Masters in Public Administration


Overview | The MPA is the key professional degree for individuals working in the fast-growing public and nonprofit sectors, and our graduates succeed in obtaining work in those areas (see figure). The College of Public Service MPA is the only NASPAA-accredited MPA program in Middle Tennessee.  Located in the state capital and a vibrant city, we can offer opportunities to interact with state and local public policymakers, administrators and nonprofit leaders during your studies.  The MPA can also be combined with a graduate certificate to emphasize Public Policy, Healthcare Administration and Planning, or Nonprofit Management, increasing relevance for these dynamic fields. Courses are offered in a variety of delivery approaches (evening, hybrid, weekend) which help meet our students' needs as working adults.  You can start the MPA program in spring, summer or fall. Students who have less than one year professional-level experience in a public, nonprofit or healthcare administration setting, as evaluated by program advisor, complete a 300-hour internship, gaining real-world experience in their desired sector (recent host organizations). Qualifying unconditionally admitted students can apply for a graduate assistantship, subject to funds availability; contact us to learn more. Always seek advising before registration to make sound course choices (Contact your advisor).  In particular, students who want to pursue a certificate along with the MPA should seek advising before choosing any electives in the MPA or certificate to minimize chances of having to take an extra course while satisfying each set of requirements. Our Online Handbook for the MPA offers more detail on our program.

MPA alumni employment field or sector bar graph


ONLINE HANDBOOK:  Masters in Public Administration (MPA) Degree

Point of contact for prospective students:  Dr. Rodney Stanley, Department Chair
Point of contact for admitted students: Advisors

I. Key guiding documents

  1. TSU Graduate Catalog - Relevant policies are found both in the front of the catalog which apply to all TSU graduate students (p. 15-45 of 2015-2017 Catalog) as well as the program-specific part in the College of Public Service section (begins p. 157 of 2015-2017 Catalog). Some clarifications relevant to the MPA program are also contained in these updates and revisions to the 2015-2017 Graduate Catalog; please review.

    Please note that this "online handbook," while it provides useful details for prospective and current students, does not replace or supercede the Graduate Catalog, nor does it cover all the important elements of policy included in the Catalog.  All applicants and students are responsible for knowing and abiding by TSU, Graduate School, and program policies outlined in the Catalog.

II. The purpose and uses of the MPA degree

  1. Why public service?  Our accreditor, the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA), provides background on the MPA degree and its uses. Information is also available from our accrediting agency on accredited programs.
  2. To learn more about our program's goals, please review our MPA program mission and program factsheet.
  3. For a one-page overview of the degree, review this program flyer.

III. The content areas of the MPA degree at TSU

  1. To understand what specific skills, abilities and knowledge areas are included in the MPA degree at TSU, review our core competencies by course.  Competencies included in electives (also included in graduate certificate curricula) are detailed here.
  2. For more insight, examine sample syllabi (these are past examples provided for prospective students; current students should always ask the instructor for a current syllabus.)
  3. Please review this advice about textbooks.

IV. Applying for admission to the MPA degree

  1. To review the current MPA degree admissions requirements, read the MPA section in the current Graduate Catalog, including the GRE exam and GPA criteria (begins p. 157 of 2015-2017 Catalog) as well as the general Graduate School admissions information in the front portion of the catalog. Consult this FAQ for further information regarding the MPA GRE requirement, and general information about the exam. Please note there are additional Graduate School admissions requirements for international students.
  2. Deadlines are published at the Graduate School website.
  3. Apply to the Graduate School directly (615/963.5901).
  4. If you are interested in pursuing both the MPA and a graduate certificate simultaneously, consult this FAQ to find out how to apply for both, or to add one program if you have already been accepted into the other.

V. Graduate assistantships and other funding support

  1. Unconditionally admitted students may apply for MPA graduate assistantships, subject to available openings and funds. This is a selective process and only individuals who have been unconditionally admitted to the MPA or current students who have achieved unconditional status may apply. Please note that we cannot guarantee that graduate assistantships, once awarded, will be available in subsequent years to the same student.
  2. For further details, please consult the FAQ about financial support for the MPA program.
  3. To apply, complete the graduate assistantship application and submit to Department of Public Administration via fax to 615/963.7245 or via email to the Department Chair Dr. Rodney Stanley

