Public Administration Degree

A public administration degree can open the door to interesting and rewarding careers at advocacy, nonprofit, and government agencies. Public administration curricula focus on the development and implementation of public policy to address social issues. Many who seek careers in this area earn a master of public administration. Many schools also offer bachelor's degrees in public administration. The median salary for public administration graduates varies greatly depending on the setting and level of management of the individual.

Public Administration Training and Courses

Public administration is at the intersection of social science and government administration. Students often take management, human resources, and budgeting courses in addition to studying public policy development and implementation. Majoring in public administration results in a targeted degree for those who want to work in the public sector, but career options extend beyond just government work.

Examples of courses commonly found in a public administration degree program include:

  • Levels of Government
  • Communications in the Public Sector
  • Fundamentals of Business
  • Cities and Public Policy
  • Policy Analysis
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Strategic Planning
  • Law for Public Sector Managers
  • Leadership in Organizations
  • Budgets and Financial Management
  • Human Resources Management
Did you know? The most common way to get into politics is to start as an unpaid intern. An internship provides an opportunity to demonstrate your abilities and value to the team and can lead to a paid position on a legislator's staff.

Traditional Public Administration Degree Programs

University of Southern Indiana logo

University of Southern Indiana (Evansville, IN)

The University of Southern Indiana offers an undergraduate degree in Political Science with a concentration in Public & Nonprofit Administration that can be completed as either a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science. The program teaches students about American political and administrative systems as well as comparative politics and international perspectives. Both degree programs require 120 credit hours of study, including the university's Core 39 liberal arts curriculum. Students take courses in political science, business management, leadership, and finance and can complete an optional internship in a local administrative settings or a global learning experience in comparative policy. Past international experiences have been organized in China and the Netherlands. Bachelor of Arts students must also complete at least 12 credits in foreign language studies, which may be advantageous for students interested in graduate study or international work.

University of San Francisco logo

University of San Francisco (San Francisco, CA)

At the University of San Francisco, students can earn a Master of Public Administration (MPA) through the School of Management. The program focuses on practical experience and learning that can be applied to a variety of administrative settings. In previous years, international study experiences in Rome and Washington DC were also offered to supplement classroom learning. Traditional courses are designed for working professionals and are scheduled on Saturdays throughout the year. The average length of time to complete the program is 21 months. An online version of the program is also available to offer students even greater flexibility. Courses cover a variety of topics, including finance, human resources, leadership, negotiation, and policy analysis. Work experience is not required but may be advantageous in the application stage.

Online Public Administration Degree Programs

Northern Arizona University logo

Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff, AZ)

Northern Arizona University offers an online Bachelor's in Public Administration with an accelerated course format and the possibility of combining online courses with on-campus courses at six college campuses across the state. The curriculum includes 120 credits encompassing the university's liberal arts core, diversity components, a writing course, and a capstone project. Courses include Public Sector Communication, Public Budgeting & Finance, and Organizational Theory & Application. Transfer credits from prior study at the college level are accepted towards the liberal arts graduation requirements, which can shorten the required length of the program from the standard full-time four years. The degree prepares students to work in various departments of public administration, including all levels of government, safety, and services. An optional internship provides students with an additional opportunity to gain real-world experience before graduation.

Penn State University logo

Penn State University (Pennsylvania, PA)

Penn State World Campus offers an online Master of Public Administration degree with a prestigious global reputation. The degree comprises 36 credits, including 18 core credits, 15 elective credits tailored to the student's interests, and three credits of capstone project. Many electives are available in all areas of public administration, including Police Administration, Agricultural Biosecurity, Labor and Employment Law, and Homeland Security and Defense in Practice. Students typically take up to four courses per year and complete the program in as little as three years. Work experience is not required to enter the program, but students without work experience must also complete a 300-hour internship to graduate. Graduate certificates in Public Budgeting and Financial Management and Public Sector Human Resources Management are also offered and can be completed in addition to or instead of the graduate degree.

Public Administration Job Description

Beyond government, many public administration professionals work in social service and nonprofit agencies, administering social service programs and advocating for legislation at the local, state, and federal levels. Other possible employers for public administration graduates include healthcare delivery systems, which can be public-private partnerships that work in cities and counties. Public administration degree holders can also find work in consulting firms or as contractors for the federal government.

Related Jobs

A public administration degree may lead to careers in public agencies as well as government offices. Related careers include:

Public Administration Salary and Job Outlook

Due to the wide variety of jobs, public administration salaries can vary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that social and human services assistants, who are often found working in social service organizations involved in public policy, earned a median annual salary of $33,120 per year in 2017.1 Social and community service managers, who perform management roles in public administration-related organizations, earned a median annual wage of $64,100 as of 2017.2 Urban and regional planners, who often have a public administration background in addition to specialized training in environmental design and social planning, earned a median annual wage of $71,490 per year during the same timeframe.3 The job outlook through 2026 for these careers is positive, with social and human services assistants and managers projected to experience above-average growth at 16% and 18% respectively, while urban and regional planners are expected to see 13% projected jobs growth through 2026.1,2,3

Additional Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Do I need a master's degree to work in public administration?

Answer: Although not necessary, the prospects for advancement are high for those with qualifying education and experience, with public administration employees able to move to larger agencies or to increased responsibilities. For some positions, a master's degree is a necessity. A master's in public administration can typically be completed in two years, and many schools offer such programs online.

Question: How much do public administration graduate make?

Answer: The median salary for a public administration graduate varies widely depending on the type of organization (private, public or nonprofit) and the role. For example, individuals in social service organizations may earn as little as $33,120 while managers can earn a median salary of $64,100 or more.1,2

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Social and Human Service Assistants:
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Social and Community Service Managers:
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Urban and Regional Planners:

SELECT A PROGRAM is an advertising-supported site. Featured programs and school search results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other information published on this site.