This page includes the following program requirements:

MPA Graduation Requirements

  1. Completion of a minimum of 33 semester units of approved graduate courses;
  2. Completion of at least 24 of these units in residence;
  3. Completion of all course work with a GPA of at least 3.0;
  4. Completion of a comprehensive examination equivalent to 3 semester units (in addition to the above 33 units of course work);
  5. Students must be fully classified at the time of graduation (in order to be fully classified, students must have the following: Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, 3.0 GPA in their cumulative post-graduate course work, and have completed either the GRE or UDWPE, or both, if required). Students who score a minimum of 3 in the Analytical Writing section of the GRE are exempt from the UDWPE.

Steps Required to Complete Your MPA Degree

Conditionally Classified Graduate (GRAD) Status

In order to achieve fully classified graduate standing, students will need:

  • A passing score on the Writing Proficiency Exam;
  • A GRE score in the 50th percentile or above on at least one of the three sections of the exam (verbal, quantitative or analytical). This requirement is waived for students with a GPA of 3.0 or better for their undergraduate studies or for students who currently hold a master's degree from an accredited university. GRE scores in excess of 5 years at the time of classification will not be accepted.

It is important to achieve full classified standing prior to completing more than 12 units of graduate coursework on the program of study. No more than 12 units of work taken prior to attaining fully classified status will be applied to a master’s degree program.

Classified Graduate Status

Students who meet all University and departmental requirements as outlined in the current catalog.

Graduation with Honors

Students who satisfy all program requirements and maintain a grade point average of 3.885 or higher on their coursework will receive their MPA degrees with distinction. The notation "with distinction" is posted on the transcript and will appear on the diploma.

Applying for the Degree

Upon successful completion of all course work and requirements, students must indicate the semester in which they plan to take the comprehensive exam. The application for graduation must be sent to the MPA office with a check in the amount of $47, payable to CSUN.

Reinstatement to the MPA Program

If a student withdraws from a cohort, s(he) may be admitted to another cohort at a later date. The reinstated student will be assessed the same tuition and nonrefundable fees as apply to all other students in the new cohort.

Note: All cohorts, once begun, will be taught out through to completion. However, there is no guarantee that new cohorts will follow in a specific area or within a specific amount of time.

Comprehensive Examination Requirements

The only culminating experience for the Master of Public Administration program is the comprehensive examination. This is intended to be a survey not only of the information from your coursework but of the general field of public administration.

Comprehensive Examination Preparation

In order to take the comprehensive examination, the student must be fully classified. That implies successful completion of the Writing Proficiency Examination and the GRE (if required), as well as having passed the requisite 33 units of coursework while maintaining a GPA of 3.0 or better.

Preparation for the examination should be considered as no less than a two-semester effort in tandem with coursework. It is not uncommon for students to devote one semester or more exclusively to preparing for the final exam, particularly if the exam is scheduled for a date that is very soon after the conclusion of the final course. Inform your program coordinator/manager of your intention to enroll for the exam one full semester in advance of the date you intend to take the comp exam.

Students will be provided study strategies to prepare for the comprehensive exam. Study group session can be very worthwhile as a support tool. It is very beneficial to be in touch with other students who will be sitting for the same fields, in order to coordinate the collection and use of study materials and to share insights.

Every student is examined on General Public Administration. Depending upon the option the student elected upon entry to the MPA program, the second field will be one of the following:

  • Public Sector Management and Leadership
  • Nonprofit Sector Management
  • Public Policy Analysis and Management
  • Performance Management and Productivity in the Public Sector
  • Urban Planning
  • Geographical Information Science and Technology
  • Health Administration
  • Sustainability

(Note: Not all of these options are currently available.)

Students are required to write for three hours on each of these two areas of study.

Students will receive a Comprehensive Exam Packet that contains sample exam study questions to serve as a basis for preparation to illustrate major issues or themes in the two fields that will be examined. Although the sample questions will not be those on the exam itself, you should be able to write fluently and completely for three hours on each of the sample questions. You then will be well prepared to answer those that will be on the exam itself. Familiarize yourself with the central significance of each of the questions and prepare sophisticated, analytical responses as you study.

While the sample questions provided in the Comprehensive Exam Packet provide a basis for your studying, we suggest that you formulate your own questions. In so doing, you will identify some of the major themes or issues in public administration and your specific selected option as a way of defining and understanding the field. Your questions should be clear and definite but broad enough to support a three-hour essay that can show your grasp of the field.

You will be permitted to bring only two documents to the examination:

  • Your two separate reading lists. It is strongly advised that you have at least ten citations. You are not restricted by the number of pages for this document.
  • A one-page outline of each of the two fields. These will be two separate documents. You may not exceed one page per outline.

These may be consulted as you are composing your examination essays. They must be attached to your essays at the completion of each exam.

You should develop a diverse list of books and articles that offer a rounded perspective on the field. No specific number of books is required, but at least ten books should be considered for the reading list for each of the fields. In developing your reading lists, the textbooks assigned in your MPA courses will serve as a starting point but are not sufficient by themselves. Refer to the articles and book excerpts provided in the MPA website for additional information and materials.

Be fully conversant with several books. Others may be helpful in more limited but valuable ways and need not be studied thoroughly. Be familiar with the history, evolution, and trends of public administration as well as the leading scholars in the field. Know their distinctive contributions. Citations and bibliographies in your course texts will lead you to most of these important sources.

Examination Day Schedule

General Public Administration Question: 3 hours

Option #1 Question: 3 hours

The examination will offer three optional questions for each sub-field. Respond to only one.

The comprehensive exam is conducted in a computer lab using Word. Students should be knowledgeable in the use of Word, flash drives and appropriate keyboard skills.

Three instructors will read your exam.

A no-credit grade is assigned to any student who fails to pass either or both fields. Only one additional opportunity is available to retake the failed field or fields.

Our MPA program has a history of excellence in exam results. Our expectations are high, but students rise to the challenge and feel great pride in their achievement. You will become part of that tradition.

Your essay should have ample references to the authors and readings that you have used in your preparation, showing that you recognize the contributions that these scholars have made to your subject.

While your essays should be solidly based on major concepts and should have appropriate references to authors and readings, it is important that you show that you are able to apply these concepts. Be sure to use appropriate examples to illustrate your major themes. These examples will often come from your own professional experience at work, but may also come from news stories or other sources.


Three hours are given for each exam essay. This gives you time to develop an organized and comprehensive essay. It is usually best after establishing your main themes to focus on some rather specific areas. Your reader will want to see that you have the overall picture, but they will also expect you to show that you can focus on selected areas and analyze them. This analysis is an essential component of your exam essays.

Technical Requirements

Please carefully review the technical requirements for this program.

MPA Withdrawal and Refund Policies for Cohort Students

Please carefully review the The Tseng College Withdrawal and Refund policies.

Academic Dishonesty

Cheating or plagiarism in connection with an academic program at a CSU campus is listed in Section 41301, Title 5, California Code of Regulations as an offense for which a student may be expelled, suspended or given a less severe disciplinary sanction. For more information, please go to

Program Policies

Please carefully review the full list of Program Policies, including Academic Honesty and Integrity Requirement, Time Limitations for Earning Degrees and Certificates, Temporary Disruption of Attendance, Withdrawal Policy and Refund Policy.



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