With the increasing influence of globalization, knowledge of public policy has become more important than ever. The master's degree in public administration is designed for individuals who wish to pursue a career in public affairs, with the choice to focus on domestic affairs or turn toward the international arena. Like many advanced degree programs, the master's degree in public administration is often pursued by mid-career professionals.
Public Administration Defined
Public administration is the implementation of policy decisions and government regulations. In government, public administration is involved in every level, from local to national and even international. Public administration is also an important aspect of the work of many nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations. Although public administration degrees are available at the undergraduate level, a graduate level degree is considered the standard for professionals in the field.
MPA vs MBA
The Master in Public Administration is the standard degree for individuals interested in a career in public service management in government or with nonprofit agencies. In that respect, it is comparable to the Master of Business Administration degree. However, the MBA is the standard degree for individuals who wish to pursue a career at the professional or executive level in any aspect of business, not just business management.
MPA vs MPP
The Master's in Public Policy degree is also comparable to the MPA, in that both degrees are common to professionals in public service. However, the MPP degree is oriented more toward the use of data analysis to shape and develop policy solutions for various social issues. MPP is a somewhat more research-oriented degree than the MPA, although the divisions between the two specialties are somewhat blurred.
MPA programs are typically two years long. The core courses focus on public policy, economics, administration and quantitative analysis. Depending on the specialty chosen by the student, upper level courses focus on areas such as nonprofit management, organizational theory or economic development. Many programs include a summer internship to give students practical experience in addition to their coursework.
MPA graduates often find careers as leaders of nonprofit organizations, business executives and even ambassadors. Many MPA graduates work in municipal level government. Others develop specialties such as environmental policy and public finance. Increasingly, MPA graduates work in the international arena. It is also possible to combine the MPA with other advanced degrees, such as the JD (Juris Doctor).
Chris Blank is an independent writer and research consultant with more than 20 years' experience. Blank specializes in social policy analysis, current events, popular culture and travel. His work has appeared both online and in print publications. He holds a Master of Arts in sociology and a Juris Doctor.