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Resources and Tools to Advance Your MPA

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Andrew Vaz
August 25, 2015

I received my Masters of Public Administration (MPA) in August 2011 from Florida International University. In the four years since receiving the degree (and use of the MPA accreditation beside my name on resume and business cards), I must admit I had put a lot more value into pursuit of this advance degree than I had hoped.

confused-graduate-character - VazI believed this graduate degree would open many doors for me. I hoped that the days of blue-collar work would end and that I would enjoy the remainder of my professional career in the public sector, serving as middle management and eventually an executive. Unfortunately, I had to learn that just getting a degree isn’t enough. One must be able to work hard and build connections within the community of public sector employees in order to secure a better future.

What is a Master of Public Administration? 

Besides the obvious designation of graduate study beyond the level of a four-year undergraduate degree, a Master of Public Administration (MPA) is not just an ordinary master’s degree. An MPA is a professional degree, much like the Master of Business Administration (MBA), acquired by students already within the field looking to move into middle-level management or higher. However, there is more to it. The MPA opens doors to learners looking to move into other sectors of the workforce. Learners study the public sector; however, they also develop knowledge to become effective managers within the private and nonprofit sectors. No matter which sector a learner ultimately chooses, the goal of an MPA graduate is to become a top administrator within their department or company. The MPA program usually does not have a thesis option thus it is not the same as the Master of Arts degree (MA).

Three words: network, network, network! 

When one completes their degree and attends their graduation ceremony, he or she must keep in the back of their mind that searching for that great career requires a lot of hard work. In fact, such work should begin well before the degree is awarded. Public administration departments release internships and volunteer opportunities for students. If the learner is interested in public sector work, they have many choices available to them.

I remember one of my first public sector jobs was an internship with a state representative. When I was completing my MPA, I was advised within my school to apply for the position. Students have to bear in mind that jobs and internships will not be available to the public. Networking is a skill that MPA students must develop beginning from day one.

Best careers in public administration 

While completing your degree and networking with professionals, it is also good to have specific career goals. Public administration has rewarding careers for experienced and new professionals. Here is a list of public sector careers:

  • City director.
  • Urban planning and development director.
  • Local transportation board.
  • Community health director.
  • Parks and recreation director.
  • Board of directors for education.
  • Police commissioner. 

There are positions within the public sector that pay just as well as the private sector. The below positions are examples MPA graduates can aspire to:

  • Program administrator – $40,000.
  • Purchasing manager – $53,000.
  • Government affairs executive – $100,000.
  • Director of volunteer services – $41,000.
  • Research executive – $100,000. 

Resources for MPA graduates 

There are organizations MPA graduates can seek assistance from in their pursuit of a great career in the public sector. The American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) is a membership association of almost 10,000 professionals in the United States, sponsoring conferences and providing professional services primarily to those who study the implementation of government policy, public administration and, to a lesser degree, programs of civil society.

Students should access the official site of the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration, which has helpful career tips, graduate programs, networking opportunities and a job board.

In addition, PublicSectorCareers.org is the job board and career information website that lets you filter jobs listings by degree level. It’s sponsored by NASPAA, the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) and the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM).

Lastly, those seeking federal employment should explore USAJobs.gov – the U.S. federal government’s official job listing and application system. The site includes a special section for the Pathways Programs for Students and Recent Graduates.

As a Ph.D. student in public policy and administration and a public sector employee, I have worked hard to find my place. I am still working toward the dream career of my choice. As an MPA graduate, there are unlimited possibilities out there for us to find rewarding work. Let us use the tools available and continue our pursuit toward fulfilling careers.

Author: Andrew R Vaz, M.S., M.P.A. is a doctoral student pursuing a doctorate in public policy and administration program at Walden University. He is a graduate of the Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Master of Public Administration double master’s program at Florida International University. He can be reached at [email protected]

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