What Is a Public Administration Degree?

Taking the lead A group of executives havi...

Troels Graugaard / Getty Images

A public administration degree is an academic degree awarded to students who have completed a post-secondary college, university, or business school program with a focus on public administration. The study of public administration typically includes an examination of government organizations, policies, and programs. Students may also study government decision-making and the behavior of elected and non-elected officials.

Types of Public Administration Degrees

Students who major in public administration have a number of degree options available to them. The most popular degree options include:

  • Bachelor's Degree: A bachelor's degree in public administration, business administration, management, or political science can help graduates get entry-level positions in the public administration field. Bachelor's programs typically take four years of full-time study to complete. However, accelerated and part-time programs are also available.
  • Master's Degree: A master's degree with a focus on public administration, public policy, or a related topic is the next step for students who have earned a bachelor's degree. Students may choose to earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a focus on public administration or management or a Master of Public Administration (MPA), which is the equivalent of an MBA in the public administration field. Some students may also choose to pursue a Master of Public Policy (MPP), which focuses on analyzing and solving public policy issues. Master's, MBA, MPA, and MPP programs usually take two years to complete. One-year and part-time programs are also available.
  • Doctorate Degree: The two most advanced degrees in public administration are the Doctor of Public Administration and the Ph.D. in Public Administration. Both are research degrees with a focus on the practice of public administration. The amount of time it might take to complete an advanced research program varies depending on the school you choose.

Choosing a Public Administration Degree Program

There are many different schools that offer a public administration degree. When choosing a program, you should consider rankings (U.S. News and World Report offers a list of the best public affairs schools) as well as school size, faculty, curriculum, cost, location, and career placement.

The American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) is a professional association for public administration. They focus on advancing study and practice of public and non-profit administration. You can view various publications on the ASPA website and learn more about student opportunities and careers in public administration.

NASPAA Accreditation

Accreditation is always important when choosing a school. Accredited programs have been evaluated for quality. Many different agencies accredit schools. One organization, the NASPAA, focuses specifically on public administration accreditation. NASPAA's Commission on Peer Review and Accreditation is considered the authorized accreditor of graduate-level public administration programs in the United States. 

Public Administration Career Options

There are many different career paths available to students who have earned a public administration degree. The majority of grads take public service jobs. They may work in local government, state government, or federal government. Positions are also available in non-profit administration and management. Other job options include careers with independent or government agencies, such as the U.S. Small Business Administration, or positions with business and healthcare organizations. Another career path involves politics. Grads can run for political office or offer political support through lobbying and campaign management. Common job titles for public administration grads include:

  • Budget Analyst
  • City Manager
  • County Clerk
  • Legislative Support
  • Lobbyist
  • Non-profit Manager
  • Policy Analyst
  • Policy Consultant
  • Political Scientist
  • Program Manager
  • Social Services Administrator
  • Social Worker
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Schweitzer, Karen. "What Is a Public Administration Degree?" ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/earn-a-public-administration-degree-466407. Schweitzer, Karen. (2023, April 5). What Is a Public Administration Degree? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/earn-a-public-administration-degree-466407 Schweitzer, Karen. "What Is a Public Administration Degree?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/earn-a-public-administration-degree-466407 (accessed June 7, 2023).