When you drive through your city or town, you might take notice of traffic signals, sidewalks, landscaping, recreational fields, and fire hydrants. You might see new residential or commercial construction projects or road or utility work. When you’re home, you flip on the lights, turn on the water, take out the trash and recycling. There is certainly a lot happening behind the scenes to maintain these services and facilities. That’s where the work of public administrators comes in.
Why Study Public Administration?
If you’re interested in contributing to the inner workings of federal, state, or local government, or are passionate about helping a cause or community, a career in public administration may be a good fit for your interests. Advancing into higher-level positions within the public administration field often requires a related graduate degree, such as a master’s in public administration (MPA).
“What Can I Do With a Master’s in Public Administration?”
“The MPA is considered the culminating degree for people in public or nonprofit management,” explains Dr. Kenneth Goldberg, director of the undergraduate and graduate public administration program at National University.
Studying public administration at the graduate level, either in an on-site or online degree program, introduces students to the business aspects of managing government programs, offices, and employees at every level. Classes cover a range of skills from budgeting and financial management to research and policy. Goldberg says that, at National, many courses focus on critical thinking, research, and writing. All of these experiences are also beneficial for those in the nonprofit sector, which is why an MPA is often the degree of choice for those looking to lead a community benefit organization.
Whether interested in government or a specific cause, Goldberg says students attracted to an MPA program often have an innate calling to the field of public administration.
“They have a strong propensity to serve and tend to have a real sense of community,” he says, adding that another characteristic he sees in students is a desire to support social good.
Goldberg is himself, an example of this social commitment. In 2001, after 30 years of service, he retired from the U.S. Navy. Already driven to serve, he felt public administration was a natural fit. So he decided to pursue advanced studies in the field, earning both his master’s and doctorate.
When asking yourself, “why study public administration?” you also might find your answer is a mix of personal and professional fulfillment.
What Can I Do With A Master’s in Public Administration in the Public Sector?
Every small town, big city, and major metropolis — and every county and state — requires solid business and organizational expertise to manage people, services, and facilities in their jurisdiction.
Here are just a few of the common titles or roles filled by those holding an MPA:
- City manager.
- County administrator.
- Recreation manager.
- Urban and regional planner.
- Community relations manager.
- Director of economic development.
- Budget manager.
- Policy analyst.
Master’s of public administration graduates also often hold leadership roles in waste management, public utilities, law enforcement, emergency services, or other related government offices and programs. Finally, others with an MPA may feel compelled to run for public office or teach at the college level.
What Can I Do With A Master’s in Public Administration in the Nonprofit Sector?
An MPA program also prepares people for high-level or leadership positions in the nonprofit sector, such as within charitable, educational, or arts organizations.
Here are just a few nonprofit roles in which you might find an MPA graduate:
- Executive director.
- Development director (fundraising).
- Membership director.
- Advocacy director.
- Public relations manager.
- Program director.
- Grant administrator.
One final way to approach the “why study public administration” question is to consider the increased job opportunities the field offers. For instance, the U.S. Department of Labor reports the need for urban planners is expected to grow by 13 percent in the next decade, a growth rate that is much faster than the average for all occupations. The need for fundraising professionals is expected to grow by 15 percent, also much faster than the average.
It’s also worth noting that in addition to on-campus options, many master’s of public administration programs also are offered as online degrees, such as the one at National. This option allows students to continue working or serving in the military while earning their MPA.
Please visit the National University’s Master of Public Administration program page to learn more about earning your degree.