Individuals who are considering a Master of Public Administration degree often wonder what the job outlook is like. The good news is that earning the MPA can really jump-start a career. It can result in higher wages and the potential for high-level positions in various work settings and organizations. In this informative article, our editors provide some insight into this particular degree. It includes what type of job market and salary MPA holders can look forward to upon graduation.
What Is an MPA?
The Master of Public Administration is a master’s level degree in public affairs. This academic degree plan prepares students for executive positions in all levels of government. This includes federal, state, and municipal agencies. The MPA is not just a degree for government work, there are jobs in non-governmental organizations as well. This includes nonprofits and even private corporations. The curriculum for an MPA focuses on:
- policy implementation
- policy management and development
- the basics of public administration
This interdisciplinary program includes courses in:
- political science
The MPA graduate must meet and overcome challenges typically found in public administration. An MPA usually requires a two-year commitment. Accelerated programs may be available for students willing to take a larger course load. Part-time MPA programs may also be available but will take longer to complete.
Master of Public Administration (MPA) Admissions
MPA candidates must already hold an undergraduate degree from an accredited college. The applicant may also have to take the (GRE) and submit their scores to the admissions panel. They should have a knowledge of quantitative and economic principles. Strong leadership skills are essential. Depending on the program, some experience working in public affairs may also be required for admissions.
MPA vs. MBA
Before we get into the job outlook for MPA grads, it’s important that we clear up some confusion. The source of this misunderstanding is the similarity between the MPA and the MBA. Although many people believe the MPA and the MBA are the same degrees, in reality, they are very different. The MPA represents the Master of Public Administration degree. And the MBA represents the Master of Business Administration degree. Although these two credentials are quite distinct, there is some overlap. The MBA is often thought of as the private sector equal of the MPA in the public sector. Students interested in careers in the business world generally pursue an MBA. Students interested in focusing on government or nonprofit organizations usually pursue the MPA. Whether you choose an MBA or MPA can affect your job prospects upon graduation.
Potential Jobs for MPA Grads
If you’re considering pursuing a Master of Public Administration (MPA), then you’ll be happy to hear that there are a large number of potential jobs for graduates of the MPA. That’s because MPA graduates may find work in both the public and the private sectors. With this range of job opportunities comes a wide variance in salaries as well. While one MPA grad may earn a starting wage of $35,000, another may earn $100,000 or more. Factors such as work experience, employer, and geographic location can all play a role in wage potential.
Candidates working for the private sector generally work for businesses and companies, while those in the public sector typically work for government agencies. Here are some potential jobs for MPA grads along with information about the projected job outlook for each occupation. These positions are listed from high to low in terms of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job growth projections.
Medical/Health Services Manager
Projected Job Growth: 32%
There is a great demand for medical and health services managers. This need has increased since the start of the pandemic. These health services managers are also known as hospital managers or administrators. These administrators are needed to run our healthcare facilities. The 32% projected increase translates to nearly 140,000 new positions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Note that MPA holders may need a specialization in health services administration for these jobs.
Operations Research Analyst
Projected Job Growth: 25%
Operations research analysts are currently in high demand. This is due with the rise of big data. According to the BLS jobs in this field are expected to grow by 25% between 2020 and 2030. This growth is a direct result of technological advancements in operations research. There is also an increased demand for efficiency within organizations. Trained operations research analysts, including those who hold an MPA, can expect more than 25,000 new employment opportunities by the end of the decade.
Projected Job Growth: 17%
The job of a financial manager is one of the fastest-growing occupations for MPA grads. The BLS attributes this growth to the expansion of the general economy. It cites that financial managers who specialize in risk management will likely have the best opportunities in the field. The projected 17% growth in jobs will result in more than 118,000 new employment opportunities. This includes qualified professionals with an MPA.
Projected Job Growth: 15%
The Master of Public Administration (MPA) curriculum focuses on public service. It’s no surprise that many MPAs end up working in social and community service management. This field is growing, too. The BLS projects a 15% increase in opportunities for social and community service managers by the end of the decade. This expansion is expected to add more than 26,000 new job openings. Much of this growth is because to an aging baby boomer population. There is also an increasing need for substance abuse treatment programs.
