Jul 22, 2024  
USC Catalogue 2022-2023 
USC Catalogue 2022-2023 [ARCHIVED CATALOGUE]

Public Administration (MPA)

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The Master of Public Administration programs are under the jurisdiction of the Price School of Public Policy. All admissions decisions are made by the school, following guidelines set by the university. See the Admission section of this catalogue.

All questions about the programs and all materials required for admission should be submitted to: MPA Programs, Admissions Office, RGL 111, University Park, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0626.

Admission to each of these programs is determined by the faculty and admissions committees connected with those areas. Application packages should be sent directly to the program office.


The admission decision is made using criteria which include verification that the applicant has completed a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college, has maintained a B average in undergraduate course work and has earned an acceptable score on the verbal and quantitative portions of the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) or the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT). Other elements of the applicant’s educational and experiential background are also evaluated. International students whose native language is not English must also submit a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score.

Each candidate should submit the following to the school: (1) official transcripts of all previous college and university work, showing an awarded degree where appropriate; (2) copies of GRE or GMAT scores; (3) an essay answering questions on the admission questionnaire provided by the school; (4) an up-to-date resume which includes academic and professional accomplishments; (5) three or more letters of evaluation from previous instructors and from professional associates who can attest to the applicant’s potential; (6) completed USC Graduate Admission Application, along with the nonrefundable processing fee; and (7) completed Price School of Public Policy Supplemental Graduate Application.

International applicants may be asked to supply additional information. See the Graduate Admission section of this catalogue.


Applications for admission are evaluated monthly. Those students who are also applying for financial aid, or who must meet other deadlines for admission, should submit application materials early enough to allow the admissions decision to be made in advance of those other deadlines.

The admissions process generally takes about four to six weeks after all necessary materials have been submitted.

Pre-Service/In-Service Designation

Most MPA students are classified as pre-service or in-service students at the time of admission. Pre-service students are those who enter the program with less than two years of professional work experience. In addition to course work, pre-service students complete an internship. Students pursuing a dual degree program are not classified as pre-service or in-service. Appeals for reclassification of this designation must be submitted during the first semester of enrollment.

International Students

Students applying for graduate programs should send applications and appropriate documents to the MPA Programs Admissions Office, which processes all such applications.


A student is accepted for admission only for the semester indicated on the letter of admission. If the student desires to enter at another time, or if the student cannot arrive on campus in time for the semester in which he or she was admitted, the student must contact the MPA Programs Admissions Office in writing. That office will contact the Office of International Admissions.

Students who do not enroll for the semester indicated on the letter of admission cannot be guaranteed admission to a later session. They will need to work with the MPA Programs Admissions Office to determine procedures to follow.

Registration Requirements

International students on student visas must be registered as full-time students as arranged by the Office of International Services. Doctoral students must carry a load of at least 6 units to be considered full-time students. A full-time graduate load is eight units. Such students are not eligible to be considered students without formal registration and may be in violation of immigration laws when not properly registered.

International students who have questions about registration requirements should contact the Office of Recruitment and Student Affairs.

Admission Status

MPA applicants may be permitted to take courses before the admission process is completed or they may be admitted before certain conditions have been met; each student must, however, attain regular status (standing) admission to the school prior to or upon completion of 8 graduate units.

Limited Status Students (Preadmission)

Students taking courses who have not been admitted to the school are designated limited status students. These students may be taking courses to meet prerequisites; they may be waiting for part of their application package materials to arrive; or they may be investigating whether an MPA is the best choice for them.

To be considered for limited status enrollment, interested students need to complete the Price School of Public Policy Limited Student Application for Enrollment form and submit official or unofficial copies of their transcripts from their bachelor’s degree granting institution. Students with a 3.0 grade point average (A = 4.0) may enroll in up to 12 units of graduate courses in the Price School of Public Policy.

Price School of Public Policy Limited Student Application for Enrollment forms may be obtained from the Admissions Office, Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California, RGL 111, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0626; (213) 740-6842. Limited students may only enroll during the in-person registration period (the week before classes begin).

Limited status students may apply only 12 units of appropriate graduate work toward the MPA after admission. Units beyond these first 12 must be petitioned for through the school. Students on limited status are encouraged to complete the application and admission processes before completing those first 12 units.

PhD Candidates

PhD students who pass the qualifying examinations and complete the MPA course requirements or their equivalent during their course work at USC may, with the recommendation of the coordinator of the MPA program, apply for and receive the MPA degree.

MPA Curriculum

The MPA course requirements are designed to address current and future professional competencies for accomplishment; to establish a sequence of basic required courses; and to maximize student choice and depth in specialized studies. The curriculum requires 40 units for completion (41 for pre-service students). Pre-service students, that is, those who have less than 25 months’ employment experience in a professional level position, are also required to take an internship that includes a one-unit seminar.

Core Courses

The core courses cluster along two themes: political institutions and organizations and analytics for public administration.

Electives (16 units)

Students will pursue 16 units of electives, 8 of which are chosen from a list of courses that extend their competencies in institutional/organizational management and analytic reasoning. They may take these from the Price School, or select related courses from other schools at USC. They are encouraged to cluster their electives around particular areas of interest while also maximizing opportunities to obtain graduate certificates.

Students who are pursuing a certificate program may petition to subsitute certificate-related course(s) for the analytic and/or management elective with approval by the director of the program.

Analytic Elective (4 units)

Students will select one four-unit elective course from the following list:

Management Elective (4 units)

Students will select one four-unit elective course from the following list:


Students complete the capstone which integrates the competencies attained in the core and electives courses as students complete a policy or management analysis for an organizational client.


Pre-service students (those with fewer than 25 months employment in a professional level position) are required to complete at least 300 hours of an internship and an internship seminar (PPD 543 ). MPA students may enroll in the internship seminar during their first semester. Students are encouraged but not required to complete their internship hours in conjunction with the internship seminar.

Thesis Option

Thesis option, PPD 594a Master’s Thesis  (2 units), PPD 594b Master’s Thesis  (4 units), may be taken as part of the elective category. Information regarding the thesis contract is available from the MPA director. All theses and dissertations submitted in fulfillment of requirements for graduate degrees must conform to university regulations with regard to form and method of preparation.

Additional Requirements

PPD 540  must be taken in the first semester or within the first 12 units and PPD 546  must be taken in the final semester or the last 12 units of the student’s program.

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