Mar 21, 2023  
Graduate 2021-2023 
Graduate 2021-2023

Public Administration, M.P.A.

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The MPA program is delivered only in fully online format, primarily asynchronously. It prepares students for administrative positions in local, state, or national government and in non-profit agencies. The MPA is accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA). It requires 36 credits of coursework plus an internship of 6 credits.

A modern public administrator must understand administrative processes, all factors that affect them, and their implications for the vital issues which affect our society. Administrators must be able to analyze government- and policy-related problems and recommend appropriate courses of action to elected officials and other public policymakers. In order to accomplish the public mission, it is essential that public administrators have specific skills and knowledge in areas such as financial administration, personnel management, evaluation, research design, statistics, and the management and leadership of large organizations. Our graduates are professionals qualified by their specialized knowledge, skills, and abilities to assume key leadership and managerial positions in the public sector.


All applicants to graduate programs in the College of Public Service must also consult the Graduate School policies detailed at the beginning of the Graduate Catalog, which pertains to all TSU graduate students. All students are expected to be familiar with and to adhere to both Graduate School policies and specific departmental requirements for their degree and/or graduate certificate. A cumulative grade point average of 3.0 in all graduate courses taken at Tennessee State University is required for successful completion of graduate certificates or graduate degree programs; individual programs may also have more restrictive policies as detailed in their Catalog section (for example, C grades in core courses are not accepted for the Ph.D. in public policy). We abide by Graduate School policies including those regarding retention, probation, suspension, and time limitations for degrees (see the front matter of this Catalog). Per Graduate School policy, a given course in our programs may be repeated one time only, and the second grade will replace the first. A student may repeat a maximum of two (2) courses in a given program for the purpose of improving grades.

Admission Process and Requirements

To be considered for admission, all applicants must provide the following items via the online Graduate School admission portal, GradCAS: (1) Application for Admission; (2) application fee; (3) one official transcript from all colleges and universities previously attended, showing a cumulative GPA of  2.7 or higher for the undergraduate degree (submitted via GradCAS, not sent directly to the Graduate School); (4) three letters of recommendation from persons familiar with the applicant’s potential for masters-level study in public administration; and (5) a 500- to 1,000-word Statement of Purpose discussing why the applicant is interested in a master’s degree, and why the master’s program in public administration specifically is a good fit for their goals. All applicants are expected to be competent in written and spoken English and must possess basic computer literacy; applicants who have English as a foreign language must meet the minimum English Proficiency requirements set by the Graduate School. The admission decision will be based on the entire academic and professional record after the conditions specified here have been met. Applicants will be granted unconditional admission if the overall record (based on the above variables) indicates a high potential for success in the program. Students with undergraduate GPAs that range from 2.5 to 2.69 may enter one of our five certificate programs.  Once the student completes one of the five certificate programs with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, they can apply for the MPA and the 2.7 undergraduate GPA requirement will be waived; all six courses from the certificate program will count towards the MPA degree if admitted.


Each student admitted to the MPA program is assigned an advisor; advisors are listed by program responsibility on the department website. Students should consult with their advisors prior to registering for classes in each term of enrollment. It is the student’s responsibility to contact the advisor when consultation is needed.

