A government building.

Why an MPA may be right for you

A Masters of Public Administration is one of the surest ways to gain all the skills necessary to become a city planner – or a manager of a nonprofit, a public health administrator, or other careers that rely on knowledge of management and public policies. Here are a few signs that an MPA may be right for you:

You want to work for the public in meaningful ways

If you’re considering an MPA, you know there’s a lot to be done to bring positive change to the world around you. Poverty, hunger, homelessness, and unemployment are at epidemic levels even in well-established regions, and a lot of people with good intentions want to do something about these issues and others. However, you also know that working for the public requires more than good intent. There’s also a lot of strategy, planning, and management involved. After graduating with an MPA, you’ll understand just how the system works and what you need to do to operate within it.

During the course of your studies, you’ll learn how different policies directly impact the people in your communities. You’ll also learn how those policies are formed, written, revised, and passed. You’ll understand how public policy is enforced – for example, knowing who is responsible for regulation and auditing, as well as how these processes occur.

Finance will also factor heavily into your education. You’ll take numerous public finance courses to understand how money is raised – through taxes, grants, fundraising, and more – as well as how it’s delegated and how to seek funding for specific projects. Once complete, you’ll know how to write a grant, how to file for tax-exempt status, and how to host a fundraising auction, among many other money-raising skills.

An MPA prepares you for a meaningful career serving the public in a variety of ways.

You want a widespread education that leads to a career in public service

An MPA gives you all the proficiency necessary to work in any branch of the public sector, including nonprofits, public health, and local and federal government. Most significantly, you’ll learn a wider variety of skills than you would with a degree in business, government, law, or politics. In fact, an MPA combines the most essential elements of each of these degrees and more.

Throughout your studies, you’ll learn the principles of statistics and how this data helps public administrators analyze and evaluate policy effects. You’ll also learn how to spot misleading statistics and avoid making decisions based on incorrect data from people or organizations with competing interests. An MPA also focuses on the importance of ethics and how to make decisions without bias or compromising the integrity of your office. If your plan is to work in health care, government, or for a nonprofit, you aren’t held accountable by executives and shareholders. Rather, your responsibilities are tied to public. Therefore, it’s important to understand the ins-and-outs of public relations and the importance of accountability.

This isn’t to say that business skills won’t help you. On the contrary – an MPA teaches you how to draft a budget, how to measure performance, and how to manage a group of employees. All of these areas of study give you the perfect foundation to start a career as a city manager, nonprofit coordinator, or other such professions.

You want management and leadership skills

There are certain fundamental skills that will help you in a wide variety of career options. Management and leadership are two of them, and your time spent pursuing an MPA will teach you both in depth. These are essential – though often overlooked – for bringing about change on both a local and national scale.

As part of your degree process, you’ll learn how governments, nonprofits, and other organizations are structured, as well as the duties of leaders within those positions. You’ll also learn the ins and outs of managing projects and departments, including how to delegate assignments, schedule meetings, and develop presentations. You’ll also learn accounting, taxes, capital financing, debt management, investment management, and financial statement analysis. If, upon graduation, you decide the public sector isn’t for you, you’ll find yourself prepared for a wide variety of leadership positions in private businesses and finance.

You understand some successes are hard to measure

Some careers are all about numbers – reducing churn, maximizing return on investments, and recording other accomplishments measured in units or percentages. In public administration, accomplishments aren’t always so easily observed. Sometimes, success means someone telling you they have a higher quality of life.

This isn’t to say you’ll never have substantial proof of your work. Performance measurement is very important in the world of public work, especially as government officials and citizens hold organizations more accountable than ever before. Nonprofits, public offices, and the like are asked to be transparent with their finances and operations, and people want quantitative proof that funding is going to good use. In addition, proving your program’s effectiveness helps you secure additional funding, especially in a time when grants and donations are scarce.

Your success is determined by the people you impact, not corporate profits.

You know change involves groups, not individuals

Every famous leader you can think of was part of a team. A single person can’t advocate for better classrooms, organize an arts fundraiser, or create policies that help the environment. Behind every major advance, there was a group of people working to make it happen.

An MPA helps you focus on structuring your organization so it runs effectively. You’ll have the knowledge to make informed hiring and operational decisions and delegate positions so work gets done. This allows you to make your office more productive and cut back on overhead, thereby allowing you to bring about more positive impact.

You want to progress more in your current field

If you’re already in public work but only have a bachelor’s, an MPA can increase your earnings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with a master’s degree earn $12,000 more annually on average than those with a bachelor’s.

Money isn’t the only thing a master’s degree brings. Some job opportunities are only available to people who have some form of postgraduate education. In addition, an advanced degree can help you to advance faster on your chosen career path.

An MPA opens you up to one of the widest ranges of career opportunities of any degree. Rutgers, ranked among the top graduate schools by U.S. News & World Report for Public Management/Administration, Nonprofit Management, Public Finance and Budgeting, and Public Policy Analysis, offers flexible education opportunities with small, online classes. What’s more, here you can tailor your education to one of four concentrations: Finance and Budgeting Management, Nonprofit Management, Public and Nonprofit Performance Management, or Healthcare Administration. Upon graduation, you’ll be ready for the career of your choice.

Learn More

The online Master of Public Administration from Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA) gives students a broad understanding of the field and its relevant issues. Students become competent at defining public problems, analyzing quantitative and qualitative data, developing and communicating creative solutions, and implementing ethical and practical courses of action.

Sources:

https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2015/article/should-i-get-a-masters-degree.htm

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