CU Denver’s online Master of Public Administration (MPA) program was designed to help prepare you for a career in public administration and policy. Whether you’re interested in a career in government or nonprofits, the MPA degree will help you learn how to effectively lead and manage in public governance, participate in the public policy process, and articulate and apply a public service perspective to the management of your organization.

As a part of the University of Colorado at Denver, the School of Public Affairs is the only accredited school of public affairs offering graduate programs in Colorado. CU Denver is accredited under the NASPAA Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration and is also recognized as one of the top 15% national MPA programs.

Through the MPA program, we hope to advance public service in Colorado by providing students with the knowledge, skills, experiences, and ethical standards to be innovative leaders in public and nonprofit organizations. We hope to make a positive difference in public administration and policy, but we know that the only way we can do that is through you. So, whether you’re looking to change careers and enter into public administration and policy or are looking to advance your current career, the online MPA degree can help you expand your knowledge of public administration and policy and put you on a path towards success in the public sector.

Program Details

The online MPA program is grounded in quality education, collaborative research, and strong relationships with the community. The program itself is made up of a combination of public administration and public policy courses. In the public administration portion of the program, you will study topics including budgeting, organizational management, leadership, and human resources, amongst others. By contrast, in the policy portion of the MPA program, you will learn how policy affects public administration, how to write effective policies, and how to analyze policies to determine outcomes including what effect the policy will have on the community, amongst others.

While we are dedicated to your education, that is not our only focus. We also hope to help students succeed in their careers and make a positive difference in the public sector. Not only do we provide you with the skills and education to pursue or advance a career in public administration, we also pride ourselves on supporting faculty and students in research and help to disseminate findings to advance the study and practice of public and nonprofit management and policy. Additionally, we work with students and professionals to enhance the public sector’s ability to make evidence-based management decisions and policy improvements. So, not only are we with you through your Master’s degree program, but we hope to be with you throughout your entire career.


You will also have the opportunity to pursue the standard MPA degree or choose an area of concentration. You can choose between:

Disasters, Hazards, and Emergency Management (DHEM)

The concentration in Disasters, Hazards, and Emergency Management provides a solid all-hazards knowledge base for students interested in natural hazards, disasters, and resilience. The concentration will not ignore security aspects, but security-related topics will be just one among many topics to include natural hazards/disasters, accidents, etc.

Emergency Management and Homeland Security (EMHS)

The MPA graduate concentration in EMHS provides advances education in the management of emergencies, hazards, disasters, and homeland security. Upon completion of the program, you will have the knowledge and skills necessary to assess and manage a broad range of hazards and disasters, and to understand the policy environment in which emergency management occurs.

Environmental Policy, Management, and Law (EPML)

The EPML concentration provides students with the knowledge and skills to critically examine the relationship between public policy and the environment. Students gain a historical perspective and understanding of how the environment is affected by relationships between various entities, including: legislatures, administrative agencies, courts, federal, state, and local governments, nonprofit and private sectors, and the public it has been established to serve.

Gender Based Violence 

The concentration in Gender-Based Violence (MPA-PGV) focuses on organizational management and public policy, helping service organizations integrate grassroots social justice work with good administrative practice. The interdisciplinary provides students with the ability to: lead and manage public, nonprofit, and community-based organizations focused on interpersonal violence; engage diverse individuals, systems and communities to address interpersonal violence; analyze, synthesize and think critically about the nature, scope and root causes of interpersonal violence; advocate for public policies and practices that effectively address interpersonal violence

Nonprofit Organizations 

The Nonprofit Organization concentration was designed to prepare students to become innovative and critical thinkers who are ready to operate and manage in the nonprofit sector. This concentration will teach you to assess community needs, navigate the realm of public policy affecting the nonprofit sector, and strategically and effectively manage organizations designed to benefit society as a whole.

State and Local Government 

The Local Government Concentration allows Master of Public Administration students to develop knowledge and skills for working in local government. Students graduating with a concentration in local government will: develop an understanding of the political traditions and institutional structuring of local governments; understand how local governments function within the intergovernmental system, as well as through partnerships with the private and nonprofit sectors; and acquire the skills necessary to be an effective manager in the local government context.

Finally, you will undergo a capstone program. In the capstone, you will demonstrate your mastery of the knowledge and skills acquired in core courses, through the conduct of a client-based project. If you choose to pursue a concentration, you must undertake a project related to that concentration. You’ll also make a juried oral presentation of the professional paper which reports project findings. This is the cumulative opportunity for you to apply concepts, theories, and research skills gained in the program to professional practice.

Tuition and Fees

Investing in your future is a big decision. However, becoming a fully online student at CU Denver is an affordable option with discounted tuition rates for non resident, fully online students. And of course, you will save money not having to drive to campus! 

Tuition and fees are based largely on the class that you enroll in. Tuition amount assessed is determined based on which school/college is offering your class, as well as if it is an undergrad or graduate level, and finally your resident status. For more information or to view exact rates, please visit the Bursar's website.

Financial aid and scholarships are available for those who qualify.

graduation cap with money


The Master of Public Administration program requires a minimum of 36 semester credit hours of graduate coursework.
  • All students complete seven core (required) courses, four elective courses, and a capstone.
  • All students complete either a client based capstone project (that allows you to apply the skills from the MPA program to a real life organization) or you may choose to complete a two-semester thesis option.

If you do not have work experience in the public or nonprofit sectors, you must complete a 3 credit internship (giving you 39 total credit hours). ​​

The normal course load for a full-time student is 9-12 credit hours per semester. You are required to carry five semester credit hours if you wish to be a full-time student. This is often important for financial aid. We do not recommend carrying more than six semester hours if you are also working full-time. 

Although the MPA program does require an intensive commitment, it does not require full-time study. On average, MPA students complete the program in two and a half years but can take as many as six years to complete.


Admission requirements and deadlines vary based on program. In addition, you will have different requirements depending on if you are a first time student, a transfer student, or an international student. For this program, applications are accepted on a rolling basis for admission. The preferred deadline for MPA students is in place for scholarship and funding opportunities.

Learn more about the admissions process by visiting the CU Denver admissions website and start your application today!

Career Outlook

Our association with NASPAA provides us with a national network of professionals across the country and allows us to take advantage of their services including in the career services area. Not only are we able to connect you with public administration professionals in our circle, we’re also able to take advantage of connections with other schools accredited with NASPAA. For example, if you’re located in Seattle, we can help you get in touch with another NASPAA accredited school in Seattle who can, in turn, put you in touch with their network of local professionals.

Whether you’re interested in working for a nonprofit, taking a role in local government, or even supporting an organization in the private sector, the outlook for public administration professionals is strong. Depending on your focus and career, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects that the job outlook for public administration careers could anticipate as high as a 17% anticipated growth from 2014-2024.

Here are some examples of the career opportunities you will be prepared for after graduation and their average median salary:

  • Budget Analyst, $58,516
  • Management Analyst, $64,463
  • Urban Planner, $54,666



Courses at CU Denver are offered three times a year - fall, spring, and summer. Not all courses are available every semester. For most programs, courses last 15 weeks, plus one week for finals. This is a big commitment, but we believe the extra time you spend dedicated to your studies pays off! 

ELECTIVES: Students take 4 courses, 12 credits, of electives toward a specific concentration, or in general based on their interests and advising.

View the CU Denver academic calendar.

View the academic catalog for course information.

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