Master of Public Administration

This is an archived copy of the 2016-2017 bulletin. To access the most recent version of the bulletin, please visit Any changes will appear on our errata page.

Graduate Advisors: Gen, Joaquin, Shea, Stowers, Wang

Admission to Program

The graduate admission application to San Francisco State University is a two-part process. You must submit Part One and Part Two of your graduate admission application simultaneously by deadline to be considered for admission.

Part one;

Apply online through CSU Mentor for a Graduate Program. The Office of Graduate Admissions no longer accepts paper applications to graduate programs.

Send all required documents noted on your online SF Gateway Portal “To Do List” to the Division of Graduate Studies:

Graduate Admissions
SF State University
1600 Holloway Ave, ADM 250
San Francisco, CA 94132

Part two:

Submit the following materials directly to the Public Administration Program:

  1. Statement of purpose to the SF State MPA Program. This statement of purpose should describe the following information in a coherent essay (in no more four pages, double spaced):
    • Life experiences that have led you to an interest in public service (public or nonprofit)
    • Background in the public service, including any work or volunteer experience you might have in public or nonprofit agencies
    • Areas of specific interests in the public service, including what has led you to these specific interests
    • Career and professional goals and aspiration
    • How the MPA degree will be helpful and consistent with your career goals and aspirations
    • Why this is the right time in your career to come into a MPA program and seek the degree
    • Why the SF State MPA degree program is a good fit for you and your career / professional goals
  2. Your current resume.
  3. Two (2) letters of recommendation. These should be from individuals who know the candidate well and can address their potential for succeeding in graduate school. The letters do not have to be from faculty members at an academic institution, they can be from supervisors or others familiar with the candidate's work.

Send the documents requested in Part TWO directly to the Public Administration Program:

Public Administration Program
835 Market Street, 6th Floor, Suite 679
San Francisco, CA 94103

Applicants must meet all university admission requirements to be accepted into the MPA program. Applicants are judged on a competitive basis.

Potential applicants who are still completing their undergraduate work should strengthen their preparation for the program with courses in public administration, economics, politics, public policy, and research techniques as well as experience working in either the public or nonprofit sectors.

Written English Proficiency Requirement

The University has a requirement for written English proficiency that is to be assessed at two different levels.

Level One

Satisfactory performance on the Letter of Application should be achieved in order to gain admission to the degree program.

Level Two

Master’s thesis or strategic assessment memo from P A 890 must be written at a level commensurate with professional standards in the field. Concurrent enrollment in P A 896EXM is required.

Advancement to Candidacy

Approval of a student’s proposed course of study advances a student to candidacy. Completion of the Advancement to Candidacy (ATC) requirements qualifies the student to apply for the award of the master’s degree. Besides meeting University requirements for advancement to candidacy, students are required to:

  • Complete prerequisites and any other conditions specified by the program.
  • Complete at least 6 units of work in graduate courses.
  • Maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA in all course work and in courses specified in the Advancement to Candidacy.
  • Consult regularly with a program advisor.

Upon advisement, upper division and graduate courses in other disciplines may be accepted if they contribute to a coherent program related to the student’s educational objectives.

Courses that are required for the major must be completed with a minimum grade point average of 3.0 and a grade of B- or better.

Culminating Experience Requirement

Students in the public administration program can choose between two options for their culminating experience:

Students may choose to take a capstone course (P A 890) and complete a written comprehensive examination, the Strategic Assessment Memorandum (SAM). The capstone course focuses on synthesizing the knowledge, skills, and abilities learned in the program through the analysis of case studies from the field. Students complete their e-portfolio, analyze case studies, and present their strategic assessment of what managers operating in those cases should do to resolve them. The strategic assessment memo is the written presentation of each student’s analysis and plan for that case. Students who choose P A 890 must concurrently enroll in the zero unit P A 896EXM Culminating Experience Examination course.

Students may also choose to undertake a traditional social science research project, the Master’s Thesis (P A 898) option. Working with a faculty committee, students write a prospectus, have it approved the semester before undertaking the research, and write the thesis. After initiating this option, students must enroll each additional semester in P A 897 Research in Public Administration, until the thesis is completed.

Public Administration Program ePortfolio

San Francisco State University public administration students graduate with a portfolio of work products and evaluations of student work designed to demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and abilities acquired in the public administration program. The required components of the portfolio have been chosen based upon a careful assessment of the skills that are crucial for the success of the public administrator in the new millennium. Students publish selected program work along with explanations of their accomplishments in the degree program on websites as ePortfolios available to potential and current employers.

Eugene I. Pearl Memorial Scholarship

Students specializing in urban administration are eligible, on a competitive basis, for the Eugene I. Pearl Memorial Scholarship. This scholarship reimburses students for the cost of their textbooks; can be renewed each semester, also on a competitive basis.

Cho Public Service Scholarships

SF State Cho Public Service Scholarships are available on a competitive basis for incoming and continuing students. Students are selected on the basis of outstanding academic achievement, outstanding community service, and potential for excellence in the public and nonprofit sectors.

