A public administration degree can prepare graduates to pursue careers in local, state and federal government among other organizations. What is a career in public administration like? Public administration professionals are typically management-level employees who handle policy implementation and direct the activities of the organization. Within the field, there are several government and public administration jobs to consider.
In This Article:
- What Is a Public Administration Degree?
- Career Options in Public Administration
- What Is the Role of Public Administrators?
- What Is a Public Administrator’s Job Outlook?
- How Long Does It Take To Get a Public Administration Degree?
What Is a Public Administration Degree?
You may decide to earn a public administration degree at the baccalaureate or graduate level. There are multiple degree program options. Students may decide to enroll in a Bachelor of Arts in Government degree program to gain a solid framework of core competencies in this field. At GCU, this degree program emphasizes the role of ethical servant leadership, judgment and decision-making in public policy. Students also explore political theories, legislation implementation, state and local governments, public policy analysis and American government.
A Master of Public Administration with an Emphasis in Government and Policy degree takes an in-depth look at these topics. Students will be taught concepts across key areas, including:
- Public governance
- Public budgeting and fiscal management
- Leadership and politics in public organizations
- Acquisition and development of human capital
Some master’s degree programs may also offer other specializations. For example, you may choose to focus your education and career on the administration of public healthcare or nonprofit organizations rather than government agencies.
Career Options in Public Administration
There are a number of entry-level jobs available in the field. These may include the following:
- Campaign worker
- Regulatory affairs specialist
- Research analyst
- Legislative aide
In addition to those entry-level jobs, there are higher-level opportunities available that may have additional qualification requirements. These can include the following:
- County or city manager
- Government administrator
- Policy analyst
- Public administration consultant
- Regulatory affairs manager
- Director of public programs
What Is the Role of Public Administrators?
Public administrators coordinate certain activities in a public organization. Public organizations include local, state and federal governmental agencies, as well as public health organizations. In addition, many public administrators work at nonprofit entities.
The specific duties of government and public administration jobs vary depending on the mission and needs of the organization. Within a local, state or federal government agency, an administrator will likely have a role in implementing legislation. As an example, consider seat belt laws. The first state to pass a law mandating the use of seat belts in vehicles was New York. The law was passed in 1984.1
When that law went into effect, it was the duty of a public administrator to create the framework necessary for implementing the law and enforcing it. This likely required significant coordination with local and state law enforcement entities.
Similarly, public administrators at public health organizations and nonprofits are responsible for implementing and coordinating the organization’s programs. They may work to ensure the delivery of services or resources to target populations, maintain organization’s budget, develop human capital and other responsibilities. The life of a public administrator typically requires a keen eye for detail while sorting through paperwork.
What Is a Public Administrator’s Job Outlook?
The job outlook for professionals who assume the role of public administrators can depend on the sector and field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job growth rate for medical and health services managers is 28% from 2022 through 2032, much faster than average. At this rate of growth, employers will hire about 54,700 new managers each year from 2022 through 2032.2
The BLS anticipates that the job growth rate for social and community services managers will be 9% from 2022 through 2032, much faster than average. This indicates that about 16,000 new jobs are expected each year through that time period.3
Lastly, the BLS estimates that the job growth rate for administrative services and facilities managers will be 5% from 2022 through 2032, faster than the average. This indicates that employers expect to hire about 31,400 new professionals each year from 2022 through 2032.4
How Long Does It Take To Get a Public Administration Degree?
If the answer to the question, What is a public administrator? interests you and you’re thinking of pursuing a career in public administration, you may be curious about the typical education pathway. The exact length of time it can take to earn a public administration degree depends on the type of program and the student’s schedule (full or part-time student).
Earning Your Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration
It typically takes undergraduate students about four years of full-time study to earn a bachelor’s degree in public administration. Students should always check the graduation requirements for any degree program they are interested in completing. The degree requirements will likely be broken down into categories of credits. Students will be responsible for earning a certain number of credits in each category.
The general education requirements are intended to teach strong communication and critical thinking skills to students. Major-specific coursework for public administration students is designed to teach the framework of government. Students explore the American Constitution, political theory, public policies and comparative governments.
Lastly, students can choose from a wide selection of electives. It’s a good idea to consult your university counselor before enrolling in an elective. You will want to make sure you are on track to graduate on time. The electives you choose can complement your public administration degree or may simply be aligned with your other personal interests.
Earning Your Master’s Degree in Public Administration
Some students decide to enroll in a master’s degree program immediately after graduating with a bachelor’s degree. Others enter the workforce right away, but decide to go back to school to position themselves for possible career advancement.
Just like a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree in public administration has requirements you must meet in order to graduate. Always check these degree requirements before enrolling in a program. Unlike a bachelor’s degree program, master’s degrees only have a bare minimum of general education requirements. You might take an introductory course designed to prepare you for graduate-level work. However, this may be the only course you will need to take that is not specific to your degree.
You can prepare to pursue a career in public administration at Grand Canyon University. Explore all options for public administration degree programs at GCU, including the Master of Public Administration (MPA) with an Emphasis in Government and Policy, which covers topics such as human capital, public budgeting, and public and nonprofit administration. Complete the form on this page to learn about earning your degree at GCU.
1 Henderson, N. (1984, July 13). N.Y. is the first state to get seat belt law. The Washington Post. Retrieved July 13, 2023.
2 COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 and 2021 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is effective September 2023, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Medical and Health Services Managers, retrieved on September 12, 2023.
3 COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 and 2021 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is effective September 2023, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Social and Community Service Managers, retrieved on September 12, 2023.
4 COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 and 2021 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is effective September 2023, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Administrative Services and Facilities Managers, retrieved on September 12, 2023.
Approved by the assistant dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences on Sept. 12, 2023.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.