Earning a Bachelor of Public Administration degree will allow you to work in both the public and private sectors in a variety of administrative or managerial roles. Having a degree in Public Administration is suitable for work with non-profit organizations and civil/social service institutions that work directly with communities and other government agencies. Students learn how to effectively manage community resources and projects by utilizing every tool they have at their disposal. As a graduate, individuals can assist communities in establishing new public policies and creating programs that are beneficial to residents.
If you like working with others who have a common goal and are interested in helping your community grow and thrive, earning a Bachelor of Public Administration degree may be something you would want to consider. Public Administration degrees are developed to give students insight into how public service organizations work and what tools and resources are utilized when it comes to creating projects and policies that are meant to improve quality of living and social interactions. With a Public Administration degree, graduates can expect both opportunities for advancement as well as the potential for higher earnings as they continue to advance their careers.
Methodology: Ranking the Best Public Administration Degree Programs
Bachelor’s Degree Center brings prospective students to degree programs that will make a real improvement in their careers. For that reason, our ranking of the best public administration bachelor’s programs feature only accredited, trusted institutions. Programs are ranked by their cost, salary potential, and student satisfaction, using data from IPEDS and Niche.
1. Duke University
Duke University’s Sanford Public Policy School offers a baccalaureate degree in Public Policy is one of the nation’s best public administration degree programs as recognized by US News and World Report. Duke University’s undergraduate program in public policy offers students an opportunity to study abroad in Ireland, Switzerland, or India. Coursework for Duke’s baccalaureate degree program includes policy analysis, microeconomic policies, intro to data science, plus a required internship in the public policy arena. Students interested in the honors tracks offered by Duke can opt for an independent student or a two-semester honors seminar.
Duke University was established in 1838 and is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. This private institution of higher learning’s campus in Durham serves more than 15,700 students, with more than 8,800 employees on campus.
What We Like: Richard Nixon is one of the famous alumni of Duke University.
Degree: Public Policy
2. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
The University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy offers a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Public Policy that offers students small classes that average at only 24 students and is one of the country’s best public administration degree programs. Coursework for UMich’s undergraduate public policy degree includes values and ethics, policy seminar, politics, and political institutions, applied learning, drugs, crime & terrorism, and evaluating public policies, among others. Seminar topics include poverty and inequality, dangerous peacemaking, behavioral economics, immigration policy, and crime, and public policy.
The University of Michigan – Ann Arbor was established in 1817. The University of Michigan is also a sea-grant and space-grant university that is also Michigan’s oldest school. The campus in Ann Arbor serves more than 45,900 students.
What We Like: The University of Michigan is one of the countries preeminent research institutions of higher education.
Degree: Public Policy, BA
3. University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School/Risk Management & Decision Processes Center offers one of the United States’ best public administration degree programs. The University of Pennsylvania offers a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Environmental Policy and Management that explores the relationship between business and the natural environments. Classes for Wharton’s public policy undergraduate program includes energy finance, marketing for social impact, impact investing risk analysis, the future of water, business economics, legal studies, life cycle assessment, and environmental and energy economics and policy.
The University of Pennsylvania (Penn) was established in 1740 and is one of the oldest higher learning institutions in the country. More than 22,100 students attend classes offered on-campus and online. Penn maintains the Morris Arboretum – the commonwealth’s official arboretum.
What We Like: The founder of the University of Pennsylvania and its first president was Benjamin Franklin.
Degree: Environmental Policy and Management, BA
4. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina’s Department of Public Policy offers a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Public Policy that requires students to complete an experiential internship to apply the skills learned in the classroom. As one of the country’s best public administration degree programs, UNC Chapel Hill’s undergraduate degree in public administration includes classes in Justice in Public Policy, Policy Innovation & Analysis, Economics, Quantitative Analysis for Public Policy, and a senior capstone project in public policy, among others.
The University of North Carolina, located in Chapel Hill, was established in 1789. UNC is a public research higher learning institution and the state’s flagship campus. More than 29,800 students attend classes offered by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
What We Like: The University of North Carolina holds the distinction of being the oldest university in the state of North Carolina.
Degree: Public Policy, BA
5. Georgetown College
Georgetown College’s Martin School of Public Administration offers a dual Bachelor of Arts (BA), and Master of Arts combined degree in Public Administration (MPA) that is recognized among Kentucky’s best public administration degree programs. Those applying to Georgetown College’s BA/MA degree program should have finished a minimum of 86 semester credits towards a baccalaureate degree program. Students graduate from this public administration to find rewarding careers as a research associate, policy analyst, elected official, or nonprofit corporation manager, to name a few.
