Master of Public Affairs (MPA) Program

Our MNASPAA logoaster of Public Affairs (MPA) Program has been training students in public affairs since the early 1980s. In summer of 2014, the MPA program reached a milestone when it was accredited for seven years by NASPAA, the recognized global accreditor of master's degree programs in the fields of Public Affairs, Policy and Administration. Accredited programs must contribute to the knowledge, research, and practice of public service, establish observable goals and outcomes, and use information about their performance to guide program improvement.  Securing accreditation is a very difficult process, and demonstrates the strong commitment and dedication of our professors, students and staff.

Western graduates have been remarkably successful finding positions in the public service, as well as advancing in their current careers. The department’s extensive alumni network includes town managers, directors of non-profit organizations (NGOs), professors, police officers, and many other important positions in public service. 

The MPA Program generally enrolls 50-60 students who are taught by full-time professors, as well as experienced public servants. Most courses are evening classes taught in Asheville, but students can choose from other elective courses offered in Cullowhee and online.

The program requires 39 credit hours to complete. Applications to the program are accepted throughout the year.  

Many students work on their degree part-time, while others are full-time students. With the help of a faculty adviser, students are able to select 15 hours of electives to fit their career needs. For students who do not have public service experience, three of these hours will be a required internship. 

The typical length of the MPA degree program is about 2 years for a student who is taking courses full-time (9 hours per semester). Most part-time students take 2 courses a semester and can complete the degree in about 3 years or a little less with courses in summers. The program however is flexible and works with students who might wish to pursue fewer courses and lengthy their degree time due to family or work constraints. Students who wish to be more creative with their program are encouraged to contact their advisers and work on a course of study that will fulfill their individual needs.

If you’re considering our program, please read the curriculum and internship information for pre-service students, and check out our Frequently Asked Questions. If you have additional questions, please contact MPA Director Dr. Jay Gerlach at

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