Projected Job Growth: 13%
The position of an economist is a popular choice for Master of Public Administration graduates. Jobs in this field also happen to be growing faster than average right now. The BLS predicts a 13% increase in new positions for trained economists over the next decade. This will result in approximately 2,400 new jobs by the year 2030. The uptick in demand for economists can be attributed to a more competitive business environment. There is also the availability of data to inform business decisions.
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers
Projected Job Growth: 13%
The BLS projects more than 11,000 new job openings for public relations and fundraising managers over the next decade. As a result of the faster-than-average growth, these new jobs are ideal for MPA holders. This is especially true for those who desire to work with non-profit organizations. The BLS credits the increased use of social media within organizations to the rise in demand for managers in both public relations and fundraising.
Training and Development Manager
Projected Job Growth: 11%
Training and development manager jobs is currently growing faster than the average occupation. That’s because organizations rely on experts to teach new skills and technological applications. With a projected job growth percentage of 11%, there will be approximately 4,500 new positions for qualified applicants.
Human Resources Director
Projected Job Growth: 9%
One promising job for MPA graduates is that of a human resources director. These professionals may find plentiful work opportunities in the public or private sector. The BLS reports that openings for HR directors are growing steadily. This is expected to continue on this elevated path through the end of the decade. This particular occupational field is expected add to 15,000 new jobs between 2020 and 2030.
Government Affairs Executive
Projected Job Growth: 8%
Another career path that is growing steadily for MPA graduates is the position of government affairs executive. According to the BLS, these jobs are growing about as fast as average right now. This growth could add over 200,000 new jobs for qualified professionals by the year 2030.
Postsecondary Education Administrators
Projected Job Growth: 8%
Jobs in postsecondary education administration are only a small portion of jobs for MPA graduates. Still, job opportunities are growing steadily, according to the BLS. They expect an 8% projected increase in open positions over the course of the next decade. As enrollment in colleges and universities continues to rise, there will be a growing need for educational administrators. This growth will result in more than 13,000 openings for trained administrators. To qualify for these positions, MPA holders may need a specialization in postsecondary education administration and/or some experience in the field.
Projected Job Growth: 7%
Auditors and accountants are needed to prepare and examine financial reports for private and public organizations. Job opportunities are growing steadily, according to the BLS. The Bureau attributes this growth to the globalization of the economy. They also cite complex tax laws and regulations for private businesses and nonprofits. Over the course of the next ten years, 100,000 new jobs will be available. This includes those with an MPA credential.
Projected Job Growth: 7%
A popular career choice for graduates of MPA programs is that of an urban or regional planner. This occupational field is growing steadily, according to the BLS. Jobs for urban and regional planners are expected to grow by 7% over the course of the next decade. This means nearly 3,000 new jobs for MPA-holders and other qualified professionals.
Emergency Management Director
Projected Job Growth: 6%
Emergencies such as natural disasters are showing no signs of slowing. There will be a need for emergency management directors to help with any damage. According to the BLS, employment opportunities for these directors are currently growing at an average pace. By 2030, the Bureau predicts that there will be approximately 700 new positions.
Projected Job Growth: 6%
MPA graduates interested in pursuing a career as a financial analyst will find opportunities as well. The BLS reports that this occupation is growing at a steady rate. It is expected to continue to do so over the better part of the next decade. This growth will yield over 31,000 new job openings for qualified applicants. Urban and regional planners will be needed in the coming years to plan new community developments. There is also a need to improve the existing infrastructure in cities and towns across the United States.
Career and Salary Outlook for MPA Grads
The career outlook for MPA grads is very good, but it can also vary with each position. Work in the area of public administration is very much in demand today. The salaries can be quite appealing as well. It’s true that MPA grads can expect to see a real jump in salary in comparison to what their earnings were with just a bachelor’s degree. PayScale reports an average annual wage around $70,000 for professionals with an MPA credential. There is the potential to earn much more, particularly in lucrative fields such as finance, human resources, and public relations, for example.