Public Administration Degree

See a list of Public Administration Programs by Clicking Here!

What is Public Administration?

Public administration is an area of study and occupation that deals with the management and oversight of public organizations and facilities. Individuals working in this field typically deal with day to day operational concerns, budget development and management, employee relations, project oversight and implementation, and any number of other tasks associated with public, (government operated) facilities and organizations. Individuals may also work with non-governmental, non-profit organizations, which typically function in a similar manner, also dealing with public policy issues and attempting to change public perception or to educate regarding a specific issues related to the organization or office.

Issues affecting public policy and lawmaking often require input from public administrators, particularly if the organization is responsible for the gathering of resources and information relevant to the law at hand, and as a result individuals in this field must be educated and prepared, understanding both research methodology and information collection while maintaining standard office practice within budget.

Top Public Administration Degrees

Students considering a degree in public administration need to invest time to determine which degree is best.  Determining which type of degree is best for you takes planning and organization.  To figure out which degree program is perfect for you, we highly recommend establishing a personal priority list.  A personal priority list can be established by asking yourself a series of questions found on pages 3-4 of our ultimate college guide.   Once you have a set of uniquely defined priorities, you will be able to more effectively navigate the higher education landscape and make choices that fit you best.  Below you will find a list of degree and certificate options in public administration with a simple navigate tool to connect to top colleges for you.

Certificate Programs in Public Administration

The certificate programs in public administration can be found in two forms: undergraduate and graduate.  Undergraduate degrees are designed to provide students with the essentials in the field.  Certificate programs that offer foundational knowledge and skills will help students gain entry-level positions in the field.  Graduate degrees, on the other hand, are upper-level courses created to provide qualifying students and working professionals the ability to upskill, add knowledge to their toolbox, continue growing in a particular job, or prepare for a career transition.  Certificates can last a few months up to a year depending on the design of the course and program emphasis.

Bachelor Degrees in Public Administration

Online bachelor’s degrees in public administration are 4-year programs for full-time students with the degree taking longer to earn for part-time students.  Bachelor degrees in the field are conferred as a Bachelor of Science (BS) given the curricular design of the degree.  Searching for bachelor degrees in public administration is a school’s course catalog you may find parallel programs in business, criminal justice, and government.  Each program will have a slightly different bent on the field of study to help shape policy and decision-making for students in the field.

Bachelor degrees blend liberal arts education with core classes.  General education courses may include classes such as communications, sociology, psychology, history, art, and creative writing.   Core classes in the field will typically cover classes such as: comparative politics, public policy, political economy, foreign policy, constitutional history, political theory, organizational behavior, managerial accounting, finance, strategic management, organizational ethics, operations management, ethics, government regulations, public finance, and budgeting.

Master Degrees in Public Administration

An online master’s degree in public administration can be conferred as a Master of Science (MS) or a Master of Public Administration (MPA).  The upper-level classes in an MS or MPA program will help students with advanced competencies essential for being successful in the field.  Skills include exceptional communication skills, collaboration, negotiation skills, managing others, dealing with conflict, building partnerships, balancing budgets, and establishing complex plans.

Graduate degrees in public administration will provide students the opportunity to select an area of emphasis or earn a degree as a generalist.  Areas of concentration will vary from school to school but may include a set of common specialties.  Options for students include the following tracks: terrorism mediation, public leadership, policy analysis, nonprofit management, public leadership, local government management, law and public policy, homeland security and policy coordination, health policy, international non-governmental organizations, global leadership, criminal justice, and emergency management.

Doctorate Degrees in Public Administration

On-site or online doctorate degrees in public administration are conferred as either a Doctor of Public Administration (DPA) or a PhD in Public Administration.  Both the PhD and DPA are considered terminal degrees in the field as there are no additional degrees that can be conferred beyond the doctoral degree in the field.  Much like the MS or MPA degrees, doctorate degrees in the field offer students with the opportunity to specialize in a defined area of study.  Curriculum within each program will vary substantively as the emphasis of the program shifts with varying areas of study.  Doctorate degrees will take 3-5 years to complete depending on the program and transfer credits allowed.  At the completion of the program, students will be required to complete a board-approved dissertation which will take a substantial portion of the overall program.  Dissertations are intended to provide deep insights into the field and extend the collective knowledge-base of practitioners and academia professional industry wide.

Educational Requirements for Public Administrators

A degree in public administration will prepare individuals to work in the public sector in administrative or managerial positions. Students studying public administration will learn how to operate services or agencies within a limited budget, planning for yearly expenditures and developing programs and tasks within available means. Students will study public policy, and learn how such policies can affect individuals at varying levels of government. Students will be exposed to various social sciences in order to better understand how government policies work, the processes by which decisions are made, and how to implement multiple disciplines in order to find working and reasonable solutions.

Degrees in public administration are available from the associate level onward, with higher level degrees offering more employment opportunities. Individuals seeking an education in public administration will typically pursue a master of public administration (MPA), which will open up employment opportunities at the managerial level.

A curriculum in public policy may include:

  • Intergovernmental Relations
  • Legislative Processes
  • Administrative Law
  • Project Management
  • Public Sector Budgeting

Careers in Public Administration

Careers in public administration can be found at the local, state, and national level. Individuals in administrative positions will work to maintain seamless operation under a limited budget while working toward goals outlined by the government in the formation of a given agency. Individuals will be tasked with finding solutions to various issues that will present themselves as programs take effect, including managing public expectations and presenting factual reports. Some individuals will find their experience as public administrators beneficial in entering politics, where a background working on social issues and public projects can be demonstrative of their ability to represent citizens.

Individuals may also find work with non-profit organizations and non-governmental organizations. These individuals will work toward utilizing limited budgets and resources to help realize programs and goals of the organization. Such administrators will have a high amount of responsibility and will often work alongside government agencies or representatives in order to present findings and offer opinions in regards to policy.

Job Growth, Salary, and Related Administrative Fields

Career opportunities for public administrators are expected to grow steadily over the next decade. Job openings tend to arise from retirement, promotion or movement into the private sector by individuals. The average salary of a public administrator can vary based on experience, position, location and employer, and can be as high as $120,000 per year to as low as $20,000 per year.  Individuals interested in public administration may also be interested in public policypublic relations, and public health.

National associations such as the ASPA and the NAPA provide unique resources for professionals in the field.  Members receive educational opportunities, research publications, and networking venues to help extend the body of knowledge in the field for administrators.

Get Your Degree!

Get information on programs from our featured schools.

Career Summary: Public administration Major




Find Your College Match

Sort By