A snapshot of the courses offered in the USF MPA online program

Individuals who want to increase their impact in their communities and effectively advocate for social justice may find themselves drawn toward advanced education in public administration and a career path in public management. For those eager to enter or advance in this field, the University of San Franciscoonline Master of Public Administration programoffers courses aimed to assure busy professionals advance their knowledge in public, health, and nonprofit sectors.

Standard coursework provides a theoretical and practical foundation for students using an interdisciplinary approach covering topics from finance and management to technology.

If you’re considering an MPA, here’s a quick glance at what a typical program covers and some of the courses involved.

What is a Master of Public Administration?

An MPA program caters to the needs of civic society, providing future leaders in healthcare, private sector consulting,  government, and nonprofit sectors. Designed for career professionals who are passionate about making a positive impact on society, courses cover the theories and skills needed to effectively take action and motivate others. Through flexible online classes, students can maintain their current work position, fitting courses around their current schedules and immediately apply knowledge to their real world positions.

Learn how to evaluate programs, create important policies, raise money to implement changes, and communicate your ideas to others. For individuals looking to become civic leaders or grow from current positions into ones managing larger agencies, this program can help them gain advanced skills and deeper understanding of the policy process.

Students develop strong connections with faculty and fellow professionals who are also working toward social justice, discussing current issues, constraints,  and supporting or confounding regulations while exploring potential career paths that benefit from your real-world examples and experiences in public administration.

Courses offered in the USF MPA online program

The courses in USF’s MPA program are regularly updated to reflect changing conditions in our communities, evolving policy, and ongoing research. In addition to regular course updates by faculty to include recently-passed regulations and current examples, the USF MPA program has mission-oriented curriculum that includes in its core and electives coursework on leadership ethics, public communication, and new challenges driven by technological change and community expectations. Every year the program submits an end-to-end evaluation of the program and its students’ success to the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) for review. Standardized reviews of courses occur periodically to ensure the curriculum reflects what is most important to professionals in the public sector today, as understood by its professional students and advisory board of public sector leaders. Below is a list of course descriptions of some classes offered within our MPA program.

  • PA 611 – Public Administration as Theory and Practice in the Contemporary Society
    The USF mission statement, “Change the World from Here” begins with this class. Students are introduced to the concepts and practices they will use throughout the program, building a foundation for future skills.

    Instructor’s guide the class through the history of public administration, exploring past trends at federal, state, and local levels of government. This background gives students a well-rounded frame of reference when exploring modern organizations and case studies. Using that knowledge, a survey of contemporary practices and research will be conducted, which includes an examination of current political, economic, and managerial policies and regular reflections on learning in the context of each student’s current workplace.

    You complete the course with the ability to state the impact public administration theory and practice has on our civil society and learn how new thinking and research can be implemented in your organization.

  • PA 623 – Economics and Finance for Public Managers
    Gaining familiarity of public budgeting and mastery of financial reporting  is a key competency for those leading nonprofit and government agencies. Career professionals need a working understanding of regulations and accepted practice surrounding the accrual and use of funds to effect change whether working in the public, private or nonprofit sector.

    Whether this course is your introduction to public finance, a refresher, or a supplement to existing knowledge, it will improve your competencies in reviewing economic conditions and opportunities providing the working capital for public organizations and agencies.

    How does an agency raise money? Must it balance its budget annually? What’s the difference between local and national budgeting and finance? Where do funds for special initiatives come from? How do public finance decisions impact everyday people in our civil society? These questions are answered through an analysis of existing budgeting and issues of public expenditure.
  • PA 632 – Public Policy Analysis
    Nearly all students enter their MPA program desiring to create and implement policies that will improve public life wherever they observe opportunities or essential areas for improvement.  This course provides students with the knowledge capacity to design, initiate, and participate in the public policy process from the point an idea is put on the agenda to its evaluation once policy has been adopted and implemented.

    During the policy process, professionals recognize and analyze problem scenarios and  describe options to address a problem, consider the stakeholders to the problem and their preferences for solutions, analyze the variations and costs of those solutions, inform decision makers, and thereby from end to end influence the outcomes of the policy process. USF professors provide students with the economic theory, the language of policy analysis, and the analytical techniques to prepare them for full participation in the policy process. You’ll learn where politics sway decisions and how to work within the political structure to enact changes that work for social justice. Wherever current policy is not sustainable, you’ll acquire the knowledge to create alternative solutions that better work toward intended goals.  
  • PA 638 – Emerging Technologies for Public Managers
    As technology changes, the role of the public administrator evolves to fold in these new capabilities. In health care and government, individual data is managed electronically in one or many data stores, which leads to ethics and privacy concerns that result in regular reviews of regulations to limit improper use of this personal data. Project management can is supplemented with mobile and web applications for productivity, not to mention use of constantly upgraded telecommunications devices.

    These advances in technology can save money and streamline workflows. Similarly, these advances in technology can cost money and freeze inefficient workflows. Further, IT advances create secondary issues related to encryption and security that need to be examined by administrators and managers.

    Throughout this class, you’ll learn of these new environments and gain skills needed to organize and oversee public information, these new types of devices and systems, so you’ll be ready to say yes to agency projects, and  tackle these issues with confidence while still in your courses and after graduation.
  • PA 644 – Strategic Planning and Implementation
    Are you ready to become an effective strategist? Strategic planning allows students to see the overarching goals in any project. Reaching those goals may involve tackling resistance to change and overcoming organizational or regulatory issues, as well as exercising capability to break large goals into steps that can be allocated to staff and monitored toward success of the strategic end.

    The core elements of strategy covered during PA 644  help students plan appropriately and implement effective change. These include establishing outcomes, measures, assets, behaviors, values, stakeholders, environmental analysis, pitfalls or obstacles, and engagement processes to be managed en route to attaining the organization’s strategic end.
  • PA 685 – Strategic Management of Public Communication
    With limited understanding of effective communication skills, individuals cannot optimally put to use their many other abilities to move their organizations forward. Topics covered in this course are not limited to an organization’s profile and ability to express its efforts to the general public.  It includes also understanding your personal strengths as a communicator and how that can be enhanced to improve your own and your agency’s ability to publicly present its information.

    Focus is placed on understanding how well public agencies communicate their messages.  Student also study creating targeted messaging and channeling messages through a range of sources including print media, broadcast radio, television, online media, and podcasts. Explore how messaging can be applied to sway public opinion, disseminate information, bring awareness to new campaigns, and persuade the public to adopt healthier behaviors.

Key outcomes of coursework

USF publishes a  list of outcomes and competencies its graduates will exhibit, that influences the development and updates of courses. A few of these are summarized below:

  • Identify when leadership is effective
  • Demonstrate knowledge in managerial techniques and organizational strategies
  • Recognize challenges in the U.S. healthcare system and develop appropriate responses or adaptations to those issues
  • Gather and represent the diverse opinions of a community, focusing on those who are most vulnerable
  • Perform policy analysis using critical and analytical thinking skills
  • Communicate research and policy information to community stakeholders

If you have questions about specific courses or outcomes,fill out this formfor more information or to start an application.

Recommended Readings:

Impact of Emerging Technology on Management and Public Administration

Interesting Facts about the History of Public Administration

Interpersonal Communication for Public Administration

Public Finance and Recent Statistics


USF Online MPA Degree Overview

USF Online MPA Public Finance Statistics

USF Online MPA Curriculum

USF Online MPA: The Impact of Emerging Technology

USF Online MPA: History of Public Administration

USF Online MPA: Interpersonal Communication

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