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PPA Frequently Asked Questions


What kinds of jobs do people get after their MPA?
MPA graduates work in all types of governmental, nonprofit, and corporate settings. At the federal level, Boise State MPA graduates have worked for the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the GAO, the State Department, and on the staffs of members of Congress. At the state level, our graduates have worked for a number of state agencies including the Departments of Health and Welfare, Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Labor, the Office of Performance Evaluation, Division of Human Resources, and the State Board of Education. At the local level, our graduates have worked for cities and counties as City Administrators, in Mayors’ offices, budget offices, law enforcement, fire departments, parks and recreation, and planning offices. Many MPA graduates work in the nonprofit sector for organizations including the Boys and Girls Clubs, the Girl Scouts, the Idaho Conservation League, and professional associations such as the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, the Chamber of Commerce, the Association of Idaho Cities, and Idaho Association of Counties. Other MPA graduates work for corporations in governmental affairs divisions including examples from Zions bank, Micron Technology, and Walmart.

What’s the difference between the MPA and the Masters in Political Science?
The MPA degree is a blend of theory and practice intended to prepare leaders and experts primarily for service in the public and nonprofit sectors. The MPA is a management degree for the public and nonprofit sectors. It is a practitioner’s degree and utilizes an applied capstone experience as a culminating assessment. The Masters of Political Science is more theory-driven, and has a culminating activity of writing a traditional thesis.

How many credits does it take to complete the MPA?
33 credits total. You will need to take 21 credits in core, 9 in an area of emphasis, and 3 credits of electives. Students without at least a year of significant public or nonprofit sector experience are required to complete a 3 credit internship. The admissions committee will decide whether or not an internship is required when a student is admitted to the program. 21 in the core (500, 501, 502, 503, 504, 505 & 692) and 12 credits in an emphasis (environment, s/l or general) and 6 credits of elective plus a 6 credit internship is required for those who do not have administrative experience in the public or nonprofit sectors.

What is the culminating activity for an MPA program?
There is a 3 credit capstone course in which students work in teams to complete an applied research project on behalf of a client organization or group in the community. The capstone allows students to apply their knowledge, skills, and abilities gained in their coursework to real life situations under the guidance of a SPS faculty member.

When are classes held?
Most MPA classes meet in the evening between 6:00-8:45PM in order to accommodate students who are working during the day. There are exceptions, however, and MPA classes have met in early morning, afternoon, and weekend formats. Boise State also allows for compressed class formats such as a 3- week session.

Are there online classes?
There are a few classes that are offered in a hybrid format in which in-person and online sessions alternate. It is expected that more courses will be offered in an online format in the near future.

Can I take classes in other programs as a part of the MPA?
Yes. Two programs that fit nicely as a part of the MPA include the Graduate Certificate in Dispute Resolution and the Graduate Certificate in Non Profit Management. Classes from other programs can be used in consultation with your Academic Advisor.

When does the Admissions Committee admit students to the MPA?
The Committee meets twice each year, shortly after the October 1 and January 15 application deadlines for admissions materials to be submitted.

Can I take MPA classes before I’m admitted?
Yes, a maximum of 9 credits may be taken prior to admission, 3 of which can be a core class. You must first apply to the Graduate College and be admitted as a non-degree seeking graduate student. Admission to the Graduate College and to the MPA program are separate processes.

Do I have to take the GRE to be considered for admission?
The GRE is not required if your undergraduate GPA is 3.2 or greater.

Can I transfer graduate credits from another institution into my MPA?
Yes, 9 credits can be transferred in from other institutions. Your Academic Advisor and the MPA Program Director will evaluate these potential transfer courses with you. Final approval comes from the Graduate College. The Graduate College does not allow classes that have already been applied to a Masters program to transfer to the MPA, however, certificate credits can be transferred.

Are there graduate assistantships available to MPA students?
Yes, there are a limited number of GA’s available to MPA students. Typically, GA’s earn a stipend ranging between $12,000 to $15,000 over a 9-month period in addition to a waiver of their tuition and fees. GA’s are expected to enroll full time (9 credits) and to work 20 hours a week. The application for graduate assistantships are available in the forms section of the Public Policy and Administration website.

Can I take classes part time?
Yes. Most students go part time. There is a 7 year time frame in which Boise State expects students to finish after admission. If necessary, you can apply for an extension.

Is there an MPA student organization?
Yes. There is the MPA Association, open to all current, former, and prospective students. The MPAA has a Facebook page and organizes brown bag lunches featuring speakers of interest as well as social events.

What is the internship requirement?
If you have less than a year of significant public or nonprofit sector work experience, you will be required to complete a 3 credit internship. There is a faculty member who handles internships and will assist you in finding an internship appropriate for you. Boise State requires 45 hours of work for each credit of internship. Internships can be completed in Fall, Spring, or Summer terms.


When is the application deadline?
Applications are due to our online application system by January 15 of each year. The School of Public Service PhD admissions committee evaluates applications and then meets to discuss them in early February. Student applicants can expect to hear about the status of their application from the Boise State Graduate College soon after.

Do I need to have a master’s degree to apply?
Applicants with Master’s degrees are given preference in the admissions process, although there may be rare cases in which this requirement is waived. Student applicants who do not have a Master’s degree should contact the Program Director for more information before applying.

