Careers in government and public administration often attracts idealistic people who want to make a difference in our democracy and in the lives of their fellow citizens. But what does it actually take to become a leader in bureaucratic structures at the municipal, state and federal levels?
For professionals who are committed to public service, earning a Master of Public Administration (MPA) in the government sector can be a worthwhile endeavor. Just as an MBA is focused on advanced management courses in the private sector, the MPA degree is a respected credential in public administration and can prepare you for executive positions in government. The MPA provides a solid background for individuals who want to lead in the creation and implementation of policies and programs that can help solve some of society’s most complex problems, and it can launch you into a fulfilling career in public administration.
Let’s take a deeper dive into how an MPA benefits you—and can help create better government.
Master the Art and Science of Governing
We live in a time of constant change, and the government is being challenged to respond to a wide range of issues such as climate change, economic disruption, societal disparities and humanitarian and public health crises. Those problems create challenges, but also present opportunities. Government leaders with advanced degrees are better prepared to harness the power of exciting new policy research trends and technical innovation to improve the lives of real people and, ultimately, meet the enormous challenges facing the larger society.
As anyone who has worked in or around government is aware, any administration is not just a single entity, but a collective body of employees. How those employees work collaboratively, make decisions and generate policy for the benefit of others is part of the art and science of governance.
An MPA degree takes students on a journey to a better understanding of government structures and decision-making, efficiency, accountability and transparency. While you may have some understanding of policy issues from undergraduate study or some experience in public management from government work, the MPA degree allows for a more intensive study of policy analysis, from conceptualization to interpretation of existing and future policy in the context of uncertainty and risk. Specific courses, such as government information management and administrative law, can offer a critical background in areas that relate directly to existing policies, laws and security issues and the real impact they have on the public and public perception.
Lead the Way
An MPA degree prepares graduates for leadership in many different government careers. Policy analysts, for example, work in a variety of ways to raise public awareness on a myriad of issues, from local healthcare and environmental issues to international relations. Budget analysts look at the financial picture behind those policies, providing proposals, recommendations and predictions.
Someone in a city manager position is closer to the action, responsible for supervising the daily activities of local government, and overseeing important services such as law enforcement and crime prevention programs, housing initiatives and municipal budgets. A similar, hands-on career is that of government agency administrators who work at the federal, state and local level, or, increasingly, at the regional level when municipal, county or state governments form coalitions to achieve common goals.
An MPA degree could also prove beneficial to those seeking elected office, such as legislators, mayors or governors, providing them a deeper understanding of the policy and governmental processes that are important to voters and colleagues in the political arena.
Regardless of the path taken, an MPA degree can have a positive impact on one’s career trajectory. One study looking at the connection between public administration education and career success found that even after the race, sex, experience, age and educational levels of employees have been accounted for, a graduate degree in public administration appears to increase career success more than most graduate education and at least as much as an MBA degree.
As Claire Jubb, a blogger for GovLoop, an online social network for government employees, observed, “The perception is that government is boring, bureaucratic and offers little room for innovation or creativity. I would argue the opposite, government workers are true innovators. Unlike the private sector, government workers are mandated by the very nature of their roles to be creative and to grow in ways they are not given the chance to in the private sector.”1
An MPA in government can help lead the way to a better future—for you, and ultimately, for society at large.
If you are hoping to advance your career in government, Kent State's online Master of Public Administration (MPA) is specially designed for busy working professionals who want to gain the knowledge, skills and credibility to move forward in this exciting field.