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Public Administration Programs and Careers


Public administrators ensure that government—the executive branches of national, state and local governments as well as committees and departments formed by these governments—are well-run and of effective service to society, thereby ensuring the public good.

Those completing public administration programs work in all levels of governmental departments, organizations and agencies, as well as in a wide variety of nonprofit organizations. In its most idealistic essence, public administrators help make government work for all factions of society.

Core Concepts

The field of public administration pulls its core concepts from several other areas of study, including:

  • Political science
  • Sociology
  • Economics
  • Business and administrative law
  • Business management
  • Behavioral sciences and psychology

Although public administration draws on many of the same principles as business administration, the fundamental focus of business administration concerns business organization and profit, while public administration is primarily concerned with public service and policy.

After Public Administration Programs – What Next?

After completing public administration programs, students will be qualified to work in government, non-government and non-profit careers. A public administration or public policy degree opens doors in local, state or federal government in areas such as finance, administration and organizational governance, or in public services such as health care. Career options may include social work, city planning and administration direction.

Public administration programs will teach not only public policy, but business basics such as marketing, public relations and human resources. Those pursuing a degree in public administration would be wise to takes classes in information technology as well, as computers play an ever-increasing role in administrative life.

Public Administration Programs

  • Bachelor's Degree: A bachelor's degree is a necessary first step for those who are interested in public administration. In bachelor's public administration programs, you'll learn the rudimentary basics of leadership and management, media relations, strategic planning and grants and fundraising.
  • Master of Public Administration (MPA): If you're interested in management or executive careers, either governmental, nongovernmental or in the nonprofit sector, a Master of Public Administration, or MPA, is a must. In these public administration programs, you'll learn everything from organizational and financial management to professional ethics as they apply to the public sector. Popular careers with an MPA include City Manager, Human Resources Manager and Executive Director of a nonprofit organization.
  • Master of Public Policy (MPP): The Master of Public Policy is a professional degree that focuses on the analysis of issues relating to public policy. With this degree, you'll learn statistics, cost-benefit analysis and microeconomics in relation to public policy issues.
  • Master of Public Health (MPH): The Master of Public Health is a practical application graduate degree that prepares students for several high-level careers within the field of public health. You may choose to specialize in disease control, administrative roles in hospitals and healthcare agencies, or choose non-profit leadership in humanitarian organizations, corporations, academic institutions, and government agencies. The MPH generally excludes teaching, however.
  • Master of Public Management: A Master of Public Management provides primarily strategic skills while educating you in the fundamentals of public management, including policy analysis and evaluation, financial management, economics, and fiscal policy. This graduate-level degree is generally for students who want to work in either non-profit or governmental management.
  • Doctor of Public Administration (DPA): The Doctor of Public Administration is primarily an applied research degree and intends to provide senior-level management with a thorough knowledge of legal, ethical and political environments of public administrators.