Public Administration Majors Guide

Table of Contents

What Does it Mean to Study Public Administration?

Public administration can be defined as the implementation of policy by civil servants within an official government's executive framework. Public administrators manage nearly every aspect of public service at the federal, state and local levels offering the opportunity to help shape the future.

A business degree in public administration provides an academic background for individuals pursuing a career in either government or non-governmental/nonprofit organizations. There are several areas of overlap between these pursuits, so an education that combines both will give you competitive strength and allow you to move into either area, according to your own career interests. For example, you may start your career in fundraising for a nonprofit organization, and later become a member of a governmental grant-awarding body. A public administration degree or public policy degree gives you great flexibility in changing career titles.

Like a regular degree in management, a public administration or public policy degree can focus on organizational governance, finance, and administration. With this specialization you can look into jobs in local, state, or federal government; in public service sectors such as healthcare and animal welfare; or non-profit organizations such as arts or international relief agencies.

The one thing all these potential jobs share is motivation--you won't be working for the "bottom line". Your focus will be on intangible factors such as providing services, setting and implementing policies, or the evaluation of social programs. You may be involved in research and development, marketing, financial planning, public relations, or human resource development.

A college degree is increasingly important in public administration and policy. You'll need to have a solid background in computer software applications, but because public administration and policy involve so many "soft" skills, this is an area that is least susceptible to technology advancements. Human contact, judgment, intuition and compassion are not duties that computers can replace.

Types of Public Administration Degrees

Governmental and non-governmental institutions are evolving, maturing, and overlapping in services, which in turn creates a higher demand for well-educated management specialists in public service. A degree in public administration prepares public/nonprofit professionals to excel in this increasingly complex, politicized, intergovernmental environment. As job competition increases in this growing sector, online degrees in public administration have become more popular among working professionals who want to improve their academic credentials without putting their careers on hold.

Bachelor's Degrees in Public Administration

To be considered a strong candidate, you should come prepared with at least a bachelor's degree in public administration. Coursework combines standard business principles with the specific knowledge base required in a public organizational setting. Degree programs can emphasize public administration, public policy formulation, public finance problem solving, program development, implementation and valuation, human resources and labor relations, leadership through service to others, management strategies, and critical thinking.

Browse bachelor's degree programs in public administration.

What Can You Do With a College Degree in Public Administration?

A career in public administration can cover a broad area of interests and talents. Even if you were to find a book or website entitled "Careers in Public Administration," you would still not have an exhaustive list of your potential professional options. The brief descriptions below might give you a few ideas of where your career path may lead. You will find that most positions require a master's degree in a related business field.

Government Jobs

At the federal government level, you can work as a policy advisor or budget analyst, or jobs focused on constituent service. These careers require at least a master's degree and considerable background interest in the political issues of your chosen agency, division, or bureau.

As a city manager, you would supervise the daily operations of a local government, according to the directives of the elected council. A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement, but with the level of responsibilities you'll have, a Master of Public Administration (MPA) is more appropriate. You'll use your managerial training and experience to determine what societal programs are needed, to oversee their design and implementation, and to provide an accurate system for monitoring and evaluation. You'll be involved with every department--from crime prevention to senior housing to garbage collection--and you'll answer to the elected officials and the citizens affected by your decisions. Similar job titles include city planner and executive assistant.

If you're interested in more direct contact with the people you're serving, a degree in public administration can prepare you for an upper-level career in social work.

Association Jobs

Associations cater to everyone from special interest groups, trades and professions to religious or political groups. Association executives perform a variety of duties depending on their positions and the size of the association. Their primary duties involve advancing policy agendas and setting goals that will benefit their membership.

Public Administration Certification, Licensure, and Associations

No specific public administration certification exists since the designation covers such a broad area of careers. You can pursue the same professional designations as your counterparts who work in domestic business arenas. For example, if you're working on international projects, you might go for a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification or Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM).

The ASPA (American Society for Public Administration) provides members with discussion forums, directed publications, career pools and networking opportunities. Their mandate includes acting as advocates for greater effectiveness in government and promoting change at both the local and international levels.

The National Academy of Public Administration is an independent, non-partisan organization chartered by Congress to assist federal, state, and local governments to improve their effectiveness, efficiency, and accountability. It produces recommendations for member organizations on how to improve their administration and governance, and provides assistance in implementation and follow-up evaluations.

Pursue your Public Administration Major today…

Refine School Matches
Hide filters
  • SUBJECT Clear All

    See More


    See More



    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.

Searching Searching ...

Prefer exploring options talking to our staff?
Call toll free now: 1.855.330.6938
Matching School Ads
Business Administration - Bachelor
  • Named a Best for Vets school by the Military Times in 2014.
  • Has specialized in student-centered technology, business, criminal justice, health science, and culinary education for over 45 years.
  • Makes it possible for students to earn a bachelor’s degree in 2.5 years or an associate’s in 1.5 years by providing a year-round schedule.
  • Offers externships and clinical experience that help students prepare for life after they graduate.
  • Has 10 campuses across the mid-Atlantic, plus online degree programs.
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
Business Administration - Associate
  • Average class size is 25, allowing for more one-on-one time with instructors.
  • Has a 97% employment rate among available graduates.
  • All  graduates receive Lifetime Employment  Assistance—free and forever.
  • Michigan's largest independent college.
  • Most instructors are working professionals in the fields they teach.
  • Programs are continuously updated to ensure classes are career-relevant and in sync with what's needed in the industry
Show more [+]
  • Accredited
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
BA/Public Administration
  • Provides an exclusive Ashford Mobile app to keep students connected to the online classroom on the go.
  • Offers a business program in partnership and collaboration with Forbes magazine.
  • Offers several credit transfer and previous experience options for students who qualify.
  • Dedicated to fostering intellectual and personal growth since 1918.
  • Offers associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs in business, health, education, and more.
Show more [+]
  • Online Courses
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
Public Administration - PhD in Bus. Admin.
  • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor's Programs in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Implements a one-to-one teaching model, partnering one student with one faculty member in each course.
  • 100% of faculty members hold doctoral degrees.
  • No physical residency requirements, allowing students to pursue their degree online.
  • Committed to innovation, diversity, excellence, and accountability since its founding in 1996.
  • Offers several programs in business, education, psychology, and more.
Show more [+]
  • Online Courses
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
Master of Public Administration and Policy

Change the World with American University

Be a part of something bigger than yourself. At American University, we strive to help you develop your professional interests and indulge in your passion for making a difference. Our online degree programs allow you to gain the advanced skills for active leadership in a variety of fields.

Set Yourself Apart at American University

At American University, our smart, passionate and engaged students and faculty focus their knowledge to create meaningful change. Our strengths in international service and public affairs inspire our sense of social responsibility and a dedication to cultural and intellectual diversity. We're defined by our global perspective, practical idealism and a dedication to public service.

  • Online Courses
Master of Public Administration
  • Ranked 25th among the Best National Universities in 2015 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • One of the world’s leading private research universities.
  • Its student-faculty ratio is 9:1, and 56.8% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
  • Has an average freshman retention rate, an indicator of student satisfaction, of 96.8 percent.
  • Dedicated to a strong tradition of integrating liberal and professional education since 1880.
  • Its faculty includes National Academy members, Nobel Laureates, MacArthur Fellows, and more.
Show more [+]
  • Online Courses
Online General MBA

Since 1888, The University of Scranton has grounded its education in Catholic and Jesuit principles based on intellectual growth and integrity, all of which shape the online master’s and certificate programs. You can choose one of five degree programs from a selective institution ranked among the top 10 master’s universities in the North by U.S. News & World Report.

  • Online Courses