A Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree is a professional graduate degree that is well-suited to individuals who plan to pursue high-level positions in government agencies or other organizations. Are you curious about earning an MPA, but wondering what you can do with it? There are many different jobs for MPA graduates to consider.
Each of these career paths has its own merits; you may wish to pursue job shadowing opportunities to help you narrow down the list of possibilities open to you with a master’s in public administration.
Jobs for MPA Graduates
When exploring potential jobs for MPA graduates, keep your own strengths and preferences in mind. For example, if you excel at interpersonal relations and communicating, then the job of a city manager or public relations manager could be the perfect fit for you. Regardless of your own individual characteristics and skills, there is a wide range of jobs for MPA graduates in which you are sure to find one you enjoy.
City Manager or City Administrator
The job of city manager is one possible answer to the question “What can you do with an MPA?” A city manager, also known as a city administrator, is hired by the city council — a group of elected officials responsible for running the town. Note that the job of city manager is not an elected position.
City managers are charged with overseeing the day-to-day operations of the municipal government. In essence, if the city was a company, then the city manager would be the chief executive officer (CEO). Some of the primary tasks of a city manager include:
- Developing and proposing the city’s annual budget to the city council and/or mayor
- Amending the city budget as required
- Appointing competent department heads and directors to the city’s various agencies
- Implementing legislation and initiatives approved by the city council
- Ensuring compliance with all applicable federal, state and local laws
An effective city manager must have strong communication and interpersonal skills. It is often necessary for these professionals to interact directly with the public, discussing the city’s policies, procedures and proposed city activities. Due to the nature of the job, city managers must be flexible and willing to consider compromises.
Public Relations Manager
Among the many possible jobs for MPA graduates is a career in public relations, for example, a PR manager. PR managers work across all sectors, including governmental agencies, nonprofits and private corporations. They can also work in various industries, ranging from fashion to sports to education to finance. This role may also be referred to as a communications manager, public affairs manager or public information manager.
The primary responsibility of a PR manager is to improve or maintain the positive public image of their organization or client. To that end, they may do any or all of the following tasks:
- Identify the main audiences for the client/organization and determine an effective way to communicate with them
- Develop and distribute press releases; schedule interviews and press conferences; speak with members of the media; and assist clients or other employees in preparing for media interviews
- Ensure that an organization’s advertising campaigns or fundraising programs are aligned with the main mission and voice of the organization
- Hire, train and supervise PR support staff
PR managers are expected to be in high demand for the foreseeable future. As of September 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates job growth for public relations and fundraising managers to increase by about 13% from 2020 to 2030, faster than average, accounting for an estimated increase of 11,300 jobs in the field.1
Human Resources Manager
Human resources managers are high-level professionals who plan and direct their organization’s administrative activities. Every type of organization needs skilled HR managers, from governmental agencies to government contractors to nonprofits to private companies.
As of September 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates job growth for human resources managers to increase by about 9% from 2020 to 2030, as fast as average, accounting for an estimated increase of 14,800 jobs in the field.2
There is currently a greater focus on using the HR department in support of the overall mission of the organization. This includes involving it in issues like departmental improvements that boost efficiency, strategic planning, and employee development, training and retention. Some of the specific tasks that an HR manager might perform on a daily basis include the following:
- Acting as a liaison between the employees and high-level management
- Planning and implementing the company’s benefits programs for the employees
- Recruiting, interviewing, hiring and training employees
- Supervising the work of support staff in the HR department
- Consulting with other employees and management on employment issues, such as dispute mediation, discrimination prevention and disciplinary procedures
It is possible to become a human resources specialist with just a bachelor’s degree in human resources. However, to pursue the supervisory position of a human resources manager, professionals should plan on earning a master’s degree, such as an MPA. In addition, you should expect to need a few years of relevant work experience in HR before climbing the ladder to this high-level position.
You may have heard that nurses are expected to be in very high demand for the foreseeable future. However, it is not just the number of nursing jobs that is growing exponentially; there is also an increasing need for healthcare administrators. These professionals may be in charge of departments, specific clinical areas, the clinics themselves or entire hospitals and nursing homes. They are responsible for directing medical services within their area.
