Public Administration Graduate Program

A graduate Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree is available for students who wish to continue their education beyond the undergraduate level. We have both an on-campus MPA program and a fully online MPA program. The MPA degree is accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration. The MPA degree is a nationally accredited, professional degree offered by the School to qualified students. The curriculum provides a foundation of required course work and permits the selection of complementary courses and seminar work that may be oriented toward an emphasis in more specific areas of administration. For example, two formal concentrations in City Planning and Criminal Justice Administration are offered to the MPA student. Other informal specialization in areas such as Public Personnel and Labor Relations, Urban Administration, and Public Policy are also available. In addition, the School offers a joint MPA and MA in Latin American Studies in conjunction with SDSUs Center for Latin American Studies.  MPA students also have the option of concentrating in Criminal Justice or City Planning.

The MPA offers an online program, as well as an on campus.  Our program is moderate in size, with 128 students enrolled across both modalities, and an incoming cohort of 24 students beginning the MPA program Fall 2015.

MPA program mission statement:

The Master of Public Administration program in the School of Public Affairs at San Diego State University aims to create exceptional public sector leaders by providing students with broad expertise relevant to public sector organizations, non-profit organizations, and public-private sector relationships. We equip students with skills and techniques that enable them to assume leadership roles in changing political and social environments in the United States and internationally. By involving our students and faculty in the San Diego community and the US-Mexico border region, the MPA program fosters the advancement of knowledge, integrates academic components with practical experience, and contributes to the enhancement of our community.

Length of degree:

A student attending full-time (9 units) can complete the program in 4 semesters if their internship is waived, or 5 semesters if an internship is required. Students also have the option of attending part-time, and many students do so, sometimes enrolling in as little as one course (3 units) per semester. Our online MPA program is a fast-track, 16-month program.

Cost of attendance:

Students will want to check the Student Services website for the most up-to-date information on current tuition and fees. As of Fall 2013, the basic tuition fee per semester for a student taking 6 units or more was $3,369. This means a student attending full-time (9 units per semester) can complete the MPA degree for $13,476 if their internship is waived, or $16,845 if required to complete a full 12-unit internship. The online MPA program is subject to different pricing and those rates can be found here. Please note that this figure does not include additional fees, books, supplies, or cost of living expenses.

You can find information on scholarships and financial aid at: While we typically do not have funding for incoming students, some scholarships and teaching assistantships are offered by the School of Public Affairs to students who are already enrolled in our graduate programs. Current students receive e-mails about these opportunities and the application processes on a regular basis.

Graduation rates:

A total of 28 students began our MPA program in the 2012-2013 academic year. Of those 28 students:

Graduated 100% of
Degree Program Length
Graduated 150% of
Degree Program Length
Graduated 200% of
Degree Program Length

Students are allowed to enroll in our program full-time (completing the program in 4 semesters), part-time (completing the program in 6 semesters), or a combination of full-time and part-time semesters. We also have a fully online MPA program that students complete as six modules over 18 months.

Where do our graduates work?

Of our MPA students who graduated in 2015-2016, 93.2% of survey respondents were employed within 6 months of graduation. Within one year 100% of respondents were employed, and 86% of respondents reported receiving a promotion or beginning a new and better job.

Our 2015-2016 MPA graduates for whom we have data were employed in the following sectors within 6 months of graduation:

31% work in local government (City, County, local special district, etc.)
20.6% work in state or regional government
17.2% work in the private sector
10.3% work for the federal government
10.3% work in private research and consulting
3.4% work in the nonprofit sector
6.8% were unemployed 6 months after graduation; 0% were unemployed within one year of graduation.

(numbers add up to greater than 100% due to some respondents reporting multiple occupations. For example, some respondents reported working and pursuing further education, or reported engaging in private consulting in addition to their full-time job.)

