Do you want to enjoy a career where you can help others by working in public agencies in local, state or even the federal government? Or possibly you want to work in a non profit organization in a discipline about which you feel strongly? You may want to earn your Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree.
The public administration field is focused upon the management and development of public agencies. Public administration professionals focus on issues of great interest to the public such as how to solve various public policy problems and to best manage the many government programs and agencies at all levels in the United States.
Many public administration professionals earn their MPA degree and work in several different sectors over their career, including government, nonprofits, international organizations and even consulting. There are even some MPA holders who spend part of their career working in the private sector, often in partnership with public agencies.
If you are thinking about earning your MPA, you could enjoy the following benefits during your career:
#1 Work on Many Types of Public Sector Issues
Professionals who work in public administration can work in many different sectors and on many different issues in their career. Being able to work in so many different areas over time makes public administration a great fit for those who want to make a difference to the public and society. Some of the most popular public administration issues today include:
- Climate change and its causes
- Water and food supply security in developing nations
- Reducing the incidence of major diseases in underserved populations
- How to secure the US against terrorism and biological agents
- Helping former convicts to reenter society and become productive citizens
- HIV/AIDs crisis
- Providing quality education and health care for those in need
These are just a small sample of the issues that you can work on in your public administration career.
#2 Discover Many Public Administration Specializations
One of the limits on your undergraduate education in many disciplines is not being able to dive deep into your career interests. Having a generalized education has value, but to gain more experience in specific public sectors, you will normally need to get an MPA degree where you can focus on specific concentrations that have promise or interest for you.
For example, at the University of Delaware, their MPA program has the following popular specialties:
- Public Policy and Management: This specialization will ready you for various managerial and analyst positions in all public sector organizations. This is a good choice if you want an administrative position with a federal agency or a state or local government department.
- Nonprofit and Community Leadership: This concentration will prepare you for a leadership role with organizations that work in local and community economic development, poverty, housing and neighborhood planning. This is a good path for the MPA professional who wants a public service career but not always in a government agency.
- Emergency Management: You will be prepared to work as a disaster professional in support of communities, governments and public organizations. You will work in the preparation, response, recovery and mitigation of various emergency situations, including natural disasters and terrorism.
- Healthcare Policy: For those who want to work in administrative and managerial roles in health care and healthcare delivery systems. You will learn how to analyze, implement and evaluate effective health policies in local, state and federal agencies.
#3 Public Administrators Earn a Good Salary
Many professionals with an MPA work as administrative service managers in many different departments in the local, state and federal government. These workers have a high degree of administrative and managerial responsibility, and earn a median salary of $86,000 per year.
They are responsible for planning, directing and coordinating supportive services of the organization or department. Their specific responsibilities can vary, but they will usually be responsible for maintaining facilities, departments and supervising public sector services and activities.
Interestingly, the salary level for administrative service managers is higher in some cases for those who work in the private sector:
- Finance and insurance: $97,000
- Scientific, professional and technical services: $95,000
- State and local government: $87,000
- Educational services: $82,000
- Health care and social services: $80,000
Other MPA holders may work in urban and regional planning, which also offers a good salary of $69,000 per year.
#4 Obtain Outstanding Public Leadership Training
If you earned your undergraduate degree in public administration or public policy, you have learned about the daily operations of government organizations and the political process. You did not receive extensive training however on how to manage workers and financial resources, which is of critical importance for upper level managers and administrators in government.
In your MPA program, you will be introduced to the many challenges of managing finances and human resources in the government, as well as strategies and tools to boost production and motivation. Your MPA will prepare you for leadership responsibilities in government, just as an MBA prepares a business professional for leadership in business.
For example, American University in Washington, DC has the Key Executive Leadership MPA, which has been ranked #5 in the US by US News and World Report. This advanced program provides you with a leadership focused MPA that will prepare you to become a leader in the federal government.
#5 Great Job Stability
Working in public service, especially in government agencies, provides you with strong job security. Most government workers, once they are in their positions, have very strong job security. Although there are fewer public sector workers now than a decade ago, the number is rather misleading.
Some senior employees have continued to work after the last recession, so this may have caused employment numbers to dip in government agencies. But new public administrator jobs in government are growing. Once a worker is hired in the state or federal government, your job is usually strongly protected, so you will not have to worry about being unemployed in a downturn.
#6 Develop Strong Analytical Skills
Public administrators spend most of their time collecting data, analyzing large amounts of it and presenting the final results to other workers and administrators. You will learn how to use advanced analytical tools in your MPA program so that you can break down all of that data. Then you may find the various causations and correlations that will make the data of use.
The MPA degree you earn will provide you with a strong foundation in analytics and statistics that you can use in many government and nonprofit roles. For instance, you will learn how to handle internal auditing and analysis that will help you to keep agency or department books balanced, and to track spending in that organization.
Whichever MPA program you select, you will definitely take data analysis classes. At George Mason University’s MPA program, you will take a course called Problem Solving and Data Analysis I. This course will cover skills and techniques for public managers to solve problems related to policies and to analyze the related data. It focuses on analyzing data, defining the problem, research design and solving problems in uncertain conditions. That program also requires you to take electives in Policy Analysis and Economic Analysis in Public Administration.
All of these benefits of earning your MPA can be yours if you choose to spend the time and money on this very worthwhile graduate degree.