What Can You Do With a Master's in Public Administration?

Whether you want to serve the public through government work or help nonprofit organizations and private businesses do more for the common good, a career in public administration could be right for you. By earning a master's in public administration, jobs across many fields may be available.
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A woman with a master's in public health working with a colleague in a conference room.

Public administration workers play an important role in many aspects of our everyday lives, advocating for and implementing change for the public good. If you're looking to advance your career in this field, you might be wondering where a master's degree in public administration could potentially lead you.

The opportunities are virtually endless, said Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) adjunct instructor Dr. Karen Versuk, and are growing and evolving all the time.

Public administration is a dynamic discipline and touches everyone in the world,” said Versuk. “Change is a constant for public administration, (but) service and working for the common good are the other two constants.”

With a career in public administration, you could help manage the government services that citizens rely on or lead the economic development of a community. You could work to grow a nonprofit organization or help businesses comply with state and federal laws and regulations to do more public good.

No matter what your public administration career goals are, earning a master's degree in public administration can help you get the job you’ve been dreaming about.

What is a Master's in Public Administration?

Dr. Karen Versuk with the text Dr. Karen VersukA public administration master's degree can prepare you for various roles in government agencies, nonprofits and private businesses.

In a public administration degree program, you may explore the relationship between government and business, learn key research and analysis skills to help make data-driven decisions, and dig deep into the latest theories of public policy and management.

If you choose to earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Public Administration, courses should expand on industry learning, give you a strong business foundation and provide leadership training that will serve you well across public administration roles.

The field of public administration changes all the time as a community’s needs and regulations change, Versuk said. A public administration master's degree program can help you prepare to navigate these changes and set you up for success in an evolving field by applying your course learning directly to real-world examples and current events that are shaping public policy.

“I see our field growing exponentially in the coming years as people become more and more educated in the importance of civic involvement,” Versuk said. “That means many more jobs on the horizon ... I see the sky as the limit for the future of this discipline.”

What Can I Do with a Master's in Public Administration?

An infographic piece with the text 10 master's in public administration jobs: political scientist or analyst, urban or regional planner, health services manager, social services administrator, budget analyst, policy analyst, compliance officer, nonprofit executive, economist, consultant

Public administration plays a crucial role in improving the lives of everyday citizens and ensuring the successful management and cooperation of government bodies, businesses and nonprofit organizations that make up a community.

With a master's in public administration, jobs across many fields may be available. Some of these careers include:

  • Political Scientist or Analyst: As a political scientist, you could collect and analyze data from surveys and studies to help develop and test political theories and evaluate the effects of public policy and laws on government, businesses and people. Political scientist jobs are expected to grow 9% through 2030 and had a median annual wage of $125,350 in 2020, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
  • Urban or Regional Planner: With an urban planning job, you could work with a city’s government to analyze the community’s economic, social and environmental needs and develop solutions that revitalize the community through economic development, infrastructure projects and more. Urban planners earned a median annual wage of $75,950 in 2020, with job opportunities expected to grow 7% through 2030, according to BLS data.
  • Health Services Manager: As a health services manager, you could work within a public health department or medical facility to educate a community about health resources, help residents get better access to healthcare and navigate changes in healthcare laws and regulations. Health services managers earned a median annual wage of $104,280 in 2020. Jobs in health service management are expected to grow 32% through 2030 as the population ages and more healthcare services are needed, according to BLS data.
  • Social Services Administrator: With a job as a social services administrator, you could oversee social service programs and work with community organizations and leaders to determine the effectiveness of and make improvements to these programs to better serve the public. Social services administrators earned a median annual wage of $69,600 in 2020. Jobs in this field are expected to grow 15% through 2030, according to BLS data.
  • Budget Analyst: As a budget analyst, you could analyze data, evaluate budget proposals and help governments, nonprofit organizations and private businesses organize their finances. Budget analysts earned a median annual wage of $78,970 in 2020 and jobs for budget analysts are expected to grow 5% through 2030, according to BLS data.
  • Policy Analyst: With a job as a policy analyst, you could work for government agencies and officials, community organizations, research institutions and even lobbying groups to research, evaluate and shape public policy. Public policy analysts earn an average salary of $69,498, according to Glassdoor.
  • Economist: As an economist, you could study the economic impact of public policy on a community, advise businesses and governments on economic topics and recommend solutions to problems. Economists earned a median annual wage of $108,350 in 2020. Jobs for economists are expected to grow 13% through 2030, according to BLS data.
  • Compliance Officer: With a job as a compliance officer, you could help a government agency or business examine and evaluate their compliance with laws and regulations. Compliance officers earned a median annual wage of $75,620 in 2020, according to BLS data, with jobs available across many government agencies and business industries.
  • Nonprofit Executive: As a nonprofit manager or director, you could lead a nonprofit organization to improve people's lives in a community and offer public services that government agencies and businesses don’t provide. Jobs in nonprofit fundraising and public relations are expected to grow 13% through 2030, according to BLS data. They earned a median annual wage of $118,430 in 2020, BLS reported.
  • Consultant: As a consultant, you could use your knowledge of public policy to help businesses navigate local, state and federal laws and industry regulations and assist them in advocating for policy change. Demand for consultants is expected to grow as changing regulations and economic policies force private companies to evolve. Management consultant jobs, for example, are expected to grow 14% through 2030, according to BLS data. Management consultants earned a median annual wage of $87,660 in 2020, BLS reported.

How Much Can You Make with a Master's in Public Administration?

After earning a master's in public administration, careers can open up across many different industries and types of organizations. Salary potential throughout your career can also grow with the help of the degree.

In fact, master’s degree holders’ median weekly earnings in 2020 were 18% higher than bachelor’s degree holders and nearly 65% higher than associate degree holders, according to BLS.

A blue infographic piece with the text BLS reports 2020 median weekly earnings with a master's degree were: 18% higher than with a bachelor's degree; 65% higher than with an associate degree

“Having a master's degree does make a difference in earning potential and job qualifications,” Versuk said. “Having both the business knowledge and the public administration knowledge is the best of both worlds. It doesn’t pigeon-hole you into government services but actually gives you a broader base of opportunities.”

Accelerating Your Public Administration Career

In addition to earning a master's in public administration, there are plenty of ways to enhance your current career and set yourself apart from other candidates looking for public administration jobs.

An infographic piece with the text SOFT SKILLS for career success in public administration: communication, problem-solving, customer serviceAnything you can do to get real-world experience and improve soft skills like communication, problem-solving and customer service will be vital to getting the most out of a master's in public administration and setting you up for career success, Versuk said.

“Everything kind of boils down to psychology,” she said. “Whether you’re dealing with an upset resident or a victim of gun violence advocating for policy change, your ability to relate to others is so important.”

Joining a professional organization for public administration workers, like the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA), can help you set yourself apart from other job seekers and begin networking within the public administration field.

Volunteering with local nonprofits and community organizations or running for public office in your town or county is a great way to enhance your resume, practice key soft skills and start working toward the common good right away, Versuk said.

Is Public Administration a Good Career?

No matter what public administration career you end up working in, you’ll be doing your part to improve the community you work in and elevate the common good.

“There’s something for everyone in this field,” Versuk said. “It requires one to learn so much in so many areas, and you can know that you're making a difference in your community.”

Whether your bachelor's degree is in public administration or you're looking to change careers, earning a master's in public administration can help you find success.

Learn how to get your master's degree today.

Danielle Gagnon is a freelance writer focused on higher education. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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