Frequently Asked Questions about Graduate Study

What kind of job will the MPA program prepare me for?

MPA alumni are working in federal, state, regional, and local government agencies and not-for-profit organizations. Our graduates serve as policy analysts, program managers, budget analysts, researchers, elected officials, program evaluators, community and economic development specialists. The MPA is a practitioner-focused degree. Through the core curriculum, students gain experience and knowledge in public management, budgeting, public finance, research and policy analysis, and program evaluation. Specialization classes allow students to fine tune the skills and knowledge they will need in their chosen subfield.

What skills and knowledge are important for me to be successful in the MPA, MPP, and MPFM programs?

MPA: Successful students will have good oral and written communication skills and be able to think analytically.  The MPA requires a undergraduate microeconomics and college algebra or statistics and be able to use basic computer applications including word processing and spreadsheets programs.

MPFM: Successful students will have good oral and written communication skills and be able to think analytically. There are no prerequisites to the MPFM however past experience in accounting (work or school) will be beneficial.

MPP: Successful students will have good oral and written communication skills and be able to think analytically. The MPP requires students an intermediate microeconomics, calculus (MA 123 at UK), and statistics. It is possible to take statistics concurrently in the first semester of MPP coursework, but it will not count towards the MPP degree.

Do most students enter the graduate programs directly after college?

Our MPA graduate students are about equally divided between pre-service individuals who have little or no work experience and those who have previous work experience. Most all MPFM students are fully employed in early or mid-career positions. 

Do you admit students to begin programs in the fall or spring semester?

In general, students are admitted to begin MPA and MPP the programs in the fall term. Occasionally, a few students are admitted to begin coursework in the spring. The MPFM admits students during the fall and spring terms. Students who have previously completed the Graduate Certificate in Public Financial Management may apply to the MPFM starting in the summer term. The Graduate Certificates admit students in the fall and spring terms.

What are your deadlines for application submission?

Final application deadlines can be found on the Graduate School website, but deadlines to be considered for Martin School funding are listed in the paragraphs above. If you have any questions about deadlines, please reach out to the Student Affairs Officer.

What is an acceptable score for the TOEFL?

To be a competitive applicant, we require a TOEFL score of 550 or above (paper-based test) or 213 or above (computer-based test). Students are expected to complete a great deal of reading and writing in the program. A strong command of the English language is imperative for success, thus we also require the Test of Written English (TWE) with a score of 4.5 or higher.

Can I work while in school?

The MPA/MPP programs are time-intensive. Full-time students can expect to spend 9-12 hours in class per week; this estimate does not include study time (both group and individual), professional development activities, speakers, and other events. We recommend that first year MPA/MPP students not work more than 20 hours per week. Many full-time students do work part-time in internships or graduate assistantships, for example. Most all MPFM students are fully employed. The fully online MPFM program is designed so students take only 2 classes (6 credit hours) per semester and classes are offered in 8-week sessions allowing students to focus on one class at a time. This structure provides working students and those juggling other responsibility a convenient and flexible way to achieve their graduate education goals. Students who have questions their employment status and achieving their goals should discuss their plans with the Student Affairs Officer.

How long will it take me to earn my degree?

Full-time students can complete the MPA/MPP degrees in two academic years, which includes a full-time internship in the summer between those two years. Part-time students may complete the degree at their own pace, usually three to four years. The MPFM is considered a part-time program as students only take two classes a semester, including summer. Students adhering to the schedule can complete the MFPM in two years and it does not include an internship.

Should I have to temporarily suspend my education for personal or professional reasons, can I come back and complete the program?

Yes. The Graduate School requires that any student complete their Masters degree in eight years. Effective fall 2009, if you are an enrolled graduate student at the University of Kentucky and you sit out for one or more semesters you will need to complete a new application and pay the application fee in order to be considered for readmission. In many instances you can avoid this requirement by requesting a “leave of absence”. In addition to avoiding the application process, this status will allow you to priority register in preparation for your return.

Procedurally, you should contact your Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) to seek approval for the leave prior to the beginning of the semester in question. If approved, the DGS will contact your Graduate School admissions officer who will modify your record accordingly. You may request no more than two consecutive and four total semesters in leave of absence status. Post-qualifying doctoral students are not eligible for the leave of absence.

International students considering a leave of absence are strongly encouraged to discuss their plans with the Office of International Affairs, Department of Immigration Services prior to making a formal request.

What is an acceptable GPA or GRE score?

The GRE is only required for the Ph.D. and MPP programs. We do not have a minimum GRE score requirement. The average GRE score of applicants admitted to the program varies from year to year, depending on the pool of applications received. While we consider many elements of an applicant's background when making admission decisions, it is important that applicants have a competitive GRE score.

We realize there are certain limitations with standardized tests like the GRE; however, the GRE gives us a very important comparison among applicants from different schools and majors. Therefore, we encourage you to prepare for the exam, take it as early as possible, and retake it if you do not score competitively.

We expect a minimum GPA of 3.0 but occasionally will make exceptions for extremely special circumstances. We do a whole-file review and consider all aspects of the application. The University's Graduate School requires a 2.75 GPA for entry into a master's program and a 2.50 GPA for entry into a graduate certificate program.

What is a graduate certificate in Public Financial Management?

The Martin School’s Graduate Certificate in Public Financial Management is an independent, stand-alone program. It is not a Master’s degree, but indicates to employers that a professional has had a structured, rigorous introduction to principles of public financial management. The program includes four graduate level courses. Upon completion of the Graduate Certificate, students may apply to the MPFM program and the four courses in the Graduate Certificate will apply towards the MPFM.