Public affairs

University of Missouri-Columbia
Master of public affairs
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NASPAA accredited. The Commission on Peer Review & Accreditation.

Master of public affairs

You understand the impact policy has on society, from local and federal government measures to outreach efforts meant to uplift communities in need. After receiving a bachelor’s degree, you found a position in the field. Directly over the past few years, you have observed the positive effect your work has had so far but seek to make a more meaningful difference through management or research. The University of Missouri’s fully online master of public affairs degree helps you look ahead toward this next step and builds off your existing record of achievements. For over 50 years, our institution has graduated tenacious, pioneering public service professionals, and this program emerges from that legacy with added consideration for today’s increasingly diverse world and specific policy challenges.

Or maybe you’re new to the field of public service but know that is where your passion lies. Whether you’ve recently graduated with your bachelor's degree and are looking to continue your education in this field, or you are pivoting from another path, the Truman School can help you learn the skills you need to become an effective working professional in public policy and administration.

Offered through the Truman School of Government and Public Affairs, the online MPA degree creates a career stepping stone for those who believe that society benefits the most from effective collaboration among public, private and nonprofit sectors. Considering public policy’s influence, we take an interdisciplinary approach while stressing the importance of research and public service. This method not only prepares our diverse, international student body for ethical leadership in their future careers, but also invites a range of perspectives into the conversation while promoting democratic discourse, mirroring the field’s dynamic nature and connecting you with experiential learning opportunities. 

Over about two years’ time, you’ll transform into a public service professional ready to take charge and inspire others. Rigorous core courses imbue a versatile, higher-level foundation, which sets the stage for you to focus your knowledge and career path with a specialization. You’ll grow your understanding of policy processes and management principles, hone your critical thinking and discover uses for data analytics, ultimately gaining an edge in this rapidly evolving field.

Yet, the Truman School acknowledges that policy advances rarely happen in the classroom alone and forwards its mission by collaborating with policymakers, preparing the next generation of leaders and scholars, and fostering discussion. Faculty members further leave their mark through influential, nationally recognized research and contributions to policy theory and practice, and are prepared to steer you toward hands-on opportunities for gaining experience. In addition to internships and a capstone project, you’re encouraged to participate in policy forum roundtables and attend lectures from industry scholars and research symposia, where you’ll have the chance to cultivate relationships with practitioners across nonprofit, government and public service sectors.

Quick facts

Official name

Master of public affairs


University of Missouri-Columbia

Program type

Master's degree

Academic home

College of Arts & Science | Truman School of Government and Public Affairs

Delivery mode

100% online


Higher Learning Commission; Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration

Credit hours


Estimated cost


*This cost is for illustrative purposes only. Your hours and costs will differ, depending on your transfer hours, your course choices and your academic progress. See more about tuition and financial aid.

Public affairs professional speaking to colleagues.

Career prospects

The online MPA degree’s structure considers the aspirations of current public affairs workers interested in accelerating their career through management- and analytics-focused knowledge and their applications in the field. As you commit to this path, you’ll:

  • Develop a strong theoretical foundation in public affairs, policy and management, and enrich your analytics abilities;
  • Be able to apply classroom knowledge to major public policy and management issues through practical, real-world experiences;
  • Grow your understanding of the public policy sector through internships, a capstone project and forum discussions;
  • Learn about the techniques and methods for promoting diversity directly from industry professionals, including international scholars, government and nonprofit leaders; and
  • Discover new ways to analyze, evaluate, propose and facilitate solutions meant to tackle current policy challenges.
Burning Glass Technologies. 2021. Salary numbers and employment growth numbers are based on models that consider advertised job posting salary, Bureau of Labor Statistics data and other proprietary and public sources of information for multiple occupations.
Median salary

Potential careers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts above-average growth for public affairs–related occupations through 2029, including 6% for political scientists and 17% for social and community service managers. Potential career paths utilizing your knowledge include:

  • Public administration;
  • Social services;
  • Government relations;
  • Policy analysis;
  • Public health management; and
  • Nonprofit management.

Program structure

You’ll start with core courses before receiving guidance from a faculty member to select an emphasis. 

The Truman School realizes that our students enter the online MPA program with varying degrees of post-baccalaureate work experience and factor your background into the structure:

36 credit hours: This format is for professionals with a bachelor’s degree and fewer than three to five years of progressively responsible work experience in public affairs consists of 36 credit hours including a 180-hour internship and a capstone project.

30 credit hours: This structure is geared toward mid-career professionals with a minimum of three years of progressively responsible work experience eliminates the capstone and internship requirements. Students can still opt to pursue real-world skills-building opportunities for their own benefit. With appropriate documentation, students with public service-related work experience at the time of admission may be able to receive up to six credit hours for their work experience toward the internship and capstone classes. Applicants interested in this option should submit a statement of career eligibility with their application. Upon admission, students will receive further information about how to apply for credit.

Across both structures, you’ll take 15 credit hours of core courses and 15 in your area of specialization. Keeping our students competitive, emphasis areas reflect demand for advanced competencies and skills, and are fulfilled through your elective credits. Specialization areas include the following:

Public management: Prepare to persevere in a public service management career. Courses help you contend with common local and general government concerns by introducing key administrative skills and stressing the tenets of ethical leadership.

