Public administration professionals are the individuals who work behind the scenes to allow our cities, towns, counties, and government bodies to run and coordinate as smoothly and effectively as possible. Although they are not well-known for the work that they do, their work is critical to the way that our society functions.
If steady pay and the satisfaction of working in civil service appeals to you, explore an online public administration degree. Public administration majors often work as city or county administrators, policy analysts, grant writers, program or development directors, budget consultants, and lobbyists. While public service jobs are notorious for low pay, federal workers with a bachelor's degree make an average of 15% more than their private sector counterparts, according to a Congressional Budget Office study. Health and retirement benefits were also significantly higher. Local or state jobs also offer good pay, excellent benefits and shorter work days than private sector jobs.
THE CAREER PATH
Professionals who are interested in a career in public administration will be taken down a path that will involve work in government, public policy, development, organizational operations, budgeting, and more. Public administration professionals may work in a variety of positions, with vastly different priorities to suit your professional goals and interests. The three most popular types of public administration jobs are:
- Urban & Regional Planners – These public administrators develop plans and programs for land use that create community, accommodate for population growth, and revitalize physical facilities in towns, cities, counties, and metro areas. Although there are some situations in which these planners may come from a background in construction or architecture, many public administration professionals do not. As the population continues to grow, and the shape of our urban and regional areas continues to change with technological advances, the demand for these types of qualified professionals is expected to increase more than the average demand for other occupations in the country. Depending on the scope and scale of planning projects, it may be possible to qualify for some positions with a bachelor’s degree and years of experience in public, nonprofit, or governmental work. In most situations, a master’s degree is required for applicants to be adequately prepared for the job. The scope of the job responsibilities can also cause the compensation to fluctuate, but the average income for these professionals is more than $70,000 each year.
- Political Scientists – The role of political scientists is dramatically different from urban and regional planners. These types of public administrators spend their careers studying the origin, development, and operation of political systems by analyzing governments, policies, political trends, current events, and all related topics. Working as a political scientist may be a good choice for professionals who have academic or research-based strengths. Jobs in political science require an educational background similar to urban and regional planners; in the majority of situations, applicants must have at least a master's-level education in order to qualify for positions. Some positions may require applicants to have a Ph.D. and most professionals will need a background in similar lines of work and internships. Although opportunities in political science are not expected to grow as quickly as other occupations, the reward is enough to convince many professionals to begin their career in public administration. The average salary for political scientists is nearly $115,000 each year.
- Legislators – The hiring process and tasks of legislators operates slightly different than any other position in the public administration network. Legislators exist at all levels of government, and are usually either appointed or elected to enact laws and provide oversight of the executive branch. In most situations, legislators have at least a bachelor’s education, but that is not always the case. Because these professionals are usually chosen by election or appointment processes, the qualification requirements and job benefits can vary drastically between legislative positions. Legislators can make anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000 depending on the scope of their elected position and the region that they are responsible for.
WHO IS THE IDEAL CANDIDATE?
Careers in public administration require professionals to perform tasks that require critical thinking and decision-making on the job. These types of positions often demand strong analytical, communication, and writing skills in order for professionals to be successful. If you are ready to put your intellectual curiosity to work in a setting that could allow you to benefit the public sector, nonprofits, or the government, then you may want to look into a career in public administration. If you’re ready to apply your understanding of policy and community development to improve the infrastructure and organization of your local area or region, then it’s as good a time as ever to kickstart your public administration career.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR?
If you want to enroll in an online public administration degree program, you have a wide array of degree options. Many levels of study are offered online, including undergraduate and advanced degrees. The master of public administration (MPA) is one popular degree geared to working professionals. Some public administration programs even offer specialization in a certain field, such as criminal justice or human services.
You can launch a career as a public administrator with an online associate’s or a certificate in public administration or nonprofit management. To assume organizational leadership roles or snag a federal job, you may need a bachelor’s degree. City managers, lobbyists and those who operate large public enterprises, such as state law enforcement agencies and health agencies, often earn master’s degrees.
Whichever degree you decidon upon, keep in mind that for many civil service careers, the more you learn, the more you can earn. Salary bumps are tied to education levels. For this reason, earning an online public administration degree can make an immediate impact on your economic bottom line. What you learn in the program can also be applied to nonprofit and non-governmental organization (NGO) work.
Majoring in public administration online can also help you hone your analytical, organizational, budgetary and communicative skills. Mastering these abilities will be vital to your career success when it comes to tackling tasks as mundane as writing reports or as complex as completing grant proposals. It also demonstrates your commitment to leadership.
Consider programs that are accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) which provides additional legitimacy beyond regional accreditation. After graduation, an urban and regional planning certification from the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) or a public policy certification from the Academy of Certified Political Scientists and Political Analysts (ACPSPA) can stimy job opportunities.
An online bachelor's in public administration will cost between $30,000 and $50,000, in general. The average cost for an online MPA is $22,244 but our rankings reveal the most affordable options cost under $15,000.