What needs to be included in the application?
The online system walks you through the types of information and documents you will need to provide, as does our website. But, in addition to other factors such as academic performance, the admissions committee pays special attention to 1) your letter of intent, 2) your writing sample, and 3) your letters of recommendation.

What should be in my letter of intent?
Writing the letter of intent for a PhD program differs from a letter of intent you might write for an undergraduate or even a master’s program. We encourage you to do some research about what these letters should contain, and in particular to get feedback from those who have been through the process and/or have a stake in your success.  But we tend to look for three things in particular:

  1. An indication that you understand and are ready to tackle research at the doctoral level.  You may not know what your dissertation topic is, but do you have a sense of what areas or research questions, broadly, you are interested in?  Help us understand what makes you a good candidate for advanced research, both in terms of focus and commitment.  This helps us assess if you are a good fit for our curriculum and faculty.
  2. You’ve identified faculty in the School of Public Service you might be able to work with.  Brief faculty bios are available on the School of Public Service webpage.  Take some time to look these over, and to make some guesses as to who might be able to advise you through the process of taking classes, passing comprehensive exams, and crafting a dissertation.  Some applicants even reach out to these faculty in advance to introduce themselves and talk about the program.
  3. Tell us about your career goals.  We are an applied program, designed to prepare students for senior level positions in public, non-profit and international organizations.  Applicants with these career goals are given preference.  Occasionally, however, we admit students seeking positions in academic or research settings.  Please indicate to us why you think our program might prepare you for the career or professional path you have in mind.

What should I submit for a writing sample?
It is most helpful to the admissions committee to see a sample that illustrates your ability to do research at an advanced level. Writing samples should be clearly written, with a minimum of errors, and should exhibit your ability to analyze and synthesize complex information in a compelling way.

Who should I ask to write me letters of recommendation?
Ideally, strong letter writers are able to speak about you and your accomplishments in fairly specific and illustrative ways. The committee also appreciates letters that speak to the candidate’s ability to conduct advanced-level, sustained, significant research projects. Letter writers may have all sorts of backgrounds, but letters from professors or those in public service sectors often work well, as they are able to speak best to the above qualifications.

Can I take classes in the program before I’ve been accepted?
Students interested in taking courses offered by the program before they’ve been formally accepted may do so, provided they have applied for admission to the Boise State Graduate College (this is a separate process from the program admissions process) and paid their student fees. Once accepted to the Graduate College, students may enroll in up to 9 credits of coursework, with the exception of the 600-level core courses, which are restricted to students who have been admitted.

Can I transfer in credits?
Students frequently transfer in credits from previous graduate coursework, if relevant. If you are admitted, you will work with your advisor and the Program Director to determine which courses might be transferred in. Students may transfer in a maximum of 21 credits. The program does not allow students to transfer in courses to count for any part of the methods sequence or the 600-level core courses.

Do I have to take the GRE?
Students who have a master’s degree from an accredited institution may waive the GRE requirement—you will mark this when you complete the online application.

Can I get graduate assistantships, scholarships, or other financial support?
The School of Public Service has a small number of very competitive graduate assistantships to support students. Students who receive these awards frequently receive a stipend for working 20 hours a week with faculty on research or other projects, as well as a fee waiver to cover tuition costs. Students may be covered from 1-3 years depending on the award. Students interested in these awards should apply at the time they submit their application for admission.

In some cases, faculty may also have funded research or other projects that support students in GA positions.

The program and the university have a small number of very competitive scholarships that students may apply for, and students may of course apply for loans through the financial aid office to cover expenses.

Do I need to be a full-time student in the program?
We do have a small number of students who enroll in our program full-time. However, the program is primarily designed to accommodate part-time students, many who have careers and families. Classes are challenging, and are both reading- and writing-intensive, so the time commitment is serious. However, courses are typically scheduled in the evenings, in 3-hour blocks, to accommodate working students. Our faculty are experienced in mentoring both full- and part-time students seeking to successfully finish the program.

Can I take the program online?
We are primarily a residential program, meaning students need to be able to show up, in-person, to most scheduled class sessions. We believe that there is tremendous value in the seminar-format of doctoral education, where students read challenging and important texts, and then discuss them, with professor facilitation, in groups. However, there are a few “hybrid” courses—courses where class meets in person every other week, and online for alternating weeks.

What kinds of careers does a degree like this prepare me for?
We are an applied program, designed to prepare students for senior level positions in public, non-profit and international organizations. Students who enroll in our program work in a variety of organizations, ranging from the Statehouse to local policy institutes to non-profit environmental organizations.

Which professors can I work with?
If you are admitted, you will eventually put together a “Supervisory Committee” of 3-5 faculty who will mentor you through the program. All need to have PhDs, and one of these faculty needs to be from the Public Policy and Administration program. But other committee members can come from the School of Public Service, relevant disciplines at Boise State, or even faculty from other universities.

Who will be my advisor?
You will be assigned an advisor when you are admitted to the program, based on your application and faculty availability. This faculty member will help you with curriculum planning and enrollment. At some point, you will assemble a Supervisory Committee, headed by a Supervisory Chair, who will mentor you through the comprehensive exam and dissertation writing processes