Academic Programs: Public Affairs

Penn State Harrisburg's School of Public Affairs is the University's flagship school of public affairs. We offer the opportunity to work and study side-by-side with nationally respected faculty, productive internship opportunities, and proximity to the state capital and the region's hub of business and commerce. These are among the strengths of study at Penn State Harrisburg's School of Public Affairs.


  • Political Science is the academic study of governments, public policies and political behavior. The Political Science major is designed for students interested in domestic and foreign policy issues, politics, public administration, and related areas like policy analysis and policy advocacy. Political scientists use both scientific skills and humanistic perspectives to study political decision-making in the United States and other countries and regions of the world.

  • The Bachelor of Science degree program in Criminal Justice helps provide its graduates with the communications and analytical skills critical to succeed in criminal justice and related careers. Through an interdisciplinary approach to the problems of crime and society, the program also equips students to pursue graduate study in Criminal Justice or related disciplines, and educates students to become effective problem-solvers as professionals in the field of criminal justice.

  • Healthcare is the largest industry in the United States, and the second largest employer. A rapidly growing industry, healthcare represents one of today's most dynamic fields, offering a wide range of opportunities.

    The Health Policy and Administration (HPA) program in Penn State Harrisburg's School of Public Affairs, and in collaboration with Penn State Mont Alto, has been designed to prepare students for mid-management and policy positions, or graduate study in the field of healthcare. Students in this major will develop the skills and knowledge needed to understand the complex societal problems of providing access to quality healthcare at a reasonable cost. HPA students study a multidisciplinary curriculum that prepares them to work as health services managers or health analysts.

  • The Public Policy major is designed for students interested in policy issues, politics, public administration, and related areas like policy analysis and policy advocacy. The program explores a myriad of critical issues facing our communities, the nation, and the world. Students receive the educational foundation for careers in the public sector, in government-related businesses, and in non-profit organizations, as well as for graduate work in the fields of law, public administration, criminal justice, public policy, political science, and health care administration. Building on the program core, students may choose electives from a broad array of courses in public policy and other areas

Graduate or Postbaccalaureate Certificate

  • Penn State Harrisburg offers convenient options for practitioners in homeland security and related fields to obtain graduate level academic credentials, continuing education, and professional development, with the Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security.

  • The Master of Health Administration Program at Penn State Harrisburg offers a Long-Term Care certificate program. This certificate program is designed for working long-term care administrators, professionals, and policymakers in for-profit, not-for-profit, and public organizations who need more knowledge and skills in long-term care administration and policy, as well as in long-term care systems and their relationship to and integration with health-care systems. Persons completing the program will receive a certificate from Penn State attesting to their accomplishment.

  • The Certificate Program in Non-profit Administration is offered by the Master of Public Administration Program at Penn State Harrisburg, which was recently ranked 57th in U.S. News & World Report's rating of over 240 graduate schools of public affairs throughout the country. In addition, the MPA program was rated 24th in Public Budgeting and Financial Management.

  • The certificate program in Public Budgeting and Financial Management is offered by the Master of Public Administration program at Penn State Harrisburg, which is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration.

    This certificate is also delivered online via Penn State World Campus.

  • The certificate program in Public Sector Human Resources Management is offered by the Master of Public Administration program at Penn State Harrisburg. The M.P.A. program is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration.

    This certificate is also delivered online via Penn State World Campus.


  • The mission of the Ph.D. program in Public Administration at the Pennsylvania State University is to provide advanced graduate education in theory and research in the field to prepare students for academic, research, and advanced professional careers.

    Individuals with superior academic records and a strong interest in careers emphasizing research and scholarship are encouraged to apply to the program. The program typically admits a cohort of full-time students to begin each fall semester. Applications for part-time study may be considered if the applicant has a strong academic record and if his/her research interests are highly compatible with those of the program faculty members. 

