MPA Curriculum and Policies

Established in the 1950s, the MPA Program is a professional degree that trains individuals for service in the government and non-profit sector. The program is accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) and includes courses that provide the knowledge and skills for effective organizational, human resource and financial management; problem-solving and decision-making; and representation of the public interest.

Full-time MPA students typically complete the 36-unit program in approximately two years. A full-time course load is three courses (9 units) per semester; however, most students typically take two courses (6 units) per semester due to work and personal commitments. The program is taught through a mix of in-person, hybrid and online courses to provide students with valuable opportunities for in-person engagement with instructors and peers as well as flexibility through online coursework. Courses typically meet once per week beginning at 6 pm. 

Details about the program's curriculum and policies can be found in the MPA Graduate Student Handbook and the University Catalog links below:

MPA Graduate Student Handbook 2024-2025

University Catalog

What to Expect

The California State University system suggests that graduate students will need to devote 3 hours per week outside of class meeting times for every 1 unit of coursework to complete class requirements, such as readings and assignments. Graduate classes typically are 3 units each with most MPA students taking two classes (or 6 units) per semester. Thus, graduate students often devote nearly 20 hours per week on coursework.

Degree Requirements

The MPA program requires the completion of 36 units of coursework, the comprehensive exit exam, and an internship or proof of relevant work experience. 

Core Curriculum

The core curriculum of 12 units (4 courses) includes:

POLS 5700 Public Administration as a Field of Practice
POLS 5720 Public Sector Organization and Management
POLS 5730 Public Sector Human Resources Management
POLS 5740 Public Budgeting and Financial Administration

Management Perspectives

Students must complete 6 units (2 courses) of the following choices:

POLS 5750 The Third Sector and Non-Profit Organizations
POLS 5760
 Managing Intergovernmental and Intersectoral Relations
POLS 5770 E-Government and Management

Analytic Perspectives

Students must complete 6 units (2 courses) of the following choices:

POLS 5800 Data Analysis for Public and Non-Profit Managers
POLS 5810 Policy Analysis for Public and Non-Profit Managers
POLS 5820 Program Evaluation for Public and Non-Profit Managers

Elective Courses

Students also are required to complete 9 units of electives that can be any combination of the following 3- and 1-unit electives:

3-Unit Elective Courses

POLS 5830 Managing Social Policy
POLS 5835 Arts and Cultural Administration
POLS 5840 Issues in the Metropolitan Area
POLS 5845 Community Development Administration
POLS 5850 Regulation, the Environment and California Public Policy
POLS 5955 Selected Issues in Public Administration

1-Unit Elective Courses

POLS 5861 Personal Leadership and Development in Administration
POLS 5862 Effective Communication for Public & Nonprofit Administrators
POLS 5863 Effective Public Sector Human Resource Management Practices
POLS 5864 Collaborative Governance
POLS 5865 Negotiation & Conflict Management for Administrators
POLS 5866 Public Sector Contracting Basics
POLS 5869 Managing Stress in the Public Sector
POLS 5870 Nonprofit Governance
POLS 5871 Fundamentals of Strategic Planning for Public Sector Leaders
POLS 5872 Program Evaluation Best Practices for Public Sector Leaders
POLS 5873 Development and Fundraising for Public Sector Leaders
POLS 5874 Managing Organizational Change in the Public Sector
POLS 5875 Fundamentals of Public Sector Project Management
POLS 5955 Selected Issues in Public Administration 

Capstone Course

In the last semester of study, students will take the culminating POLS 5900 Capstone experience, which is a 3-unit course. 

Advancement to Candidacy

Students will be advanced as a master's candidate for an MPA degree after completing 12 units of graduate coursework in the MPA Program with a GPA of at least 3.0 and successfully passing the University Writing Proficiency Exam.

Comprehensive Exit Exam

Students are eligible to take the comprehensive exit exam, which is required to obtain an MPA degree and administered during the POLS 5900 Capstone course, during their last semester in the program.

Internship Requirement

To graduate, MPA students must complete a semester-long internship in a public or non-profit organization. To qualify, the internship experience must be professional and/or administrative in nature as opposed to a clerical-level position. Students should visit the Internship and Career Resources page to learn more about internship opportunities. The internship requirement may be waived for students with relevant professional experience. To obtain a waiver, students should complete and submit an internship waiver form to the Political Science Department for review.

University Graduate Student Policies 

MPA graduate students should familiarize themselves with the University's graduate student policies, which can be found at the site of the University's Office of Graduate Studies and in the University's Graduate Student Handbook. The Office of Graduate Studies and Research has forms, financial aid information, thesis policies, policies regarding travel support for students attending conferences and other information specifically for prospective and current graduate students.