Future Students

  • Print
  • Share
  • Questions

MPA Curriculum

The Master of Public Administration (MPA) prepares professionals for successful careers in management and leadership positions and as advocates for change in making and implementing public policies. The 30-unit core curriculum emphasizes the foundations of public action based in statutes and regulations, value clarity, strategic leadership, analytical skills, and systemic change. Students may also elect an additional 6-12 units for a concentration as a basis for launching a career or developing expertise in a field of their interest.


Areas of concentration include:

  • Water Policy
  • Health Policy, Finance and Management
  • Public Finance
  • Sustainability Policy and Practice
  • Policy Change and Institutional Reform
  • Public Data and Analytics for Executives
  • Judicial Administration
  • Decision Tools
  • State Government
  • Local Government
  • Intersectoral Leadership
  • Social Policy


MPA Curriculum
(possible course sequence)

Course Descriptions

Introduction to Legal Analysis
This course provides students with an overview of the American legal system, including the sources and development of law as well as the dispute resolution process. The course further focuses on developing an understanding of how lawyers read and analyze cases, statutes, and legal documents and provides an introduction to legal reasoning.  A primer on legal research with a focus on locating and evaluating the weight of legal sources is also included. (MSL, MPP and MPA only)

Values, Roles and Skills
Introduction to the importance and interrelationships of (1) values, fundamental to public action, and often contested as political actors interpret core values differently, (2) roles which are defined by institutions (e.g., department head, staff analyst, city manager) and (3)  professional skills which support ethical behavior which is also effective in achieving desired public purposes.

Conflicted, Complex, Uncertain
Sets public policy making and implementation in context of value conflicts, complexity and uncertainty as addressed in US democratic system of governance. Starts with structural design of US constitution (separation of powers, federal system, and limited government). Includes analysis of major changes in structures, powers and activities with emphasis on roles and responsibilities of public professionals. Establishes importance of analyses from differing perspectives: individual/household, communities (of place or interest), firms/organizations, public agencies and public interest, including intergenerational. Introduction to tools premised on rational public policy making and implementation. Major attention to tools of analysis and instruments of action that explicitly incorporate value conflict, complexity and uncertainty.

Routines and Exceptions
Election, legislative and budget processes and calendars are examples of routines critical to making and implementing public policies. So too are statutory requirements shaping critical internal processes (e.g., collective bargaining) or decision processes (e.g., California Environmental Quality Act) and standards established by professional bodies (e.g., Government Accounting Standards Board). These routines are analyzed strategically, as to use and also as tools which can be changed. Budget processes receive the greatest attention as a common, powerful routine and to ensure students gain relevant skills. Exceptional actions are analyzed as sometimes required for success, but which can also have unintended consequences.

Public Manager Analytics  
Introduces students to use of analytics in managing organizations and implementation of programs or policies. Includes analyses of cases within organizations and at program and policy levels. Develops competencies in identifying relevant analytics, collection of data, and making information usable for decision makers seeking to improve performance in achieving policy goals.

Economic Concepts and Tools
Develops competence in economic concepts and tools. Draws from microeconomics. Key concepts include efficiency, equity, opportunity cost, and the role of incentives, marginal analysis, competition, and market failure. Provides opportunity for students to discuss the effectiveness of various government programs and regulation or de-regulation strategies from an economic point of view.

Leaders, Organization Behavior
Analysis and development of knowledge and skills relevant to strategic leadership of public organizations, including responsibilities for organization structures and their internal and external relationships; human, financial, and property resources; systems, including digital revolution dynamics; and political and symbolic roles. Explicit attention to professionally expert leadership for success in contexts characterized by conflict, complexity, and uncertainty.

Statutes and Regulations
This course introduces students to strategies and techniques for interpreting and applying statutes and regulations in the modern administrative state. Topics include foundational issues important to public law, such as the legislative process, doctrines of statutory interpretation, the structure of administrative law, and the role of agencies in interpreting and enforcing statutory schemes.

Strategic Public Management
Integration of learning from courses taken through (1) self-assessment and (2) class analyses of a few cases of both successful and unsuccessful public professionals, both contributing to targeted development of knowledge and competencies.

Budgets, Financial Management
Develops understanding of budget types and processes in public and nonprofit organizations. Examines the politics of budgeting and the relationship of budgeting to other decision processes. Develops competencies in core budgetary processes, such as preparation of Budget Letters or Budget Change Proposals. Also covers budget implementation as a fiscal and programmatic control system. Introduction to audit function. Develops competence to analyze a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

Systemic Change
Analysis and developing skills relevant to purposeful, enduring change of public policies and public institutions. Roles and strategies of policy entrepreneurs analyzed. Actions which strengthen policies are contrasted with those which weaken policies. Explicit attention not only to public executives, but also to strategies of elected officials, stakeholders, and advocacy groups. Identifying and understanding the articulation of a variety of tools, such as strategic communications or facilitated processes, as well as more specific policy tools, such as changed laws, new decision arenas, or changed financial incentives.

Policy Choices (in Water, Health, Sustainability or Public Reform)
Identifies and analyses possible changes in a specific area of policy in the next 2-5 years. Develops capacity to understand, analyze and recommend actions with sufficient understanding of relevant values, past history, competitive forces, and adaptive human behaviors to reasonably assess implementation feasibility and to identify probable longer term effects of public policy choices.


Contact Casey Heinzen, Assistant Director, Public Policy Programs
Email | 916.340.6192