Joint and Concurrent

  • The Dickinson School of Law (DSL) and the School of Public Affairs at Penn State Harrisburg (PSH) offer a cooperative program leading to the degrees of Juris Doctor (JD), to be granted by the Dickinson School of Law, and Master of Public Administration (MPA), to be granted by Penn State Harrisburg.


  • The program reflects the numerous complexities of the discipline. It provides academic leadership for students to work within corrections, institutionalized and non-institutionalized settings, victim services, adult and juvenile services, policing and law enforcement, private security, courts, and other human service organizations serving the clients of these institutions. It also helps develop research acumen for those students who may wish to consider doctoral studies.

  • The U.S. health care system is in a period of flux. In such a context, there is a critical need for highly effective administrators. The Master of Health Administration (MHA) is a 36 credit program that equips students with the knowledge and skills required to manage and lead various types of healthcare organizations in a highly complex, competitive, and rapidly-changing environment.

    The MHA program at Penn State Harrisburg is aimed both at those beginning careers in healthcare administration and experienced professionals interested in advancing their careers. The program focuses on design and redesign of health-care systems. It spans all aspects of the U.S. healthcare system, while providing a comparative perspective. Over the course of the program, students develop skills to identify and address the potential impact of recent changes on system design and healthcare delivery, and to design systems that can meet demand for care, support mechanisms to contain and manage costs, and satisfy quality standards for care delivery.

  • Penn State Harrisburg is the academic and administrative home of this 33-credit Intercollege Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security. Based on and all-hazards approach and supported by an end-user Advisory Council, this program leads to a comprehensive online homeland security degree, providing graduates the education and employable skills to succeed as continuing future leaders in homeland security.

    A partnership of six Penn State colleges and Penn State Harrisburg's School of Public Affairs, this program provides a homeland security education portfolio that can suit the needs of many individuals working in this field or looking for a new career path in this field.

    Penn State Harrisburg's School of Public Affairs is offering the Base Program. Other options for specialization include Public Health Preparedness, Geospatial Intelligence, Information Security and Forensics, or Agricultural Biosecurity and Food Defense.

    Career opportunities for those interested in pursuing the homeland security program include upper-level positions in the U.S. Homeland Security Enterprise and Departments such as DHS and its components (CBP, FEMA, TSA, etc.), and in particular in civil security including emergency and crisis management, business continuity, infrastructure protection, intelligence analysis, law enforcement, and physical security.

    This Program is exclusively delivered online via World Campus. No residential components are required. It is open to all students from across the world.

  • The Master of Public Administration (MPA) program is intended for those with career interests in public management, health and human services, government, and other public service and nonprofit organizations. The curriculum blends theoretical and applied concepts and assures “real-world” experiences for the novice administrator. In addition, it requires that students devote attention to general professional development. The MPA program is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration.


  • The Criminal Justice minor provides an overview of the criminal justice system and a thorough grounding in criminological theory. Students receive an in-depth look at the three main system components: policing, courts, and corrections, as well as the opportunity to delve into two or more specialized topics relating to criminal justice. The minor is designed not only for students who have a professional interest in criminal justice, but also for those who want to be informed members of the voting citizenry.

  • The Homeland Security Undergraduate Minor is offered by the Penn State Harrisburg School of Public Affairs.  It is delivered both on campus in Harrisburg and online via World Campus. 

    Based on their concentration of studies, students will be prepared to work in private or public sector businesses, private security or the federal workforce. Students will establish a working knowledge of homeland security issues including national policy, the basic structure of the homeland security enterprise, and emergency management.  Students will ascertain how stakeholders within the homeland security enterprise prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from man-made and natural disasters in a multi-jurisdictional and multifunctional environment. 

  • The Political Science minor consists of 18 credits with at least one course in each of the following Political Science areas: American, theory/methodology, comparative, and international relations. Six (6) of these 18 credits must be at the 400- level.

    When electing this minor, the student should have junior (5th semester) standing. Special attention should be given to the fact that courses used to satisfy general education, degree requirements, electives, and major requirements might also be used to satisfy minor requirements.