the total credit hours 39 hours.

Students completing the MPA program may also earn related micro-credentials. To do so, students must submit separate applications for the MPA degree and micro-credentials via apply.nku.edu. Students seeking related micro-credentials may use these micro-credential courses as electives in the MPA program.

Program Curriculum

To earn the Master of Public Administration degree, students are required to complete a core curriculum of 27 credit hours of classes and 9 credit hours of elective work for a total of 36 credit hours.

♦ Indicates prerequisite.


Intermediate Core Courses (required) (9 credit hours)

The following three courses are required if they have not already been successfully completed as electives at the undergraduate level. These courses may be waived by the MPA Admission Committee, after review of transcripts and consultation with the student.

Total Hours: 36

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