DEADLINE TO APPLY TO THE MPA PROGRAM IS MARCH 1. All supporting documentation including transcripts, test scores, statement of purpose, and letters of recommendation must be received by APRIL 1,  The On Campus MPA program does not accept Spring applications. 

Click here for Online MPA program application information.


Students holding a bachelor’s degree in any major from an accredited university are eligible to apply for admission to the MPA Program. 


Students should have taken an undergraduate quantitative course and be conversant with general social science statistics.


In terms of admission standards, a grade point average of 2.85-3.0 (on a 4-point scale) is generally considered minimum with grades during the last two years of college given particular importance. Please note that most years we are not able to accept all qualified applicants, and instead accept the top applicants in our pool based on the number of spaces we are allocated by the University. Lower grade point averages may be acceptable in exceptional circumstances where other evidence of potential capacity is available.

Applicants are required to submit two letters of recommendation that should come from two persons familiar with the applicant’s ability and accomplishments. Applicants are required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) sections verbal, quantitative and analytical. Applicants can sign-up for the test through ETS at Preference is given to students who score at the 35th percentile or above on the verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing sections of the GRE, with special attention given to the analytical writing score. An overall score of 294 (based on the verbal and quantitative scores combined) is considered minimum, but the minimum can be waived in certain circumstances. We may offer admission to other qualified applicants who do not meet these scores. GRE scores should be sent electronically from ETS and must be received by April 1st but for priority consideration by March 1st.

​The GRE exam is waived for applicants who already hold an advanced degree (i.e. MBA, MS, MA, JD, etc.) from an institution that is a member of the Council of Graduate Schools.  A final determination regarding the waiver is made upon receipt of the applicant’s official transcript(s) by the Graduate Division.

Applicants are required to submit a statement of purpose which enables the admissions committee to have a sample of the applicant’s writing style and capability as well as permits the faculty to determine if the applicant’s personal and professional goals are consistent with those of the Public Administration Program.

Application Process

  1. Apply to the University via Cal State Apply (before March 1st).
    • An SDSU RED ID Number will then be assigned which allows tracking of application status online.
  2. Send Transcripts & Test Scores to Graduate Admissions (before April 1st).
    • Official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended.      
    • GRE (and TOEFL/IELTS for international applicants) test scores sent directly from ETS to institution 4682.
      • Send to: Enrollment Services Graduate Admissions Document Processing Unit San Diego State University San Diego, CA 92182-7416
  3. Visit Interfolio Apply Now to upload the following supporting documentation before April 1st.
    • Upload Letters of Recommendation from two persons familiar with the applicant’s ability and accomplishments.
    • Upload Statement of Purpose—Applicants are required to submit a statement of purpose (no longer than 3 typed pages). Choices regarding font, spacing, etc. are left to the discretion of the applicant. Please address the following questions in your statement of purpose:
      2. Would you consider yourself to be:
        • A pre-service student (someone without significant past public sector work experience, or with only entry-level public sector experience), or
        • An in-service student (someone who currently works in the public sector or who has significant past public sector work experience)?
        • (Please note that your response to this question will NOT influence our decision about your admission, as we gladly accept both pre-service and in-service applicants.)
      3. Describe your personal commitment to public service and social equity, using examples from your personal experience.
      4. What are your professional goals? How do you believe the MPA degree will contribute to these goals?
      5. Please include any additional information you think is important to consider while reviewing your application.
    • Optional Supporting Documentation to Upload via Interfolio Apply Now:

International Applicants

In addition to the above application process, International Applicants for admission whose education has been in a foreign country must file an application for admission, official certificates and detailed transcripts of record from each collegiate institution attended. All documents, transcripts, and test scores must be received by Graduate Admissions no later than April 1st. The CSU Mentor On-Line Application and fee must be submitted by March 1st. Effective the Fall 2013 application cycle, all transcripts, including those with international coursework, will be evaluated internally at SDSU. International applicants are required to take the TOEFL (target score of 550 paper/80 iBT)  or the IELTS (score of 6.5).

