The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) exists to uphold top-tier standards in training and education for public servants, and it also manages a peer-review quality assurance process for graduate programs related to public policy and administration. But is there really a difference between NASPAA-accredited public administration programs and similar programs that are not accredited?
In truth, this distinction can mean the difference between being hired and being passed over for a future job. To understand why NASPAA accreditation carries so much weight in the field of public administration, let’s take a look at the history of this organization.
Before NASPAA, the governing body for programs in public administration was known as the Council on Graduate Education in Public Administration, or CGEPA. NASPAA was founded in 1970 with the goal of creating a global standard in public service education. By 1974, it had managed to secure a sizable federal subsidy for continuing education in public administration and established the first set of guidelines for the study of public administration.
In 1980, they published the first list of academic institutions with public administration programs structured in “substantial conformity” to their curricular guidelines. This in turn led to the creation of COPRA, the Commission on Peer Review and Accreditation, the body that still guides the accreditation process of public administration programs to this day.1
Since then, NASPAA has served as a significant engine of growth for the public administration field, both in terms of size and diversity. Membership in NASPAA is currently comprised of nearly 300 schools offering master’s degrees in public administration, policy and management.
NASPAA is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as the accreditor for master’s degrees in public policy. The process of accreditation consists of both a rigorous self-study of an institution’s public administration program and an accompanying peer review by faculty from other NASPAA-member institutions. These peer reviewers, accredited themselves, are truly the top experts in the field of public administration, and their expertise determines whether a program meets industry standards to adequately prepare students for their careers. This process includes examining the mode of instruction, whether in person or online, as well as the curriculum to ensure that what is being taught will be practicable and effective in the real world.
The full accreditation process requires nearly a year to complete, with self-study reports due by August 15 for institutions hoping to receive accreditation by the following July. Within that time frame, COPRA issues a series of interim and site visit reports in which they seek clarification and verification of key program details, with school representatives responding to individual questions, expectations and requests for information as needed.
Once a final accreditation decision is reached, the school is notified by letter; those accredited also receive a list of instruction regarding continued communication with COPRA, including an annual accreditation maintenance report, due each fall.
By choosing a NASPAA-accredited program, students signal to potential employers that they are well equipped to meet the challenges they will face throughout their careers with the most up-to-date industry best practices and standards.
Whether online or in a live classroom, accreditation indicates that the community of public administrators recognizes and affirms program content and will help to enhance career opportunities for the graduates from accredited programs.
The online Master of Public Administration program at Kent State University is NASPAA-accredited and helps prepare students to become skilled leaders in the public sector. Hone your analytical skills and technical abilities, and prepare yourself for senior roles in government, nonprofit organizations and more with Kent State’s experiential degree program.