Earning a Master's Degree in Public Administration

Earning a Master's Degree in Public Administration

Everything you need to know about getting a master's degree in public administration.

Overview of Public Administration Master's Degree Program

If you love the idea of serving the public, but do not want to become a politician, consider a career in public administration. A master's degree in public administration (MPA) is for individuals interested in serving in a government or non-government organization (NGO). In a MPA program, students learn how to effectively manage public workers and to implement public policies.

This masters degree program typically takes between 18 and 36 months to complete, depending on whether you are a full-time or part-time student. Students who graduate from an MPA program can move into such roles as city manager, grant manager, policy analyst, association executive, program evaluation manger and much more.

Applying to a Master's Degree Program in Public Administration

Public administration master's degree programs are competitive. In order to thrive in the field of public administration, a person must be motivated and ambitious. To have a chance at being admitted to a MPA program you must demonstrate these qualities in your application.

Admissions committees look for applicants who are dedicated to public service and will determine this by evaluating your personal statement, letters of recommendation and possibly through an interview. In addition, your graduate school will request scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or the Management Admission Test (MAT).

In order to pursue a graduate degree, you must first have a bachelor's degree. It is not necessary that you have a bachelor's degree in public administration, but having a related degree can help your chances of admittance, especially if you do not have significant work experience in the public sector. In addition, your work and interest should reflect your interest in public work

How to Choose a Public Administration Master's Degree Program

You first want to check to see if your graduate school is accredited by the National Association of School for Public Administration and Affairs (NASPAA). Although earning a degree accredited by the NASPAA is not essential, it might improve your chances of getting a job after graduation.

It’s easy to choose a master's degree program in public administration if you know what type of position you wish to fill after graduation. Some graduate schools offer programs that focus on administering policies in one particular type of organizations, such as a government organization, NGO or non-profit organization. Other programs provide the student with knowledge of how to effectively manage all three types of organizations. This program is the best choice for students who do not know what type of organization they wish to work for, or who want to leave the option open for a career switch in the future.

Determine whether you want to apply to a theory-based or practice-based master's degree program. Or maybe it makes sense for your career goals to attend a program that emphasizes a combination of both. Programs accredited by the NASPAA adhere to the association’s standards, following a curriculum that blends both theory and practice that culminates in a masters degree thesis paper.

Worried about how you are going to manage graduate school, a full-time job and a family? Consider taking part-time, night, weekend, online courses or a combination. While full-time students finish their degree program in 18 months or less, part-time graduate students typically take between 2 and 3 years to complete their degree, depending on how long it takes to complete the thesis. Many grad schools offer night and weekend courses for working professionals pursuing their degree. Earning an online master's degree in public administration allows you to work at your own pace, allowing you to schedule your class work around your busy schedule.

What to Expect in a Public Administration Master's Degree Program

Public administration students must be goal oriented, as they are often working towards the bigger picture, while also taking into consideration all of the smaller details of public policy. It is the job of a public administrator to design, implement and evaluate public policy programs.

Although a master's degree in public administration prepares students for a managerial position, it differs from getting a masters degree in business administration (MBA) with a concentration in non-profit/public policy because the courses focus on this type of management from the first year, rather than waiting until the second half of the program. Typical courses for a MPA include grant and policy writing, microeconomics, financial management, policy analysis, human resource management, quantitative statistics, etc.

The master's degree thesis in public administration might involve using the knowledge you have learned in your program to work with professionals to effectively address a public issue. Or, a student might choose to perform research on an issue public policy and then report their findings in an in-depth thesis paper. The type of thesis you complete will determine the type of work you enter after graduation, so a lot of consideration should be put into this process.

Top 10 Grad Schools for a Master Degree in Public Administration

  1. Indiana University, Bloomington
  2. Harvard University
  3. Troy University, Troy
  4. San Diego State University
  5. Columbia University in the City of New York
  6. CUNY John Jay College Criminal Justice
  7. New York University
  8. CUNY Bernard M Baruch College
  9. California State University, Dominguez Hills
  10. University of Washington, Seattle Campus

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