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What Is an MPA? Degree Insights & Career Outlook

Public Administration

“Public service has never faced as stern a test as it does today,” said Bill Corr, deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in a 2013 speech to graduates of a government leadership program. “People are thirsty for quality government. . . . They want leaders like you who stand up and make our government stand out.”

That’s where an online Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree comes in. People may want to serve their communities, but don’t know what an MPA is or what they can do with an MPA degree to advance their careers. In fact, many opportunities exist for MPA degree recipients to build careers in public service today. Here’s how.

Defining the MPA Degree

An MPA degree gives students a variety of options for career advancement, especially in community service, criminal justice, and public policy. The degree allows graduates to give back to their communities, improve their cities, build a stronger government, or work for a nonprofit organization.

The online MPA degree program offered by Norwich University nurtures innovative public sector leaders. The program helps students develop administrative, leadership, financial management, and political skills to promote progress in cities, governments, and nonprofit organizations.

MPA students also have options for what they can do with an MPA degree, by concentrating on one of seven available specializations.

Criminal Justice and Public Safety

The criminal justice and public safety concentration helps students develop skills needed to pursue or further a career in law enforcement or transition into another area of public safety. Students explore the best practices of law enforcement agencies, corrections administration, and public safety management.

With this concentration, MPA students can pursue careers such as litigation manager or district division chief.

Public Administration Leadership and Crisis Management

The public administration leadership and crisis management concentration focuses on how to react and lead during a crisis. The curriculum builds management, financial, and communication skills; explores ethical decision-making; and explains how to design and implement large-scale action plans.

With this concentration, MPA students can pursue careers such as town manager or public works manager.

Procurement and Government Contract Management

The procurement and government contract management concentration focuses on the methods and processes of procurement and contract management at all levels of government — federal, state, and local.

With skills gained by this concentration, MPA students can pursue careers such as government contract services manager or compliance administration.

Fiscal Management

Fiscal intelligence is essential in public administration. That’s why the fiscal management concentration covers key topics necessary to balance budgets, analyze financial performance, and develop financial decision-making skills.

After earning an MPA with this concentration, students can pursue careers such as senior budget analyst or finance manager.

Municipal Governance

Students build the financial and managerial skills necessary to effectively run and positively impact local governments in the municipal governance concentration. Participants may choose from electives in municipal, urban, and rural governance.

With this concentration, MPA graduates can pursue careers such as parks and recreation director or district division chief.

Nonprofit Management

For those interested in focusing on nonprofit management, the nonprofit management concentration specifically develops skills needed in the nonprofit sector. Among the topics covered are strategic planning, fundraising, stakeholder engagement, governance, and performance management.

With this concentration, MPA graduates can pursue careers such as nonprofit program director or project manager. 

Policy Analysis and Analytics

The policy analysis and analytics concentration is designed for professionals interested in the planning and implementation of policies as a public administration leader. The curriculum allows students to analyze critical data, build decision-making skills, and utilize real-world software such as SPSS, SAS, R, and Python to perform data analysis.

With this concentration, MPA graduates often pursue careers such as public administrator or public affairs specialist.

Attain Specialized Skills

An MPA degree helps students hone the key skills needed to effectively operate in the demanding and evolving public sector, including:

  • Leadership skills that can be implemented across a range of organizations and levels
  • Strategic planning for public sector initiatives
  • Crisis management response for unexpected obstacles and disasters
  • Fiscal management for accounting and budgeting proficiency
  • Research and data analysis to understand the needs of communities
  • Ethical decision-making for navigating complex legal and moral situations

With these skills, professionals are prepared to embark on a career in public administration, which spans a variety of organizations and objectives.

Benefits of an MPA

Students trying to determine what an MPA is may be weighing the option of earning an advanced degree in public administration versus earning a degree in another field. Here are some benefits of earning an MPA.


MPA graduates have flexibility when it comes to pursuing a career. MPA programs help students develop skills that prepare them for positions in nonprofit organizations, local or federal government, healthcare administration, international affairs, or education administration, among others.

Leadership Opportunities

Many organizations and employers entrust management positions to individuals with a background in leadership. MPA programs offer courses specifically aimed at helping graduate students develop leadership competencies.

Job Outlook

Public administrators in a variety of occupations have job stability as the job outlook for this field remains positive. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the job market for administrative services managers, including public administrators, is projected to grow by 6% between 2019 and 2029.


According to PayScale, MPA holders have a median annual salary of around $67,800. Those in certain careers such as human resources director and executive director have a median salary of around $85,000 and $82,000, respectively.

MPA Career Opportunities

MPA degree holders can pursue a range of potential career opportunities including the following.

Community Service Manager

Community service managers organize and manage social service programs and community initiatives, such as those for mental health or substance abuse. According to the BLS, median pay for this role is $67,150 as of May 2019. The number of jobs in this field is expected to grow 17% from 2019 to 2029, which is higher than the average projected growth rate for all jobs.

Communications Manager

Communications managers oversee communications initiatives like traditional and digital campaigns, events, and message testing. According to PayScale, these managers have a median annual salary of around $65,400.

Litigation Manager

Litigation managers preside over lawsuits for an organization and are consulted on legal matters. They may manage teams of attorneys or oversee third-party legal representation. Managers with litigation case management skills have a median annual salary of about $72,800, according to PayScale.

Pursue Your Master of Public Administration Degree

Since 1819, Norwich University has maintained a leadership position in innovative education. Through its online programs, Norwich delivers relevant and applicable curricula that allow its students to make a positive impact on their places of work and their communities.

Norwich University’s online Master of Public Administration program is a comprehensive, multidisciplinary program that produces graduates with the skills needed to lead their communities. Whether professionals want to build better cities and towns, contribute to a stronger government, or take action for a nonprofit, this program gives them the tools needed to be agents of change in the vital and evolving public sector.

Explore how Norwich University’s Master of Public Administration degree and its concentrations can help you pursue any of a variety of public sector careers.


Recommended Readings

An Overview of the Importance of Public Administration
How to Get Involved in Local Government: 6 Public Administration Careers
6 Elements of Public Administration


A Great Speech on Why to Go into Public Service, Washington Post
Public Service: Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Social and Community Service Managers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Manager Global Communications, ZipRecruiterr
Average Communications Manager Salary, PayScale
What Does a Litigation Manager Do?, ZipRecruiter
Average Salary for Skill: Litigation Case Management, PayScale
Administrative Services Managers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Master of Public Administration (MPA) Degree, PayScale

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