Master of Public Administration Guide: Specializations

Careers in public administration typically begin with positions that require specialized knowledge and skills. Career progression can lead to higher-level positions that involve more general leadership and management skills. Most Master of Public Administration (MPA) programs have a certain number of elective requirements that allow students to pursue their own interests and career goals in terms of specialization. Many students choose to follow a pre-designed specialization path, while others work with faculty advisors to create their own specialized programs. Public administration professionals who have specialized on-the-job experience but are lacking in a theoretical background can increase their knowledge and improve their career prospects with an MPA degree that focuses on their area of specialization. Alternatively, they may choose to focus on more general management and administration topics. A growing number of online MPA degree programs provide a flexible alternative that allows busy professionals to complete an MPA degree according to their schedule without commuting to a traditional college campus. These are some of the common specialization areas available to those pursuing an MPA:

Healthcare Policy

This specialization introduces students to the economic, political, cultural and social factors that influence healthcare delivery around the world. Students prepare to become future healthcare leaders by studying the U.S. healthcare system, including financing and organizational structure. They are provided with the skills needed to formulate innovative new policies to address healthcare issues at the federal, state and local levels.

Global Public Policy

Students in this specialization acquire a global perspective that allows them to consider the international impact of local, national and international policies. Within this specialization students may focus on international development, human rights, the environment, security, humanitarian intervention or other critical issues.


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Education Policy

Students who specialize in education policy are prepared for leadership positions as policy analysts or administrators in public and private education settings. They gain a deeper understanding of management and policy issues in the context of primary, secondary and higher education.

Environmental Policy and Natural Resource Management

This specialization covers the formulation and analysis of domestic and international environmental policy. It may include courses in urban growth, sustainability, environmental law, economics, transportation, natural resource management and environmental risk analysis. Students may focus on a particular environmental issue such as forest ecology, hazardous materials, or lake and watershed management.

Social Policy

This specialization focuses on policies that address critical social issues including family welfare, poverty, crime, inequality, education, social mobility, ethics and financial management. Students are provided with quantitative and qualitative skills used in the formulation and analysis of social policies.

International Development

This specialization concentrates on policy and governance issues in developing nations. Students gain knowledge and perspective from an array of disciplines including economics, anthropology, regional planning, organizational theory, legal studies and information technology.

Public or Non-Profit Administration

Students with significant professional experience in a specialized area may choose to focus on managerial skills. The public administration specialization focuses on the management of human and capital resources, information technology and public service delivery. For non-profit administration, coursework typically covers fundraising, grantsmanship, volunteer recruiting, financial management, strategic planning and public relations.