What can I do with a Graduate Degree in Public Administration and Policy?
There are plenty of options when thinking about which public administration and policy programs and courses to take at university (see 'Graduate Degrees in Public Administration and Policy' page 30), but the real question is: what do I do after I graduate? MPA (Master of Public Administration) and MPP (Master of Public Policy) degrees don't just prepare you for working for the government, they also prepare you for a range of careers in a variety of industries. Having a public administration and policy degree at the undergraduate level only gets you so far, but for higher level careers in all industries a graduate public administration and policy degree puts you ahead of the game.
When looking at career options, it's important to first see who is graduating and what their expectations are. The National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) polled public administration and policy students in March 2007. 75% of the students polled were graduating with a MPA, 19% cent with a MPP, and 6% with another graduate public administration and/or policy degree. Of those surveyed, 40% thought they would be working for the government or a non-profit agency, 20% wanted to work in the private sector or as consultants, and the remainder anticipated careers in other areas, such as international organizations, and study further.
While these findings indicated that most graduates did anticipate working for the government, one-fifth of students polled had aspirations in private sector careers, suggesting that public administration and policy degrees have a broader appeal that just one sector.
Popular Sectors of Employment
The most popular sectors for MPP and MPA graduates are:
Government (local, state/provincial, federal, legislative, judicial)
The vast array of jobs in government spans almost all of the areas that are seen in private business, such as policy experts, researchers and communications writers. Government jobs also give graduates an opportunity to work in an area of interest. So if you spend your weekends volunteering for environmental groups and you want to work as a policy researcher, why not work for the ministry or department of the environment?
Independent agencies are almost quasi-governmental, but exist outside the general government departments. These include organizations such as the Central Intelligence Bureau (CIA), the Peace Corps, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Again, these organizations provide traditional 'business' positions, but within a public service career path. Your graduate public administration and policy degree will come in useful particularly if you have a specialization in an area relevant to a certain organization. Knowledge of politics and law is also useful.
A non-profit organization is an organization whose aim is to engage or support private or public interests which do not result in monetary or commercial gain. Generally, Non-profit organizations support causes such as the environment, humanitarian issues, the arts, charities, politics and sports. People who work in these areas need a background in public administration, policy and business, so MPP and MPA graduates are ideally suited to careers in this area.
To work in health care administration requires technical business know-how, as well as knowledge of health care policy and laws regarding insurance and medical technology. For students with an MPA or MPP, this is an ideal career path, as many public administration and policy programs will offer a specialization in health care, or even, in some cases, a joint major in health care administration.
Educational administration is a specific career path that also requires knowledge of business and policy, in addition to a compassionate disposition to students and education. Most large universities and colleges have substantial administrative departments and career paths can cover university promotions, working with financial aid institutions, and student welfare jobs.
The Private Sector
In a 2007 Ethisphere Magazine ranking of the 'World's Most Ethical Companies,' organizations with ethical initiatives were spotlighted. These included major blue-chip companies like Kellogg's and John Deere that have introduced initiatives such as environmental guidelines, social responsibility committees, and making their business practices transparent to employees. These kinds of initiatives are becoming standard practice, rather than the exception. While the MBA is often still the degree of choice, many companies implementing these kinds of changes may be interested in those with a graduate degree in ethics or public policy.
Specific Career Paths
There are many options available to graduates with an MPP or MPA including specific and popular career paths for which you may be suitable. Your experience and education could eventually lead to such jobs as:
Executive Director of a Non-Profit Organization
The executive director of a non-profit organization co-ordinates all elements of the organization, including budgets, communication and public relations. For this position most organizations will ask for a graduate business public administration or policy graduate degree, in addition to years of experience in fundraising, non-profit work (which could include volunteer work), marketing, and promotions experience. An executive director earns in the region of $60,000 per year.
Human Resources Manager/Director
HR Managers oversee employee relations in a company, which includes training, employment issues, benefits, and dispute resolution. To become an HR Manager/Director, an applicant should have a degree and/or experience in labor relations, personnel, and/or management. HR directors make about $88,000 per year.
Policy analysts manage projects, and research and develop initiatives and programs. Most positions in this area require a graduate degree in a field related to policy, and knowledge of a particular field is often required. So for a position in educational policy, experience at an educational institution would be favorable. A policy analyst should expect a wage in the region of $45,000 per year.
So what can I do? Almost anything!
MPP and MPA graduates can apply their degree to a range of industries. But don't just take our word for it. The following MPA/MPP graduates have excelled in a number of sectors:
Gen. David Petraeus (MPA), Commanding General of the Multinational Force in Iraq
Ellen Sirleaf (MPAA), Current, and First Female President of Liberia
Robert C. Orr, (MPA) Assistant Secretary General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning - United Nations
Robert Zoellick (MPP), Former Deputy Secretary of State, USA
Ann M. Veneman (MPP), Executive Director of UNICEF
So before you start your degree, research where you want to work, and plan your degree with specializations and content that work for you, so no matter which industry or career you end up in, you'll use your graduate degree to its full advantage!