MPA programs focus on public administration at the local, state/provincial, national/federal and supranational levels, as well as in the nonprofit sector. Through its history, the MPA degree has become more interdisciplinary by drawing from fields such as economics, sociology, anthropology, political science, and regional planning in order to equip MPA graduates with skills and knowledge covering a broad range of topics and disciplines relevant to the public sector. A core curriculum of a typical MPA program usually includes courses on microeconomics, public finance, research methods / statistics, policy process and policy analysis, ethics, public management, leadership, planning & GIS, and program evaluation/performance measurement. Depending on their interest, MPA students can focus their studies on a variety of public sector fields such as urban planning, transportation, health care (especially public health), economic development, urban management, community development, education, non-profits, information technology, environmental policy, etc.
Some MPA programs are designed to "provide a high-quality education designed to provide the analytical, management, and policy-making skills needed to succeed in the field of public management," according to CSUF's description In addition, the MPA can help "to prepare students in one of many specialized fields, such as public finance, human resource management, urban management, and criminal justice."
MPA graduates currently serve in some important positions within the public sector, including UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, General David Petraeus, President of Liberia-Ellen Sirleaf, NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, and Governor of Kansas-Kathleen Sebelius.
In recent years, there has been a gradual convergence between the MPA and the Master's in Public Policy (MPP). Today, the course offerings of most MPA and MPP programs overlap to some degree, but MPP programs tend to provide more focused training in policy analysis and policy design, while MPA programs usually still provide more focused coursework in program implementation and public management.
Some educational institutions are now offering MPA degrees via online instruction. There are also Executive MPA programs for professionals who have prior work and management experience.
Outside the U.S., the MPA degree increasingly includes a substantial element of management education sitting alongside public policy and public administration thereby bringing it closer to the MBA degree.