Georgetown College was established in 1929. The college’s suburban campus covers more than 100 acres and serves more than 1,400 students vying for the nearly 40 degrees offered by Georgetown College.
What We Like: Georgetown College holds the distinction of being the oldest Baptist school that was situated to the west of the Appalachian Mountains.
Degree: Public Administration BA/MA
6. Rutgers University – Newark
Rutgers University – Newark Public Affairs and Administration School offers a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Public and Nonprofit Administration that is recognized among the country’s best public administration degree programs. Students enrolled in Rutgers’ public administration degree program are required to complete 120 semester credits, of which 35 credits must be from the public administration curriculum. Coursework for this undergraduate degree includes administrative ethics, capital budgeting & debt management, data management for public and nonprofits, plus dissertation research in public policy, among others.
Rutgers University – Newark was established in 1766. Rutgers University – Newark is one of the three primary campuses operated by the university. The Newark campus is home to more than 12,100 students.
What We Like: Rutgers University holds the distinction of being one of the nine colonial colleges and the eighth oldest in the nation.
Degree: Public and Nonprofit Administration, BA
7. University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin offers a baccalaureate degree in Public Policy that is a part of the Bridging Disciplines Program (BDP). Students enrolled in one of Texas’s country’s best public administration degree programs select two areas of focus from concentrations in Communication, Urban Policy, Science & Tech Policy, Race and Citizenship, Economic Policy, and Education Policy. An important part of UT Austin’s public administration degree is the internship or connecting experience of each student. All students in their senior year must submit a 4-page essay describing their BDP experience at UT Austin.
The University of Texas, located in Austin, was established in 1881. Austin is the flagship campus (with space-grant status) of the university system in Texas and home to more than 51,700 students.
What We Like: The University of Texas at Austin is home to seven museums and nearly 20 libraries.
Degree: Public Policy, BDP
8. University of Virginia
The University of Virginia Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy offers a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Public Policy and Leadership that is recognized as one of Virginia’s best public administration degree programs. Coursework for UVA’s undergraduate degree in public policy and leadership includes research methods, the economics of public policy, introduction to civic leadership, political contexts of public policy, comparative policy history, integrating ethics in public policy, and value and bias in public policy, to name a few.
The University of Virginia (Virginia) was founded in 1819. The university was established by Thomas Jefferson and currently has a student enrollment that exceeds 24,500 undergraduate and graduate students. The University of Virginia alumni have gone on to establish businesses such as CNET or REDDIT.
What We Like: The University of Virginia is home to the World Heritage Site and the Academical Village.
Degree: Public Policy and Leadership, BA
9. University of California, Irvine
The University of California, Irvine School of Social Ecology offers a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Environmental Science and Policy (ENSP)that is considered as one of California’s best public administration degree programs. Coursework for this public administration course from UC Irvine includes environmental sustainability, water resource policy, principles of economics for policy planning, environmental governance, plus a 4-unit field study, among others. Students are permitted to double major in urban studies or earth system science.
The University of California at Irvine was established in 1965. The University of California, Irvine is among ten member schools in the California university system. The university’s Irvine campus covers more than 1,500 suburban acres and serves more than 35,100 students.
What We Like: UC Irvine’s campus was dedicated by President Johnson a year before the school opened.
Degree: Environmental Science and Policy, BA
10. Indiana University- Bloomington
Indiana University’s O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs offers a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Public Affairs (BSPA) that prepares students for careers in human resources, research, development, homeland security, and finance specialist, to name a few. IU Bloomington’s best public administration degree programs offer degree candidates eight academic tracks within the degree. These include – public management and leadership, policy analysis, public financial management, nonprofit management, environmental management, law and public policy, management, human resources, and public management.
Indiana University- Bloomington was established in 1820. Indiana University – Bloomington’s campus is the flagship campus of the IU system. The university’s small-city campus serves more than 43,400 students and covers more than 1,800 acres.
What We Like: Indiana University- Bloomington holds the distinction of being the largest of all institutions of higher education in the state.
Degree: Public Affairs, BS
11. Ohio State University
The Ohio State University Glenn College of Public Affairs offers one of the country’s best public administration degree programs with its Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Public Management, Leadership, and Policy program. Core coursework includes public service and civic engagement, public budgeting, economics, public policy analysis, plus an academic internship and capstone project in public affairs. Recent capstone projects include pollution in Lake Erie, Social Security Reform, Mental Health in the state of Ohio, and health care in India, to name a few.
