Public Administration Majors Guide

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 program in public administration can be a useful academic background for individuals pursuing a career in either government or non-governmental/ nonprofit organizations. There are several areas of overlap between these pursuits: for example, you may start your career in fundraising for a nonprofit organization, and later transition to being a member of a governmental grant-awarding body… or the reverse! Earning a degree in public administration or public policy can apply to either path, giving you great flexibility in your career options.

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 positions in local, state or federal government; in public service sectors such as health care and animal welfare; or non-profit organizations such as arts or international relief agencies. These careers all focus 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.

Types of Public Administration Degrees

Governmental and non-governmental institutions alike are evolving, maturing and overlapping in services. As competition increases in this sector, earning an online degree in public administration is looking like a more appealing option for working professionals who want to improve their academic credentials without putting their careers on hold.

Bachelor’s Degrees in Public Administration

Online bachelor’s in public administration 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. Coursework combines standard business principles with the specific knowledge base required in a public organizational setting.

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. Most of these 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; a certain level of education is necessary to determine what societal programs are needed, to oversee their design and implementation, and to uphold an accurate system for monitoring and evaluation. City managers are often involved with every department — from crime prevention to senior housing to garbage collection — and are held responsible for their actions by 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 public administration degree program can also convey skills that may be useful 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 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) supplies 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 offers assistance in implementation and follow-up evaluations.

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