Nonprofit management: Transform and ignite change in the nonprofit sector by learning how to compete for resources, analyze and identify community needs, and deliver appropriate services while remaining within an organization’s budget.

Public policy: Learn to drive policy initiatives by gaining greater insight into the processes, quantitative and qualitative research, and evaluation methods behind them. Refine your knowledge further by exploring environmental, health, social or regional development policymaking topics. 

The MPA program is 100% online. No on-campus visits are required. Classes are eight weeks long, and the average online student finishes in about two years.

Course work includes

Through core courses, you’ll expand your knowledge of public affairs and envision yourself in a management role through subjects:

  • Introducing you to the history of public and nonprofit management;
  • Covering public policy processes, including how demand is generated and transforms into new initiatives or legislation;
  • Exploring the intersection of politics, policy and management, with a focus on strategy and tools of public action; 
  • Highlighting measurement, quantitative description, problem definition, policy research processes, analytical tools, evaluation and other research methods used in public affairs; and
  • Touching on institutional changes, ethical and administrative obligations and other challenges inherent to public service in a liberal democracy. 

Review all MPA courses and descriptions.


100% online

Calendar system

8 weeks

Typical program length

2 years

Typical course load

1 class per 8 week session

Earn a dual master’s degree

With this program, you can concurrently earn one of the following degrees:

The programs have separate applications and require a minimum of 12 hours of shared 8000-level or above graduate credit. Learn more about the academic process for dual master’s degree students at the Mizzou Graduate School website.


The University of Missouri is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, one of six regional institutional accreditors in the United States. The MPA program is accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA).

Faculty spotlight

Kathleen Miller

Kathleen Miller manages the public affairs master's and graduate certificate and public administration and policy bachelor of arts programs. Dr. Miller teaches the core master of public affairs research methods courses, regional and economic development and the capstone. Prior to her role with the Truman School, she spent 15 years as the program director for the Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI), a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators seeking to develop an external, nonpartisan policy research institute to address the rural differential impact of public policies and programs. She worked on several key policy issues, including work with Congressional Agriculture Committees and the USDA on rural issues with the Farm Bill. Dr. Miller has been a leading expert on the relationship between which definition of “rural” the federal government uses and program effectiveness, working with RUPRI to prepare Congressional testimony on this topic.

Kathleen Miller
Director of Academic Programs and Associate Teaching Professor, Truman School of Government and Public Affairs
Weijie Wang, PhD

Weijie Wang earned a doctorate in policy, planning and development (public management track) from the University of Southern California in 2015. Dr. Wang's research focuses on performance management and collaborative governance. His research on performance management explores how personnel management policies affect organizational-level outcomes such as employee turnover and organizational performance. His research on collaborative governance explores how to realize collaborative advantages and how power dynamics in collaboration affect network-level outcomes.

Dr. Wang’s research has been published in the "Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory," "Public Administration Review" and others. He received the 2014 Staats Emerging Scholar Award from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA).

Weijie Wang, PhD
Assistant Professor, Truman School of Government and Public Affairs
David Switzer, PhD

David Switzer’s work stands at the intersection of political science, public management and normative theory, emphasizing water policy in the U.S. Dr. Switzer's primary research focus is on how political and administrative variables shape the implementation and development of environmental policy at the local level. His current research agenda explores how the organizational structure of water utilities determines responses to the political, climatological and demographic environment in which the organization exists. He has additional interests in democratic theory, urban policy and environmental justice.

David Switzer, PhD
Assistant Professor, Truman School of Government and Public Affairs
Joe Martin, JD

Joe Martin is a professor of practice and serves as general counsel for the Missouri Division of Credit Unions. He has held several senior-level positions over 30 years in the executive and legislative branches of the Missouri state government. He earned his Juris Doctor and master's in public administration from the University of Missouri and completed the senior executives in state and local government program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

He is a member of the Master of Public Affairs Committee and the Alumni Advisory Board for the Truman School of Government and Public Affairs. He is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force.

In 2017, he served a three-year appointment by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to represent Missouri on the IRS Taxpayer Advocacy Panel, a nationwide federal advisory committee. He was the recipient of the 2020 Truman School Teaching Excellence Award.

Joe Martin, JD
Professor of Practice, Truman School of Government and Public Affairs
Irma Arteaga

Irma Arteaga earned a master's in public policy and a doctorate in applied economics from the University of Minnesota. Dr. Arteaga's research seeks to understand the consequences of early childhood investments over the life course. Specifically, she examines the role of contextual factors and program dosage, intensity and components on children’s well-being. Her research agenda has three dominant themes: analysis of the short-term effects of early childhood interventions and program delivery on children’s well-being, analysis of the long-term effects of child policy on children’s well-being, and analysis of early childhood investments in the developing world.

Irma Arteaga, PhD
Associate Professor, Truman School of Government and Public Affairs
Savannah Bray
The program challenged me personally, professionally and academically.
Savanah Bray
MPA ’20

Learn more about this program

This program is administered by the Truman School of Government and Public Affairs