The University of Central Florida launches this week a new master’s degree program in research administration that is among the first of its kind in the nation.

“UCF’s program is the only one in the country to prepare students to administer grants in all disciplines of research that attract external funding,” said Mary Ann Feldheim, chair of the Department of Public Administration. “The few other programs that exist focus on medical research.”

Housing the program in her department is a natural fit, she added. The major components of public administration — administering and managing public services and programs — also apply to the administration of research programs in academic institutions and agencies.

Organizations such as the National Council of University Researchers have repeatedly identified a need for highly skilled, knowledgeable research administrators, shared Jo Smith, coordinator of the Master of Research Administration program and assistant professor of public administration.

“Our program is designed to give individuals already working in research administration a comprehensive understanding of the field’s complexities,” Smith said.

UCF designed the completely online program for working professionals in consultation with leading research administrators and researchers. Students can earn their degree in two years of part-time, year-round study.

Smith has accepted 21 students into the program. Ninety-five percent of them are currently working in research administration in areas such as proposal management, technology transfer and animal care. Most are employed by universities, including John Hopkins University, the University of Southern California and Auburn University. Others are employed by institutions, such as the National Institutes of Health and Florida Hospital.

“It should be a great cohort, with students contributing along with members of our national advisory board,” Smith said. “It’s a truly wonderful mix.”

To learn more about UCF’s new M.R.A. program, visit