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Public Administration Careers

Updated on March 13, 2016
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Advanced degrees have almost become a necessity in today’s competitive job market. The MPA (Master of Public Administration) is one of the most popular graduate degree programs. Earning an MPA provides a great opportunity for career advancement as well as limitless opportunities to serve the community. The MPA program provides courses that prepare students for leadership in the workplace, whether it’s in the public sector or the private sector.

The MPA degree is most suitable for employment in the public sector. The MPA is also appropriate for employment in non-profit agencies. MPA graduates also become leaders in the private sector as administrators and entrepreneurs. Courses focus on solving problems in government settings although MPA graduates can succeed in a variety of career fields. Students often utilize case studies based on real life situations to develop strategies and solve problems. Students also conduct research on various aspects of management in government and non-profit agencies.

MPA Program Structure

Core Courses

Most graduate programs offer core courses and concentration courses. Core courses are classes that are required for all students to graduate. These courses tend to be more general in nature and provide a basic knowledge of the fundamentals of public administration. These courses are also heavily based in theories and the history of public administration. Core courses in public administration are focused on policy analysis, decision making, and basic concepts of management in government and non-profit settings.


Concentration Courses

Concentration courses, as the name suggests, are courses that concentrate on the specific area of study that the student would eventually like to put into practice after graduation. Similar to undergraduate studies, students take general education courses then take more specific courses tailored to their preferred profession. Concentration courses prepare students for their specific interest in public administration. Here are some of the typical concentration areas offered by most MPA programs:

Non-Profit Management- Students take courses in grant writing, grant management, and program evaluation. Students also learn about grant management and budgeting for non-profit agencies.

Public Management- Courses are focused on governmental finance and intergovernmental relations.

Health Care Administration- Students are prepared to serve in management positions in hospitals and public health centers.

Human Resource Management- Students take classes in public personnel management and performance evaluation. Students prepared to management level human resource positions in government agencies.

Criminal Justice- Students take advanced courses in criminal justice administration. Students are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to take on management positions in corrections, probation and parole, and law enforcement agencies.

There are several MPA programs that offer the flexibility of online and on-campus learning options. MPA graduates enjoy a variety of career opportunities. I have listed some the opportunities available in the public and private sector.

Shaun Donovan is the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and earned his MPA from Harvard University.
Shaun Donovan is the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and earned his MPA from Harvard University. | Source
David Petraeus is the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and earned his MPA and Ph. D. from Princeton University.
David Petraeus is the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and earned his MPA and Ph. D. from Princeton University. | Source

Career Opportunities for MPA Graduates

Public Officials- MPA graduates can serve as elected officials in local, state, and federal government. MPA can serve as members of city council and city managers. They can also serve as state and U.S. senators as well as state and federal cabinet positions.

Non –Profit Management Positions- Countless non-profit organizations need financial managers, grant administrators, and research analysts. These professionals to provide leadership in agencies such as the United Way, American Red Cross, and AARP just to name a few.

Leadership Positions in Government- MPA graduates find positions as department supervisors, department directors, and program administrators. These positions are available at a variety of local, state, and federal agencies.

Kathleen Sebelius is the former Secretary of Health and Human Services and earned her MPA from the University of Kansas.
Kathleen Sebelius is the former Secretary of Health and Human Services and earned her MPA from the University of Kansas. | Source
Hilda Solis is the former Secretary of Labor and earned her MPA from the University of Southern California.
Hilda Solis is the former Secretary of Labor and earned her MPA from the University of Southern California. | Source

Budget Analysts- Budget analysts provide financial management to public, private, and non-profit agencies. Budget analysts play a critical role in these agencies by monitoring spending, preparing annual budgets, and preparing various reports for department and agency directors.

Policy Analysts- Policy analysts also find opportunities in the public and private sector. They work with agencies to develop various organizational policies and procedures. They also review and “analyze” to determine is polices need to be adjusted.

Healthcare Administration- MPA graduates find leadership opportunities in clinic and hospital settings. These positions often include office administrators as well as finance and billing administrators. Healthcare administrator positions are often in public healthcare centers. However, these positions are also in private hospitals, medical centers, and private practices.

Human Resource Management- MPA graduates work in public and private human resources departments. They are responsible for developing job descriptions, processing new hire documentation, training, and handling employee complaints and discipline.

MPA degrees provide countless opportunities for career advancement in the public and private sector. There are several MPA programs available to meet the needs of busy professionals. You will develop leadership and decision making skills that can be used in just about any work environment. MPA graduates also develop critical thinking skills needed to analyze important policies and manage large organizations.

© 2013 Martin D Gardner

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