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Master of Public Administration

School of Politics, Public Affairs & International Studies


Frequently Asked Questions

What is an MPA and what does MPA mean?

MPA means Master of Public Administration. This is a graduate university degree offered by many schools throughout the United States. The MPA is a "professional" degree, which means that it is principally for people who intend it as their highest level diploma and will apply their learning in the work place. However, many students use the degree as a stepping stone to doctoral level (PhD) study. The public in MPA represents public service and government. Administration is roughly synonymous with management. Hence, the degree is a managerial degree for use in public service agencies. Public service agencies may be either government or non-profit organizations.


Who needs an MPA?

The MPA is of interest to many people, including:

(A) Traditional students who have just graduated and who are looking to advance their knowledge in public and non-profit administration, government, policy, or political science.

(B) Those looking for a new career (either at the start of their professional lives, or in mid-life, planning a major change in occupation). These people may be interested in one of the administrative professions, of which typical examples include: city manager-administrator; human resources director or budget officer.

(C) Those seeking to enhance their credential in an already established career. Many persons start and advance in public service careers on the basis of a technically specialized credential. Examples include: civil engineer in a transportation department; librarian in a public library system; social welfare professional; law enforcement official; public land resource specialist in a land management agency; admissions officer at a college or university; public health nurse and many others. Ambitious and successful professionals in these fields may find themselves in positions with increasing responsibility, including managerial-supervisorial tasks. The MPA provides the knowledge and skills such persons need to operate successful as a public administrator in their professions.


What is the difference between an MPA and an MBA?

The MPA is a Master of Public Administration. The MBA is a Master of Business Administration. The subject matters are different. The target groups and student goals are different. The university departments offering these degrees are different. The MBA is primarily a degree for use in private sector (for-profit) organizations. The MPA is primarily a degree for use in public sector (government and not-for-profit) organizations. While management-supervisory responsibilities exist in both settings, there are significant differences between the two. These differences explain the existence of two distinct degrees. The Master of Public Administration pays particular attention to democratic, governmental concerns such as constitutional rights and procedures, policy- making and implementation in an open setting with citizen input, and responsibility to the people as owners of government.


What can you do with an MPA?

The use to which you can put the degree depends considerably on which category you find yourself in. However, all graduates will find an increased awareness of, and sensitivity to, the crucial political-interpersonal-administrative factors that characterize public service agencies. This awareness and sensitivity should enhance not only one's capacity to manage but also to be managed and to be an active, contributing member of a peer-collegial work group. A few students discover in themselves a special interest-aptitude for academic work and go on to further formal education (Ph.D. program in public administration, policy or allied discipline), sometimes leading to university teaching.


What are some jobs that UW MPA graduates hold?

Some of the jobs held by UW MPA graduates include:
- Chief of Police
- Dean of Business Services at a community college
- Transportation Director for a school district
- Senior center director
- Associate Director of a state prison system
- Director of a major department of state government
- City manager
- Nurse-administrator
- Fire chief
- Regional director in a major department of state government
- Director of a senior center
- Public relations official for a major department of state govt.
- Assistant city manager
- County administrator
- Director of financial aid
- Attorney
- Police lieutenant
- BLM director
- Staff member of a legislative research unit
- Director of a community college outreach center
- Personnel officer for a community college
- Director of a Non-profit Agency
- Director of Planning
- Human Resources Director


I have been out of school for more than 10 years. Will being a student again be difficult?

Many beginning UW MPA students have been out of school for five, ten or even twenty plus years. The curriculum and specific courses are designed with the working professional in mind. All students take Survey of Public Administration (POLS 5000) in the initial semester to reacquaint them with the routines and rigors of academic study, as well as to introduce the subject of public administration. People who have been out of school for many years typically find the adjustment to classes quite manageable.


I have heard the MPA is offered via distance education around Wyoming. How does that work?

The University of Wyoming School of Politics, Public Affairs, and International Studies offers the MPA on campus and also offers its core courses at least once a year in a distance format through the web conferencing platform called “Zoom” often combined with intensive weekends. Courses are offered in ways that are suitable for the traditional student AND the working professional who already have major daytime obligations and cannot move to the main campus at Laramie. Video sessions are scheduled for late afternoons and evenings. Intensive weekends require travel and may occur twice during a given semester in each course and take place on Friday afternoons and Saturdays. Distance education means a physical separation of the student from the main university campus. Although an on-line class may be approved as an elective if it is applicable to the MPA, this program is NOT offered as a non-synchronous on-line program and is still housed within the School of Politics on the main campus.


What kind of undergraduate degree should I have earned?

You may have an undergraduate degree in any major but it must come from an accredited institution.


Is the MPA expensive? What will it cost me?

The MPA is an excellent value and tuition costs at the University of Wyoming are less expensive than most of its peer institutions.  For specific tuition information, please contact Admissions. In addition, students will buy text books and have to travel to and make accommodation arrangements for the intensive weekend class sessions in certain courses.


May I use courses taken at another school in my MPA degree?

The University of Wyoming Graduate School permits up to nine (9) semester credits of courses from another accredited institution. The student must earn a grade of B or better in all such work. In this program, transfer courses may only be used for elective credit and MUST be approved by the MPA Director.


How long will it take to complete the MPA?

The program requires 39 semester credits. Students proceed at their own pace, although there is a University of Wyoming limit of six (6) years from the date of the initial course until the degree. Full-time students starting in a Fall semester typically complete the MPA in the Spring semester of the second year. Part-time students taking one course each semester and summer require approximately three years to complete the program. Many students who have full-time professional employment manage to take two courses each semester and one during the summer. At this pace, they can complete the MPA in about 2.5 years.


Will I have to write a master’s thesis for the MPA?

You will not have to write a master's thesis for the UW MPA. Students prepare a Plan B master's paper as part of the course requirements of Capstone in Public Management (POLS 5690), the concluding core course taken during the student's final semester.


What is a typical distance education MPA class at UW?

Classes meet via Zoom and intensive weekend sessions (as noted, you may have zero, one, or two weekends during a class). For Zoom sessions students are typically at home or at their office, while the instructor is in Laramie. A two-way interactive connection permits everyone to hear and see everyone else. For the intensive weekend sessions, all students and the instructor gather at a geographically central location for face-to-face sessions. These locations are decided separately for each course, based on the distribution of students in the class, but will be located in Wyoming.  Each course is different, so please reach out to the MPA director or individual instructor for logistical details.


Contact Us

Masters of Public Administration Program

Department 3197 | A&S 208

1000 E. University Avenue

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307)-766-6484


1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071
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