Today’s online master’s degrees in government prepare students for a range of rewarding careers in which they can shape the public services that impact citizens’ daily lives or even influence international policies that can affect future generations.
Executive Master of International Service
Master of Arts in International Relations
American University’s School of International Service offers an online Executive Master of International Service (MIS) and an online Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR). With curricula designed to develop critical and analytical thinking, the programs develop leaders who are prepared to drive change in global communities.
Global Security, International Development, International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security
Varies. The MIS typically takes 18 months to complete, or 24–30 credits. The MAIR typically takes 2 years to complete, or 39 credits.
Start Dates: January, May, August and SeptemberLearn More About International Relations Online
Master of Arts in Social Enterprise
The Social Enterprise Master’s program from American University’s top-ranked School of International Service teaches the principles of social entrepreneurship, innovation, and socially responsible business practices. The online Social Enterprise Master’s program combines courses in management and social change to give students the skills and knowledge to successfully launch or thrive within enterprises that advance a social mission.
Through the Social Enterprise Master’s program, students can take their careers in a number of directions:
- Advance within their current sector. By learning how to create and use business models to advance a social mission, students can equip themselves for leadership roles that enable them to solve international challenges.
- Begin a career in social enterprise. Students at the start of their career gain the multidisciplinary knowledge to pursue a role that aligns with their passion.
- Transition to the social impact sphere. By learning innovative approaches to advocacy and development, students can move from a public- or private-sector career to NGOs or nonprofit organizations.
- Start a socially responsible business. Aspiring entrepreneurs can acquire the skills in social innovation, project design, and global policy to start a socially responsible business anywhere in the world.
The Social Enterprise Master’s program consists of 39 or 42 credits, depending on the student’s prior economics background. The program can take 24-48 months to complete.
Start Dates: January, May, August, SeptemberLearn More About Social Enterprise Master's
Master of Public Administration
MPA@UNC is the online Master of Public Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Government. MPA@UNC prepares students for leadership positions in local, state and public service organizations through a curriculum that builds core professional competencies.
Community and Economic Development, International Relations, Local Government, Nonprofit Management, Public Health
Students entering MPA@UNC will typically complete the program in two to three years. Students who opt to take a part-time schedule may take up to five years to complete the program. Students who opt to accelerate can complete the program in as little as 18 months.
Start Dates: January, May, August and SeptemberLearn More About MPA@UNC
ExecutiveMPA@Syracuse is the online Executive Master of Public Administration from Syracuse University's #1-ranked Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. ExecutiveMPA@Syracuse prepares experienced public servants to advance within government, nonprofit, and for-profit organizations, both nationally and internationally. The curriculum is designed to help executives develop the skills, insights, and strategies to successfully lead organizations amid dynamic global change.
ExecutiveMPA@Syracuse consists of 30 credits which students can complete entirely online in as little as 15 months.
Start Dates: July and OctoberLearn More About ExecutiveMPA@Syracuse
U.S. Government Employees by Level of Service
Pie chart showing percentage of U.S. government employees employed by local, state, and federal government. Local: 63.3%; State: 24%; Federal: 12.7%
Data from the United States Census Bureau
Government Graduate Programs
Prospective students interested in public service can choose from an array of online degree programs, including public administration, public policy, international relations, public health and health administration.
While admissions requirements vary between programs and schools, most graduate programs typically require:
- A bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university
- Relevant experience in the discipline
- Prior coursework specific to the degree program or discipline such as:
- American government courses for a Master of Public Administration (MPA) or Master of Public Policy (MPP)
- Economics courses for a Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR)
- Financial accounting and statistics courses for a Master of Health Administration (MHA)
- Standard admissions materials, including:
- Application and application fee
- Official transcripts
- Résumé or curriculum vitae
- Letters of recommendation
- Statement of purpose
Some programs also have minimum undergraduate GPA requirements. Depending upon the school and program, Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) scores may be required. In these cases, the Law School Aptitude Test (LSAT) also may be used.
Government Graduate Program Curricula
Master of Public Administration (MPA)
An MPA degree program prepares graduates for leadership roles in nonprofit organizations and public agencies at the local, state and national levels.