The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates job growth for medical and health services managers to increase by about 32% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than average, accounting for an estimated increase of 133,200 jobs in the field.3
Healthcare administrators must prioritize maintaining or improving the quality of patient care and safety, while also supporting the fiscal stability of the facility or department. Other common tasks include:
- Recruiting, training and overseeing staff members
- Developing budgets and managing the facility’s finances
- Ensuring the compliance of the facility and its staff
- Coordinating medical services and facility resources with other department heads
- Maintaining hospital records
A master’s degree, such as a Master of Public Administration, is generally preferred by employers looking to hire a healthcare administrator.
Nongovernmental Organization (NGO) Administrator
Many MPA graduates look for jobs that focus on making the world a better place. One position to consider is that of an administrator for a nongovernmental organization or NGO.
The terms “nonprofit” and “NGO” are often used interchangeably, and in terms of their legal standing and organizational structure, they are virtually identical. Both NGOs and nonprofits carry out humanitarian work.
However, an NGO generally refers to any charity that operates in countries other than the U.S. (although it may be based in the U.S.). In addition, an NGO generally focuses on “big picture” issues such as famine relief or refugee assistance, whereas nonprofits may work on a smaller, community-wide scale.
The role of an NGO administrator is a rewarding one, as these professionals can make it their life’s work to improve the welfare and quality of life of those less fortunate. In general, these professionals are responsible for developing and implementing policies and programs designed to carry out the mission of the NGO. The specific tasks of an NGO administrator or manager can vary, depending on the organization. However, they typically include the following:
- Managing and motivating employees and volunteers
- Allocating resources in support of the NGO’s mission
- Developing humanitarian programs that use the NGO’s resources efficiently
- Building relationships with other organizations and with the broader community/country
- Developing and implementing fundraising strategies
- Serving as the public face of the organization
As a similar alternative to pursuing a career as an NGO administrator, you might consider looking for work as a nonprofit administrator.
What to Look for in a Master’s in Public Administration Program
Any program that offers a Master’s in Public Administration should include an in-depth look at topics such as servant leadership, public governance, ethical decision-making, strategic planning and organizational administration. It is best to look for a degree program from a regionally accredited school, so you can trust the quality of education and the reputation of the program. Another issue to consider is whether you want to earn an MPA with a specialization.
You could earn a general Master of Public Administration degree, or you could earn a master’s degree that includes an emphasis in a particular area. For instance, an MPA student might focus on healthcare administration or government administration and governmental policies. The former would prepare you to succeed as a healthcare administrator (particularly in public health programs), while the latter would facilitate a career as a government, nonprofit or NGO administrator.
What to Expect from a Typical MPA Program
Once you have thoroughly considered the question, “What can you do with an MPA?” and you have decided it is the right graduate degree for you, you will need to prepare for your studies. MPA programs are often offered online, which enables you to continue to work while furthering your education. All master’s degrees and particularly online degrees require a solid commitment to smart time management.
You will need to set aside time each week to complete your coursework and study topics such as the following:
- The management of resources, regulatory compliance and transparency in governmental and public organizations
- Collaborative strategies and relationship-building for public and nonprofit administrators
- The strategic management of human capital with an eye toward workforce diversity, employee development and succession planning
- The ethical use of political power
- Fundamentals of economics, with a look at market failure, social equity and income distribution
Your MPA degree program may or may not require the completion of a master’s thesis, depending on school and departmental policies. If a master’s thesis is required for graduation, you will be expected to write between 40 and 80 pages on a topic in your field. Note that unlike a doctoral dissertation, a master’s thesis does not require students to conduct their own original research.
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You can prepare to pursue a rewarding career when you earn a master’s degree in public administration at Grand Canyon University. The College of Humanities and Social Sciences offers several MPA degree choices to students, including the Master of Public Administration with an Emphasis in Health Care Management degree program. Graduates will emerge with strong competencies in servant leadership, ethical practice and strategic planning.
1COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 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 based on 2020-2030, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Public Relations and Funding Managers.
2COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 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 based on 2020-2030, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Human Resources Managers.
3COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is based on 2020-2030, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Medical and Health Services Managers.
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.