VI. Advising and course selection

  1. Advisors are assigned by program and/or certificate being pursued; see this list of advisors and their contact information.  
  2. Check in with your advisor every semester before course selection to verify that your choices are appropriate and to complete any necessary paperwork to complete program benchmarks.  Seeking advising regularly is your responsibility as a graduate student and will help to ensure a smooth path through the program.
  3. Admitted students may access the course schedule and register for a semester's coursework in the myTSU system.  That system is also where you access information about billing and financial aid status, view your unofficial transcript and see which programs you have been admitted to, and where you register your vehicle to obtain a parking permit. While registration and the most current course schedule information is inside myTSU, for our students' convenience we also produce a summary sheet periodically showing the upcoming semester's course schedule.  These summaries are available here with other resources for registration.
  4. Upon successfully completing 9 credits in the program and satisfying any outstanding conditions on your admission, you must contact your advisor and schedule an appointment to complete the program of study for MPA students.  This form is essential for continuing in the program and ensuring that you have a plan for completion that has been approved by your advisor.
  5. If you are pursuing a certificate as well as the MPA, read the relevant FAQ carefully. These FAQ include curricula and degree maps to aid in planning completion.
    - Course selection and forms - MPA plus Graduate Certificate - Public Policy
    - Course selection and forms - MPA plus Graduate Certificate - Healthcare Administration & Planning
    - Course selection and forms - MPA plus Graduate Certificate - Nonprofit Management
  6. If you become interested in adding a certificate to your MPA degree studies, review these frequently asked questions about completing both the MPA degree and one of the PA department graduate certificates to learn how.
  7. This summary sheet provides an overview of the Department of Public Administration course offerings.  It should not be a replacement for consulting your advisor, but it can help you understand which semester coursese are typically offered.
  8. With advisor permission, under certain circumstances we allow students to substitute specific courses from the MPS program (through the Regents Online Campus Collaborative) for specific required courses in the MPA program.  If your advisor gives you permission for this substitution, review this FAQ about taking an MPS course..

VIII.  Succeeding in coursework and making satisfactory progress toward your degree

  1. Review this FAQ on Taking graduate courses and maintaining good standing.
  2. Review this FAQ on Advice about textbook and other required course materials.

VII.  The MPA Internship requirement

  1. MPA students have a six-credit internship requirement.  Those students with a year or more professional-level experience in the public, nonprofit, or healthcare sectors may apply for the internship exemption subject to advisor and department approval. You should discuss your professional experience with your advisor at the Program of Study advising appointment, which you should schedule as soon as you have 9 credits successfully complete in the MPA program.
  2. Read these answers to frequently asked questions about the MPA internship requirement, and exemption from the requirement; including necessary forms and links to recent internship host examples.
  3. If your advisor has approved you to apply for exemption from the internship based on your professional experience, then review the materials you will need to submit:  application for exemption from the internship requirement.  The internship exemption materials are due to your advisor by the Friday after the comprehensive exam.

VIII.  The MPA writing portfolio requirement

  1. All MPA students must submit the writing portfolio for evaluation to their advisor in their last semester (by the Friday after the comprehensive exam).  To make this process easier, make sure you save your papers as you take your MPA coursework. Back up your electronic files regularly.
  2. For details on the materials to be included in the portfolio, read these instructions for submission of MPA writing portfolio.

IX.  The MPA comprehensive exam requirement

  1. All MPA students must pass a comprehensive exam in order to graduate with the degree.
  2. You can request to take the MPA comprehensive exam when you have at least 30 credits complete in the program and you have completed (or are completing that semester) your core courses.  You must have a 3.0 GPA to sit for the exam. The exam covers core courses, not electives.
  3. Review these frequently asked questions about the MPA comprehensive exam.  They include upcoming exam dates; details of exam format; a link to sample comprehensive exam questions; and also study strategies.
  4. You must submit the  request to take the MPA comprehensive exam to your advisor at the beginning of the semester in which you would like to take the exam.
  5. All major degree exam dates for the Public Administration department are listed here.  If you don't see the MPA comp exam date for the semester you are interested in, contact your advisor.

X. Preparing to graduate

  1. If you are planning to graduate in the upcoming semester, you must apply online inside myTSU to notify the Graduate School.  Apply to graduate inside that system separately for each program you plan to complete (MPA and/or certificate(s)).   Check the Records Office Graduation Application website  for deadline. Application is mandatory whether or not you plan to attend Commencement ceremonies. If you have any problems registering to graduate for all program(s) you are completing, contact your advisor immediately.
  2. Visit the TSU commencement site to obtain important information on the "Grad Finale" which you must attend to get fitted for cap and gown; this event typically occurs before mid-semester) as well as on Commencement exercises themselves. Commencement ceremonies are held only in May and in December.  In May, the ceremony for graduate students may be held at a different time than the undergraduate ceremonies; the site will have these details.
  3. Students who have achieved at a high level during their MPA studies may be eligible for membership in the Pi Alpha Alpha Public Administration honor society; please consult this FAQ.

webpage contact:
Public Administration