What Can You Do With an MPA?

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Two professionals using a tablet in a meeting.The diverse roles of public administrators provide many opportunities for students skilled at high-level organization and administration. Involved in many different areas of the public sector, public administration professionals are instrumental in the planning and implementation of policies and programs. By advancing government policies, public administrators are able to make significant changes and make a positive impact on the lives of others.

With many nuanced roles and responsibilities, future leaders often look to programs such as a Master of  Public Administration (MPA) to provide them with the knowledge and skills required to take on the many challenges of public administration. For those wondering what they can do with an MPA and how it will help them pursue a career in the public administration field, the following are a few important things to know.

What Do Public Administrators Do?

Public administrators perform important administrative tasks, such as carrying out fiscal responsibilities and coordinating internal communications. With the demand for public administrators in high-level positions, their expertise in various areas makes them qualified to ensure that companies and organizations are structured efficiently enough to meet their long-term goals.

Many of today’s public administrators are accepting positions in fiscal operations, such as budget planning, accounting, and financial reporting. Others are choosing to oversee the recruiting, hiring, and training of personnel in various branches of an organization. The option to establish and lead assignments and coordinate the schedules of staff and managers also exists.

Additionally, some public administrators are held responsible for ensuring that companies meet regulatory standards. They can act as liaisons between various governing bodies and maintain direct communication between departments to ensure that they’re functioning efficiently. They’re even sometimes the link between a company or the government and the people, tasked with disseminating information to society’s stakeholders to convince them of the merits of the program they’re trying to execute.

What you can do with an MPA can involve various different careers, and public administrators in senior positions maintain and oversee the efficient and satisfactory functioning of their department. Their day-to-day activities are varied, challenging, and rewarding, but require the ability to think with a high level of specificity and abstraction.

Master’s in Public Administration Careers

Public administrators are in such high demand because of the broad range of skills they bring to bear and their ability to coordinate at high levels of companies, organizations, and the government to ensure efficiency. Therefore, a job for someone with a master’s in public administration can comprise a wide swath of opportunities.

A public administrator may work as a systems analyst, a consumer safety inspector, a private investigator, or a labor-management relations specialist. Public administrators may also work in government agencies,  such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and the U.S. Postal Service.

What you can do with an MPA intersects with a huge range of operations and comprises a vast array of interests and public administration skills. Students seeking this kind of work need to develop expertise and find their niche. The following are some of the careers that MPA graduates have the opportunity to pursue:

Executive Directors

Many who earn an MPA go on to work in the private sector as executive directors, with a median annual salary of approximately $80,900, according to December 2021 data from PayScale. Executive directors design and implement strategic plans for their companies and organizations so that they can operate efficiently.

Acting as senior managers of companies and organizations, executive directors have duties and responsibilities that can vary based on their type of business, but often involve the design, development, and implementation of strategies that dictate the success of the company or organization.

Nonprofit Organizers or Program Managers

Some public administrators may choose to follow the nonprofit route of the public sector, working as program managers and implementing strategies to build a successful organization and create positive change. The median annual salary of program managers was approximately $54,000, according to  December 2021 data from PayScale.

The responsibilities of public administrators in nonprofit organizations can range from budgeting to organizing staff and implementing projects that align with the organization’s goals. Depending on the type of nonprofit, their work can make a positive impact in various ways and improve the lives of others both locally and around the world.

Management Analysts

The public administration consulting field is growing, and many graduates are drawn to work as management analysts. Management analysts must be able to go into a new company or organization, synthesize a large amount of data, and come up with a strategy to improve efficiency.

The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that management analysts made a median annual salary of $87,600 as of May 2020. .

Develop Skills Through Your MPA Program

Generally, public administration careers require a master’s degree in public administration or in public policy and administration. Because of high competition, even entry-level positions often require a master’s. Upon graduation, students are prepared for positions in leadership or management in the public policy field or in private and nonprofit organizations.

The following are a few essential public administration skills:


Training in public administration is ultimately oriented toward action. Public administrators, no matter their status, must be effective leaders to influence action. An MPA can teach students to effectively synthesize information, form a strategy, and effectively communicate to their teams and employees in a manner that’s both clear and inspiring.

Project and Time Management

Project management requires assigning roles and deadlines, creating budgets, and scheduling meetings — in other words, all the concrete planning, and organization necessary to carry projects through to completion. A master’s program is an ideal way to refine these skills.

Public Speaking

Public administrators need to be effective and inspiring communicators to rally their personnel around the correct information and analyses. This requires rhetorical flair, not just analytical acumen. The coursework in a master’s program in public administration works to refine a student’s ability to communicate and convince stakeholders of the validity and importance of their programs.

Budgeting and Finance

The availability of revenue constricts what a public administrator can do. It’s crucial to understand the complex workings of finance to carry out the projects that public administrators must complete. This is why budgeting is always an important aspect of education in management: A master’s program in public administration prepares students for the budgeting challenges that they may face in their professional careers through classes on the theory and practice of budgeting and financial management.

Critical Thinking

This is perhaps the most important and yet most indeterminate skill that a public administrator needs. Critical thinking skills are acquired through rigorous training and experience, in and out of the classroom. Through quantitative analysis and by learning to write and argue more effectively, students in a master’s program for public administration can refine their critical thinking skills, which positively impact every other skill they’ll need in their careers.

Make Positive Change with a Master of Public Administration

Public administrators have the opportunity to establish programs that can positively impact the lives of others. Through policy changes, nonprofit organizations, influential companies, and government agencies, the professionals that lead the public sector play an important role in our day-to-day lives. If you’re interested in joining the public sector, what you can do with an MPA is limitless and can allow you and your chosen organization to meet your professional goals.

The online MPA at Ohio University can help you build the skills to address public needs in effective, efficient, imaginative ways. When you have an expert understanding of public administration and the professional tools to back it up, you can lead a career of significance for your constituents.

Learn more about how Ohio University’s MPA program can help you develop the skills to become a leader in public administration.