The Ohio State University was established in 1870. Ohio State is a space-grant, sea-grant, and land-grant higher learning institution. The school’s campus is only a few miles from downtown Columbus and home to 68,500 students.
What We Like: Athletes from Ohio State have earned more than 100 Olympic medals and is ranked as one of the biggest higher education institutions in the United States.
Degree: Management, Leadership, and Policy, BA
12. University of Southern California
The University of Southern California Price Public Policy School offers a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Public Policy that is recognized among the state and the country’s best public administration degree programs. The core curriculum for this undergraduate degree in public policy includes public policy, statistics, planning analysis, social justice issues, and a capstone project and academic internship, among others. Degree candidates have the option of selecting from four academic tracks. These include advanced policy analysis, public policy & law, health policy and philanthropy, nonprofits, and social innovation.
The University of Southern California (USC) was chartered in 1880. The University of Southern California is a space-grant and sea-grant institution of higher education that serves more than 48,300 students on its LA campus.
What We Like: The University of Southern California holds the distinction of being the largest single employer of private industry in the Los Angeles, greater metropolitan area.
Degree: Public Policy, BS
13. National University
National University offers a Bachelor of Public Administration that is recognized among the best public administration degree programs in California. As a military-friendly school, National University is a member school of the Yellow Ribbon program. NU’s undergraduate degree in public administration is offered online or on-campus in four-week classes – one month at a time. This nonprofit university is accredited by the WSCUC. Core coursework includes management science, quantitative methods, public policy development, urban environments, microeconomics, and government relations, to name a few.
National University was established in 1971. This private research higher learning institution serves more than 23,400 students on its more than 25 campuses located throughout California – with one in Nevada.
What We Like: The university’s founder, was a retired US lieutenant commander in the navy and a training specialist for General Dynamics.
Degree: Bachelor of Public Administration
14. University of Central Florida
The University of Central Florida College of Community Innovation and Education offers two of the nation’s best public administration degree programs with its Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree or a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Public Administration. Core requirements for this public administration degree include public administration in American society, administrative theory, intergovernmental administration, fiscal management, research methods in public administration, to name a few. In addition, the BA degree in public administration requires the completion of proficiency in a foreign language.
The University of Central Florida (UCF) began as Florida Tech in 1963. The University of Central Florida ‘s is home to one of the biggest student enrollments in the country, with more than 69,500 students studying online and on-campus.
What We Like: UCF was borne from an idea of JFK’s 1962 speech regarding manned space flight and its location near the space coast of Florida.
Degree: Public Administration, BS
15. University of Kansas
The University of Kansas offers a BA in Public Administration that is one of Kansas’ best public administration degree programs. The University of Kansas’s undergraduate public administration degree prepares degree candidates for a career in state/local government, international relations, nonprofit organizations, and the federal government, to name a few. Coursework for the public administration degree from the University of Kansas includes an intro to public administration, quantitative methods, diversity and social equity, nonprofit accountability and collaboration in public administration, to name a few.
The University of Kansas (Kansas) was established in 1865. The University of Kansas is the flagship campus of the Kansas University system, with multiple campuses located through the greater Kansas City area. More than 28,100 students attend classes offered by the University of Kansas’s five colleges/schools.
What We Like: The University of Kansas is a high research institution of higher learning with research expenditures of more than $325 million.
Degree: Public Administration BA
16. George Mason University
George Mason University’s School of Policy & Government offers a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Public Administration that is recognized among Virginia’s best public administration degree programs. Students enrolled in George Mason University ‘s undergraduate degree in public administration must complete 122 semester credits to graduate. Coursework for this degree includes democratic theory, international politics, comparative politics, research methods, and money, markets, and economic policy, to name a few. George Mason University offers public administrative students several concentrations – administration, public policy, nonprofits, US government, economic policy, and international political economy.
George Mason University was established in 1949. Mason operates multiple campuses through the greater Arlington metro area, with a campus in South Korea as well. More than 25,800 students attend classes offered by Mason’s eleven colleges/schools.
What We Like: The Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution was renamed in 2020 due to President Carter’s award of the Nobel peace prize.
Degree: Public Administration, BS
17. Rockhurst University
Rockhurst University offers a BA in Public Policy that prepares graduates for rewarding careers in the areas of research, government, nonprofits, community relations, and public affairs, among others. Rockhurst University’s best public administration degree programs include classes in microeconomics, public, power, and social change, criminal justice, statistics, and theories of social influence, to name a few. In addition, students must choose to complete an internship, an independent research project, or a cooperative project in public administration. Many graduates of Rockhurst University’s undergraduate degree in public administration continue to their post-graduate studies in law, economics, public health, or business.
