The decision to start a career or pursue a master’s degree is a constant struggle for new college graduates. Specifically, for those interested in public service, the reality of earning a master’s can have a strong impact on a future career. Therefore, the following are five tangible benefits of attending graduate school for a master’s of public administration (MPA).
One of the limits of undergraduate education is that the broad base of knowledge does not permit students to explore their specific interests. The generalized approach to learning is necessary to educate an informed public, but the limited exposure to the niche areas of government service can keep good public administrators from their ideal positions. MPA programs often contain both a required core of study and a concentration or specialization in one narrow area of study. The specialization prepares students to pursue the area of service where they have the most interest, leading them to find greater fulfillment in their jobs.
Some of the most popular concentrations include:
- public leadership
- non-profit management
- energy policy
Undergraduate education in public administration teaches students about the day-to-day operations of government and the political process but sheds little light on how to manage human and financial resources. On-the-job training may provide some insight into the workings of the organization, but in most cases, it will not supply employees with the leadership skills or insights needed to move into a leadership role.
Critical MPA courses introduce students to the challenges of human resources, and the various strategies used to increase motivation and production. Further studies examine organizational behavior and communication across large organizations. Just as an MBA prepares students to enter the business world as managers and decision-makers in for-profit companies, an MPA prepares students to hold leadership positions within the government.
Most of the work of public administrators is collecting data, analyzing it, and presenting results, especially financial and demographic data. High-level analytical tools are necessary to break down big data and find the correlations or causations that make the data useful.
An MPA builds a solid foundation in statistics and analytics that can be used for a multitude of purposes. Internal auditing and analysis enable students to balance the books and track spending within their agency or department. Studies in public finance and financial planning teach students how to draft long-term strategic plans and present those plans for public approval. Insight into the workings federal and state budgets build a sense of comfort with requisitions and drafting funding requests.
Analytical skills are useful but do not exist within a vacuum. Public administrators need to know how to apply their data and their findings to real-world solutions. An MPA enhances a student’s knowledge of big data by training students to use decision making trees to solve complex problems. Decision making, combined with analytical skills, makes for a well rounded and highly valuable public servant.
Public administrators have a high degree of job stability, in a world where this is a concern for most people. Though the number of public sector jobs has fallen in recent years, the number is slightly misleading. Senior employees who continued to work well past retirement, in hopes of the Great Recession recovery, were those most affected. In reality, new jobs for public administrators have grown steadily and will continue to do so in most segments of government.
Employees with an MPA also make more on average than an employee only holding a bachelor’s degree. Although the difference in entry-level annual salaries is approximately $5,000, the number grows much larger the longer the two employees are in the workforce.
Landing the right internship is crucial to succeeding as a public servant. Students who build a strong network of contacts across multiple departments or agencies are able to call upon those contacts for favors, pursue new job openings, or seek help for complex problems. Undergraduates have some access to low-level internships during the summer or in their senior year, but the selection of potential mentors is often limited because of the student’s lack of knowledge and experience.
MPA students have access to internships in the highest levels of local, state, federal, and even international governmental organizations. The Pathways Program places current and recently graduated students into internships throughout the country. Graduate students are more likely to successfully convert their internship experience into a job offer upon completion of the program than someone with just an undergraduate degree. Many of the top-level internships available in the program are paid positions for highly qualified workers, so students can additionally earn while they receive credit.
An MPA is a point of differentiation for employees, allowing them to make more money and pursue advanced positions in public service and nonprofit organizations. With competition for positions on the rise, an MPA creates an important point of distinction for job candidates and opens numerous employment opportunities.
Our online Master of Public Administration at Ohio University can help you build the skills to address public needs in effective, efficient, and imaginative ways. We want you to take the big ideas in your head and put them into action by helping you develop as a project manager, communicator, policy analyst, and financial mind. When you have an expert understanding of public administration and the professional tools to back it up, you can lead a career of consequence for your constituents.
Justice.gov, Pathways for Students & Recent Graduates to Federal Careers”
NASPAA.org, The Global Standard in Public Service Education Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration
Payscale.com, Master of Public Administration (MPA) Degree