MPA - Master of Public Administration

The Master of Public Administration (MPA) is the primary professional degree for the public and nonprofit sector. The MPA program develops skills and techniques used by leaders and managers to implement policies, projects, and programs in public-serving organizations. As a general management degree, the MPA is similar to the Masters of Business Administration, except the MPA focuses on the finance and management of government agencies, nonprofit organizations, philanthropic institutions, and healthcare providers rather than for-profit corporations. If you are strongly motivated to be an effective, ethical and innovative organizational leader working for the betterment of your community, the MPA degree is your best choice.

Why Study Public Administration at Grand Valley?

  • Our program, located adjacent to downtown Grand Rapids, has a myriad of partnerships throughout West Michigan which provide internships and service learning opportunities. This ensures our students get networked with leaders of various local public, private and nonprofit sector organizations.
  • Student with any undergraduate major can enter the MPA program. Over a five year period, students came to us with 104 different undergraduate majors. The top 10 majors were Criminal Justice, Psychology, Public & Nonprofit Administration, Political Science, Sociology, Social Work, Liberal Studies, Advertising & Public Relations, International Relations, and Health Professions.
  • We have been accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) for over twenty years, starting in 1995. This accreditation recognizes that our programs maintain rigor and currency for tomorrow's public leaders.
  • Our program is flexible for both full-time and part-time students, with courses meeting in the evening, on weekends and on-line.
  • We are supportive of our students' career objectives and provide many curriculum options to match those objectives.
  • Our classes are the most diverse of any  graduate program at Grand Valley. There is no "typical" MPA student, as our students vary by race, ethnicity, age, gender, experience, nationality, politics, and career ambitions.      

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Application deadlines are:

  • June 1 for Fall semester
  • November 1 for Winter semester
  • April 1 for Spring/Summer semester
  • Late applications are accepted as space allows

Materials required to complete your graduate application

  • Resume
  • Transcripts (minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA)
  • Three recommendations
  • Essay/personal statement
  • GRE scores are NOT required

We seek applicants with at least an undergraduate 3.0 GPA from an accredited college or university. Alternatively, submitting strong GRE scores, having professional work experience, holding a graduate degree or certificate, or having successfully completed graduate course work as a non-degree seeking student or in another program will be considered as evidence of academic potential.

6300, The number of internship hours logged in 2019-20

90.6%, the share of students employed at graduation

40, The number of MPA degrees awarded in 2018-19

1995, The year the MPA was first accredited by NASPAA

Costs and Financial Aid

The completion of the MPA requires a minimum of 42 credits for pre-career students, who need an internship, and 39 credits for in-service students. For information on tuition per credit hour and other fees, please visit the costs portion of the GVSU Financial Aid website. 

For scholarship information please visit the SPNHA scholarship page. For graduate assistant information, please visit the SPNHA graduate assistantship page. For other financial support and filing for FAFSA, please visit the GVSU Financial Support website.

The Graduate School provides funding for student conference attendance and research projects through the Academic Conference Fund and Presidential Research Grants.

Key People

Davia Downey

Graduate Program Director: Neal Buckwalter

Internship Coordinator: Quincy Williams

Department Chair: Raymond Higbea

Academic Faculty

Career Center contact: Grace Pushman

Library liaison: Ashley Rosener

College Dean: Sherril Soman

Practitioner Faculty

Employment Outlook and Career Advice

4.6%, the projected growth of management-level employment in local government, 2018-2028 (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

$119,290 is the annual mean wages of management-level employees in the federal government, May 2017 as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics

$87,710 is the annual mean wage of management-level employees in state government, May 2017 as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics

$90,090 is the annual mean wage of management-level employees in local government, May 2017 as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics

11%, the projected change in employment for urban and regional planners, 2018-2028 as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics

$71,150 is the median annual wage of urban and regional planners in local government, May 2018, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Program Transparency

Graduation rates

Of the students that started the MPA program in Fall 2016 or Winter 2017, 71.1% were retained into their second year.

Of the students enrolled in the MPA program for the 2015-2016 cohort:

  • 64% completed the MPA in 4 years or less

Class sizes

  • The average MPA class size was 13.9 in Winter 2020


  • 28.7% of MPA students registered full-time (9 or more credits) in Fall 2019
  • 71.3% of MPA students registered part-time in Fall 2019
  • the average student course load was 6.25 credit hours in Winter 2018


  • 90.6% of MPA students are employed at graduation
  • 82% of MPA graduates (2016-2019) recommend the program

Student Learning Outcomes

Student Body Profile

MPA students at time of graduation, August 2012 to April 2017 (Total graduates: 352)

  • Age under 24: 14% 
  • Age 25-29: 45%
  • Age 30-39: 25%
  • Age 40+: 17%
  • Female: 69%
  • Male: 31%
  • African-American / Black: 7%
  • American Indian or Alaskan Native: 1%
  • Asian / Pacific Islander: 4%
  • Hispanic: 5%
  • Mixed-race: 2%
  • White: 71%
  • International (on student visa)  6%

64%, the share of students who graduated in 4 years or less, based on the 2015-16 cohort

6.3 is the average number of credit hours attempted by MPA Students in the Winter 2020 semester

82% is the share of MPA graduates from 2016 to 2019 who recommend the program to others

13.9 is the average MPA class size Winter 2020

Some recent graduates

Simeon John-Armando Switzer

Simeon Switzer (MPA '15) is currently a claims specialist for the Social Security Administration. 

Autumn Hubbard

Autumn Hubbard (MPA '15) is Fundraising Marketing Manager at Bethany Christian Services

Hannah (Rogers) Olechnowicz

Hannah (Rogers) Olechnowicz (MPA '17) is currently Executive Director of the Grand Haven Schools Foundation


Shianne Campos

Shianne Campos (MPA '17) is currently Regional Marketing Specialist at Mercy Health

Andrew Claucherty

Andrew Claucherty (MPA '17) is currently Program Specialist at Habitat for Humanity of Kent County

Brady Selner

Brady Selner (MPA'18) is currently Village Administrator for the Village of Shelby