What is a Master of Public Administration?
A master of public administration (MPA) is a professional post-graduate degree for individuals looking for a career in public administration. MPA programs are designed for future leaders of public agencies, non-profit companies, and the emerging new class of social entrepreneurs. A MPA program prepares students to serve as managers in the executive arm of local, state, and federal or national government, as well as nongovernmental organizations (NGO) and nonprofit sectors. A focus on the systematic investigation of executive organization and management, as well as the intersection of government and community in the public policy landscape, is also a component of public administration.
An MPA program requires individuals to already have a 4-year baccalaureate degree and a minimum GPA of 2.5 or higher. Usually the degree takes 2 years of full-time study, with additional time to complete a thesis. Most online programs are 36-credit-hours.
MPA degrees are designed to be more interdisciplinary so graduates have a broader range of skills and knowledge in a wide range of topics and disciplines relevant to the public sector. Different fields, such as economics, sociology, law, anthropology, political science, and regional planning, are drawn from to make up the core component of classes. In addition to a core component of course classes, there is usually a concentration component in which a student can focus their studies. Examples of concentration include human resources, urban planning, emergency management, transportation, health care (public health), economic development, urban management, community development, education, non-profits, information technology, environmental policy, cultural policy, criminal justice, and more.
Typical core course classes include:
- Public Finance
- Research Methods and Analysis
- Policy Process
- Policy Analysis
- Organizational Management Theory
- Public Financial Management
- Managerial Accounting
- Government Budgeting
- Public Management
- Leadership Concepts
- Planning and Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
Course instruction within the core curriculum usually includes the roles, development, and principles of public administration; the relations between organizational management and legislators; administrative law; professional ethics; public policy management and implementation; the public and non-profit budget processes and financial management; personnel management focusing on civil employees; and appropriate research methods.
What are the Opportunities with a Master of Public Administration Degree?
A master of public administration degree is ideal for you if you’re seeking leadership positions at all levels of government or public sector. Examples of governmental positions would be administrators or elected officials, and leaders of police and fire departments. This degree can also help prepare you to succeed in top executive of development positions in the non-profit community. Finally, if you’re seeking to start innovative non-profit companies, or non-governmental organizations (NGOs), a masters in public administration would be the right choice for you.
Due to the wide variety of uses for a master of public administration, the doors are wide open for job opportunities in many different public and private career fields. This kind of job flexibility is especially ideal for a rapidly evolving economy. Even in times of economic distress, there is still a need for people in the public administrator field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates federal employment to grow by ten percent and the number of jobs in state and local government is expected to increase by eight percent in the decade between 2008 and 2018. Also, as existing public administrators retire, the number of available existing job openings at all levels of government is expected to increase. There are many positive benefits that come with public-sector employment, such as job stability, pension, and healthcare.
Additionally, many graduates end up creating their own public administration jobs. Social entrepreneurism is a high trend in the non-profit and NGO area. Many people tend to focus on creating innovative new public service organization that are economically viable and capable of quickly providing aid and service to people in need around the world. These types of NGO businesses are popular career choice among many public administration graduates, and also often play critically important roles in times of world crisis.
GoPublicService.org offers a list of the “pressing problems” on our country and world’s agenda today. This list outlines a few of the issues those with public administration masters can assist in:
- Managing global climate change and controlling its underlying causes such as carbon emissions.
- Supplying food, energy and clean water to the growing populations in developing countries.
- Securing the United States and other countries against the possibility of chemical, biological and nuclear terrorism.
- Redeveloping older urban areas that have lost their economic base in manufacturing.
- Transitioning recently incarcerated persons into productive, nonviolent lives in society.
- Ending the epidemic of HIV infection in developed and developing countries.
- Providing quality education and health care to children living in poverty.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has outlined salaries for positions that a master of public administration degree can acquire:
Local, State and Federal Administrative Jobs – Average Annual Salaries
- Financial management (federal): $128,422
- City manager/Chief administrative officer: $94,992
- Information technology management (federal): $91,104
- Assistant city chief administration officer: $89,000
- Human resources management (federal): $81,837
- Human resources director (local): $78,234
- Human services director (local): $75,961
- All federal occupations: $74,403
Hourly Wages – Non-profit and Government vs. Private Sector:
Among full-time public administration employees, those working in public and non-profit agencies earn more per hour than those in the private sector:
- Local government: $25.16/hr
- State government: $23.77/hr
- Non-profit: $21.68/hr
- Private: $20.46/hr
Current Master of Public Administration Degree Role Models
Resources for More Information About Master of Public Administration
- Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management: The APPAM is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving public policy and management by fostering excellence in research, analysis and education. The APPAM has over 1,500 academic, practitioner, organizational and institution members. There are many ways in which the APPAM improves the field of public administration, including an annual fall research conference, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management (JPAM), the association’s journal, several award programs and various activities including international and national conferences and workshops.
- American Society for Public Administration: The ASPA is the largest and most prominent professional society for public administration practitioners and educators. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration. ASPA’s four core values are Accountability and Performance, Professionalism, Ethics and Social Equity.
- National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration: The NASPAA is the accrediting body for MPA and MPP programs in the U.S. It is an institutional membership organization that exists to promote excellence in public service education. The membership includes U.S. university programs in public affairs, public policy, public administration and nonprofit management.
- European Association for Public Administration Accreditation: The EAPAA is the accrediting body for MPA programs in Europe. It’s oriented to institutions that offer academic degree programs in public administration, public management, and public policy in Europe. They’ve built and maintained a voluntary accreditation system in order to stimulate high quality in public administration education. If you’re interested in acquiring your MPA in Europe, this is an important resource for you.
- Global MPA web portal: The NASPAA Website is for international students and programs outside the U.S. It’s an important resource if you’re not from the U.S., or if you’re looking to study outside of the U.S.
- Public Service Careers: This is public sector non-profit job site for those seeking jobs in the public sector. You can get an idea of what kind of jobs are available for public administrators through this site.