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Key students and alumni lead the way in this conversation on leadership excellence across the government, share stories of challenge and triumph as public servants and leaders themselves, and the impact being a Key student has on their career, personal and professional growth, applicability of the programs to their workplace, and what it means to be a part of the Key community.  

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Why the Key MPA?

Ranked #4 in the U.S. News and World Report (2021), 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. 

Established 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.

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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.

Draft Schedule

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

Geraldine Decembre SPA/MPA '17

"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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100 percent

of Key MPA students successfully graduate from the program.

100 percent

of the 2022 Key MPA graduates were employed in the public sector.

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. 

A typical cohort has anywhere from 12 - 20 students depending on the year. 

We have 13 faculty members teaching in the Key MPA Program. 


Contact pmalone@american.edu or view the full FAQ list below. 
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