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5 Jobs for MPA Graduates

Earning your Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree can open up many career opportunities in government as well as non-governmental and non-profit organizations. Tailored study of the various roles and specializations of administrative positions can help you pursue your desired career.

With the convenience of Arkansas State University’s online MPA programs, degree candidates can apply what they learn immediately to their current jobs. The combination of education and practical experience provided by such programs can thoroughly prepare graduates for a number of upper-level jobs in a variety of fields. Here are five examples of the many diverse, rewarding career options available to MPA graduates:

1. Local Law Enforcement Administrators

An administrative position in law enforcement can be a good career for those with an MPA. On the local level, public administrators such as police chiefs, sheriffs and police commissioners have many important responsibilities. These responsibilities include anything from managing daily operations to public relations and communications.

Law enforcement administrators set standards for their workforce and hold their officers and staff accountable for meeting those standards and upholding goals set forth by the agency. Police chiefs and commissioners set and enforce policy that upholds the law and maintains their community’s well-being. At the same time, they have to make sure that policy reflects the values and beliefs of the community they serve.

Salaries in local law enforcement administration vary by size of community and particular administrative position. For instance, Indeed reports the average base salary for a chief of police to be $89,146 per year as of April 2022. Yet, according to the San Francisco Standard, the base salary, additional compensation and benefits for San Francisco’s police chief totaled nearly $475,000 in 2020.

2. Federal Law Enforcement Administrators

Similar to local law enforcement, public administrators play an important role in federal law enforcement agencies, overseeing and monitoring everything from policy implementation to budgeting. Between the many departments of federal law enforcement, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security, the federal government employs a large number of professionals with MPA degrees.

Pay is based on federal pay scales, being the Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) pay scale and the General Schedule (GS). Top-level supervisory roles are generally paid within the GS-13 to GS-15 classifications. According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, base salaries at these levels range from roughly $81,000 to $147,000 as of January 2022. Yet additional locality pay, premium pay and law enforcement availability pay (LEAP) can add substantially to these figures.

3. City Manager

One of the most common applications of public administration is in local government — the city manager being a good example. A city manager deals with all aspects of city governance, from budgeting to coordinating and overseeing all departments and their respective administrators. The city manager ensures that all legislation is put into effect appropriately. April 2022 data from ZipRecruiter shows the average annual salary of city managers to be about $93,000.

4. Community Development Director

An important thing to realize about public administration is that it is part of most any public sector field. Even those who study urban or community planning and development can benefit by earning an MPA. This job entails designing and executing zoning and development plans within a community, monitoring building and rule enforcement and working in collaboration with other branches of city government and law enforcement.

The working knowledge of finances, public relations, leadership and organizational management developed through coursework and fieldwork in an MPA program are essential to being an effective community development director. ZipRecruiter reports salaries in the field, as of April 2022, range from $39,000 on the low end to over $120,000 for those with advanced education and experience.

5. Executive Director of a Non-profit Organization

Beyond public sector jobs, many public administrators pursue meaningful careers in the non-profit world. The executive director of a non-profit oversees all organizational departments, manages daily operations, monitors all financial matters, ensures the organization’s actions and activities support its mission and principles and acts as liaison to the board of directors. This is analogous to any top-level administrator, yet, non-profit directors must place special emphasis on fundraising and public relations to keep the organization sustainable and effective.

ZipRecruiter estimates average pay for non-profit executive directors in 2022 to be roughly $70,500, yet salaries range upwards of $145,000 for the highest earning professionals.

These are just a few examples of career options for MPA graduates. Most every organization needs administrators at various departmental levels well versed in organizational theory, management techniques, budget and finance practice, policy creation and implementation, general operations and every other aspect of effective public administration. Beyond giving you the credentials necessary to pursue many careers in public administration, earning your MPA can help you be effective and succeed in this rewarding field.

Learn more about Arkansas State University’s Public Administration Public Management track and Non-Profit Management track.

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