Now offering Key Graduate Certificate Programs Key Executive Master of Public Administration

Offered by the Key Executive Leadership Programs, the Executive Leadership Graduate Certificate program focuses on developing skills, knowledge, and values needed by public and nonprofit leaders.
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Ranked 4th in the U.S. News & World Report (2020), our Executive Master of Public Administration (MPA) provides a unique cohort experience to enthusiastic and experienced leaders employed predominantly by the Federal government, though a significant number of state, local, nonprofit and private leaders also graduate from the program.

The successful applicant for the MPA program:
  • Typically holds a GS-12 (or above) level or equivalent NGO, private sector, or leadership experience.

  • Possesses management experience
  • Demonstrates significant leadership potential
  • Has a passion for improving public service
Required Application Materials
  • Completed graduate online application.
  • Official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate work.
  • Two letters of recommendation attesting to your academic skills and executive potential. One of which must be from your supervisor or other professional official indicating that you have the potential to take on increased levels of responsibility and formally nominating/endorsing you for participation in the the program.
  • A resumé describing your job responsibilities, including your title, GS rating or SES designation (or equivalent). Please also include a list of any awards, special recognitions, and accomplishments.
  • A statement of purpose. 
  • A sample of your written work, such as a report, memorandum, or article.
  • An interview with the Director of the Key Executive Leadership MPA Program. *Please note that the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is not required for admission to the Key Executive Leadership MPA Program.

The total cost (including tuition, most fees, and textbooks) of the program is $73,623.

Financial Aid

Graduate students enrolled at least half-time may be eligible for federal loans. To apply, complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). American University's FAFSA code is 001434.

For additional information please visit the AU Financial Aid website.

Certificate Recognition

Students may be eligible for a tuition discount if they have successfully completed the Key Executive Leadership Certificate Program, approved OPM courses, or have received Level I, II, III certification from the Defense Acquisition University (DAU)


Key offers four awards for the Key Executive MPA Scholarship to incoming and current Key MPA students each Spring and Fall semester. Key also awards two merit-based scholarships, The Donald G. Zauderer and Anita F. Alpern Scholarships. For additional information please visit Scholarships.

Veterans Benefits - Yellow Ribbon Program

American University is a proud supporter of the Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program (Yellow Ribbon Program). The Yellow Ribbon Program allows Universities to voluntarily enter into an agreement with the Veterans Administration to fund tuition expenses that exceed the highest public in-state tuition rate. Universities can contribute up to 50% of those expenses and the Veterans Administration will match the same amount as the school. For additional information and to apply, please visit the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Get to know Key at an Information Session! 

We invite you to participate in a virtual information session to learn about Key Executive Leadership Certificates and the Key Executive Master of Public Administration degree. There are three options for participating in a session - conference call, zoom and in-person!
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Why you should participate:

  • Meet with the Director & Key Staff
  • 25% tuition discount for government employees
  • 22 months on an Executive Schedule with the summer off
  • No GRE required
  • Learn more about Executives Abroad Program in Brussels, Belgium

We Know Success

% of Graduates are now Working, Grad School, or Both

73 percent of Key MPA students graduate. All students start together and graduate together in a 2 year period.

Graduation rate represents cohort entering the program in the 2015-2016 academic year.

Why the Key MPA?

Key is the global public sector leadership program of choice because it challenges good managers to become extraordinary leaders who build an environment for organized success.

Begun in 1975, the Key Executive Leadership Program is a graduate course of study in the skills, knowledge, and values needed by top-level public executives and offers participants the perspectives and competencies necessary for effective performance in high level executive work.

Key Distinguishing Factors

Each of the 16 courses is linked to an Office of Personnel Management Executive Core Qualification (ECQ) required for Senior Executive Service (SES) consideration. View MPA ECQ Matrix

Key Executive Leadership MPA Program is the only Executive MPA designed specifically for leaders in the federal sector and accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) Commission on Peer Review and Accreditation.

The Program is not theoretical; rather, students are challenged to immediately apply what they learn in their workplace and report the results for discussion in the classroom.

In lieu of a Master's Thesis, students identify a difficult, long-standing unresolved problem in their workplace; sign a contract with their supervisor to work on the issue; recruit five-seven persons to work with them on the issue; teach their colleagues the action learning process; apply the process to the issue and create recommendations for resolution; present the recommendations to the agency; write a paper identifying what they have learned about the process, what they learned about themselves and the persons on the action learning team, what public administration concepts they applied to their work; and what they learned about leading change; and present their paper to their colleagues in the cohort and the faculty of the program. 

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Program Curriculum


Aligned with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs), each course expands the knowledge of public administration principles and develops leadership skills through reading, course work, and conversations with peers and professors.

Politics, Policymaking, and Public Administration (Summer Course) 

Students have the opportunity to study abroad in Brussels, Belgium for a one-week intensive course. The program is designed to expose federal leaders to a comparative, experiential exploration of the politics, policymaking, and public administration challenges faced by public service leaders in the United States and European Union (EU).

While in Brussels, participants learn from high-ranking officials from the EU Parliament, Commission and Council, and from staff members of various governance entities. In addition, leaders will spend a day with representatives from NATO discussing current controversies in the NATO community.
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Moving to the Next Level through Key

"After some searching, I realized I wanted to be an agent of societal change in the emerging and growing field of restorative justice. I knew Key would push me personally and professionally, and take me to the next level of a career in federal law enforcement."
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Frequently Asked Questions

The mission of the Key Executive Leadership Program is to foster better government by educating professionals and managers to become effective, top-quality team and executive leaders. We achieve our mission by ensuring each Key Executive Leadership MPA graduate:

  1. Applies substantive public administration principles, values and skills to lead organizations and implement public policy effectively and efficiently.
  2. Demonstrates increased leadership capacity to facilitate transformation from good managers to extraordinary leaders.
  3. Exhibits the capacity to analyze, synthesize, think critically, solve problems and make decisions that enhance organizational and policy effectiveness.

Looking to begin your leadership journey but not ready for a Masters - the Key Graduate Certificate might be right for you. 


Contact or view the full FAQ list below. 
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