Rockhurst University was established in 1910. More than 2,100 students attend classes at Rockhurst University. Rockhurst University maintains an affiliation with the Jesuit Roman Catholic Church.
What We Like: Rockhurst adheres to the Ignatian philosophic principles of educating students academically and through service & leadership.
Degree: Public Policy, BA
18. Pennsylvania State University
Pennsylvania State University offers a BS in Public Policy that is considered one of the country’s best public administration degree programs. This undergraduate degree program from Pennsylvania State University provides degree candidates three academic tracks. These include International Policy, Law & Justice, US Public Policy. Students enrolled in this public policy degree are encouraged to participate in an internship in the commonwealth’s capital of Harrisburg. Students must complete 120 semester credits to graduate. Classes include quantitative political analysis, American politics, computer applications in public affairs & criminal justice, and comparative public policy, among others.
Pennsylvania State University (PSU) was established as a land-grant institution of higher learning in 1955. Penn State operates nearly 25 multi-purpose campuses throughout the commonwealth.
What We Like: Pennsylvania State University is recognized as one of the few public ivy league institutions of higher education.
Degree: Public Policy, BS
19. Winona State University
Winona State University offers a BS in Public Administration that is ranked among Minnesota’s best public administration degree programs. Required coursework for this undergraduate degree from WSU includes public service, introduction to American politics, constitutional law, introduction to political analysis and state & local governments, plus an internship in public administration. Additionally, the coursework for this undergraduate degree adheres to the NASPAA guidelines. Additional tracks in this degree include an international studies track and a general track.
Winona State University was established in 1858 when Minnesota was still the American Frontier. The university’s campus in Winona is home to more than 8,700 students.
What We Like: Winona State University holds the distinction of being the first teacher’s training school and the first tax-funded institution of higher learning located to the west of the Mississippi River.
Degree: Public Administration, BS
20. Syracuse University
The Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs at Syracuse University offers a BA in Policy Studies that is considered one of the country’s best public administration degree programs. Syracuse’s undergraduate degree in policy studies offers students four academic tracks. These include society and the legal system, the environment, health, education, and human services, and government and business. Coursework for this baccalaureate degree includes economic ideas and issues, critical issues for the US, analysis of public policy, quantitative methods, and a practicum in public policy. Students graduate to find rewarding careers in government, nonprofit organizations, consulting businesses, lobby groups, or financial companies.
Syracuse University was established in 1870. This private research institution of higher learning serves more than 22,500 students on its 600+ acre campus in Syracuse – upstate New York.
What We Like: Syracuse’s campus is an eclectic mix of modern architecture and Romanesque revival structures.
Degree: Policy Studies, BA
21. Central Michigan University
Central Michigan University offers two of the best public administration degree programs with its Bachelor of Arts degree and Bachelor of Science degree in Public and Nonprofit Administration. Requires courses for this baccalaureate degree include budgetary processes in the US, nonprofit administration, organization theory, public sector research methods, an internship in the administration of nonprofits, or public administration. The total coursework required for this major is 33 semesters units. Degree candidates in the public administration program are permitted to take a 3 credit internship.
Central Michigan University was established in 1892. Central Michigan University is a higher education institution with a student enrollment that exceeds 26,000 students, with approximately 20,000 studying on the Mount Pleasant campus and the remaining students studying online.
What We Like: Central Michigan University operates and owns the Brooks Observatory.
Degree: Public and Nonprofit Administration, BA/BS
22. SUNY Empire State College
SUNY Empire State College offers a combined BS in Public Affairs with a Master of Arts (MA) that is open to all, but highly selective. This combined program that offers a combined undergraduate and graduate degrees requires a total of 148 semesters credits, with 36 of those credits applied to an MA in Economic Development in the Community. Coursework for these best public administration degree programs includes public policy analysis, macroeconomics for public policy, and principles of community and economic development, among others.
SUNY Empire State College was established in 1971. Empire State College operates multiple campuses that serve more than 10,100 students in more than thirty locations statewide.
What We Like: SUNY Empire State College offers international programs in Albania, Turkey, Greece, Czech Republic, Athens, and Panama City, among others.
Degree: Public Affairs, BS
23. Austin Peay State University
Austin Peay State University’s Department of Political Science and Public Management offers a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Public Management that is ranked among Tennessee’s best public administration degree programs. Austin Peay State University’s baccalaureate degree in public management requires the completion of 120 semester credits to graduate. Classes for this public management degree include public personnel administration, international politics, methods of research, public sector management, public budgeting, and public policy analysis, among others. Students graduate from Austin Peay State University ‘s public management degree program and enter the workforce as executive directors, nonprofit administrators, and city managers, to name a few.
