The Benefits of Earning a Public Administration Degree

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 2, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A public administration program prepares students to work in the public sector or for nonprofit organizations. Any taxpayer-funded agency with a goal of improving communities requires administrators to develop programs and services to meet the needs of public citizens. Learning more about public administration programs can help you advance your career and prepare for roles in sectors such as health care, public education, and law enforcement.

In this article, we discover what a public administration degree is, list five careers related to these types of degrees, share the skills they provide, explore programs that are similar to public administration, and answer FAQs about public administration programs.

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What is a public administration degree?

A public administration degree is a type of academic degree that prepares students to work for nonprofit organizations or institutions that provide a public service. Public administration programs usually provide students with knowledge and skills related to urbanism, law enforcement, project management, public education, health care, public transit, and infrastructure. Upon graduating, students may better understand how to write, implement, or deliver on public policies. Public administration graduates have the option of pursuing employment in many fast-growing fields within the federal, provincial, or municipal government.

Career opportunities within the public sector

Public administration is a broad discipline, so students who earn this degree may use their knowledge and skills in a wide variety of areas, such as city planning and development. The following are a few examples of career opportunities, which may be available to public administration graduates:

1. Administrative service manager

National average salary: $41.03 per hour

Primary duties: Administrative services managers are responsible for making sure an organization runs efficiently. Their work may involve the coordination of activities like clerical work, bookkeeping, and organizational security. These positions often exist within municipal corporations, as municipalities hire managers to oversee the affairs of a city or town department. This usually involves writing budgets and designing programs.

2. Budget analyst

National average salary: $68,538 per year

Primary duties: Budget analysts help organizations become more financially responsible. They review current budgets and make recommendations for improvements. They can also forecast a company's future financial needs and expenditures. These professionals usually handle all the company's expenses and liabilities.

3. Fundraising manager

National average salary: $46,770 per year

Primary duties: Fundraising managers usually work for nonprofit organizations. These professionals are responsible for creating campaigns to solicit monetary donations from the public. Their responsibilities include identifying and communicating with potential donors, securing grants, and planning fundraising events.

4. Human resources specialist

National average salary: $63,462 per year

Primary duties: Human resources specialists are responsible for overseeing the hiring and training of new employees within a business. They usually participate in the entire process, starting from advertising a position, interviewing candidates, hiring employees, and training them. The job may also involve maximizing the potential of each employee.

5. Health services administrator

National average salary: $27.32 per hour

Primary duties: Health services administrators are responsible for managing a health care organization, or a department within one facility. This might include overseeing the budget process and hiring new employees. They may also participate in making organizational decisions to maximize efficiency.

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Skills you can develop in a public administration program

Public administration programs provide numerous skills that students may use throughout their careers. For example, after taking one of these types of programs, you may understand all the infrastructure policies that regulate the construction sector in a city. The following are some examples of the skills public administration students develop as they pursue their degrees:

  • Data analysis: This skill involves studying and analyzing information to understand trends and prepare business leaders to make financially sound decisions.

  • Fundraising: Nonprofit organizations usually rely on fundraising. Public administration programs may teach how to create fundraising campaigns, identify potential donors, and manage costs associated with campaigns.

  • Leadership: Public administrators coordinate activities within an organization and this may mean running a specific project or managing an entire department or agency. Public administration students learn strategies for overseeing these operations and motivating employees.

  • Communication: Public administration heavily relies on good communications practices, so students in the field develop skills related to delivering presentations or writing research reports. Graduates who have excellent written and verbal communication may be successful in public administration.

  • Collaboration: Public administration professionals often work with different agencies and organizations to achieve common goals, so students may gain insights into collaboration skills that help them work well with diverse groups of people.

  • Problem-solving: Public administration work involves working with diverse groups with different interests, backgrounds, and objectives, which may lead to conflicts. Students may learn how to identify problems within their organization or communities and explore the best ways to resolve them.

  • Time management: The complexity of a public administration role requires juggling several tasks simultaneously. Students may learn time management skills so they can balance their workloads and complete tasks efficiently.

  • Research: Research skills are essential to complete many public administration tasks. Taking a public administration program may lead a student to develop the ability to find information quickly and build valuable databases.

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Programs that are similar to public administration

Many schools offer programs that cover some of the same subjects as public administration programs, but they're slightly different. These programs may still provide students with the education they require to qualify for a career in public administration. The following are examples of such programs:

  • Public service and public policy: Public administration aligns closely with public policy and this degree may provide students with some understanding of how the two concepts go together. Students in this program may learn how governments and public institutions make policies and implement them.

  • P**ublic policy and international affairs:** Students in this field learn about political, social, economic, and cultural issues and how they impact international affairs and public policy.

  • Public sector management: Students in this program learn about the challenges related to designing taxpayer-funded programs.

  • Nonprofit sector management: Students who want to work for nonprofit organizations may wish to pursue this degree to gain an understanding of fundraising and project management.

  • Public health policy: Students who want to help with local health issues may pursue this degree, which often focuses on issues such as public health research, epidemiology, and health education.

FAQs about public administration programs

Below are some frequently asked questions about public administration programs:

Where can I earn a public administration degree?

Many universities offer programs in public administration, but you might decide which program is best for you based on factors such as cost or location. Some important factors to consider include the length of the program, the school's reputation, and the specific courses and instructors. You can research the details of each school's program to help you determine where to earn your degree.

How long does it take to earn a degree in public administration?

The time required to earn a degree in public administration often depends on the degree you're pursuing. Bachelor's degree may require four years and a graduate degree may be shorter, but it depends on the school you attend. Some schools may offer a fast-track program that can allow you to earn your degree faster. Some universities may also offer summer classes to make the process faster. The option to study full- or part-time may influence the time required to earn a degree.

What are some types of public administration degrees?

Institutions of higher education may offer public administration programs for both undergraduate students who have just graduated from high school, or graduate students who have already earned a different degree. Any degree in public administration can introduce someone to the administration principles and prepare them for a variety of career opportunities. Here are examples of different types of public administration degrees:

  • Associate degree: An associate degree in public administration is usually a two-year program that introduces students to the responsibilities of a public administrator. Students can learn foundation skills in communications, business, and math.

  • Bachelor's degree: A bachelor's degree in public administration can prepare you for an entry-level position in the nonprofit, government, or private sectors, and it usually requires four years to complete. These programs can teach skills in research, problem-solving, analysis, and critical thinking.

  • Master's degree: A master's of public administration may train students to evaluate public policies, manage budgets, research the needs of a community, and strategize plans. A student can pursue a master's degree after completing a bachelor's or undergraduate degree.

  • Doctorate: A doctorate in public administration is usually a three-year program and it can prepare students for academic, research, and leadership positions. Students may focus on theoretical or applied public administration in this program.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries and the quoted websites at time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organization‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌, ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

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