Courses and Concentrations

The MPA program at Appalachian State University involves a minimum of 42 semester hours and typically takes 2 years to complete. This consists of 27 hours of core courses (listed below), which includes 6 hours of an internship for pre-service students and field research for in-service students, and 15 hours of courses that are specific to a career track. Electives must be approved by the MPA Director. All students are required to take at least one course outside of the Public Administration Program.

Each of the tracks/concentrations offered corresponds to a particular career objective, but regardless of which track you choose, you must complete 42 semester hours (including the eight core courses that are common to the various tracks.) In all tracks, in-service status involves waiving the internship requirement and the addition of one elective course plus PA 5010 Field Based Research for 42 hours total.

Off-campus students follow the Public Management track.

Students must select one of the following four tracks as their area of concentration:

  • Administration of Justice
  • Not-for-Profit Management
  • Public Management
  • Town, City, and County Management 

Student Learning Outcomes

 1. Students apply disciplinary content in a convincing manner

  • Students apply core concepts in an applied setting
  • Students connect/compare content across program
  • Students use seminal literature with current research to analyze a problem, policy or organization

2. Students communicate effectively in diverse professional networks

  • Students demonstrate appropriate behavior in professional settings
  • Students demonstrate ability to write convincingly, concisely and precisely
  • Students give organized and convincing oral presentations

3. Students use appropriate strategies to solve problems and make decisions

  • Students apply rigorous methods
  • Students critically assess their own skills
  • Students perform systematic data collection and analysis in practical endeavors


Core Courses

PA/CJ 5000 - Research Methods

This course is taught on- and off-campus. This course builds upon the foundation that you received in an undergraduate statistics course and prepares students to carry out complex research assignments. Because statistics is a prerequisite for taking PA 5000 and all students must take PA 5000 in their first semester, all incoming students MUST have taken an undergraduate statistics course prior to starting classes in the MPA program. Topics covered include research design and the basics of philosophy of science. Following a brief review of basic statistics, the course will move the student into advanced statistical techniques including correlation and multivariate regression. Students will become proficient in data gathering and data entry, as well as selecting and interpreting appropriate analytical techniques. This class will require substantial effort on your part to master all needed computer and research skills. An undergraduate statistics course is required before you register for Research Methods.

PA 5060 - Seminar in Public Administration

This course exposes students to the major ideas and approaches in contemporary public administration, introduces major writers in the field, and presents the significant problems facing modern public administrators. A substantial amount of reading will be required, along with presentations in class. A major research paper is required.

PA 5180 - Public Policy Analysis and Program Evaluation

This course builds upon PA 5000 and provides students with an understanding of the elements of public policymaking, focusing primarily on the techniques for analyzing policy alternatives at each stage of development including evaluation of implementation processes and program outcomes. Classroom presentations, exams, and a major research paper are involved.

PA 5260 - Organization Theory and Behavior

This course deals with the social and psychological climate of organizations and the ways in which leaders of organizations either succeed or fail. Attention is given to the role of leaders in creating and modifying the practices and norms in their organizations. Substantial readings, classroom presentations, and written papers are required.

PA 5360 - Public Personnel Administration

This course focuses on the difficult task of selecting, retaining, compensating, and supervising public employees. Attention is given to the legal framework in which public personnel management occurs. Significant amounts of readings and a major research paper are included in the assignments.

PA 5460 - Budgeting and Fiscal Administration

This course is designed to acquaint students with the preparation and administration of budgets in public agencies. Attention is given to the legal framework in which public agencies work, the mechanics and politics of budget preparation, auditing, as well as other tools used in financial administration. Students will become proficient in using spreadsheets and in understanding an audited financial statement. A major research paper is involved.

PA 5558 - Capstone Research & PA 5559 - Capstone in Public Administration

These courses are taken during the final year of study. The courses integrate the theory and practice of public administration, covering a variety of topics including ethics, finding a job, and negotiating benefits, as well as practical problem-solving. Each student conducts a major research project on a management problem. The paper is prepared in consultation with an MPA faculty member and is presented during a formal Capstone Conference attended by MPA students, alumni, faculty, and administrators, as well as friends and family. A meeting will be held early in the fall semester with students who plan to complete their Capstone in the following spring semester so that topics and supervisors can be chosen.