Degree Requirements

  1. Master’s Core. Students must satisfy the nine-course core requirement plus any prerequisite courses. Enrollment in a specific course may be waived for students having equivalent graduate course work not having been used for another degree, up to transfer limits specified in Graduate School policy. Waiver of a core course requirement does not reduce the total credit hours which must be earned toward the degree.
  2. Electives. Students may select, with the approval of their advisors, three 6000 level courses offered by the Department. With the permission of the student’s advisor, a maximum of 12 credit hours of coursework may be taken outside of the Department, including courses transferred from another institution.Most MPA students choose to pursue a graduate certificate from the department; the electives in that case will be dictated by the requirements of the certificate chosen. Consult the advisor before taking any electives to ensure proper course selection for timely completion.
  3. Internship. The total credit hours for the MPA include 6 credits for a supervised internship of 300 hours. Students typically work for state or city agencies acquiring practical experience in government or in an appropriate nonprofit agency. To ensure that a particular internship opportunity meets departmental requirements for credit, the MPA student must consult with the internship coordinator prior to making a commitment to an agency. Students are expected to seek an internship only after completing at least 15 credit hours of MPA course work. Forms which are required before, during, and upon the close of the internship are linked at the MPA handbook online, along with the syllabus for the internship credits which includes required assignments.
  4. Students with one year or more of significant professional public, nonprofit, or healthcare administrative experience may be exempted from the internship requirement and have a reduction of 6 credits in the total credits required for the MPA (from 42 to 36). This exemption is contingent on advisor approval of the exemption application and must be discussed with the advisor early in the course of study. Qualified students seeking an internship exemption must submit the Internship Exemption form accompanied by a reflective paper relating their academic study to their work experience. and other materials documenting their professional experience (the form and further instructions are available in the MPA handbook online) by the announced deadline in their final semester. Advisor approval of this submission is a graduation requirement for any student not completing the internship. Further instructions should be sought from the advisor.
  5. The Capstone Project, completed during the capstone core course (PADM 6700) offers each student the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of the theory and practice of public administration by applying the knowledge and skills gained in the MPA program to a client-based project of the student’s choice (subject to the course instructor’s advanced approval). As part of this course, the student will complete a project report for the client organization that reflects application of knowledge, skills, and abilities developed in the MPA program to the project. The products from this course will serve as tangible evidence of a graduating MPA student’s qualifications and expertise. The course is intended only for students who are completing their Masters of Public Administration (MPA). In order to enroll in this course, students must have completed PADM 6130 (Research Methods), PADM 6500 (Internship) if required, and be no more than one (1) semester away from graduating. Therefore, a student who wants to graduate in the Spring, could take this course during the Spring when they expect to graduate or during the preceding Fall semester. Students who are unsure about whether they are eligible to take this course yet should consult their advisor.
    • NOTE: The Capstone course (PADM 6700) and project requirement became effective for all students admitted to the MPA program for the Fall 2020 semester and following. Students who were admitted for earlier semesters are required instead to take a different ninth core course - PADM 6150 Information Technology for Public Administrators - and to complete the MPA comprehensive exam successfully (there are no credits associated with the exam itself). Such students have an option to switch to the PADM 6700 Capstone Course and project requirement, as a replacement for the PADM 6150 core course and the MPA Comprehensive Exam. Students must request this change from their advisor. The advisor will go over the implications with them given their particular circumstances. In the event they have already completed PADM 6150 successfully, and they want to switch to the capstone plan, they must still successfully complete all 9 required core courses listed below including the PADM 6700 Capstone course, 3 electives, and if applicable, the 6-credit internship, to graduate. If the student is not also completing a certificate, PADM 6150 could count as an elective. But if the student does want to complete a certificate, all elective slots will be taken up by certificate requirements and PADM 6150 will end up as an extra course which does not count towards their graduation requirements under the new plan. Once the new Capstone plan is chosen in consultation with the advisor, it is not possible to revert to the earlier comprehensive exam plan; and no student subject by their semester (Fall 2020 and after) to the Capstone plan may choose instead to take the comprehensive exam. . 
  6. Reflective Statement of Purpose. All students completing the MPA degree are required to submit a reflective statement of purpose in their final semester, along with a copy of their original statement of purpose (submitted during the application process). Further instructions are available in the MPA handbook online.

Course Scheduling

To align with the contemporary needs of students and working professionals, courses are delivered fully online. Students are urged to check the course schedule each semester for course offerings, as well as correspond or meet with their advisor to ensure that they are enrolling in the correct courses.

Program of Study

Internship - 6 additional credits unless exempted

Concentration or Elective Courses - 9 credits

Each MPA student will be required to complete 9 elective credits (3 courses). If the student is completing a Graduate Certificate from the department, these 3 courses will be dictated by the curriculum of the certificate chosen. In the event the student does not want to pursue a certificate, any three PADM 6000 courses not listed above can be chosen with advisor approval. To ensure timely completion of the desired course of study, all elective choices must be discussed with the advisor.

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