Please contact the program office for information and applications.

Merritt Community Capital Scholarship

The objective of the Merritt Community Capital Scholarship Fund in Public Administration is to promote and encourage the development of student career interest in the fields of affordable housing development and management. Affordable housing is an integral component of public administration and community development strategies, and the career development of committed affordable housing professionals are vital to the continued success of our current housing delivery and management systems

Public Administration (MPA) — minimum 39 - 42 units

Core Requirements (12 units)

P A 700Foundations of Governance and Management3
P A 705Design and Consumption of Research3
P A 706Applied Data Analysis3
P A 715Policy Process and Civic Engagement3

Management Perspectives (12 units)

Select four of the folloiwng:
P A 720Organization Design and Change Management3
P A 722Performance Management and Planning3
P A 724Economic Perspectives3
P A 725Managing Human Capital3
P A 727Program and Service Delivery3
P A 730Resource Allocation and Management3

Internship Requirement (0 - 3 units)

P A 803Public Affairs Internship3

Internship requirement may be waived upon evidence and approval of previous or concurrent educationally appropriate work experience in public policy or administration.

Emphasis or Electives on Advisement (12 units)

See below.

Culminating Experience Requirement (3 units)

Select one of the following:
P A 890
& P A 896EXM
Capstone Course in Public Administration
P A 898Master's Thesis3


Nonprofit Administration (12 units)

P A 744Nonprofits, Public Policy and Society3
Select three of the following:9
Public Service Management
Emerging Trends in the Public Service
Perspectives on Nonprofit Management
Organizational Learning and Nonprofit Management
Financial Management in the Public Service
Public Affairs and the Law
Decision Making in the Public Service
Comparative Perspectives in the Public Service
Information and Knowledge in the Public Service
Leading Change Across Sectors
Program Evaluation
Museum Management, Law, and Ethics
Fundraising in Museums

Public Policy (12 units)

P A 770Policy Analysis3
P A 775Program Evaluation3
Select 6 units from the following:6
Financial Management in the Public Service
Decision Making in the Public Service
Courses in substantive issues in public policy, such as:
Environmental Policy
Criminal Justice Administration
Urban Housing Policy
Urban Transportation
Urban Health Policy
Urban Poverty and Policy

Public Service Management (12 units)

P A 740Public Service Management3
Select 9 units from the following:9
Financial Management in the Public Service
Public Affairs and the Law
Decision Making in the Public Service
Comparative Perspectives in the Public Service
Information and Knowledge in the Public Service
Leading Change Across Sectors
Program Evaluation

Urban Administration (12 units)

P A 780Urban Administration3
Select 9 units from the following:9
Urban Economics
Urban Transportation
Geography of Garbage: Recycling and Waste Reduction
Environmental Justice: Race, Poverty, and the Environment
Politics, Law, and the Urban Environment
Seminar in Environmental and Land Use Planning
Emerging Trends in the Public Service
Financial Management in the Public Service
Public Affairs and the Law
Information and Knowledge in the Public Service
Leading Change Across Sectors
Program Evaluation
Sustainable Development in Cities
Urban Housing Policy
Intergovernmental Relations
Urban Poverty and Policy
Social Policy and Family Systems
Urban Health Policy
Housing Policy and Planning

Environmental Administration (12 units)

The elective emphasis in Environmental Administration is offered jointly by the Public Administration Program (School of Public Affairs and Civic Engagement) and the Department of Geography & Environment. Students should take P A 762, one other course from the list of MPA courses below, and two courses from the list of Geography courses below.

P A 776Environmental Policy3
Select 9 units from the following:9
Sustainable Development in Cities
Climate Politics and Policy
Applied Local Sustainability
Urban Transportation
Geography of Global Transportation
Environmental Problems and Solutions
Geography of Water Resources
Land-Use Planning
San Francisco Bay Area Environmental Issues
Environmental Impact Analysis
Environmental Management
Human and Social Geography
Seminar in Environmental and Land Use Planning

Criminal Justice Administration (12 units)

P A 777Criminal Justice Administration3
Select 9 units from the following:9
International Criminal Law (GE)
Extremism as Crime
Construction of Crime and Justice
Global Restorative Justice and Corrections
Geographies of Social Control and Urban Diversity
School Violence and Discipline
Youth Gangs in Community Context
Emerging Trends in the Public Service
Financial Management in the Public Service
Public Affairs and the Law
Decision Making in the Public Service
Comparative Perspectives in the Public Service
Information and Knowledge in the Public Service
Leading Change Across Sectors
Program Evaluation

A variety of 1 unit courses can also be taken as electives. Students can take a maximum of three (3) 1-unit classes to count toward the degree.

P A 707Qualitative Data Analysis1
P A 708Qualitative Interviewing1
P A 709Logistic Regression1
P A 743Collaborative Government1
P A 747Organizational Ethics: Doing Good, Being Good1
P A 748Negotiation and Compromise1
P A 751Pensions and Pension Administration1
P A 756Data Mining and Visualization1
P A 763Personal Leadership Development1