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Norwich University's Online MPA Curriculum Guide

The role of public administrators in today’s world can be complex. The job requires public administration professionals to respond strategically to the needs of the communities they serve, while having the flexibility to deal with a range of individuals, agencies, special interest groups, and other stakeholders. Careers in public administration demand a range of key abilities; among these are skills in communication, problem-solving, and leadership. Norwich University offers an online Master of Public Administration (MPA) curriculum that provides the opportunity for students to master these and other essential skills.

Key Skills Required for Public Administration

Public administrators can work for a variety of entities, from law enforcement agencies to municipal offices, and therefore they must possess a wide range of skills that allow them to effectively manage their departments to meet the public’s needs without wasting public resources. Public administrators can excel in their role with the following skills:

  • Interpersonal communication

Public administrators must listen to citizens’ concerns and convey them to public officials and relevant agencies. In doing so, interpersonal communication skills become critical for public administrators when acting as a liaison to a wide range of stakeholders—including state and federal agencies, policymakers, public officials, and members of the community. Students must develop effective listening and communication skills required to help make an impact in the service of communities and the public.

  • Leadership and managerial skills

Public administrators are often in charge of large, interdisciplinary teams of people who must work together to achieve an optimal outcome. As a result, the job requires a solid grasp of how to effectively manage people and resources while uniting teams in pursuit of community goals. To manage effectively, a public administrator must build strong relationships, communicate effectively, and be able to lead their organizations through a change management process when necessary.

  • Critical thinking and problem solving

The nature of public administration requires its practitioners to be able to analyze problems and develop solutions that are in keeping with the needs of the community and adherent to public policy frameworks. Critical thinking and problem-solving are not only necessary for managers, but also should be encouraged in all public administration employees; qualified administrators create environments that foster a team approach to creative problem-solving. For instance, when faced with issues like increased criminal activity, public administrators use their problem-solving skills to formulate policy strategies that will maximize public safety while incurring the minimum necessary cost. When creating these plans, they can also tap into their critical thinking skills to overcome administrative obstacles, such as budgetary restraints or lack of necessary resources. Beyond these rudimentary steps, they would also need to figure out how to implement preventative programs that teach community members the risks of engaging in criminal behavior.

  • Mediation

Public entities exist alongside one another: cities abut other municipalities, states share borders and nations share frontiers. Even governments in different regions share common interests and must work with one another to achieve common goals. When goals and interests don’t align, government administrators must use mediation skills to work out a solution that benefits everyone.

To have a strong position in a mediation, public administrators must be able to examine policies from many viewpoints and assess policies to ensure they meet ethical and social standards and ensure fair outcomes for all stakeholders. Public administrators who evaluate their positions from many angles before mediation begins may be better prepared to solve community issues in a comprehensive and impactful way. Students who have finished coursework in an MPA curriculum should be able to understand how to balance the welfare of all parties while keeping the process transparent and equitable.

Courses in the Norwich University MPA Curriculum

An MPA program can help provide a balanced education that prepares you for work in many public and nonprofit agencies. The online master’s degree in public administration at Norwich University includes the following core courses:

  • Foundations of Public Administration and Policy. This course outlines the role of public administration and policy in public life by focusing on governance, inter-governmental relationships, organizational theory, policies, and strategic planning—and how they are affected by fiscal constraints, public needs, social change, and politics. The course covers the role of leadership and the need for professional ethics, accountability, and personal competence. Students can develop skills in critical thinking, research, information integration, and effective communication.

  • Public Administration Research and Analysis. Students can learn the major methods and designs of research and their application in policy development and evaluation. They may also gain knowledge of statistical techniques used in public administration and social science research. A strong focus is placed on quality assurance and best-evidence management.

  • Public Organization Resources and Processes. This course covers three areas of public administration. The first section focuses on legal aspects including agency authority, public participation, civil liability, employment law, and due process. The second area covers human resources and focuses on selecting and retaining quality employees, staff evaluations, coaching, and training. The third section deals with strategic leadership, organizational analysis and culture, conflict management, and organizational vision and change.

MPA Program Concentrations

In their coursework at Norwich University, students can pursue interests relevant to their personal and career-specific interests. The MPA curriculum offers students the choice of several concentrations, some of which include:

  • Public works and sustainability. This concentration prepares students to manage municipalities, public utility-related organizations, and agencies. Students can hone their communication and decision-making skills and learn to build a network with other professionals across the country.
  • Public administration leadership and crisis management. This concentration focuses on developing management, financial and communication skills; ethical decision-making; and designing and implementing large-scale action plans. Students also learn to develop techniques for crisis management, as well as how to lead teams through times of transition.
  • Fiscal management. Fiscal knowledge is vital in public administration. This concentration covers key topics such as balancing budgets, analyzing financial performance, and developing financial decision-making skills.

Students who wish to explore career opportunities in public administration may find that a graduate-level education can have an enormous impact on their eligibility for many attractive positions. As such, students often choose the Norwich Master of Public Administration degree program so that they can learn from highly experienced instructors and stand out from other job seekers. The Norwich program includes an MPA curriculum that offers eight concentrations, and courses are designed to include comprehensive material on the nuances, skills and principles that define this interesting and rewarding profession.

Learn More

As the nation’s oldest private military college, Norwich University has been a leader in innovative education since 1819. Through its online programs, Norwich delivers relevant and applicable curricula that allow its students to make a positive impact on their places of work and their communities.

Norwich University’s online Master of Public Administration program is a comprehensive, multidisciplinary program that helps produce graduates with the skills needed to effectively manage a demanding and evolving industry. Our rigorous curriculum helps provide you with an all-inclusive study of organizational management concepts, decision-making processes. 

Recommended Reading

Career Outlook: Public Administrator

7 Careers for Master of Public Administration Graduates

5 Reasons to Pursue an Online Master of Public Administration


Government and Public Administration, State of Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction


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