Public Administration vs. Political Science

View all blog posts under Articles | View all blog posts under Online Master of Public Administration

Public administration building

The public sector includes any part of the economy that is controlled by government entities and public enterprises. When making a public administration vs. political science comparison, it is necessary to acknowledge that the two disciplines are closely related, as public administration is a subfield of political science. The coursework featured in a Master of Public Administration program can help students understand the subtle differences between public administration and political science while allowing students to develop the professional competencies they need to excel in either field.

What Is Public Administration?

Public administration is a professional and academic discipline that studies the application of government policy and public services to advance the interests of society. It is central to the process of implementing and managing public programs. Using the framework of public administration, government leaders and other public servants create policies that define broad objectives for their institutions. These policies often suggest programs and services that can be implemented to solve societal issues.

In addition to formulating policy, public administrators also dictate how to invest resources in implementing those policies. This is where the management aspect of public administration comes into play. An administration must effectively coordinate the actors responsible for carrying out policy directives. This requires administering complex budgets, navigating and coordinating human resources on a grand scale, and constantly making improvements to maximize the performance of the public policy.

What Is Political Science?

Political science is a focused field of study that evaluates the theory and practice of governments at the local, state, national, and international levels. This discipline involves researching political events to theorize the source of societal outcomes and to predict how political activities may impact future events. Using this information, political scientists provide public administrators with the information they need to optimize their political strategies and policies.

Political science can be used to understand a variety of different political concepts, such as political behaviors and thoughts. By studying the political sentiments of government leaders, political scientists can articulate the reasons why a political organization would act in a certain way. Similarly, analyzing the political behaviors of government institutions offers a perspective on the feelings of the inhabitants of particular nations. This information is valuable to a public administration because government leaders can use it to create policies and accords that serve the interests of the people they will affect.

Public Administration vs. Political Science: Similarities

Professional fields in the public sector often share the broad directive of improving the quality of life for residents of a given community. In this sense, public administration and political science are complementary subjects. Public administrators make decisions that lead to success in the societies they govern. Political scientists work alongside those administrators to ensure that their understanding of the political landscape is consistent with reality. This holds true at all levels of government, as the knowledge derived from political science informs domestic and interstate policy decisions.

Public Administration vs. Political Science: Differences

The key difference between the two disciplines is that public administration is a subfield of the much broader field of political science. While political science focuses on analyzing the influence political figures and events have on societal outcomes, public administration implements the processes responsible for producing those outcomes. In that regard, political science is a more comprehensive study of politics as a whole, while public administration focuses specifically on shaping societies through direct intervention.

Public Administration vs. Political Science: Consolidated Career Paths

Those who pursue a career in public service benefit from an educational background in both political science and public administration. In fact, individuals can obtain jobs in political science with relevant experience and a Master of Public Administration. In a professional sense, political scientists study the effects of policies and legislation on governments, businesses, and people. Their duties include conducting surveys to gather public opinions and evaluating empirical data to identify political trends.

In some instances, political scientists can transition into jobs as policy analysts. The role of a policy analyst is suitable for someone with a background in public administration because it involves investigating the effectiveness of public policies. A detailed grasp of the concepts taught in a public administration degree program can be essential in this line of work since policymaking is a component of Master of Public Administration coursework.

Professionals who are interested in public administration or political science can complete a Master of Public Administration to enhance their understanding of both fields. In doing so, they can determine which career path suits them best: working on the front lines, providing leadership to the public, or providing support from the trenches, performing vital research and analysis of political factors.

Learn More:

The online Master of Public Administration at Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs can help you build the skills to address public needs in effective, efficient, and imaginative ways. We want you to put big ideas into action by helping you develop as a project manager, communicator, policy analyst, and financial mind. With an expert understanding of public administration and the professional tools to back it up, you can lead a career of consequence for your constituents.

Recommended Reading:

Ohio University Blog, “Why Specialize Your Online MPA?”
Ohio University Blog, “Public Administration: State of the Field”
Ohio University Blog, “Why Learning Data Analysis Is Essential for Public Administrators”


US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Political Scientists
Encyclopedia Britannica, Political science