Master of Public Administration

School of Public Affairs


Degree: MPA

Clasroom Type: Online and on campus classes

The MPA program is for students interested in public service leadership positions and careers with public and nonprofit agencies and organizations. The program serves students new to public service, as well as those already in the field who are interested in furthering their careers.)

Program Details

Interest Categories: Criminology & Law Public Administration & Policy

Campus: CU Denver

Areas of Concentration: Disasters, Hazards and Emergency Management Education Policy Emergency Management and Homeland Security Environmental Policy and Management Gender-Based Violence Local Government Nonprofit Management Public Policy Analysis

Traditional MPA program

The MPA program is offered in a traditional format, where students can choose to take their courses in person, online or both.

Accelerated MPA cohort

The accelerated MPA (AMPA) is a fast-paced, full-time option that brings academically superior students together with a dedicated research and teaching faculty in the midst of the vibrant downtown CU Denver environment. The accelerated option enables students to focus their energies in a concentrated program of study and earn a nationally accredited, 36-hour MPA in 12 months. (It is preferred that applicants have some knowledge of economics, statistics and political science.) Students are admitted to the program in cohorts of approximately 20 participants to foster a community of scholar-practitioners. Students in the AMPA program are not able to choose a concentration due to the cohort nature of the program and sequencing of classes; they can, however, pursue un-transcripted specializations. A new cohort starts each August, and the accelerated option is priced at a flat fee - regardless of in-state or out-of-state student status - providing out-of-state students with substantial savings.

Executive MPA program

The executive MPA option is targeted to senior-level professionals in the nonprofit and public sectors. The Executive MPA option requires 30 semester hours of credit. Professional experience counts for two courses, leaving 10 courses to complete, as opposed to the 12 courses of the Accelerated or Traditional MPA options. Refer to the Graduate Academic Catalog for Executive MPA requirements.

General requirements

Review CU Denver's Graduate Academic Policies.

Program requirements

  • The Master of Public Administration degree requires 36 credit hours of coursework. Students who have not had at least one year of professional work experience in the public or nonprofit sectors must also complete an internship through an additional 3-credit-hour course, bringing their total credit-hour requirement to 39. Students choosing a 6-credit thesis option will be required to complete 39 to 42 credits, depending on whether they are required to complete the 3-credit internship.
  • A maximum of 9 transfer credit hours may be applied to the degree requirements.
  • No more than 6 credit hours of independent study can be applied toward the degree.
  • Students at the University are expected to maintain progress in their degree program, as defined by being in "good academic standing." Good academic standing requires minimally a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 on all University of Colorado course work.

Required courses

With the exception of those in the executive MPA program, students must complete the seven required courses below, for a total of 21 credit hours. All course descriptions can be found in the Graduate Academic Catalog.

  • PUAD 5001 - Introduction to Public Administration and Public Service (3 credit hours)
  • PUAD 5002 - Organizational Management and Behavior (3 credit hours)
  • PUAD 5003 - Research and Analytic Methods (3 credit hours)
  • PUAD 5004 - Economics and Public Finance -OR- PUAD 5503 - Public Budgeting and Finance (3 credit hours) *Students in the Local Government Concentration must take PUAD 5503
  • PUAD 5005 - The Policy Process and Democracy (3 credit hours)
  • PUAD 5006 - Public Service Leadership and Ethics (3 credit hours)
  • PUAD 5008 - Evidence-Based Decision-Making (3 credit hours)

Elective courses

In addition to the required courses, students must complete 12 credit hours of elective courses. All course descriptions can be found in the Graduate Academic Catalog.


Students who have limited experience (generally defined as less than one year of experience) in public, nonprofit or relevant private-sector service must enroll in PUAD 6910 - Public Administration Internship. The decision to require PUAD 6910 for a particular student is made by the faculty admissions committee or the student's faculty advisor upon the student's acceptance to the MPA program. A minimum of 300 hours of supervised work and study is required to earn 3 semester hours of credit. This requirement raises the total semester hours needed to earn the MPA degree to 39.

Capstone option

With the exception of those pursuing the thesis option, all MPA students must complete the capstone course during the last semester of their degree program. All core classes must be completed before taking the capstone.

  • PUAD 5361 - Capstone Seminar (3 credit hours)

Thesis option

The thesis option is available in lieu of the PUAD 5361 - Capstone Seminar for MPA students who have an interest in pursuing a topic in-depth or who are planning to pursue a career in research or academia. Students must receive approval from their faculty advisor or the MPA director to pursue the thesis option.

  • PUAD 6950 - Master's Thesis (3-6 credit hours)

Recommended Completion Time:2 Years

Max Transfer Credits:9

Max Credits Per Year:In most cases, students wishing to take more than 18 credit hours per semester (12 in the summer session) must have the overload approved by the dean.

Required Credits for Completion:36 Credits

Admission Requirements

View the admissions requirements for the School of Public Affairs.

Application​ deadlines

Fall: August 1; Spring: December 1; Summer: May 1


The Master of Public Administration Program at the School of Public Affairs advances public service in Colorado and beyond through quality education, collaborative research, and strong relationships with the professional community. To advance our "Lead. Solve. Change." philosophy, we:

  • Provide students with knowledge, skills, experiences, and ethical standards to be innovative leaders in public and nonprofit organizations;
  • Support faculty and students in conducting rigorous empirical research and disseminating findings to advance the study and practice of public and nonprofit management and policy; and
  • Work with practitioners to enhance the public sector's ability to make evidence-based management decisions and policy improvements.

Learning Objectives

NASPAA Accreditation

CU Denver School of Public Affairs' Master of Public Administration program is accredited by NASPAA, the global standard in public service education. As part of our NASPAA accreditation, we make the following information available to prospective and current students and to members of the public:

Logo indicating that the School of Public Affairs is accredited by NASPAA

MPA Formats

Which MPA is right for me?

View the guide below for comparisons on time to degree, cost and more.

Events for prospective graduate students

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