Public agencies deserve credit for many of the daily essentials we take for granted. From the roads on which we travel to the food we eat for lunch, nearly every part of our day is shaped, in some way, by the hard work of public sector and nonprofit employees. As a student in a reputable Master of Public Administration program, you’ll gain a newfound sense of appreciation for the ongoing accomplishments in the public sector—and you’ll have the opportunity to contribute to this important work.
A career in the public or nonprofit sector can be rewarding, but it’s also very demanding. As such, it’s crucial you know what you’re getting into long before you enroll in an MPA program.
At Post University, we want to help you get a better handle of what it takes to pursue and successfully earn a Master of Public Administration. We’ve outlined several of the core concerns that students bring up when they consider pursuing this prized degree, including: What is a master’s in Public Administration? Why is this degree worth seeking? And what should I look for in an MPA program?
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Why Get a Master’s in Public Administration?
For many aspiring students, the decision to seek a master’s in Public Administration is simple: They want to take on demanding public sector roles which, often, are only available to applicants with relevant master’s degrees. If you’re not quite sure what you want from your career, however, you may struggle to determine whether an MPA is worthwhile. As you determine how to proceed with your education, there are some long-term advantages you should take into consideration, namely:
Stable Career Opportunities
Jobs in the public and nonprofit sectors are far more plentiful than many aspiring public-minded professionals may realize. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nonprofit jobs accounted for over 10 percent of all private-sector positions as of 2016. Meanwhile, U.S. census data suggests that government employees have traditionally made up just under 20 percent of the total workforce during the past several decades.
Not only are jobs in the public and nonprofit sectors plentiful, but many offer surprisingly high compensation and excellent benefits. Wages vary significantly based on the position and the level of government (or the type of organization) in which the employee works. Upper-level education such as an MPA can significantly improve earning potential, especially as it is the minimum barrier to gaining several desirable positions.
If you’re already employed in your preferred sector, you could gain a leg up with your MPA. This degree may help you move into a higher-level position which, otherwise, might be difficult to obtain even after working in the field for years.
Should you eventually choose to move into a different area of employment, you can rely on your MPA not only to impress prospective employers but also to provide the knowledge and abilities required for success in many different jobs.
As an MPA student, you’ll develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills while enhancing your written communication and public speaking abilities. You’ll also come away capable of working with a team to tackle complicated projects—essential for working in the public sector but also necessary for corporate jobs and entrepreneurism.
Personal development is worthwhile regardless of your personal career ambitions. As an MPA student, you’ll build confidence with every project and class you complete. These challenges should help you determine where your strengths lie and how, exactly, you can contribute to public policy once you’ve graduated. Later on, you’ll feel proud every time you think about your master’s degree and all the effort you’ve dedicated in your quest for accreditation.
Prerequisites for an MPA Program
The MPA is a natural choice for those who already work in the public or nonprofit sectors. Students who have earned their bachelor’s degrees in areas such as social work or political science may also feel inclined to move forward with an MPA. That said, while previous experience can lend valuable insight for challenging MPA coursework, the program is by no means limited to students with related jobs or degrees.
There are, generally, no prerequisites for entering an MPA program. Your undergraduate experience may seem entirely unrelated to MPA coursework—but that shouldn’t stop you from embarking on this academic journey if you’re interested in public policy or organizational dynamics. Passion for the field is far more important than any particular class you’ve taken in the past.
MPA Curriculum: What Do You Learn in Public Administration Programs?
As an MPA student, you will have the opportunity to take a variety of courses designed to give you a greater understanding of—and appreciation for—all that goes into modern public policy. This begins with a core selection of classes that delve into the history of public administration, ethics in public service, union-management relations, and more.
Other MPA classes highlight the financial principles that underscore public administration as well as crisis management and contingency planning. Additional coursework delves into the methodological concepts required for success in the nonprofit and public sectors.
Because an understanding of core management principles is crucial for nonprofit and public sector work, your MPA program will also include several master’s level business courses. These focus on improving creativity, developing emotional intelligence, and making the most of trusted project management techniques.
Practical application is just as important as anything learned in the classroom, so MPA students take part in seminars and capstone courses. These allow students to demonstrate their mastery of the concepts covered in prior coursework. The typical capstone experience begins with selecting a compelling topic.
From there, the research process incorporates the approved topic’s history as well as a comprehensive review of related literature and the development of an evaluation plan. This is followed by implementation and financial plans, which play into the final capstone paper. This is followed by a formal presentation before a review panel—excellent preparation for the regular public speaking that can be expected upon entering the field.
MPA Concentrations: The Value of Specialized Coursework
Many MPA programs include concentrations that encourage students to examine specific aspects of public policy. This approach may involve substituting a few business-oriented courses with classes that focus on the selected area of concentration.
For example, with a concentration in Emergency Management and Homeland Security, targeted coursework focuses on emergency management leadership, cybersecurity fundamentals, and intelligence as it pertains to homeland security. This concentration is most beneficial to those who aspire to work in preparedness at the local, state, or federal level. Many graduates credit such concentrations with helping them get a competitive advantage while applying for in-demand jobs.
If you want to make your mark working in a nonprofit or as part of the public sector, it’s time to take the first step on your exciting career journey. This means enrolling in an MPA program. A variety of academic challenges lie ahead, but you’ll thrive as you pursue your passion.
Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a complete list of our programs on our website or reach out directly!
Please note jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s program and their outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions representative.