Bloomington Campus

Master of Public Affairs

Prior Experience

A student’s experiential requirement may be satisfied through Prior Experience (PE). Depending upon the type and amount of experience, a student may qualify for a credit reduction as well. There are three categories of PE (Professional, Military, and Volunteer) available to MPA, MSES, MPA-MSES, and MES students. MAAA and MAAA-MPA students have different guidelines for PE, as they are governed by the University Graduate School.

Applications for the different types of PE may be picked up in the Master’s Programs Office (MPO – SPEA A304) or online via the Current Student Portal in the Forms section. Completed forms should be returned to the O’Neill Graduate Records Office (SPEA A328 or to be advanced to the appropriate Faculty Program Director for review.

  • PE waivers and credit reductions are granted for experience gained prior to taking courses in the MPA, MES, and MSES programs.
  • Applications for PE must be submitted within the first 24-credit hours or they will be denied.
  • Students may be approved for more than one type of PE, but the combined credit reduction cannot exceed 12-credit hours.
  • Credit reductions cannot result in the elimination of degree or concentration requirements. Students receiving prior experience credit reductions should carefully plan the balance of their program with an advisor.
  • A student may not apply for PE with any of O’Neill’s outside, dual degree programs (e.g., MPA-MA, MSES-JD). All of O’Neill’s outside dual degree programs reflect a discounted credit hour program in an effort to streamline the academic demands for the student. Further credit reductions are not negotiable. This does not apply to O’Neill’s dual MPA-MSES and MAAA-MPA degree.
  • Determination of PE credit is made separately from decisions about transfer of credit. Under no circumstances will the prior experience credit and transfer credit total more than 21-credit hours.
Professional Experience:
Experiential waivers and credit reductions can be granted for prior professional or technical work experience. The appropriate Faculty Program Director determines if the experience qualifies for a waiver and/or reduction. In general, credit reductions require work experience above entry level that involves some independent managerial, analytic, or scientific responsibility and work that articulates with the student’s current field of study. Applicants may appeal a professional credit decision by submitting a request, in writing, for reconsideration and providing additional information. Students receiving prior professional experience credit should carefully plan the balance of their program with a faculty advisor.

General guidelines to qualify for Professional Experience:
Work must have been full-time, either paid or unpaid.
To receive a waiver of the degree’s experiential requirement, work experience should roughly equal or surpass that of a summer internship.
To qualify for credit reduction in addition to a waiver of the experiential requirement, experience must have been with a single entity for at least two years (consulting work may present an exception).
Position may be with government, private firm, or nonprofit organization, but the work must be explicitly related to a MPA career path, regardless of the type of employer.
Employing entity may be domestic or international.
Documentation from supervisors may be required.

MPA Guidelines:
  • To receive a 3-credit hour reduction, a student must have a minimum of two years' technical, administrative, or policy-level work experience with a government, nonprofit, or private agency.
  • 6-credit hours is generally possible for two to four years of relevant full-time managerial and/or policymaking experience in any sector, such as program leadership, budgetary oversight, organizational or staff development, fundraising, analysis, planning, or human resources supervision.
  • A 9-credit hour reduction is possible for five years to seven years of relevant full-time managerial and/or policymaking experience. At this point, at least one higher-level, multi-year assignment is expected, including responsibility for supervision of staff, budget preparation, or organizational control of public or nonprofit agencies.
  • 12-credit hours is possible for eight or more years of relevant managerial and/or policymaking experience leading to one or more executive assignments.
Military Experience:
Students with at least two years of active duty or full-time guard/reserve service OR four years of part-time guard/reserve service with the United States military are eligible for an experiential waiver and a minimum 6-credit reduction. Up to a 12-credit reduction is possible for four years of active duty or full-time guard/reserve service OR eight years of part-time guard/reserve service with the United States military. Proof of service will be required.

Volunteer Experience:
Students who have participated as a volunteer in Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, or Teach For America are eligible for a credit reduction based on years of service, as well as a waiver of their experiential component. The O’Neill School will grant a 3-credit reduction for one year of service and a 6-credit reduction for two years of service. Proof of service will be required.

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