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Master of Public Administration (MPA) Curriculum

Students in Villanova University’s online MPA program must complete six required courses and six additional courses of their choice, for a total of 36 credit hours. Those who enroll in consecutive terms can earn their degree in about two years. At Villanova’s discretion, a maximum of six credit hours may be transferred from another accredited university.

The Master of Public Administration (MPA) (36 Credits):

Course Number Course Title Credits
MPA 8001 Public Administration Theory  3
MPA 8002 Organization Theory  3
MPA 8003 Financial Management  3
MPA 8004 Public Personnel Management  3
MPA 8005 Analysis and Research I 3
MPA 8006 Analysis and Research II 3
Six of the following:
MPA 8200 Administrative Communication 3
MPA 8300 Leadership Ethics  3
MPA 8400 Strategic Planning  3
MPA 8500 Effective City Management  3
MPA 8550 Urban Politics and Government  3
MPA 8600 Effective Nonprofit Management  3
MPA 8700 Fundraising for Nonprofit Organizations  3
MPA 8800 Managing Public Networks  3
Total: 36

Note: All courses are subject to change.

Comprehensive Exam for MPA Students


The comprehensive exam serves as a capstone experience in the MPA program. It is designed to provide students with the opportunity to integrate and to apply the knowledge gained through their coursework in the program.


The exam consists of three essay questions addressing themes and issues broad enough to permit students to use theories, concepts, practices and examples from any of the courses taken in the MPA program. Students must answer two of the three questions.

Each exam question is divided into three parts – knowledge, skills, and abilities. The “Knowledge” portion focuses on demonstrating understanding of specific theories, concepts, practices, scholars, and content from all MPA courses. The “Skills” portion requires students to apply theories, concepts, and practices to specific examples. The “Abilities” portion focuses on critical thinking and evaluation of ideas. Students are permitted to use notes and texts in writing their exams.


In order to pass the exam, students accurately apply ideas (i.e., theories, concepts, practices, and examples) learned in the MPA program and offer a reasonable argument defending their responses to two of the three questions. In order to earn a High Pass, students must link their responses to the scholarly research using the names of scholars and theories and the details from examples and case studies.

It is recommended that students prepare for the comprehensive exam by revisiting course readings, studying class notes, and re-reading assignments and papers in order to sharpen their understanding of important theories, concepts, practices, and examples covered in those courses. Students may form study groups to prepare as well. Discussing past exams with students/alums who have taken the MPA comps is prohibited and will be considered a violation of Villanova’s academic integrity policy.


The MPA Director and at least two other faculty members teaching in the MPA program will evaluate the exams. The MPA Director will report the results (pass or fail) to the Graduate Studies Office, which will then notify the student. The MPA Director will consult with appropriate faculty if any problems, such as accuracy, arise with the use of ideas from their respective courses.


To be eligible to take the exam, students must have completed at least 24 credits (eight courses) and have a 3.00 GPA or higher. It is highly recommended to have completed MPA 8001 through MPA 8004 prior to taking the comprehensive exam. Students must register for the comprehensive exam by the dates listed on the graduate academic calendar. To register, students fill out the “Comprehensive Exam Registration Form”, available on the Graduate Studies Website, and submitting it to the Department of Public Administration (Villanova University, St. Augustine Center - Room 486, 800 Lancaster Avenue, Villanova, PA 19085). Students can also scan and email a signed copy of their comprehensive exam registration form to Michele Griffin at


The comprehensive exam is administered online three times annually. Dates for comprehensive exams are set by the Office of Graduate Studies and are found on the Graduate Academic Calendar as well as the Public Administration Department Website. Once the application is complete, eligible students will be registered for a special course in Blackboard. Prior to taking the exam, it is recommended that students review the instructional video and guidelines, accessed via the Blackboard course. Students can take the exam at any time during a 24-hour window, beginning at 12:00am EST and closing at 11:59pm EST, on the scheduled exam date.

Once students enter BlackBoard and begin the exam, they will have three hours to complete and submit their responses. All essays will be checked against a database of prior examinations and Internet sources using anti-plagiarism software.

Comprehensive Exam Registration Deadline Comprehensive Exam Date
Spring 2017: February 6, 2017  March 18, 2017
Summer 2017: May 26, 2017  July 15, 2017
Fall 2017: September 13, 2017  November 18, 2017
Spring 2018: February 5, 2018  March 17, 2018
Summer 2018: May 25, 2018  July 14, 2018


Questions about the comprehensive exam should be directed to Dr. Catherine Wilson (610-519-8901 or 

Notice for residents of Minnesota:

Villanova is registered as a private institution with the Minnesota Office of Higher Education pursuant to the Minnesota Statutes, sections 136A.61 to 136.71. Registration is not an endorsement of the institution. Credits earned at the institution may not transfer to all other institutions.

VA Benefit Eligibility: Visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Web Enabled Approval Management System (WEAMS) to view which programs of study or courses are currently certified. Benefit certification depends upon your VA determined eligibility, enrollment status and certified program of study.