10 important facts about a public administration career
Maybe you’ve never thought about a career in public administration before. Maybe you’re familiar with the field of public administration but have critical questions about it. Or maybe you are serious about becoming a public administrator but are unsure about the right degree program to pursue.
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If you are curious about working in public administration, this is a great place to start. Read on for some essential information that can guide you on your public administration journey.
What is public administration?
The term “public administration” covers a broad spectrum of professional roles and practical functions, but it is centered firmly in the world of public policy as created, integrated, applied and overseen by specific government agencies. Just as the Master of Business Administration prepares administrators to lead and manage a business, a degree in public administration prepares them to lead and manage in the government, nonprofit and NGO (non-governmental organization) sectors. Because public policy often restricts and regulates business activities, many corporations employ their own public administration experts.
What does a public administrator do?
Public administrators institute, manage, supervise, influence, work through and partner with organizations that regulate and control public policy at the local, state and national levels. As these organizations evolve to meet the needs of the people they serve, public administrators act as leaders, facilitators and advisors in this process.
In practice, public administration differs from business administration in many integral ways. Generally unencumbered by profit motive, public administrators are more able to prioritize public service. However, they may have to work under strict bureaucratic regulations.
What you should know about a career in public administration
Interested in a public administration career? You should carefully consider the following ten things as you plan your next move.
1. Career options
The extremely broad field of public administration offers countless possible career paths. You can specialize in specific administrative areas that range from policy development and execution to budget analysis, human resources and public affairs. Public administrators help shape political agendas and drive positive change in numerous areas of life.
Public administration is a career option to consider if you are interested in building better cities, improving access to healthcare or promoting environmental sustainability. In fact, there is room to explore virtually any professional interest or social cause within the world of public administration.
2. Leadership skills
Like other management-related fields, public administration places a high value on leadership skills such as critical thinking, effective communication and team motivation. To make sound and informed decisions, public administrators must think critically while performing in-depth analyses and examining problems and opportunities from many angles to chart a viable path forward. But even the very best policies and strategies will amount to nothing if leaders cannot communicate them clearly and motivate others to follow them.
3. Public impact
While CEOs have a great deal of control over the businesses that they lead, their ability to impact populations beyond their employees, stakeholders, partners and customers is rather limited. Public administrators, by contrast, can affect the lives of entire communities and even entire nations.
4. Advanced degrees to further your public administration career
The best college degree for aspiring public administrators will very much depends on each individual’s professional interests and career ambitions. At the bare minimum, you will want to obtain a Bachelor of Public Administration (BPA) from an accredited institution of higher learning. In addition to preparing students for entry-level public administration jobs, a BPA is a great way to lay the groundwork for further public administration study and training.
Master of Public Administration programs generally require all applicants to hold a BPA or another undergraduate degree related to public administration. Like its cousin the MBA, the MPA is widely accepted as an industry-standard mark of senior-level administrative knowledge and skill. However, the typical MPA program gives far more weight to ethical and sociological concerns.
You can earn your MBA with a focus on public policy, policy analysis, political science, public affairs, international affairs, constitutional issues, governance ethics, administrative law or another specific area of concentration.
5. Healthcare benefits
In the United States, obtaining high-quality healthcare benefits has become challenging for many in the private sector. In fact, many workers value health insurance above salary concerns when it comes to seeking and accepting employment.
Although you can certainly find adequate medical and dental coverage in the private sector, the public sector’s reputation for exceptional healthcare benefits simply cannot be beaten. If you’re looking for a generous healthcare benefits package as part of your next job, a government position in public administration is definitely worth considering.
6. Ample opportunities to work in government
As previously mentioned, public administrators work in all areas of local, state and federal government. This makes the public administrative career path a great one for anyone interested in politics, public service or grassroots social movements. As a public administrator, you can work in areas that range from economic development to social services.
7. Work in the private business sector
We have already noted that many businesses seek out public administrators to benefit from their specialized knowledge of public policy and government machinations. Private companies also commonly hire public administration degree-holders to fill general management positions. Although certain private-sector administrative positions are best left to MBAs, MPAs have proven adept at helping businesses develop effective policies, manage daily operations and lead productive teams.
8. Public administration is an ever-changing field
Because it is so closely tied to the sociopolitical times in which it exists, the field of public administration is both constantly evolving and subject to rapid fluctuations. Public administrators must routinely react to changes in areas that range from urban planning to public health policy. They also commonly act as key drivers of these changes.
9. Solid salary and career outlook
Because many government positions come with a set pay rate, public administrators can accurately predict the salary that various career paths afford. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has identified the median pay for many of the positions that public administrators commonly hold. Here is a short list of those positions according to the latest BLS statistics:
- Environmental Science and Protection Specialist – $47,370 per year (BLS; 2021)
- News Analyst – $48,370 per year (BLS; 2021)
- Human Resource Specialist – $62,290 per year (BLS; 2021)
- Public Relations Specialist – $62,800 per year (BLS; 2021)
- Urban/Regional Planners – $78,500 per year (BLS; 2021)
- Budget Analyst – $79,940 per year (BLS; 2021)
- Operations Research Analyst – $82,360 per year (BLS; 2021)
- Management Analyst – $93,000 per year (BLS; 2021)
- Administrative Service Manager – $99,290 per year (BLS; 2021)
- Public Relations and Fundraising ManagerPublic Relations and Fundraising Manager – $119,860 per year (BLS; 2021)
In many cases, public administrators become chief executives of entire organizations. At a median salary of $179,520 per year, this is the highest-paying public administration position analyzed by the BLS.
The job outlook for public administration careers is nearly as varied as the careers themselves. Looking at a broad range of positions to calculate data-based projections through 2031, the BLS predicts a precipitous 9% decline in employment opportunities for News Analysts.
However, the vast majority of public administration careers approach, meet or exceed the average growth rate for all occupations (5%). Growing at a rate of 11%, the job outlook for Management Analysts is much faster than average. At a rate of 23%, the job outlook for Operations Research Analysts has one of the best job outlooks within any US industry, market or sector.
10. Overall rewarding career
The field of public administration is unique in its ability to encompass common business office functions, such as planning budgets and managing human resources, as well as visionary leadership driven by organizational theory and governed by ethical considerations.
Of course, public policy lies at the heart of public administration, making it an attractive profession for anyone with a deep interest in policy analysis, development and administration. Furthermore, many people with a passion for public service have found a career in public administration highly gratifying.