Online MPA Program Overview

CU Denver’s online Master of Public Administration (MPA) program was designed to help prepare you for a career in public administration and policy. Whether you’re interested in a career in government or nonprofits, the MPA degree will help you learn how to effectively lead and manage in public governance, participate in the public policy process and articulate and apply a public service perspective to the management of your organization.

As a part of the University of Colorado at Denver, the School of Public Affairs is the only accredited school of public affairs offering graduate programs in Colorado. CU Denver is accredited under the NASPAA Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration and is also recognized as one of the top 15% national MPA programs.

Through the MPA program, we hope to advance public service in Colorado, the United States, and around the world by providing students with the knowledge, skills, experiences, and ethical standards to be innovative leaders in public and nonprofit organizations. We hope to make a positive difference in public administration and policy, but we know that the only way we can do that is through you. So, whether you’re looking to change careers and enter into public administration and policy or are looking to move forward in your current career, the online MPA degree can help you expand your knowledge of public administration and policy and put you on a path towards success in the public sector.

Program at a Glance

Degree Program:

Master of Public Administration

Offered By:

School of Public Affairs


Cost Per Credit:


Cost Per Credit:


Credit Hours:


Program Details

The online MPA program is grounded in quality education, collaborative research and strong relationships with the community. The program itself is made up of a combination of public administration and public policy courses. In the public administration portion of the program, you will study topics including budgeting, organizational management, leadership and human resources, among others. By contrast, in the policy portion of the MPA program, you will learn how policy affects public administration, how to write effective policies and how to analyze policies to determine outcomes, including what effect the policy will have on the community.

While we are dedicated to your education, that is not our only focus. We also hope to help students succeed in their careers and make a positive difference in the public sector. Not only do we provide you with the skills and education to pursue a lifelong career in public administration, but we also pride ourselves on supporting our faculty and students in research and helping to disseminate findings that advance the study and practice of public and nonprofit management and policy.

Additionally, we work with students and professionals to enhance the public sector’s ability to make evidence-based management decisions and policy improvements. So, not only are we with you through your Master’s degree program, but we hope to be with you throughout your entire career.

MPA Concentrations

You will also have the opportunity to pursue the standard MPA degree or choose an area of concentration. You can choose between the following seven MPA program concentrations:

Disasters, Hazards and Emergency Management (DHEM)

The Disasters, Hazards and Emergency Management concentration provides a solid all-hazards knowledge base for students interested in natural hazards, disasters, and resilience. The concentration will not ignore security aspects, but security-related topics will be just one among many topics to include natural hazards, disasters, accidents, etc.

Education Policy

The concentration in Education Policy provides students with an understanding of how K-12 education is governed, financed and regulated in the United States. Students will become familiar with the interaction between federal, state and local policies and with the context in which education policy is formulated and implemented.

Emergency Management and Homeland Security (EMHS)

The MPA graduate concentration in EMHS provides advanced education in the management of emergencies, hazards, disasters and homeland security. Upon completion of the program, you will have the knowledge and skills necessary to assess and manage a broad range of hazards and disasters and to understand the policy environment in which emergency management occurs.

Environmental Policy and Management

The Environmental Policy and Management concentration provides an understanding of how our natural environment is governed and affected by relationships between various entities, including: legislatures; administrative agencies; courts; federal, state, and local governments; government and the nonprofit and private sectors; and government and the public it has been established to serve.

Local Government

The Local Government Concentration allows Master of Public Administration students to develop knowledge and skills for working in local government. Students graduating with a concentration in local government will: develop an understanding of the political traditions and institutional structuring of local governments; understand how local governments function within the intergovernmental system, as well as through partnerships with the private and nonprofit sectors; and acquire the skills necessary to be an effective manager in the local government context.

Nonprofit Management

The concentration in Nonprofit Management prepares students to become innovative and critical thinkers in the areas of nonprofit organizational management and public policy, with a unique approach that bridges theoretical knowledge with real-world experience. As students prepare for their careers or advancement in their current positions, they gain insight into the interdependence between the nonprofit, public, and for-profit sectors. Graduates are able to span the boundaries of these three sectors to assess community needs, navigate the realm of public policy, and strategically and effectively manage organizations that ultimately benefit society.