Core courses are designed to develop essential skills in project and program management, policy implementation, human resources and financial management, and decision-making.
Most MPA programs offer electives and concentrations to allow students to deepen their expertise in specific areas such as nonprofit management, public health, community and economic development, local government or international relations.
Career options for MPA grads span the government, nonprofit and private sectors and include positions such as program manager or coordinator, policy and/or budget analyst, city manager and chief administrative officer.
Master of Public Policy (MPP)
An MPP degree program prepares graduates to analyze, evaluate and develop policy solutions for complex issues affecting the public welfare.
Core courses in an MPP program typically include statistics and data analysis, public financial management, micro and macro economics, policy analysis methods, ethics and quantitative methods.
Career options in this field include roles in advocacy, government affairs, research and budget analysis, consulting, nonprofit leadership, health policy and environmental policy.
Master of Arts in International Relations
While degree names vary between institutions and programs, international relations (IR) graduate degree programs in general provide a foundational overview of international affairs topics and theories as well as specialized coursework in the form of concentrations. Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR) programs prepare students with little international relations experience to start a career in the field. Executive Master of International Studies (MIS) programs strengthen the leadership and knowledge of experienced international relations professionals.
Core courses typically cover key IR concepts, organizations and policy debates; the role of intercultural communication in foreign policy and conflicts; international economics; and project design and evaluation. Throughout these courses, students can expect to deepen their quantitative analysis, research, writing and presentation skills.
Most graduate programs in international relations also offer concentrations that allow students to develop expertise in a specific area of international affairs. Some schools offer region-specific concentrations, such as Middle East or Latin America, while other schools offer functional concentrations such as:
- Global Security: Students examine the dynamics of conflict and peace, preparing to play a role in preventing, managing or mitigating global conflict.
- U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security: Students explore the economic, historical and political factors underlying foreign policy formulation, preparing for careers in foreign policy, defense or intelligence.
- International Development: Students consider the economic, political and social issues affecting economic development, preparing to make an impact on low-income or impoverished communities around the globe.
- International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution: Students focus on identifying and assessing the underlying causes of conflicts and develop the negotiation skills required to resolve those conflicts.
Career options for IR graduates span the government/public, private and nonprofit sectors. Public sector positions include foreign service officer, legislative staff member, policy analyst or intelligence officer. Private sector careers requiring IR expertise are found in international banking and investing, international development consulting, journalism, risk analysis and economic development. Nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and think tanks employ IR graduates as policy and research analysts, program managers and development officers.
Master of Public Health (MPH)
An MPH degree prepares students to promote public health on a local, population or global level through public health education, outreach and service programs.
The core curriculum of a public health graduate program will generally include courses in biostatistics, epidemiology, public health policy and administration, social and behavioral sciences, and environmental health science.
Most MPH programs also offer concentrations that allow students to develop expertise in specific areas:
- Health Communication: Students focus on the use of marketing and communication strategies to promote public health.
- Health Policy: Students focus on the use of health policy education, research and services to improve public health locally and globally.
- Program Planning and Evaluation: Students prepare to develop, assess and manage public health education and promotion programs.
- Global Health: Students prepare to develop, implement and evaluate public health policies targeting underserved populations at the community, population and global levels.
Career options for MPH graduates include public health planner, health policy analyst, public health officer and epidemiologist.
Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA)
Online MHA degree programs prepare students to improve health care service delivery by reducing waste, controlling costs, minimizing medical errors and managing resources and staff effectively.
Core courses include financial management; health care policy, economics and law; medical informatics; and health care management. Some MHA programs also require an applied research or capstone project applying knowledge gained in the classroom in a real-world health care setting.
Career options for graduates of these programs include health care administrator, hospital CEO, chief nursing officer, medical practice manager, health care consultant and health informatics manager.
2U-Powered Government Programs
2U partners with top universities to offer their degree programs online, including master’s programs in public administration. Students in 2U partner programs benefit from the highest-quality online learning platform available, with access to an online campus from anywhere they have an Internet connection. University faculty lead all academic issues related to programs, including instruction and curriculum development. 2U-powered programs feature:
created by faculty and available 24/7.
in a collaborative online classroom.
between students and universities.
at field placements or immersions.
from application through graduation.