Due to the growing demand for qualified public administrators, most major universities now offer full-time programs for MPA degrees. There are also a large number of online and executive MPA programs for students who are full-time professionals. You can find a list of accredited MPA programs on the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administrator (NASPAA) website. Before applying to an MPA program, become familiar with the school’s admission procedure. Make note of the deadlines for application. Decisions for fall admissions are usually made in late winter or early spring. Check with your particular schools of interest if you want to be admitted for the spring or summer semester.
MPA programs generally require applicants to have completed a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college. An applicant’s undergraduate degree can be in almost any subject; MPA students posses degrees in political science, sociology, economics, foreign languages, English, psychology, criminal justice, information technology, biological sciences and engineering. While there really is no restriction on the undergraduate degree, some MPA programs do require a certain number of undergraduate credits in the social sciences or business. Most graduate schools also expect students to have maintained a certain GPA as an upper division undergraduate. The required GPA is typically 3.00 on a scale where A = 4.00.
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Many MPA programs require applicants to complete the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), especially students who are seeking MPA financial aid. This exam, which was revised in August of 2011, verifies that a student has the skills and readiness for graduate-level work. The Revised GRE measures verbal and quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and analytical writing skills. You can prepare for the GRE by accessing free test preparation materials on the GRE website. Additional materials are available for a fee. You’ll find many additional GRE prep resources available online. The test is administered at about 700 test centers located around the world and, in most areas, is computer-based. In the U.S., the GRE is offered on a continuous basis throughout the year. In place of GRE test scores, some schools allow you to submit scores from the GMAT, LSAT or Miller Analogies Test (MAT). Once you’ve taken the GRE, you can apply for MPA programs. Find out if the schools you are interested in provide an MPA program coordinator who will meet with you to discuss the program and admissions process. Since the application process is usually computer-based, this will provide you with a valuable opportunity to discuss any questions you have about the program before you apply. Although the application process varies slightly from school to school, in most cases you will be required to submit the following materials:
- A graduate school application (often completed online) and a processing fee
- Official sealed undergraduate transcripts
- GRE scores
- Letters of recommendation (typically three) from former instructors or work supervisors
- A personal statement that describes your academic interests and professional goals
- A resume that describes relevant work, internship and volunteer experience.
- An academic writing sample
- An immunization record
Prior to being accepted to an MPA program, you may be required to complete an admissions interview. Once you’ve been accepted to a program, you will be assigned a faculty advisor who will assist you with program planning and your choice of an area of specialization.