There are many rewards of earning a Master of Public Administration (MPA) credential. Many of these rewards are intrinsic since those who work in the public sector are often fulfilled by the sense that they are making a positive difference in the world they live in. MPA jobs can also be quite financially rewarding, however. In this article, we’ll discuss the highest paying jobs for those professionals with a Master of Public Administration, or MPA, degree.
As you peruse these occupations associated with the Master of Public Administration credential, keep in mind that the salary for MPA graduates will vary depending on the position, experience level and the sector in which the individual works. Whether the individual is working for a non-profit or government agency can also play a role in determining wages. While some MPA salaries maybe around $35,000 annually, others may reach six-digit figures. In this ranking, we identify the top 15 highest paying jobs for MPA graduates.
Ranking the Highest Paying Jobs for Master of Public Administration (MPA) Graduates
For the purposes of this ranking, our editors considered the salary potential for each of the occupations in this ranking. Salary potential for the majority of these occupations was gleaned from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook in which the organization reports the average median wages for the top 10% of earners in the occupational category. In the case where this data was unavailable, we consulted an alternate source, which is listed in the description for the occupation. In cases where salary potentials were identical, the mean annual wage was used to break the tie.
#15—Government Affairs Executive
Salary Potential: $113,270
Top government affairs executives may work at both the state and the federal level. These types of executives work for organizations, handling matters involving regulations and government. They analyze possible legislation and what impact, if any, this legislation will have on the organization. Government affairs executives also determine what the company’s position is on certain laws and regulations and relay this information to the proper channels (both externally and internally). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), top executives that work for government agencies make over $113,000 per year on average. Although the demand for top executives is growing steadily, competition for positions is strong. MPA grads will likely need years of prior experience to qualify for the role.
#14—Urban and Regional Planner
Salary Potential: $118,280
Urban and regional planners improve their communities by developing plans for best using its land and facilities. Most of these professionals work for the local government, though some are hired by architectural and engineering companies. The demand for urban and regional planners is steady with job openings growing about as fast as average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Though the top earners in this occupation earn well over six figures per year, the BLS reports the median annual wage to be approximately $75,000.
Salary Potential: $121,360
MPA graduates who specialize in finance may pursue a career as a budget analyst. In the public administration sector, budget analysts manage expenses and funding on behalf of an organization. Their specific tasks may include evaluating an organization’s spending, advising executives on financial decisions, and reviewing funding proposals. Although the overall demand for budget analysts is slowing, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that these professionals will remain in demand in public administration due to the call for more efficient uses of public resources. The Bureau also reports promising information in terms of budget analysts’ salary; while the overall average for annual wages was just $78,970 in 2020, this average was higher for budget analysts who worked for the federal government (i.e., $86,480).
Salary Potential: $128,680
Many individuals with an MPA end up working with finances to some degree. This is certainly true for auditors and accountants. These finance professionals are responsible for ensuring that an organization’s financial records are in line with current laws and regulations. This includes the organization’s tax records. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), accountants and auditors made approximately $73,500 per year on average in the year 2020. Those who worked for the government made slightly less (i.e., $72,260). The BLS also reports a steady growth projection for accountants and auditors through the year 2030.
#11—Information and Data Management Officer
Salary Potential: $137,500
As their title implies, information and data management officers manage the information data and knowledge generated throughout an organization. They gather digital information, determine proper research strategies, identify sources of data, perform pertinent information reviews, and consult on digital data policies and procedures. Their main purpose after analyzing information is to maintain, classify, and store necessary documentation. Information and data management officers often work for the CIA. For the majority of information and data management officers, earnings may range from $40,500 to $100,000 depending on experience, sector and geographic location, according to ZipRecruiter.
#10—Emergency Management Director
Salary Potential: $142,870
Emergency management is one of the most sought-after specializations for MPA students, and for good reason. Not only are jobs for emergency management directors some of the highest paying roles in public administration, but the demand for professionals in the field is growing steadily as well. Emergency management directors play important roles within a community, ensuring that plans are in place to keep the public safe in the case of a natural disaster or other catastrophe. They must conduct research in order to assess the risk for a local emergency, make plans to reduce injuries and casualties in the case of a disaster, and collaborate with local and federal officials to execute emergency plans. Emergency management directors are well-paid for performing these duties; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage associated with this profession is just over $76,000 per year. The Bureau reports that positions for these MPA grads are growing steadily, too, with a 6% increase expected over the course of the next decade.
#9—Operations Research Analyst
Salary Potential: $144,330
Within the field of public administration, operations research analysts help organizations solve problems using mathematical and analytical concepts. In doing so, they help these organizations become more effective and efficient. An increase in the amount of data available to organizations has resulted in a growing demand for operations research analysts. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for these analysts are expected to increase by 25% by 2030. Pay in the field is higher than average as well; the median wage in 2020 was $82,200 per year. For analysts working for the federal government, average wages were significantly higher (i.e., $119,720).