Austin Peay State University was founded as a teacher’s training school in 1927 . Austin Peay State University’s campus in Clarksville covers more than 175 urban acres and serves more than 10,700 students.
What We Like: Austin Peay State University is named to honor the then sitting governor.
Degree: Public Management, BS
24. Keiser University
Keiser University offers a BA in Public Administration that is available online and on the university’s campuses in Tampa and Sarasota. Keiser University’s best public administration degree programs require degree candidates to complete 120 credit hours to graduate. Classes for Keiser’s baccalaureate public administration degree include public policy, environmental politics, administrative law, urban government, public sector labor relations, and info resources management in the public sector, to name a few. The program offers three academic specializations in Communication Studies, Politics, and Emergency Management.
Keiser University was established in 1977. Keiser maintains multiple campuses in Florida as well as abroad. More than 19,300 students attend classes offered by this private institution of higher education.
What We Like: Keiser University’s campus in South Florida was once the campus for Northwood University.
Degree: Public Administration, BA
25. SUNY Albany State University
SUNY Albany State University offers a BA in Public Policy and Management that is recognized among the Empire State’s best public administration degree programs. Foundational classes for UAlbany’s baccalaureate degree program include economics, methods for public policy, American politics, understanding public organizations, and intro to public policy, plus an academic internship in public affairs and a capstone project in the policy. This program offers thirteen academic concentrations, including politics, quantitative tools, urban issues, world affairs, law, and civil rights, environmental policy, and human service in health education and labor, to name a few.
SUNY Albany State University was established as a teacher’s school in 1844. The university’s campus in New York’s capital is home to more than 13,200 students. It is estimated that UAlbany contributes more than $1 billion dollars economically to the capital region.
What We Like: The Writers Institute of NY is part of SUNY Albany State University’s campus.
Degree: Public Policy and Management, BA
How Do I Choose a Public Administration Program?
Students who are considering a Public Administration degree need to find the right school. The top schools for Public Administration degree programs offer both online and traditional coursework as well as resources and faculty members that are readily available whenever they are needed. The degree programs should include all of the necessary tools and resources that will allow students to gain the experience they need to thrive in a public service environment. Curriculums should include strategies and lesson plans that inspire students to embrace their creativity so they can find positive solutions to complicated situations.
The best public policy schools in the world are those that offer advanced curriculums and have staff and faculty who have spent years working in the same fields in which they teach. A top-rated school will provide students with a variety of resources that will allow them to use what they are learning in a hands-on environment. Internships and mentor programs are also a plus and can be found in colleges and universities that are located in larger metropolitan areas. Schools that offer online coursework are ideal for students who cannot travel to the school of their choice.
What Is Public Administration?
Public administration careers can be found in public and private sectors and are basically the positions within any organization that mandates public policy and how the organization works with the public on a variety of levels ranging from social and civil services to government and law-making procedures. Individuals who work in the public administration work hand in hand with both city officials and the public to establish public policies and manage projects that are designed for the betterment of the community. In addition to government and social/civil service organizations, non-profit organizations that specialize in disaster relief and recovery services are also included in this category.
Individuals who work in the public administration field and earn their degrees in this specific type of program require a special skill set that gives them the tools they need to be effective communicators and skilled planners. Individuals must be able to work with several organizations at one time and find solutions to extremely complex issues that may result from a general public emergency or a natural disaster. They must be very efficient when utilizing the resources they have available to them and always be as transparent as possible when dealing with both their community as well as other organizations.
What Is Public Policy?
Many community members often pose the question, “What is public policy?” Simply put, public policies are the standards, guidelines, and regulations, that a community lives by. In order for a city government or council to operate efficiently, it must have a set group of rules or policies put in place to guide them through specific situations. Public policies are established based on the community’s needs and to protect its citizens from being treated fairly. Policies are put in place as a way of maintaining a peaceful and well-run community. Most policies that are established by community leaders are voted on by the community and then put into the city’s charter or rules of incorporation.
Public policy is developed by individuals within the city’s governing body. This can include the mayor, county councilmen/women, or any other official who works as a public administrator or servant. Public policies aren’t just established overnight. They must be drafted, voted on, and approved of by both the governing body as well as the public at large. When the community has a question about what public policy means, there first step should be to contact their city government and request an explanation.