All prospective international student admission inquiries should be sent to International Admissions at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Get more information on Graduate Admission Requirements here.

Graduate Standing

Students are admitted to this program with a status of Classified or Conditionally Classified. Conditionally Classified students must meet the conditions noted on their program admission letter. When conditions are successfully met students must file a Change of Status form and submitted to the SPA Department office (PSFA 101).


Students with a Concentration in Criminal Justice must complete 15 units from the following course:

  • CJ 602 Seminar in Comparative Criminal Justice System (3)
  • CJ 603 Seminar in Community and Restorative Justice (3)
  • CJ 604 Seminar in Criminal Justice and Urban Administration (3)
  • CJ 605 Seminar in Juvenile Justice and Youth Violence (3)
  • An approved CJ Related Elective (see your adviser)

Students with a Concentration in City Planning must complete 15 units from the following courses:

  • P A 525 The U.S. City Planning Process (3)
  • C P 630 Seminar in Urban Planning Implementation (3)
  • C P 640 Seminar in Urban Planning Theory (3)
  • C P 670 History of Urban Planning (3)
  • C P 690 Seminar in Land Use Planning Principles and Techniques (3)

Please note that students in these concentrations are also subject to prerequisites for these courses, which in some cases could require completing additional coursework. 

Joint Master of Arts in Latin American Studies and Master in Public Administration

The School of Public Affairs and the Center for Latin American Studies offers a concurrent graduate program leading to a Master of Public Administration (MPA) in Public Administration and a Master of Arts (MA) in Latin American Studies.  Here is a link to the MPA/LAS Official Program of Study (OPS) form, which may be filled out in consultation with the graduate adviser.

Beginning the Program

Following admission to the program all students should schedule a meeting with the Graduate Advisor: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

For detailed information about the procedural steps toward earning a MPA degree, please visit the Graduate Division’s website. Graduate students are individually responsible for complying with the procedures, regulations, and deadlines as set forth in the General Catalog and in the Bulletin of the Graduate Division.

The MPA Program

Students must pass the Screening Examination in the PA 600 - Scope of Public Administration course before taking any other courses, PA 604 Methods of Analysis in Public and Urban Affairs may be taken concurrently.

Students are admitted to this program with a status of Classified or Conditionally Classified. Conditionally Classified students must meet the conditions noted on their program admission letter. When conditions are successfully met students must file a Change of Status form and submitted to the SPA Department office (PSFA 101).

Completing your MPA Program of Study and Advancement to Candidacy

The Official Program of Study (OPS) form may be filled out in consultation with the graduate adviser. The OPS can be submitted following the successful completion of at least 12 units of graduate course work with at least a 3.0 GPA.  The OPS must be submitted no later than the semester prior to anticipated graduation.

Please attach your completed MPA Internship Waiver Request Form (see instructions below for completing the request form) to your OPS. The MPA Coordinator will determine how many units of internship you will be required to complete based on submission of this form and its supporting documentation. Hard copies of the MPA Internship Waiver Request Form can be found in PSFA 100. If your internship requirement is not waived, you will be required to enroll in the PA 796 (Internship in Public Administration) course. You will enroll in the designated number of units required by the MPA Coordinator.

With the successful submission and approval of the OPS the student will Advance to Candidacy. Students cannot Advance to Candidacy and graduate in the same semester. You must be Advanced to Candidacy before you will be allowed to submit your thesis or the comprehensive examinations.

