What jobs can you get with a Master of Public Administration degree?

Posted December 17, 2020 by

By Dr. Joseph Sallustio, Claremont Lincoln University

Graduate students passionate about making an impact and serving the common good have flocked to Master of Public Administration (MPA) programs in recent years. With an MPA – an alternative to the Master of Business (MBA) – students graduate with the knowledge and skills to step into a wide variety of positions where they can effectively lead and manage the public sector. 

In fact, the options are so vast that determining a career path once you have your MPA can be a daunting proposition. Some of the most common involve work in city, state and federal government, nonprofit management, public policy management and implementation, and non-governmental organizations.

7 Fascinating Career Paths MPA Graduates Can Pursue

The career opportunities for those with an MPA number in the thousands. To put it in context, Census data shows there are more than 90,000 government entities in the United States, and the National Center for Charitable Statistics counts more than 1.5 million non-profits. Understandably, there are far too many to list, but here we look at a sampling of seven compelling careers that MPA graduates can pursue.

Policy advocate – Also known as a government relations specialist, a public policy advocate develops and communicates the views of an organization to its external audiences, such as government agencies, trade associations and legislative bodies. They formulate advocacy strategies to promote the interests of the organizations they represent, and work to convince legislators and lawmakers to vote on public policy in favor of those interests. They represent a number of different entities, such as foundations, companies, charities and local governments.

City manager – Cities and towns nationwide need leaders with the skills to operate their government with great efficiencies, including planning, organizing and implementing projects and services that serve their residents. A city manager is an executive who oversees the overall administration of a city government, reporting to the mayor and the city council. Once the city council enacts laws or makes decisions, it is the city manager’s responsibility to implement them.

Political scientist – A career in political science involves studying the origin and development of political systems, and they operate today. Their expertise is used to understand how policies and laws affect government, organizations and citizens. Most political scientists focus on studying voting behavior, political parties, lawmaking, the Constitution, public administration, public policy, the role of the courts and other aspects of American government, and they use this information to forecast trends and related issues.

Urban planning and development director – An urban planning director plays a key role in researching and developing solutions for a city’s urban design, preservation, planning, and neighborhood and economic development issues. They are responsible for developing policy recommendations that are put forth to the mayor and city council, and for implementing policy directives and ordinance changes. Urban and regional planners develop land use plans and programs that help create communities, accommodate population growth and revitalize physical facilities.

Non-profit executive director – An executive director of a non-profit sits in the top spot of the organization and oversees all departments, including marketing, fundraising, program development, HR management and accounting. They oversee department heads, providing guidance on their decision-making, goal-setting and standards. EDs are tasked with equally engaging and motivating their organizations’ many stakeholders, such as staff members, volunteers, board members and donors.

NGO director – While they take on many of the same roles and responsibilities that a government official would, an NGO director or manager position can be an attractive alternative for MPA graduates who are looking for more flexibility in terms of policy choices. The head of an NGO leads a team that takes on an array of pressing national and international issues, such as the environment, women’s rights, substance abuse and economic development.

Housing specialist – A housing specialist assists individuals and families with finding affordable housing to achieve their immediate and long-term housing goals. Beyond just housing search and placement, their duties tend to involve leveraging support services to ensure participants can maintain housing over the long term. In recent years, there’s been a greater emphasis on also helping the growing senior population secure safe and affordable housing.

Effecting Change

Today’s leaders need to facilitate change by bringing together stakeholders to dialogue, collaborate and create change, all while being mindful of themselves, others and society at large. A quality MPA degree not only leads to meaningful careers, it also equips students with the essential 21st century leadership skills needed to create positive social change. 

These are challenging times, and an MPA degree can be an important step in creating leaders that dedicate their careers to achieving equitable, cross-sector solutions to complex societal problems.

— Joseph Sallustio, Ed.D., is the COO and executive vice president at Claremont Lincoln University (CLU), a non-profit online university offering master’s degrees through a Socially Conscious Education®. Dr. Sallustio’s role is to ensure that CLU is at the forefront of innovative graduate education in the 21st century by being disruptive, innovative and disciplined in its approach and program offerings. Designed in partnership with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, CLU’s MPA program teaches students how to uncover the patterns of exclusion that have become U.S. and global policy, and to lead program and policy responses for the common good.

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