Master’s in Public Administration Program Guide

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August 20, 2021

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Public administration encompasses a variety of financial and political operations that serve public interest. Professionals in this field enact policy change and programmatic intervention in areas like education, healthcare access, and environmental regulation.

Although bachelor's degree-holders qualify for entry-level public administration positions, professionals seeking leadership roles likely need a master's degree in public administration. Master's programs provide students with a more comprehensive understanding of policy development, public finance, and legislation practices, with the opportunity to pursue more specific concentrations.

Graduates can work in a variety of specialized roles and settings depending on their academic and professional interests. For example, individuals who are interested in shaping public policy can work as policy analysts or legislative assistants. Those more interested in leading social service operations can work as community service managers.

Should I Get a Master's in Public Administration?

Public administration is an in-demand field. Between 2019 and 2029, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 4% job growth for emergency management specialists, 17% growth for social and community service managers, and 32% growth for medical and health service managers.

Between 2019 and 2029, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 4% job growth for emergency management specialists, 17% growth for social and community service managers, and 32% growth for medical and health service managers.

A master's degree in public administration requires a significant time commitment. Many programs take 2-3 years to complete. However, students balancing their course schedules with work or internship obligations may not be able to commit to a full-time schedule. Pursuing an online master's degree in public administration can provide a realistic alternative for learners looking for more flexible options.

Some graduates wish to supplement their degree with additional certifications and credentials that align with their desired roles. For example, those looking to work as emergency management directors may earn the certified emergency manager credential. Individuals looking to work as health information professionals can pursue the health information management certification offered by the American Health Information Management Association.

Find the best online master's in public administration programs.

What Will I Learn in a Public Administration Master's Program?

Many students who pursue public administration wish to help others through legislative action, policy formation, and other infrastructural changes. Professionals in this diverse field generally need strong leadership, communication, problem-solving, and decision-making skills.

Public administration coursework builds students' professional competencies. Courses, such as public service leadership, help build management and practical leadership skills, teaching learners how to communicate with legislators, policy analysts, and constituents.

Public financial management courses equip students with a practical understanding of public finance and economics. Students learn how governments generate revenue through taxes and fees and how the distribution of financial resources can impact communities. Students may also take courses like law for public administration, an overview of the legal and constitutional parameters of policy development.

Concentrations

Community and Economic Development
Coursework in this concentration explores how private sector organizations and for-profit companies can cooperate to maximize economic growth. Students may learn to use specialized technologies to analyze community needs.
Local Government
In this concentration, courses outline various ways that local governments serve their constituents. Students learn to analyze community needs and organize budgets for key localized infrastructures, such as transportation and education.
Nonprofit Management
Students who pursue this concentration learn how to lead nonprofit organizations. Coursework may cover nonprofit tax policies, fundraising, recruitment, and resource management.
Public Health
There is a great deal of overlap between public administration and public health. This concentration covers practical knowledge like healthcare policy and epidemiology that professionals need to advocate for communities' healthcare needs.

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How to Get Into a Public Administration Master's Program

Although specific requirements depend on the school, applicants to master's programs in public administration usually need to submit undergraduate transcripts. Some more competitive programs require a minimum 3.0 GPA. Programs may also require applicants to submit GRE scores.

Some programs require prospective students to submit personal statements or letters of recommendation. Many students enter public administration programs with pre-existing work, volunteer, or internship experiences aligned with their desired careers. Many applicants submit a professional resume that demonstrates these competencies and experiences.

Read Our Guide to Graduate Admissions

What Can I Do With a Master's in Public Administration?

Professionals with a master's degree in public administration can serve their communities within public and private sector roles. For example, graduates may be especially interested in working as medical and health service managers. These professionals coordinate the business operations of various healthcare providers and earn a median annual salary of $104,280.

Some graduates may prefer to work in fields like emergency response as emergency management specialists. These individuals assess resources and plan necessary safety procedures to respond to medical crises, natural disasters, and other emergencies. Professionals in this crucial role earn a median salary of $76,250 per year.

Other graduates prefer to work more intimately with community members. Some find work as social and community service managers, assessing needs and organizing appropriate programs and services for local communities. These individuals may also oversee programs' effectiveness and write proposals to gather funding.

Popular Career Paths

Popular Continuing Education Paths

How Much Money Can I Make With a Master's in Public Administration?

Many leadership roles in public administration are especially lucrative. For example, the BLS reports that social service managers earn a median salary of $69,600 per year, while those employed by local government organizations, excluding educational facilities and hospitals, earn a median annual salary of $87,720.

Emergency management specialists earn a median salary of $76,250 per year with the opportunity to earn more in specific positions. For example, those working for scientific and technical service organizations earn a median of $106,570.

Additionally, medical and health service managers earn a median salary of $104,280 per year.

Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Public Administration Programs

What is public administration?

Public administration refers to the formation of various laws, policies, and services that maintain societal operations. This field encompasses the functions of local, state, and federal government agencies, as well as a broad collection of more specialized fields, such as public health, finance, and law.

Is a master's in public administration worth it?

Many higher-level public administration roles require a master's, so earning this degree is crucial. During these programs, students can network with professionals and potential mentors in their field. Many graduates with this degree enjoy a good return on investment through lucrative and in-demand career opportunities.

How much does it cost to get a master's in public administration?

In the 2018-2019 academic year, master's programs cost an average of $19,314, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Exact cost, however, depends on several factors. Public institutions tend to be less expensive than private schools, especially for in-state learners. Grants, scholarships, and other financial aid options can make tuition more affordable. Learners can also pursue this degree part time or online to meet work commitments.

How long does it take to get a master's in public administration?

Students can often earn a master's degree in public administration in 2-3 years, though part-time students may take longer.

Is public administration a good major?

Learners who wish to make an impact in local government, policy reform, healthcare, and other public service-oriented areas can find rewarding careers in public administration. Coursework covers topics like public financial management, leadership, and law. Although public administration can be a broad discipline, many students tailor their coursework to fit their desired careers.

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