Graduates of Masters of Public Administration (MPA) programs have the opportunity to make an impact in numerous career fields across a variety of sectors. Mostly commonly, careers for MPA degree holders include nonprofit management, federal, state, and local government work, administrative jobs, and various careers in the private sector. This only scratches the surface, however, as careers in outlying fields are also well within the reach of MPA degree holders.
Some components to consider in choosing a career path within public administration are interest areas, salary, job availability, and potential for upward mobility. In an effort to provide you with an overarching look at the career options available for MPA graduates, Teach.com has compiled an outline of some of the sectors you can enter, as well as examples of MPA careers within those sectors.
Public Administration Salaries
Salaries in the field of public administration, similarly to most other occupations, vary widely based on what subsect of the field you choose to enter and your years of experience in the profession. For example, entry level salaries in the nonprofit field might not compare with the entry level salaries for consulting firms and, quite naturally, a seasoned professional working for a government agency will make more than a recent graduate at that same agency. It is important to enter into an MPA career with the right mentality about the salary outlook the field holds.
Two more factors to consider in determining what your career outlook and salary potential are geographic location and level of education. Locations that cover large metropolitan areas and have higher populations, like New York City and Washington D.C., will likely offer higher salaries than small towns and cities but it’s important to keep in mind that cost of living will also be higher in these areas. Check out this cost of living index.
Finally, there is an income disparity based on the highest degree one has earned in their chosen field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, in 2013, the average master’s degree holder earned $12,000 more than their bachelors holder counterparts. It’s important to note that this is across all career fields - in many areas the wage premium is much higher. Education administrators, for example, make $23,000 more when they are equipped with a masters degree.
For those driven to leverage their MPA degree towards a career in influencing the welfare of others, nonprofit program management, community development, or fundraising management might be a great place to start your search. It is common for MPA programs to include coursework on the world of nonprofits and some programs even offer a specialized track to focus your studies even further on nonprofit management.
Many times, those pursuing a masters degree in public administration have political aspirations or a strong desire to participate in governmental work. Working for the government can take a variety of different forms, so it’s important to narrow down your search by determining which aspect appeals to you the most. Administrative work in a department within your local government, a career as an information or records clerk, and even roles influencing national policy are just a few of the wide-scaling career opportunities for MPA degree holders.
Gaining an MPA can be a great way to start a career under the vast umbrella of education administration. For those who already have a background in education, teaching or otherwise, a degree in public administration can provide necessary skills and learnings to succeed in careers as a principal, superintendent or post-secondary educational administrator. MPA graduates could also marry a love of politics and education by seeking out jobs in government or private agencies that examine educational policy or lobby for particular causes and laws.
Some examples of MPA careers in the field of education and their salaries can be found below:
Education Administration, Elementary and Secondary - average annual salary of $94,390
Graduates of MPA programs come equipped with a variety of skills that traditional business programs don’t necessarily emphasize. Public Administration students are often research-skilled, highly knowledge of government operations, and adept at handling conflict. For these reasons, careers in the private sector may be an option as an post-MPA career. From becoming a consultant or management analyst, to taking your skills to the field of human resources and helping companies optimize their operations - there are a variety of options to consider.
Some examples of MPA careers in the private sector and their salaries can be found below:
Careers in the health field are appealing to professionals from a variety of backgrounds because of the availability of jobs and field-wide projected growth going forward. Entering the field of health is a stable and wise choice, especially for MPA graduates who have the skills necessary to manage the complexities of healthcare administration. It also might be possible to enter a government agency or public health organization that works to improve health standards across the United States - another great option given the emphases in an MPA program.
An example of an MPA career in the health field and it's salary can be found below: