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Public Administration Masters Degree: MPA Programs, Public Administration Schools, Universities

If you are interested in developing and overseeing government policies, creating budgets or working in the nonprofit field, you will need to complete a public administration degree program. Many government agencies and nonprofits require employees to have at least a master's in public administration degree, because this degree program provides enough training and knowledge to serve as a manager or administrator of a department. Graduates of public administration schools can explore a number of rewarding career paths and often take executive governmental positions, human resource positions and administrator positions for both for-profit and nonprofit organizations.

What is a Public Administration Degree Program?

A public administration degree program typically focuses in one of three areas: healthcare management, nonprofit management and government management. Public administration degree programs at the master's level provide leadership training and also help students learn key budgeting and accounting skills, negotiation skills and basic marketing principles. Students learn how to work within an organization to develop policies and programs, manage employees and handle large budgets.

Some of the key skills and areas of expertise that students focus on when completing a public administration degree program include:

  • Key concepts related to budgeting, economics and finance

  • Basic human resources management

  • Advanced democratic processes

  • Tips for promoting social change

  • International themes and concepts in public service

  • Organizational behavior within a public agency

Getting a Masters in Public Administration

Students interested in enrolling in a public administration master degree program may need to complete prerequisite courses such as microeconomics, macroeconomics and multivariable calculus, as well as a bachelor's degree in a related field.

Some public administration schools give students a chance to specialize in a particular field, such as:

  • Emergency Management

  • Homeland Security Policy

  • Interdisciplinary Policy Studies

  • Criminal Justice

  • Health Policy

  • International Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs)

  • Law and Public Policy

  • Homeland Security Policy and Coordination

  • Public Management and Leadership

  • Nonprofit Management and Leadership

  • Terrorism, Mediation and Peace

Each of these specializations has its own set of elective requirements, and most have a practical or internship requirement where students must complete a supervised project or special assignment. For example, a student completing a public administration degree with an emphasis in government management may be required to take courses such as Contract and Procurement Management, or Public Policy Formulation.

Types of Courses in a MA in Public Administration Program

Core courses of an MA in Public Administration Degree program can be very demanding and intensive, and are typically taught by top professors and industry professionals. Students learn several core concepts, including welfare economics, quantitative reasoning, effects of technological change, public management theory, and how to deal with financial issues in a crisis situation.

Some of the most common types of courses in an MA in public administration program include:

  • Leadership and Organizational Behavior

  • Managerial Applications of Information Technology

  • Business Economics

  • Managerial Decision Making

  • Legal, Political and Ethical Dimensions of Business

  • Managerial Applications of Information Technology

  • Project Management Systems

  • Business Economics

  • Applied Managerial Statistics

Some public administration schools also require students to complete a Public Administration Capstone course that gives students a chance to fine-tune their professional skills and use different types of analytical models and methods to make key decisions.

What to Expect at Public Administration Schools

Public administration schools may offer several types of public administration programs and MPA degree or MPA programs. Some public administration universities only offer general public administration degree programs, while others offer programs with a healthcare management, government management or nonprofit management emphasis.

A public administration university that offers these specialized programs may require students to take advanced courses in their field, complete an internship and choose a certain number of electives as part of their graduation requirements.

Career Options with a Public Administration Degree

Students interested in becoming a city manager or assuming other types of managerial and administrator positions in the field will need to have at least a master degree in public administration in order to be considered for the position. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a city manager or chief administrator officer was $94,992 in July 2008.

Other career paths in this field include:

  • Assistant Chief Administrative Officer

  • Chief Financial Officer

  • Human Resources Director

  • Human Services Director

  • Economic Development Director

  • Parks and Recreation Director

  • Health Officer

  • Public Works Director

Back to Public Administration Masters Degree: MPA Programs, Public Administration Schools, Universities

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