Public Policy Analysis

The concentration in Public Policy Analysis provides training in the tools and skills needed to assess the impact of public policies and programs, including policy analysis, cost-benefit analysis, program evaluation, multivariate regression and other analytical techniques.

General Track

Choose from a selection of elective courses based on your own specific career goals.

Finally, all MPA students will undergo a capstone program. In the capstone, you will demonstrate your mastery of the knowledge and skills acquired in core courses through the conduct of a client-based project. If you choose to pursue a concentration, you must undertake a project related to that concentration. You’ll also make a juried oral presentation of the professional paper which reports project findings. This is the cumulative opportunity for you to apply concepts, theories and research skills gained in the program to professional practice.

Tuition and Fees

Investing in your future is a big decision. However, becoming a fully online student at CU Denver is a high-quality and affordable option for learners of all types. Tuition and fees are based largely on the degree program you enroll in.

Tuition is determined based on which CU Denver program is chosen, undergraduate or graduate level, and finally your resident status. Visit our tuition and financial aid page for more information.

Financial aid and scholarships are available for those who qualify.


The Master of Public Administration program requires a minimum of 36 semester credit hours of graduate coursework.

  • All students complete seven core (required) courses, four elective courses and a capstone.
  • All students complete either a client-based capstone project (that allows you to apply the skills from the MPA program to a real-life organization) or you may choose to complete a two-semester thesis option.

If you do not have work experience in the public or nonprofit sectors, you must complete a 3 credit internship (giving you 39 total credit hours).

The normal course load for a full-time student is 9 credit hours per semester. You are required to carry five semester credit hours if you wish to be a full-time student. This is often important for financial aid. We do not recommend carrying more than six semester hours if you are also working full-time. 

Although the MPA program does require an intensive commitment, it does not require full-time study. On average, MPA students complete the program in two and a half years but can take as many as six years to complete.


Admission requirements and deadlines vary based on the program. In addition, you will have different requirements depending on if you are a first-time student, a transfer student, or an international student. For this program, applications are accepted on a rolling basis for admission. The preferred deadline for MPA students is in place for scholarship and funding opportunities.

Learn more about the admissions process by filling out the form above or contacting the CU Denver Enrollment Team today.

Career Outlook

Our association with NASPAA provides us with a national network of professionals across the country and allows us to take advantage of their services including in the career services area. Not only are we able to connect you with public administration professionals in our circle, we are also able to take advantage of connections with other schools accredited with NASPAA. For example, if you’re located in Seattle, we can help you get in touch with another NASPAA accredited school in Seattle who can, in turn, put you in touch with their network of local professionals.

Whether you’re interested in working for a nonprofit, taking a role in local government or even supporting an organization in the private sector, the outlook for public administration professionals is strong. Depending on your focus and career, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects that the job outlook for public administration careers could anticipate as high as a 17% anticipated growth from 2014-2024.

Here are some examples of the career opportunities you will be prepared for after graduation and their average median salary:

  • Budget Analyst: $58,516
  • Management Analyst: $64,463
  • Urban Planner: $54,666


Courses at CU Denver are offered three times a year — fall, spring and summer. Not all courses are available every semester. For most programs, courses last 15 weeks, plus one week for finals. This is a big commitment, but we believe the extra time you spend dedicated to your studies pays off!

Example Courses
PUAD 5001 — Introduction to Public Administration and Public Service 
Examines the fundamental theories, structures and processes of governance in the United States. Explores the constitutional foundations and functions of legislative, administrative and legal institutions. Covers topics such as federalism, public-private relations and comparative public administration.
PUAD 5008 — Evidence-Based Decision Making
Course provides opportunities for students to use skills developed in Research and Analytic Methods (including developing research/evaluation questions, designing surveys/interview guides, and analyzing data) to inform decisions and/or develop recommendations in multiple policy, management and program evaluation scenarios.
PUAD 5361 — Capstone Seminar 
In this seminar, students demonstrate their mastery of the knowledge and skills acquired in core courses, through the conduct of a client-based project. Students in a concentration must undertake a project related to that concentration. Students also make a juried oral presentation of the professional paper which reports project findings. This is the cumulative opportunity for students to apply concepts, theories and research skills gained in the program to professional practice. (Successful completion of this course is an MPA degree program requirement.) Cross-listed with PUAD 7361.