What is Public Administration?

Public administration focuses on the implementation of policy by civil servants within local, state, or federal government agencies. Public administration also applies to non-profit agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Public administrators manage nearly every aspect of public service at the federal, state and local levels and in non-profit agencies and NGOs.

A public administration degree provides an academic background for individuals pursuing a career in government agencies, or non-governmental/nonprofit organizations. A Master of Public Administration degree gives you the opportunity to secure a managerial position in the public and non-profit sectors as well as giving you opportunities for promotions if you are already employed in one of those agencies.

Like a graduate degree in other fields, in Gallaudet University's MPA program you can package your elective courses to create a specialty area in public policy, organizational change, finance, gerontology, social work, leisure and recreation, and so on. With a major in public administration and a specialization that you create you can look for jobs in local, state, or federal government; in public service sectors such as healthcare and social work; or in non-profit organizations such as social service agencies, international non-governmental organizations, or agencies serving deaf and hard of hearing clients. The possibilities are almost endless.

The one thing all these potential jobs share is a focus on service—serving clients and serving the interests of your governmental agency, non-profit organization, or non-governmental organization. Your focus will be on intangible factors such as providing services, setting and implementing policies, or the evaluation of social programs. You may be involved in mid-level leadership, research and development, marketing, financial planning, public relations, or human resource development. As you develop your managerial competencies in those positions opportunities for advancement into senior leadership positions will become available.

What Can You Do With a College Major in Public Administration?

A career in public administration covers a broad area. If you do an Internet search for jobs in public administration you will find hundreds of job titles for a career in public administration. The examples of job possibilities presented below will give you a few ideas of where your career path may lead. These positions require a Master of Public Administration degree will give you an advantage when applying for these kinds of positions.

Government Jobs

At the federal government level, you can work as a policy advisor or program director, among other possibilities. These careers require considerable interest in the issues in which that agency specializes (e.g., the U.S. Department of Education specializes in policy development for education). In the Federal Government, advancement into managerial positions can be facilitated by enrolling in their management development programs; for example, the Office of Personnel Management has two management development centers for entry and mid-level managers and a leadership development center for senior-level managers. Having a Master of Public Administration degree can facilitate entry into those programs and can increase your chances of succeeding within the management development programs. Gallaudet University's MPA program is collaborating with one of those management centers to create a formal partnership to help deaf and hard of hearing federal employees to advance in their careers.

Jobs are also available in local and state government agencies. For example, at the local level you might be attracted to a position as a city manager where you would supervise the daily operations of a local government. In a state government you might find a position as a program director or division manager. In local and state government positions you'll use your managerial training and experience to determine what programs are needed by your communities. You'll then oversee the design and implementation of those programs and you will ensure that the programs are managed properly.

Association Jobs

Associations serve the interests of many different clients—clients such as special interest groups, trades and professions, religious groups, political groups, and people with disabilities. Association executives provide agency leadership, especially for strategic planning, vision-setting, program planning and evaluation, setting and advancing policy agendas, and so on.

Certification, Licensure and Associations

There are no certifications or licenses for public administration. Once you earn your MPA degree then you can pursue specialized certifications and licenses like other professionals do; for example, if you're working on international projects, you might go for a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification or Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM).

Public Administration Associations

Once you earn your MPA degree and secure a job in the public or non-profit sectors, then you might want to consider joining a professional association for public administration.

A comprehensive list of public administration associations that includes links to their websites is found at http://wagner.nyu.edu/portal/students/careers/resources/npmpaassoc

Public Administration Salary Data

Salary data as of 2012 for a sample of public administration jobs is found at http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Degree=Master_of_Public_Administration_%28MPA%29/Salary