For many people looking to work in local or state government, a bachelor’s degree is an important first step. However, they soon find out that to move into management positions, a master’s degree in public administration may be required or preferred by employers.
It doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive to get a quality, graduate-level education. Earning an affordable, online Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree can be entirely possible as long as you have access to the internet and a sincere desire to succeed.
Financial Aid and Flexibility Can Make an MPA Attainable
An online degree program can be an affordable, convenient option that can put an MPA degree in reach for many people. Many universities do not charge traditional fees for online students; instead, they simply bill for the credit hours, course by course. This can help students manage their overall costs.
In an online program, students often take one or two courses at a time. Some online programs offer accelerated courses, allowing motivated students to expedite degree completion. For instance, students can complete the accelerated, online MPA from Arkansas State University (A-State) in as few as 18 months.
A-State’s MPA program is also fully accredited through the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA). Students attending accredited programs can apply for federal financial aid to help pay for school, meaning that, if you are found eligible, some of your financial burden may be eased. Graduates whose post-MPA public service employment and loan repayment history meet certain criteria may also be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, potentially reducing the amount of student loans they must repay.
And, of course, the cost of the program is a major factor. According to the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of a master’s degree in public administration, public health, social work, political science and similar fields is $75,100. This is a hefty price tag. Yet affordable programs do exist. Tuition for A-State’s online MPA, for instance, costs only $11,916 in total.
Online coursework also offers flexibility, allowing you to complete assignments from home without worrying about student housing, childcare or other expenses associated with campus-based programs. Students can also continue working while earning their online degree, meaning they don’t have to give up years of income to advance their education. With lowered costs, a chance for financial aid and the added bonus of no commute, attaining an affordable master’s of public administration degree is not nearly as expensive as many think.
Administrator Jobs Become Possible With an MPA
As your education level increases, your employment opportunities may increase as well. Administrative posts in local governments such as assistant city managers, department heads, special district directors and county commissioners may require that job applicants hold a master’s degree in public administration or related area. For example, CareerOneStop, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, notes that most urban and regional planners have master’s degrees.
For those not necessarily looking at management openings, there are other jobs as well. Program analysts, chiefs of staff for politicians, policy analysts and grant writers are all jobs where an MPA becomes extremely attractive to recruiters. Given the large number of openings for those with MPAs, an affordable master’s of public administration degree can make good financial sense.
There is always a need for those who know the inner workings of public institutions. A bachelor’s degree is a start, but an online MPA can lead to even more responsibility, opportunities and the knowledge and skills needed to navigate institutional systems and serve the public effectively. With an affordable degree like A-State’s online Master of Public Administration, your choices in public sector employment can expand dramatically.
Learn more about the Arkansas State University online MPA program.