Individuals who are interested in serving others and are therefore considering a Master of Public Administration degree often wonder how the job outlook is for MPA grads. The good news is that earning the MPA can really jump-start a career and 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, including what type of job market and salary MPA holders can look forward to upon graduation.
What Is an MPA?
The MPA—or Master of Public Administration— is a professional master’s level degree in public affairs. This academic degree plan prepares students for executive positions in all levels of government, including federal, state, and municipal agencies. The MPA can also be applied to non-governmental organizations as well, including nonprofits and even private corporations. The curriculum for an MPA focuses on policy implementation, policy management and development, and the basics of public administration. This interdisciplinary program includes courses in political science, sociology, anthropology, economics, and law, for example. As a result of this course of study, the MPA graduate is prepared to meet and overcome challenges typically found in public administration. A Master of Public Administration degree usually requires a two-year commitment, though accelerated programs may be available for students willing to take a larger course load. Conversely, part-time MPA programs may also be available but will take longer to complete.
Master of Public Administration (MPA) Admissions
To enroll in a Master of Public Administration program, the MPA candidate must already hold an undergraduate degree from an accredited college. Moreover, the applicant may also be required to take the Graduate Records Exam (GRE) and submit their scores for evaluation by the admissions panel. The individual should also have a strong knowledge of quantitative and economic principles as well as above-average leadership skills. 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 about this popular credential. The source of this misunderstanding is the similarity between the MPA credential and the MBA credential. Although many people believe the MPA and the MBA are the same degrees, in reality, they are two very different degrees. 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 equivalent of the MPA in the public sector. Students interested in careers in the business world generally pursue an MBA. Students interested in business but specifically in government or nonprofit organizations usually pursue the MPA. Whether you ultimately decide to get your 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%
Since the healthcare field is currently experiencing a boom, it stands to reason that there would also be a great need for medical and health services managers. Also known as hospital managers or hospital administrators, these professionals are needed to run our nation’s healthcare facilities. The 32% projected increase in employment opportunities for medical and health services managers will yield nearly 140,000 new positions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It is important to note, however, that MPA holders may need a specialization in health services administration in order to qualify for these niche-specific jobs.
Operations Research Analyst
Projected Job Growth: 25%
Because of the rise in big data, operations research analysts are currently in high demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs in this occupational category are expected to grow by a whopping 25% between 2020 and 2030. The Bureau explains that this growth is a direct result of both technological advancements in operations research as well as 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, pointing out that financial managers who specialize in risk management will likely have the best opportunities in the field. The projected 17% growth in job opportunities for financial managers will result in more than 118,000 new employment opportunities for qualified professionals, including those with an MPA.
Projected Job Growth: 15%
The Master of Public Administration (MPA) curriculum focuses on public service, so it’s no surprise that many MPAs end up working in social and community service management. This field is growing, too. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (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 for qualified professionals. According to the BLS, much of this growth can be ascribed to an aging baby boomer population as well as an increased 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, and jobs in this field also happen to be growing faster than average right now. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 13% increase in new positions for trained economists over the next decade, which 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 as well as the availability of data to inform business decisions.
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers
Projected Job Growth: 13%
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (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 in this particular field, these new jobs are ideal for MPA holders, especially 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, at least in part.
Training and Development Manager
Projected Job Growth: 11%
Although it will remain a small segment of the available jobs for MPA graduates, the occupation of training and development manager is currently growing faster than the average occupation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), that’s because organizations are increasingly relying on experts to teach their staff members 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 work in the public or private sector, and opportunities are plentiful. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that openings for HR directors are growing steadily and will continue on this elevated path through the end of the decade. Specifically, this particular occupational field is expected to grow by 9% between 2020 and 2030, which will result in nearly 15,000 new jobs.
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 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), positions for top executives, including those who work in government offices, are growing about as fast as average right now. This growth is projected to add over 200,000 new job opportunities for qualified professionals by the year 2030.
Postsecondary Education Administrators
Projected Job Growth: 8%
Jobs in postsecondary education administration may represent a small portion of available employment opportunities for MPA graduates. Still, this occupational field is growing steadily, according to the BLS, with 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 continual and increasing need for educational administrators in various university departments. 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 alike. MPA grads with aspirations of becoming an auditor or accountant will be glad to know that this occupational field is growing steadily, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The Bureau attributes this growth to the globalization of the economy as well as increasingly complex tax laws and regulations governing private businesses and nonprofits. Over the course of the next ten years, nearly 100,000 new jobs will be available to qualified accountants and auditors, including 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. MPA-holders should have success finding jobs in this occupational field since it is currently growing steadily, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Specifically, jobs for urban and regional planners are expected to grow by 7% over the course of the next decade, adding 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, so there will be a continual need for emergency management directors to help mitigate the potential damage. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (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 open for qualified applicants, including those with an MPA.
Projected Job Growth: 6%
MPA graduates interested in pursuing a career as a financial analyst will be met with plenty of opportunities as well. The BLS reports that this occupation is growing at a steady rate and will 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 and 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. Generally speaking, work in the area of public administration is very much in demand today, and the salaries are 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. Although PayScale reports an average annual wage of just under $70,000 for professionals with a Master of Public Administration (MPA) credential, there is the potential to earn much more, particularly in lucrative fields such as finance, human resources, and public relations, for example.