Individuals with master’s-level public administration degrees can pursue fulfilling and lucrative master of public administration (MPA) careers. Students can choose concentrations that align with their professional goals. MPA graduates go on to make a meaningful impact to other individuals and their communities.

A public administration degree is worth it for individuals pursuing rewarding MPA jobs in the public and private sectors. Candidates can explore MPA careers in various settings, including nonprofits, government agencies, healthcare and private enterprise.

Why Get an MPA?

Students enroll in master of public administration programs to pursue MPA careers after graduation. These degrees typically comprise 35 to 45 credits and explore coursework in areas like statistics for public policy, public economics, public finance and leadership.

Learners can tailor their degrees by choosing concentrations in areas like community and economic development, nonprofit administration, health policy and ethical leadership. Degree timelines are typically in the one- to two-year range.

Admission requirements typically align with other master’s degrees: Applicants must submit undergraduate transcripts, letters of recommendation and personal statements. Some schools may require graduate test scores for admission. After completing their degree, a graduate can use their newly developed skills to pursue fulfilling MPA jobs.

Popular MPA Jobs

What is public administration? This field addresses issues like housing, the environment and poverty. MPA graduates often work for government organizations and nonprofits to support and enact policies in areas of public administration.

Master’s-level public administration degrees can develop diverse skills, allowing graduates to apply their abilities to different types of MPA careers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment for some roles, such as medical and health services managers, to grow at a rate that more than quadruples the projected figure for all occupations nationwide. The following list is not exhaustive but offers a broad view of well-paying and rewarding MPA jobs.

Budget Analyst

Median Annual Salary: $79,940
Projected Job Growth (2021-2031): +3%
Job Description: These professionals help government agencies and private companies understand short-term and long-term financial expectations. They create budgets to remain on track, meet goals, monitor spending and propose improvements. Budget analysts consider any differences among expenses and income against their plans to resolve inconsistencies or make suggestions for future budgets.

Healthcare Administrator

Median Annual Salary: $101,340 
Projected Job Growth (2021-2031): +28%
Job Description: These administrators handle the daily operations for healthcare facilities like hospitals, nursing homes and outpatient care centers. They manage company finances, oversee billing processes, monitor spending and improve efficiency as necessary. Healthcare administrators also supervise regulatory compliance to ensure that their organizations meet the necessary laws and legal requirements.

Human Resources Manager

Median Annual Salary: $126,230
Projected Job Growth (2021-2031): +7%
Job Description: HR managers handle many staff-related tasks for small and large organizations as the connection between management and employees. These professionals supervise the hiring process, including recruiting and interviewing candidates for open positions. HR managers handle disputes between employees and make disciplinary decisions as necessary. Public and private organizations require these professionals to make hiring decisions and maintain morale.

Management Analyst

Median Annual Salary: $93,000
Projected Job Growth (2021-2031): +11%
Job Description: These consultants help organizations improve their profitability and efficiency by interviewing staff, observing operations and analyzing company financial data. After completing their research, they report their findings to management and offer suggestions for areas of improvement. Management analysts typically work as contractors who temporarily assist companies, rather than as permanent employees.

Medical and Health Services Manager

Median Annual Salary: $101,340
Projected Job Growth (2021-2031): +28%
Job Description: These managers coordinate services by overseeing departments within healthcare facilities or entire medical organizations. They may manage budgets, handle employee schedules, supervise billing efforts and maintain regulatory and legal compliance. Medical and health services managers collaborate with physicians and other medical professionals within facilities to ensure smooth company-wide operations.

Policy Analyst

Median Annual Salary: $122,510
Projected Job Growth (2021-2031): +6%
Job Description: Policy analysts research political systems to identify trends in laws, political parties and foreign relations. These professionals forecast changes in policy, the economy and society, along with analyzing how ongoing laws have affected communities. They collect data through interviews and surveys to analyze shifting tides in public opinion and develop theories based on their findings.

Project Manager

Median Annual Salary: $94,500
Projected Job Growth (2021-2031): +7%
Job Description: These professionals supervise each element of a project, including budgets, progress, staffing and schedules, to ensure that outcomes align with their goals. Before a project begins, they plan and make proposals to other stakeholders. After the project begins, they supervise spending to meet budgetary plans and direct employees in completing tasks. Project managers analyze financial data and outcomes to evaluate the project’s effectiveness after it’s completed.

Social or Community Service Manager

Median Annual Salary: $74,000
Projected Job Growth (2021-2031): +12%
Job Description: Social or community service managers create, oversee and implement programs that improve communities and the general public. They collaborate with and supervise other employees to deliver social programs with public and private organizations, which may focus on specific populations. These professionals also research social programs to determine their effectiveness and make suggestions for improvements.

Training and Development Manager

Median Annual Salary: $61,570
Projected Job Growth (2021-2031): +8%
Job Description: These professionals administer programs to train employees in public and private organizations. Along with delivering the training programs, they perform research through review, interviews and collaborations with other members of management to identify areas of improvement. Training and development managers also coordinate administrative tasks for their programs, including managing budgets and overseeing enrollment efforts.

Urban or Regional Planner

Median Annual Salary: $78,500
Projected Job Growth (2021-2031): +4%
Job Description: Urban and regional planners research populations and geographic characteristics to create well-organized locations and communities. They may help to improve disadvantaged areas, plan for public spaces like parks, or develop locations for unhoused individuals. These professionals collaborate with public officials and contractors to oversee small-scale and large-scale projects within urban, suburban and rural areas.

Continuing Education for MPA Graduates

Individuals with MPAs can continue their education beyond the master’s level with doctoral programs in public administration and public policy. MPAs may pursue these degrees to focus their work on research or simply increase their knowledge of the field. The following section explores information about related Ph.D. degrees.

Ph.D. in Public Administration

A Ph.D. in public administration dives deeper into the field than an MPA. Typically requiring about 55 to 95 credits, enrollees conclude these programs with a dissertation and defense. Common coursework for a Ph.D. in public administration may cover organizational theory, policy analysis and public management. Graduates with a Ph.D. degree can pursue the same MPA careers as master’s degree-holders, though individuals may choose to work in academia and research instead.

Ph.D. in Public Policy

After completing an MPA, graduates can also consider Ph.D. degrees in public policy. These doctoral programs focus on creating and researching policy, rather than the public administration goal of implementing policies. Like a Ph.D. in public administration, each enrollee must complete a dissertation and defense to earn their degree. Along with MPA jobs, students who complete Ph.D. in public policy programs can work as college professors and researchers.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About MPA Jobs

Is an MPA a good degree?

Yes—with roles like healthcare administrator, urban planner and nonprofit director, these individuals perform fulfilling work that can create meaningful societal change. Payscale data indicates that professionals with MPAs earn strong salaries of around $72,000 per year.

Is an MPA or an MBA better?

The “better” degree depends on your professional and personal goals. An MBA, especially a program that focuses on public administration, may better suit business-minded individuals who aim to explore the intersection between business and policy. An MPA applies more to individuals looking to implement public policy.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


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