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How to Get Involved in Local Government: 6 Public Administration Careers



People looking to make positive changes in society do not have to stray very far from their neighborhoods. With the right competencies, anyone can pursue a job in local government. An advanced degree such as Norwich University’s online Master of Public Administration (MPA),  develops advanced critical thinking and data analysis skills and cultivates a deep knowledge of key public administration theories and ethics for successful leadership in the public sector.  Several potential career paths exist in public administration for those wanting to know how to get involved in local government.

Why Pursue a Career in Public Administration?

While many people may commiserate about the change needed in a community, a public administrator has the opportunity to turn that talk into action. To transition into this role requires earning an advanced degree from a program that develops skills in local government management.  Programs such as Norwich University’s online Master of Public Administration feature concentrations in specific aspects of public administration such as fiscal management, municipal governance, public works, and sustainability.

These advanced degrees help students develop a strong understanding of the theories and ethics behind essential public administration concepts. They also teach advanced competencies in critical thinking and data analysis, which are crucial to developing strategies that convert ideas into practice. With the right combination of skills and knowledge gained from these advanced degrees, students can gain a role in public administration to produce new and innovative policies that ultimately improve local society and the lives of those in their communities.

A Look at Public Administration Jobs

When determining how to get involved in local government, consider the following professions that approach public administration in unique ways but have the same underlying goal of bringing positive change on a local, communal level.

Director of Public Works

Directors of Public Works oversee various municipal functions such as traffic control, waste management, and water service to ensure an efficient city. Responsible for managing a wide range of city or county employees from administrative staff to public service technicians, Directors of Public Works require strong leadership skills. Because the role typically involves planning and budgeting for day-to-day operations and long-term projects, this position requires advanced analytical and critical thinking skills. PayScale lists the average salary for a Director of Public Works at approximately $75,600. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes the role within the field of civil engineers, which is projected to grow by 11% between 2016 and 2026. This rate is faster than the 7% growth predicted for the average profession.

City Manager

City Managers operate like chief executives in business. Responsible for governing the performances of various city departments, they typically work with elected officials to create strategies for solving community issues and developing long-term community goals. City Managers require excellent leadership and interpersonal skills as well as a strong competency in problem solving and critical thinking. They also must possess a well-developed sense of social perceptiveness to effectively read the reactions of people and departments potentially affected by city policies. The average salary for a City Manager is about $88,600, according to PayScale. The BLS designates the City Manager role as part of the urban and regional planner field, which carries a 13% projected growth rate between 2016 and 2026.

Urban and Regional Planner

Urban and Regional Planners develop programs and strategies concerning land usage taking into consideration different community-driven metrics such as community creation, population growth, and gentrification. As strategies are based on market research and various economic and environmental studies, Urban and Regional Planners require solid analytical skills, a strong technological acumen for effective data analysis, and solid communication skills to convey the intent and progress of their projects. According to the BLS, the 2018 median pay for local government Urban and Regional Planners was approximately $71,200. The BLS also reports a 13% predicted job growth for the position between 2016 and 2026.

Public Administrator

Public Administrators oversee a local government’s support services such as conservatorship services for individuals with mental disabilities or fiduciary services in cases when a death has no relative to perform executor duties. The role also involves personnel supervision and carefully monitoring existing services to ensure compliance with current regulations. Individuals serving in this position need strong analytical skills to identify weak spots in government policies. Excellent communication skills also are critical to convey information regarding community services. The BLS lists the 2018 median salary for Public Administrators at approximately $93,600 and predicts a 10% growth rate for administrative service manager jobs such as Public Administrators between 2016 and 2026.

Financial Manager

As the name suggests, Financial Managers are responsible for a local government’s financial vitality. They analyze a wide range of financial statements for economic efficiency and government compliance, and work with other departments in making sound financial decisions. Financial Managers require strong math and analytical skills as well as strong soft skills such as communication and organization. According to the BLS, the 2018 median pay for Financial Managers in government positions was around $112,800. It projects a 19% growth rate for this job between 2016 and 2026.

Political Scientist

Political Scientists commonly research, analyze, and interpret community data to construct unbiased views of local government activities. Their findings may be shared through various forms of media, such as local newspapers or television stations. Because of the nature of the work, they must have strong research, analytical, written and verbal communication skills to both construct data and clearly convey the information to the community. The BLS lists the average local government-linked Political Scientist salary at around $70,400 and projects a 3% growth rate for Political Scientists between 2016 and 2026.

A Career That Makes an Impact

Every public administration career offers the opportunity to make a positive impact in a community. More importantly, people who perform these roles can positively change their own lives. Norwich University’s online Master of Public Administration degree offers a comprehensive program with curriculum that provides a thorough study on organizational management concepts, strategic planning, and fiscal management.

Learn More

As the nation’s oldest private military college, Norwich University has maintained its leadership in innovative education since 1819. Through its online programs, Norwich delivers relevant and applicable curricula that allows students to make a positive impact in their workplace and communities.

Norwich University’s online Master of Public Administration program is a comprehensive, multidisciplinary program that helps produce graduates with the skills needed to effectively manage a demanding and evolving industry. The rigorous curriculum provides an all-inclusive study of organizational management concepts, decision-making processes, strategic planning, and fiscal management.

Recommended Readings

Public Administration vs. Business Administration Degrees
Career Outlook: Political Scientist
Career Outlook: Public Administrator

Sources

How to Become a City Manager, GovtJobs.com
"Become a Professional Local Government Manager”, International City/County Management Association
"Choosing a Career in Public Administration: The Lessons of History", PA Times
Average City Manager Salary, PayScale
Average Public Works Director Salary, PayScale
"A Day in the Life of a Political Scientist", The Princeton Review
Administrative Service Managers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Administrative Service Managers, Pay, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Civil Engineers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Financial Managers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Financial Managers, Pay, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Political Scientists, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Political Scientists, Pay, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Urban and Regional Planners, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Urban and Regional Planners, Pay, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics