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2016-2017 Graduate Studies Bulletin (Archived Copy) 
  May 19, 2024
2016-2017 Graduate Studies Bulletin (Archived Copy) [Archived Catalog]

Public Administration, M.P.A.

The Master of Public Administration degree program strives to provide a broadly focused professional degree in the essential management and analytical elements of public administration and public policy analysis. The program attracts a sizable number of both pre-career and mid-career students with a variety of academic and professional backgrounds. Moreover, the program draws students who want to pursue a diverse range of professional careers in both the public and nonprofit sectors, as well as those who are interested in finding employment at the local level, in state agencies, in federal regional offices, and in Washington, D.C. The program gives students the requisite skills and knowledge to become more intelligent consumers of policy issues and more capable actors in their chosen professional careers.

Applicants to the M.P.A. program are expected to have combined GRE verbal and quantitative scores of 1000, an undergraduate grade point average of at least 3.00, and a TOEFL score of 600 (computer score of 250) or a comparable score on the IELTS Intl. Academic Course Type 2 exam, if applicable. The M.P.A. program admits new students for the fall, spring, and summer semesters. Prospective students are encouraged to submit their applications early. This will enable the M.P.A. Admissions Committee and the USC Graduate School to process all materials in a timely fashion so that students can be considered for admittance during the requested academic terms. The deadlines for completed applicant files to be received at USC are:

  April 15: Admittance for the fall semester
  November 15: Admittance for the spring semester
  April 1: Admittance for the summer semester

For more detailed information on the M.P.A. program, visit

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will demonstrate an understanding of the issues facing the public sector and/or nonprofit organizations.
  • Students will apply the managerial and analytical skills necessary for careers in the public service and/or nonprofit sector.
  • Students should be able to get a job. Employer surveys will be used to assist in this assessment. The next survey is scheduled for 2009-2010 in accord with our reaccreditation cycle. To the extent feasible we track placements and job promotions each year.
  • Thus, our primary criteria is our students’ readiness to enter the professional workforce and their success once they are employed.  (Thus, employer surveys, conducted periodically, are the primary evidence used in assessment.)
  • Students will apply their knowledge and skills to important problems and concerns facing the state, its communities, and its citizens.

Degree Requirements (39 Hours)

The M.P.A. degree requires 39-48 semester hours of credit, depending on the prior preparation of the student. The program curriculum can be broken down into five components.

1. Prerequisites

Students must possess a basic proficiency in statistics and a basic understanding of American government. Students who lack such skills/expertise are required to take prerequisite courses in one or both of these areas, preferably at the beginning of their program of study.

2. Core Courses

All students must take classes in organizational theory and practice, human resource management, public finance, public policy-making, public data analysis, and public ethics and accountability. Taken together, these courses give students a comprehensive overview of the major elements of public administration and public policy-making.

3. Electives

All students must take a set of elective courses that will further their knowledge of, and administrative competency in, a particular area. The electives must constitute a coherent set of courses. But this component of the curriculum is left flexible so that students can pursue more specialized interests in a variety of relevant fields of study.

4. Internship

An internship in a public organization or nonprofit agency is required of all students who lack significant administrative experience. The internship is an integral part of the curriculum, as it gives students an opportunity to experience the real world of public service.

5. Capstone Seminar

The capstone seminar is taken by all students, preferably during their last semester in the program. In the capstone seminar, students complete a project in which they integrate the material from other M.P.A. courses in their analyses of contemporary public problems. The M.P.A. program participates in two dual-degree programs with other academic units at the University of South Carolina, and two joint degree programs with other institutions in the state.

Information on dual degree opportunities can be found at Graduate Dual Degree Programs .

6. Concentration

Students have the option of declaring a concentration in Emergency Management and Planning. Courses taken as part of the concentration count toward program elective requirements.

Emergency Management and Planning Concentration Requirements (9 Hours):