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About Our Program

Program Description (Also available as part of the MPA Student Handbook)


The MPA Program at Wayne State University is one of the oldest such programs in the nation. Since its founding, the program has produced hundreds of graduates who have gone on to successful—and in many cases distinguished –public service careers.

Dr. Lent Upson who was one of the pioneers in the study of public administration founded the program in 1935. He also served as the first Director of the Detroit Bureau of Municipal Research—now the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. Along with a Division of Social Work, the program was part of a School of Public Affairs until 1950, when the social work program became a separate college. In 1951 the Public Administration Division merged with the Department of Government and became a Department of Political Science. The MPA Program has been a part of this department ever since.

Reflecting its long and distinguished history, the MPA Program in 1985 became the first such program in Michigan to gain accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA).To be accredited by NASPAA, a program must meet numerous standards for faculty size and quality, content and structure of its curriculum, internship opportunities, and educational support resources such as libraries, computing facilities and placement services. The MPA Program was reaccredited in 1992, 1999, and 2006 and is currently going through the reaccreditation process in 2012.

Components of the MPA Program

The MPA Program consists of a minimum of 39 credit hours (semester) of graduate work. Those students who must serve an internship earn a minimum of 42 credit hours. There are four components to the MPA program:

  1. the core curriculum (30 credit hours, 10 courses);
  2. the concentration component (9 credit hours, 3 courses);
  3. the comprehensive examination and, if required;
  4. the internship (3 credit hours, 1 course).

Core Curriculum

The core curriculum consists of 10 courses, a total of 30 credit hours.  All are three credit courses, unless otherwise noted.  The core:

PS 5630  -  Statistics and Data Analysis I (4 credits)

This is a course in statistics with applications from the social sciences and public administration. Students should have a degree of proficiency in elementary algebra, although the course emphasizes statistical reasoning rather than mathematical theory. Content of the course includes descriptive statistics (measures of central tendency, dispersion, and position; frequency distributions; simple graphics), probability (sample spaces, the binomial and normal distributions; sampling distributions), and inferential statistics (hypothesis testing; inferences involving one and two populations, contingency tables; linear correlation and regression analysis).Students will learn how to do statistical calculations using a microcomputer and SPSS software.  This course will be waived for students who have taken a prior course or courses in statistics and are able to earn a grade of B or better on a statistics exam administered by the Director.  

PS 7300  - Public Administration and Its Environment  (3 credits)

This course will examine the development of public bureaucracy in the U.S. and the political, legal and social forces shaping it. We will look at the emergence and evolution of public administration as both a profession and a field of study. We will also examine the role of public bureaucracies in the political process and efforts to ensure administrative accountability and responsiveness to the democratic system and administrative relationships with elected executives, legislatures, the judiciary, the media and interest groups.

PS 7320 - Organizational Theory and Behavior (3 credits)

This course is designed to familiarize students with the field of organizational theory. We will examine different ways of theorizing about organizations and issues of level of analysis in organizational theory. We will look at organizations themselves, the behavior of individuals in organizations and the relationship of organizations to society, and the environment of the organization, particularly the political environment. Emphasis is placed on public sector organizations such as bureaucratic agencies and legislatures.

PS 7330 - Public Budgeting and Finance (3 credits)

This course exposes students to the literature on government budgeting, taxation and financial administration. The course has three major emphases: budgeting as a field of public policy; budgeting as a policy making process that reveals important aspects of the way U.S. governmental institutions perform; and budgeting as an array of techniques and procedures for carrying out a major function of government.

PS 7340 - Public Personnel Management  (3 credits)

This course undertakes an examination of the objectives of the public personnel systems of American governmental units including the analysis of current practices and techniques for recruiting, selecting, training, promotion, compensating, and removing public employees, major issues is public personnel management such as collective bargaining, equal employment opportunity, civil service reform and employee productivity and performance.

PS 7350 - Managing Public Organizations & Programs (3 credits) 

This course, and its companion course Political Science 7300-Public Administration in the U.S., constitutes a two semester introduction to the field and profession of public administration. This course has a largely internal focus. It is about what public managers do and how they do it. It is about what must be done if public agencies are to perform effectively and what is required for public programs to work. This course aims to develop an ability to identify impediments to effective management and to help the student understand and master various management techniques.

PS 7375 - Professional Development Seminar (1 or 2 credits; minimum total of 2 credits)

This course focuses upon specific managerial practices and topics in the public and nonprofit sectors.   Examples include applications of information technology, human resources management problems, data driven decision making, and administrative ethics. Content areas will vary with semester offerings.

PS 7410 - Policy Formation and Implementation (3 credits) 

This course explores the processes through which public policy is made and implemented in the United States and the politics that characterizes these processes. It is concerned with patterns across policy areas rather than with intensive analyses of specific policies. Topics covered will include discussions of the nature and emphasis on the incentives and motivations with respect to policy actors in these institutions; the various stages of the "policy cycle" (e.g., agenda setting, policy formulation, enactment, implementation, evaluation); patterns of policy making (e.g., iron triangles, issue networks); decision elites; the nature of policy change; and models of decision making.

PS 7460 - Program Evaluation (3 credits; students  must take either PS 7460 or PS 7660)

This course examines the theory and practice of program evaluation and the role of program evaluation in the policy process.  The different purposes of evaluation are discussed.   The various designs used to conduct impact evaluations are discussed along with their respective strengths and weaknesses.  Additional topics include total quality management, bench marking, and the utilization of evaluation. 

PS 7480 - Policy Analysis for Public Administration  (3 credits) 

This course looks at the economics based approach to systematic policy analysis, using applications from the field of public administration. Topics include the model of the competitive market, market failures, government failures, and generic policy solutions. Various analytic techniques are examined including cost-effectiveness analysis, benefit-cost analysis,  and multi-goal analysis, among others. Students engage in policy analysis by studying a local area problem and its causes, formulating policy options to deal with it, evaluating those options, and choosing an option for recommendation, writing up their findings and giving an oral presentation.

PS 7660 -  Research Methods in Policy and Politics  (3 credits; students  must take either PS 7460 or PS 7660)

This course is an introduction to the logic and methods of empirical political research. The principles and procedures that will be studied apply to problems in both basic and applied research and are relevant to all major areas of political and social inquiry. The course is divided into four major parts. An important feature of the course is the meshing of textbook description of the process of social science research with examples of research drawn from leading academic journals. While certainly not exhaustive, the journal articles reviewed offer a good notion of the variety of applications of social science research in addressing political, social, and public policy questions.

Concentration Component

Students select from among the following concentrations. Nine credit hours of coursework (usually 3 classes) are taken to fulfill this requirement. The courses may be taken in a single department or in 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.


Students who have not yet had professional level work experience in the public sector must complete a structured, supervised internship. The purpose of the internship is to offer such students an opportunity to both observe and participate at a professional level in the activities of a public sector agency. It complements the knowledge and skills acquired through coursework.

Three hours of credit are awarded for the internship under PS 7310.This requirement may be satisfied either by working a minimum total of 300 hours, typically full time for at least eight weeks or half-time for at least 15 weeks.

Students who possess significant professional experience in the public sector normally need not do an internship and may request that this requirement be waived.

Commonly, there are numerous internship opportunities available to students through a variety of public sector and nonprofit organizations.  The Director helps students to identify and apply for internships.

Public Administration
2049 FAB
Detroit, MI 48202
Phone: (313) 577-9831
Fax: (313) 993-3435
Website: clasweb.clas.wayne.edu/MPA
Email: mpa@wayne.edu