Political Science Department

MPA - Master of Public Administration

This master's program leads to the professional degree of Master of Public Administration. It provides pre-service students with the knowledge and skills necessary for effective administration of local, state, and federal government agencies and of nonprofit organizations. It also offers mid-career administrators and professionals in public service an opportunity to improve their management skills and qualifications. For the convenience of students who are employed full-time, all courses are offered in the evening. Alumni assist with orientation and mentoring activities.

The MPA program provides each student with a basic understanding of the environment of public policy and the ability to deal with:

  • Political and legal institutions and processes
  • Economic and social institutions and processes
  • Organization and management concepts, and human behavior resource administration
  • Concepts and techniques of budgeting and financial administration
  • Application of quantitative and qualitative techniques of analysis in policy and program formulation, implementation and evaluation, and decision making and problem solving

Students also develop the ability to:

  • Define and diagnose decision situations, collect relevant data, perform logical analyses, develop alternatives, implement an effective and ethical course of action, and evaluate results
  • Organize and communicate information clearly to a variety of audiences through formats including oral presentations, written memoranda and technical reports, and statistical charts, graphs, and tables
  • Apply information technology to public administration problems

For more information on the program please go to the program's website at

Admissions Requirements

The MPA program accepts students in conditionally classified and classified standing. Applicants in conditionally classified standing must meet all admissions requirements but may be lacking in one or more of the prerequisites for the program. These prerequisites must be completed before registering for the fifth MPA course. Those admitted in classified standing have met all requirements for admission to the program.

Minimum requirements for admission to the Graduate Division are outlined in this catalog. See admissions requirements.

The MPA does not use the GRE, as it is not a good predictor of performance for people who have been in the working world for several years. The MPA program is designed for working professionals, although well qualified recent graduates may be admitted.

Applicants from countries in which the native language is not English must achieve a minimum English-language proficiency test score as indicated on the Graduate Program Test Requirements webpage at GAPE.


A bachelor's degree or its equivalent from an accredited college or university is required. No specific undergraduate major is necessary. Preparation must include introductory courses in American government, micro-economics, and statistics from an accredited community college or university and competency in spreadsheet use. These courses are prerequisites, requirements to be met before beginning the MPA program. Deficiencies in preparation must be removed before admission to candidacy and before completion of 12 units of MPA courses, typically four courses. Transcripts for the baccalaureate, including from all colleges where prerequisites were taken, must be sent directly to Graduate Admissions & Program Evaluations (GAPE), not to the department, upon applying to the program. Transcripts for the missing prerequisites submitted after admission must go to the MPA Director directly.

Grade Point Average (GPA) Requirements

Applicants applying directly after graduating from an undergraduate school need an overall grade point average of 3.0 in all courses, or in the last 60 units as an undergraduate, or in the major. Applicants applying three or more years after completing the BA degree need a grade point average of 2.75 overall, or in the last 60 units of undergraduate courses, or in the major. In addition, applicants should submit evidence of professional development, such as promotions noted on a resume or in letters of recommendation.

Resume and Essay

A resume must be submitted that demonstrates professional experience and career growth.

In addition to a resume, a career interest essay providing biographical and career interest information should be sent to MPA Director, Political Science Department, One Washington Square, San José, CA 95192-0119. This essay serves as the writing sample for the program.

Requirements for Classified Standing and Program Planning

As soon as students complete the prerequisite courses, they should arrange for sealed transcripts to be sent directly from the college to the MPA Director. The Director will then file the required forms to change the student's classification.

As soon as students are admitted to classified standing, they should meet with an advisor to draft an interim program itemizing 36 units of coursework, as specified below. This plan will be submitted to Graduate Admissions and Program Evaluations (GAPE) using the "Candidacy Form."

Requirements for Advancement to Graduate Candidacy

Students must apply for admission to candidacy before the last semester of their graduate program. University requirements for advancement to candidacy for the master's degree are outlined in the Graduate Policies and Procedures section of this catalog.

The final date for submission each semester can be found at the GAPE website In addition to meeting the university-wide requirements for advancement to candidacy, as outlined in this catalog, applicants must have submitted an approved program for the degree.

Candidacy includes successful completion of the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR), described in this catalog. For graduate courses that meet the GWAR, please refer to the Graduate Admissions and Program Evaluations website at Within the MPA program, PADM 210 meets the GWAR.

Requirements for Graduation

University Graduation Requirements

Students must complete all residency, curriculum, unit, GPA, and culminating experience requirements as outlined in the Graduation Requirements section of the Graduate Policies and Procedures.

Plan A (with Thesis)

A thesis demonstrating the student's competence in original research and acceptable to the department must be submitted to the department at least eight weeks prior to the date on which the degree is to be awarded. This thesis must conform to university standards and be approved by the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies.

Plan B (with Project)

In lieu of a thesis, a student may complete a thesis-quality research project by enrolling in PADM 298, Special Problems. In PADM 298, the student will complete a substantial paper under faculty supervision to complete the project component of Plan B.

Course Requirements

Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement
At SJSU, students must pass the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR). For information on the GWAR, please see
This requirement is satisfied by passing PADM 210.
Requirements of the Masters36
Core Courses15
Students must complete these courses before taking PADM 298.
PADM 210. Introduction to Public Administration3
PADM 212. Administrative Research Methods3
PADM 213. Policy Analysis and Evaluation3
PADM 214. Introduction to Public Management3
PADM 218. Public Budgeting3
Advanced Seminars Electives9-18
Complete three courses from:
PADM 202. Regional Governance3
PADM 215. Public Personnel Administration3
PADM 217. Organizational Theory3
PADM 219. Public Financial Administration3
PADM 223. Law and Public Administration3
PADM 228. Urban Community Development4
PADM 295. Topics in Public Administration3
Additional Electives0-9
Depending on thesis or project arrangements, electives may include additional MPA courses, the PADM 281, Internship, or approved 100- or 200-level courses in political science or other departments.0-9
Culminating Experience3
Complete one option (Plan A or Plan B):
Plan A (with Thesis)3
PADM 299. Master's Thesis3
Plan B (with Project)3
PADM 298. Special Problems3

Total Units:36

No more than 6 units of 100-level course work may be applied towards the MPA degree.

No more than 6 units of transfer credit from other universities may be applied toward the MPA degree.

Students who do not have substantial management work experience related to the curriculum are required to register for PADM 281 and complete an appropriate internship.

Elective courses must be planned in consultation with the Graduate Advisor.

Upon completion of the degree requirements, the student must have achieved minimum candidacy and SJSU cumulative grade point averages of 3.0 in order to graduate.