Master of Public Administration curriculum

The Wayne State graduate program in public administration consists of a minimum of 39 credits of graduate work. Those students who must serve an internship earn a minimum of 42 credits. All of the requirements for the M.P.A. degree must be completed within six years from the end of the semester in which a student first earned course credit for the degree.

The M.P.A. program consists of:

  • Core curriculum (30 credits, 10 courses)
  • Concentration component (nine credits, three courses)
  • Comprehensive examination
  • Internship (three credits, one course) (if required)

Core curriculum (30 credits)

The core curriculum consists of 10 courses, a total of 30 credits. All are three-credit courses unless otherwise noted. The following table lists what courses are offered each semester. Important: Students must take either PS 7460 or PS 7660. Students must take either PS 7330 or PS 6700.

Course # Title Credits Fall Winter Spring/summer
PS 5630 Statistics and Data Analysis in Political Science I 4 Yes Yes Yes
PS 7300 Public Administration and its Environment 3 Yes    
PS 7320 Organization Theory and Behavior 3   Yes  
PS 7330 Public Budgeting and Finance 3 Yes    
PS 6700 (Alternate) Financial Management for Nonprofit Organizations 3   Yes  
PS 7340 Public Personnel Management 3   Yes  
PS 7350 Managing Public Organizations and Programs 3 Yes    
PS 7375 Professional Development Seminar 2     Yes
PS 7410 Policy Formation and Implementation 3 Yes    
PS 7480 Policy Analysis for Administration 3   Yes  
PS 7460 Program Evaluation 3 Yes Yes  
PS 7660 (Alternate) Research Methods in Policy and Politics 3 Yes    

Concentration component (nine credits)

Students select from among the following concentrations. Nine credits of coursework (usually three classes) are taken to fulfill this requirement. The courses may be taken in a single department or several departments, depending on the concentration.

  • Health and human services policy and management
  • Economic development policy and management
  • Human and fiscal resource management
  • Nonprofit policy and management
  • Organizational behavior and management
  • Urban and metropolitan policy and management
  • Individually tailored (students may consult with the director to arrange their own concentration or elective courses)

Comprehensive examination

Students are required to take and pass a written comprehensive examination. The exam is five hours in length. Study questions are distributed before the exam. The exam is given three times a year. Ordinarily, students take the exam after they have finished taking courses in the core curriculum.

Exam expectations

The comprehensive examination has always been an important part of the structure of the M.P.A. program. Successful completion of the examination requires a mature knowledge of the role of a public service professional. There are general guidelines that students should follow as they construct their answers.

For all answers, students should follow some key principles that, although obvious, are still worth noting. If the exam answers are handwritten they should be legible. Answers should be organized, using paragraph structure and complete sentences with minimal abbreviations. There are no page or citation minimums, but answers should be comprehensive. An answer that merits a grade of "pass" will integrate concepts from different courses, as appropriate, and apply those concepts to concrete situations. One way to ensure this is for you to go back through your course notes, re-read the assigned reading, and connect any answers you outline to the coursework.

  • Exam Part A

    This part of the examination is a case study where students are expected to demonstrate that they can utilize concepts and methods to solve a real-world problem. In constructing an answer, students should follow some general principles by including the following in the answer:

    • Describe the central issue, dilemma, or decision point in the case.
    • Describe the relevant facts of the case.
    • Appropriately draw upon coursework to weigh the central aspects of the case.
    • Utilize literature where appropriate to justify the course of action that is being recommended.
  • Exam Part B

    This part of the examination consists of questions that require students to develop answers based upon relevant coursework. Answers that merit a "pass" will do the following:

    • Answer the question(s). The best way to answer the question(s) is to present a thesis in the first paragraph and then draw upon this main argument as one progresses through the answer. An answer that merits a grade of "fail" will not answer the question that is asked. Although a student may find it far easier to answer a question and address issues upon which he or she is more familiar, this is not a successful strategy. Students may want to draw up an outline beforehand that covers all of the points required in the question.
    • Acknowledge multiple perspectives. While the answer should have a point of view, it should also discuss other, possibly competing or complementary, perspectives. A completely one-sided discussion is not acceptable.
    • Use citations to support arguments. The answer should utilize insights from sources covered in class. These sources include, but are not limited to, the readings. Some questions may also benefit from incorporating materials from outside of the coursework.
    • Use examples. It is important for students to demonstrate that they can apply knowledge of abstract concepts and ideas to examples from the real world. For example, a discussion of performance measurement would benefit from a discussion of how the technique could work (or not work) in an organization of interest to the student.
    • Integrate answers. Many, but not all, of the questions, draw upon concepts covered in multiple classes. Be sure to consider this as you outline your answers.

Exam grading procedure

Part A and part B questions are graded independently of each other. After the exam, each answer is provided to two M.P.A. faculty members, who grade the answers anonymously, without knowing the author's identity. Part A questions are assigned to faculty based on workload; Part B questions are generally assigned to faculty based on teaching and/or research interests. However, all M.P.A. faculty are qualified to grade any question. The faculty use rubrics to assign grades. If both agree on the grade (which can be Pass with Distinction, Pass, or Fail), then that is the grade. If there is disagreement, then the question is assigned to a third faculty member, whose assessment breaks the tie.

It normally takes four to six weeks for the exams to be graded. The director or the academic services officer notifies each student of the results of their exam. After notification, students can review graders' comments on their answers. Students failing all or part of the exam are especially urged to do this as part of their preparation for retaking the exam. They should also schedule an appointment with the Director to discuss their performance and their plans for retaking the examination.

Download the exam grading rubric