#8—Administrative Services Manager
Salary Potential: $169,930
Administrative services managers are well compensated in the public administration field because these professionals are so vital to public organizations. Their duties and responsibilities are vast and encompass nearly every aspect of an organization’s functionality from scheduling to finances, communications, and more. Sometimes referred to as business office managers, these administrative professionals often act as the right hand of the top executives in the office. They may also supervise the work of other employees on staff. On average, administrative services managers who work in local government make just over $95,000 per year on average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The highest 10% of administrative services managers made nearly $170,000 per year in 2020. Growth projections are promising for this occupation as well, with the BLS predicting a 9% increase in job openings by the end of the decade.
#7—Medical/Health Services Manager
Salary Potential: $195,630
Positions for medical and health services managers are not only some of the highest paid MPA jobs, but they’re also some of the fastest growing. Since the field of healthcare is currently experiencing unprecedented growth, the demand for skilled managers in this field is high. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that positions in this occupational category are projected to grow by 32% over the next decade. Sometimes referred to as healthcare administrators, medical and health services managers are not doctors; instead, they develop and manage systems of healthcare delivery that maximize a facility’s efficiency and quality. According to the BLS, managers in the healthcare field make just over $104,000 per year on average with the potential to earn much more.
Salary Potential: $198,230
Economics is a popular concentration within Master of Public Administration programs. Some colleges and universities even offer dual degrees in public administration and economic development. Within the field of public administration, economists conduct important research impacting organizations and communities. Their studies often play an important role in shaping public policy. Not surprisingly, economists are well-paid for their work in the field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these professionals make over $108,000 per year on average with the top 10% making nearly $200,000 annually. Opportunities for economists are also growing faster than average, so now is a good time to pursue this career path within public administration.
#5—Postsecondary Education Administrator
Salary Potential: $199,400
Though it is not a very common career path for MPA graduates, the job of a postsecondary education administrator does lend itself to the skills one learns in a Master of Public Administration program. It is also a very lucrative choice; the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports average earnings of $97,500 per year, though university administrators reportedly make approximately $10,000 more annually than community or junior college administrators. Postsecondary education administrators apply their knowledge of public administration to the educational setting, managing the day-to-day functioning of a college or university, including instruction, research, and/or admissions, for instance. Depending on the size of the institution, education administrators may specialize in a specific department, or their duties may span multiple departments. The BLS predicts that employment opportunities for postsecondary education administrators will grow by 8% over the next decade, about as fast as average.
#4—Training and Development Manager
Salary Potential: $200,210
Organizations in need of top training and development managers often require applicants to hold an advanced degree such as a Master of Public Administration (MPA). These professionals are responsible for creating training programs for an organization’s employees. Training and development managers work in a variety of different industries, including healthcare, technology, education, and finance, for example. As advancements are made in these fields, organizations have a continual need for training and development managers to teach employees new skills. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job openings for this particular occupation are currently growing faster than average. Training and development managers are handsomely compensated, too; the BLS reports a median annual wage of over $115,000 as of 2020.
#3—Public Relations and Fundraising Manager
Salary Potential: $208,000
Many MPA graduates go on to work in the non-profit sector as public relations and fundraising managers. Depending on their exact role, these professionals work to communicate the purpose of an organization to the public in order to raise funds for the organization or bolster the organization’s public image. Employment opportunities for these types of managers are growing faster than average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also reports a higher than average salary for public relations and fundraising managers with these professionals earning a median annual wage of $118,430.
#2—Human Resources Director
Salary Potential: $208,000
Human resources directors work in both the private and public sectors for a variety of organizations. Their duties and responsibilities also vary by the organization for which they work. Human resources directors are generally in charge of an entire human resources department and may delegate others to be in charge of different HR offices. They deal with the daily issues and problems related to the workforce of a company. They are also typically in charge of payroll, employee benefit packages and ensuring the organization complies with laws and regulations. In terms of salary, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that human resources managers made a median annual wage of over $121,000 in 2020.
Salary Potential: $208,000
It’s not uncommon for students pursuing an MPA to concentrate their studies in finance. Within public administration, there is a tremendous need for financial managers with the expertise to manage an organization’s expenses and budget. These high-level professionals are responsible for planning long-term financial goals, preparing current financial reports, and supervising other employees within the finance department. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), financial managers earn an average of $134,180 per year, though those working within the government make somewhat less (i.e., $117,940). Growth projections for this occupation are promising too; the BLS predicts a 17% increase in employment opportunities for financial managers by the end of the decade.
Earning potential can increase significantly once an individual earns an MPA degree. However, many graduates of MPA programs report that they find themselves in better positions to find jobs helping others as well. This creates a win-win scenario for both MPA grads as well as the general public whom they serve.
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