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What is an MPA Degree?

A Master of Public Administration is a graduate degree that prepares professionals for leadership roles in government, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and nonprofit organizations. Degree curriculum combines elements of an MBA and a Master of Public Policy with organizational theory, strategic management and ethics subject matter. A quality MPA program is ideal for action-oriented leaders dedicated to serving the public. The degree can typically be completed in two years of full-time study, however online programs may provide greater flexibility, which can decrease the time it takes to complete the program.

What will I learn from earning an MPA degree?

There are three basic types of courses that comprise the MPA curriculum. The first teaches how to design, implement and evaluate public policy. Often this includes quantitative and qualitative research techniques. Secondly, management courses focus on how to manage not just people, but all of the required resources to solve problems and meet organizational goals. Lastly, an MPA will help professionals hone leadership skills through courses on ethics, decision making and accountability. Budgeting and effective communication are also essential to managing in the public sector.

MPA cta

Public administration programs accredited by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) feature a variety of concentrations from which candidates can choose according to their intended career tracks. Students may choose to specialize in nonprofit operation, public health, urban affairs, criminal justice or environmental management which can open the door to many public administration jobs.

In short, an MPA degree will provide those already working – or those who aspire to a career – in federal, state or local government, public education, community development, healthcare or military leadership with the values, knowledge and skills necessary to be ethical, knowledgeable and creative public-service professionals.

What type of career will I be prepared for with an MPA degree?

MPA graduates emerge from the program with a broad skill set applicable to several spheres of employment. An MPA can help make candidates competitive in any career that serves the public and promotes the general welfare of neighbors, communities, nations and the world. A few brief examples, compiled from data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), include:

  • Urban Planner: Nearly two-thirds of urban planners are currently working in local government. They determine how land is to be used. Depending on the area being served, urban planners may be tasked with creating new communities, accommodating growth or revitalizing aging public facilities that may have fallen on hard times. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for an urban planner is $63,000.
  • Healthcare Manager:These professionals plan, manage and supervise medical services in hospitals, clinics, public health departments, nursing homes or physicians’ practices. Often healthcare managers work for public or nonprofit organizations, but may be employed by for-profit companies as well. The BLS reports that this is a quickly growing field with a median annual wage of about $84,000.
  • Political Scientist:This heavily academic field examines the history, evolution and modern operation of political systems. Political scientists research and analyze public policy, governments and political trends. A slight majority work in federal government, but many are employed by nonprofits, think tanks, advocacy groups and institutions of higher education. While a Ph.D. may be preferred in this field, the BLS lists political scientists’ median annual salary as slightly over $107,000.

Earning a Master of Public Administration degree can expand the professional horizons of anyone with a passion for serving the public. It is a welcome challenge for those who seek to learn how to more effectively shape a brighter future for our communities and our world.