MPA Internship Requirement and Internship Waiver

The internship experience is a cornerstone of the graduate student experience in public administration. A public service internship is essential to a student’s ability to practically apply classroom theory, and in many cases is critical to a student’s successful job search after graduating with the MPA degree. The public service internship:

  • Provides the student realistic exposure to an organizational-bureaucratic environment,
  • Develops the student’s awareness of the internal dynamics of an organization and of the value and attitudes of public employees to both their clientele and their administrative-political superiors, and
  • Gives the student the opportunity to become aware of his/her obligations as a professional and to the public. (NASPAA)

All MPA students are required to register for and complete 12 units of PA 796, which includes a minimum of 480 hours of internship experience. Students should begin planning their internship early in their degree program, and should meet with Prof. Frosio to discuss their interests and what they hope to gain from a public service internship. Prof. Frosio can be found in PSFA 164, and can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or 619-594-5576.

Our accrediting body does give us some room to grant waivers of internship requirements on the basis of “significant management or management-related professional experience.” As such, students who have had considerable experience in this area of public sector, or who are currently in the public sector, may be permitted to waive the internship requirement by demonstrating equivalent experiential learning expected of an intern. Management or management-related experience is further defined as supervises the activities of others, involvement in budgeting and financial management practices, demonstrates effective leadership skills in directing agency activities, and so on.  Clearly, this abbreviated list is not inclusive of all management-level activities and graduate students do not need to have experience in all of the areas. 

If you believe your past or current work experience may help you qualify for a full or partial internship waiver, you may submit an Internship Waiver Request Form, along with a letter from your supervisor on organization letterhead, to the MPA Coordinator, Dr. Shawn Flanigan. Waivers will be evaluated and granted only when one’s past experience meets the above stated criteria and within allowances provided by our accrediting body.

Based on an evaluation of the Internship Waiver Request Form and accompanying documents, students may be required to complete:

Units of PA 796Number of Internship Hours
0 units0 hours
3 units120 hours minimum
6 units240 hours minimum
9 units360 hours minimum
12 units480 hours minimum

You may consult the MPA Coordinator to request an internship waiver.  If you have not already submitted your MPA Internship Waiver Request Form, please submit the completed form, accompanied by a signed letter from your supervisor on the agency’s letterhead, to the MPA program coordinator. (*Please note- when seeking internship credit for work with multiple agencies, a separate form and supervisor letter should be submitted for EACH agency.)  Please attach your completed MPA Internship Waiver Request Form to your OPS. The MPA Coordinator will determine how many units you will be required to complete based on submission of the waiver form(s) and its supporting documentation. .  It is also very useful to submit a current copy of your professional resume to further support your request.  Hard copies of the MPA Internship Waiver Request Form can be found on the table in PSFA 100 or by clicking here. If your internship requirement is not waived, you will be required to enroll in the PA 796 (Internship in Public Administration) course.  You will enroll in the designated number of units required by the MPA Coordinator.

Thesis or Comprehensive Examination Options

After advancing to candidacy the student may form her/his thesis committee and register for PA 799 Thesis or take the Comprehensive Examinations. Please note that students in our online MPA program complete a capstone project rather than a thesis or comprehensive exam.


Students choosing the thesis option should contact the Graduate Division for specific information on procedures for thesis.

Comprehensive Examinations

To be eligible to take the comprehensive exams the student must have completed 24-units of graduate work, have filed an Official Program of Study and been advanced to candidacy prior to signing up for the comps.  (No exceptions will be made.) Students must have completed the courses in which they plan to take the comprehensive examinations. (Exceptions to this rule will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the MPA Director.) The MPA comprehensive exams are given approximately within the 12th week of the Fall and Spring semesters.

Each student will take two comprehensive examinations chosen from the following:

  • Public Personnel
  • Public Policy
  • Administrative Theory
  • Methods and Financial Management
  • City Planning (Students with formal emphasis in City Planning must take the CP exam)

Graduating from the MPA Program

In order to graduate from the MPA program students will need to:

Additional graduate program forms required can be found at Division of Graduate Affairs.

Stay in touch by e-mail with both the School at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and the Division of Graduate Affairs. Always keep your home address and e-mail address current with the University. Personal information can be updated at through Web Portal. Important communications or changes in procedures that may be critical to your success will be transmitted in this manner.