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April 7, 2009 / compassioninpolitics

Best masters programs in Public Affairs and Administration (MPA)

Top Masters Programs in Public Affairs and Administration Ranked

I decided to add the US News and World Report rankings for public administration and public affairs programs for your educational benefit. You can see the full report at US News and World Report, by clicking the link below (at the bottom of the post). You can use that data to create a tailored search for the best masters program in public administration for you at the National Association of Schools of Public Administration (NASPAA) website.

Top Programs in Public Affairs Ranked by US News and World Report:

Maxwell at Syracuse University
Harvard Kennedy School
Indiana University (Bloomington)
Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs
University of Georgia (Department of Public Administration and Policy)
University of California at Berkeley
Kansas University
University of Michigan Ford School
University of Southern California (USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development)
Carnegie Mellon University (Heinz)
Duke University
New York University (NYU)
American University (School of Public Affairs)
Georgetown University

Also ranked high were the University of Texas, Arizona State University, GWU, University of North Carolina, and UCLA.

You can see the full list at US News and World Report Masters in Public Administration Ranking.

Or you can look at the rankings for specific genres such as:

environmental policy and management
nonprofit management
public management administration
health policy and management

The National Association of Schools of Public Affairs suggests these answers for those looking to choose a great MPA program.

Custom searches for graduate programs on Or you can jump to public administration graduate programs on

You can also check out top programs in international development.

If you have any suggestions the best university for public affairs (or public administration) or programs that deserved to be ranked or any personal reviews with MPA programs, feel free to leave a comment below…


Leave a Comment
  1. scott talan / Apr 15 2009 5:26 pm


    Some good links and info sources here for sure.

    Just be careful on using rankings as the methodology that US News uses is reputational and thus limited in terms of factors they use in determining rankings such as alumni satisfaction, employment after graduation, course offerings, internships etc.

    Different schools offer different program focus and one that may be ranked lower could actually be a much better fit for you.

    Plus, seldom are employers aware of the rankings and thus not a factor in hiring/interviews etc.

    • Mike / Oct 28 2010 2:36 am

      I would disagree that employers don’t know the rankings. Good or bad, we always use them as a gauge when interviewing candidates for public sector consulting positions and federal jobs. This is especially true of the top 5 where most of the feds and consulting firms go to recruit.

  2. Nathan Ketsdever / Apr 16 2009 11:05 am

    Thanks Scott,

    Yeah, I guess I should have added a caveat or addendum to the original post.

    I think they serve as a useful jumping off point for finding relevant schools, but they certainly have their limits.

    One of the main reasons I included this list was to:
    a) include an aggregated list of some of the main MPA + public affairs programs
    b) offset Google’s implicit ranking of programs, which distracts from value arguably more. (because most people don’t go to the second page)
    c) to offset paid advertising results in the Google results–which cater to exclusively online universities. (ie non-bricks and mortar)

    Your input and expertise helps frame the results of the US News data.


  3. Amanda Smith / Nov 16 2009 4:16 am

    Yes, the US News list is based upon ‘reputation’ but why do you think those schools have such a reputation? As a graduate of the MPA program at Indiana University Bloomington, I can confidently say that IUB deserves its high ranking.
    For a near comprehensive listing of nonprofit management programs in the U.S. consult
    compiled by Roseanne Mirabella at Seton Hall.

    • uh-no / Oct 24 2011 2:40 am

      you ought to consider which ‘inputs’ go into making reputation. things like size, age, geography, funding, and especially marketing are such qualities that can either vaunt an undeserving school to the top or bring a deserving school down. coming from iub spea i’d think that you would appreciate a more critical assessment of the us news methodology.

      dont get me wrong, i think several of the top schools in the list are demonstrably good, but it’s really difficult to say that the list is somehow authoritative when the methodology is nebulous and easily gamed.

  4. compassioninpolitics / Nov 19 2009 3:38 pm


    That looks like a fantastic study.

    I was particularly interested in this, which shows various programs which don’t have the formal name “Public Administration” but which have similar focuses. (of course I would ask practitioners what they knew about the program and probably graduates of the program. the admissions office or the career center should be able to provide you with contacts. probably the former over the later)

    Part of their study I thought also dealt with funding for research as well, but perhaps I’m wrong. (Thats why publicly funded universities like Michigan, Texas, Ohio State, and Indiana consistently show up high in their studies across the disciplines)

    Thanks for the list. I hadn’t come across it before. Its certainly a resource I would look to in terms of searching for rankings of nonprofit programs and public administration and management programs.


  5. Isabelle R. Strauss / Nov 19 2009 3:50 pm

    Rutgers MPA has just approved the Animals, Community and the Law collaborative program as a concentration (specialization). This unique concentration is the first of its kind with a MPA program. For more information on the 3 courses and practicum which comprise this specialization within the Masters program please contact :
    For graduate academic credit information please contact Dean Kirchhoff at or 973-353-1351. For content information please contact Isabelle Strauss, or 732-255-4696. Thank you.

  6. compassioninpolitics / Oct 28 2010 9:21 pm

    Another reader Aliyah suggested London School of Economics & Oxford University–pointing to the US-centric nature of the list.

  7. Chris / Dec 29 2011 11:14 pm

    Eastern Michigan University (Ypsilanti, MI) has the top practical MPA degree in Michigan. For information call M.P.A. Director, Joseph Ohren @ 734.487.2522.


    • compassioninpolitics / Jan 3 2012 3:27 pm

      What makes the Eastern Michigan program so good? What niche does it fill that it can claim to be equivalent to others like MSU and U of M. For instance, nearby Michigan University and I believe Michigan State both have:
      1. impressive programs
      2. interdisciplinary access
      3. a history of getting top notch professors
      4. more prestige and reputation
      5. probably more investment in graduate students

      It seems hard to justify attending Eastern Michigan, unless you already live in the city and don’t have any time flexibility to commute to Michigan State or U of Michigan.


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