Many people aspire to have a career in which they can make a difference in the lives of others. In the public administration field, it actually comes with the territory.
What Is Public Administration?
Public administration is a division of political science concerning the structure and function of all government agencies — federal, state and local. The core mission of public administration is to “help design administrative procedures that implement public policies in an efficient, effective and fair manner,” writes William Hatcher, Ph.D. for PA Times, a publication of the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA).
Every single day, just by doing their jobs, public sector employees interact with and directly impact private citizens in roles such as mayor, city planner, governor, utilities manager, nonprofit director, law enforcement agent or any other similar position. These workers may manage a city budget, create and implement government policy and legislation, analyze data to determine public needs, or even teach English at a local high school.
Public Administration Then and Now
The public sector got hit hard by the Great Recession that lasted December 2007 through June 2009. Layoffs and hiring freezes were common at that time, and more than 580,000 total government positions were cut, according to the Hamilton Project, an economic policy initiative at the Brookings Institution.
Fortunately, the economy has slowly rebounded since then. Many state and local government agencies have continually reported better-than-expected revenue as well as increases in hiring. According to a 2015 survey by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence (SLGE), 54 percent of respondents reported hiring more employees than they did in 2012. And government hiring — on all levels — is expected to increase by 1.4 million over the next decade, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. Public sector jobs that will likely see the biggest gains through 2022 include compliance officers, government programs eligibility interviewers, construction and building inspectors, municipal and license clerks, tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This is all welcome news for potential public sector employees and students considering a Master of Public Administration.
How an MPA Factors In
Dr. Ben Tafoya, director of the Division of Local Mandates for the Office of the Massachusetts State Auditor and a PA Times contributor, defined the specific skills necessary for success in the public sector. On an introductory level, he says, public administrators must know how to do the following:
- Collect data.
- Make decisions.
- Communicate with others and work in a collaborative fashion.
Critical-thinking skills are also highly valued in public administration, Dr. Tafoya says, as well as the ability to apply theory and research to real-world problems. Public administrators should know management techniques and practices, the grand theories of the discipline, and how to apply them to their analysis of a program, policy or situation, he says.
These skills and more can be gained from an online MPA program, and they would be highly valued in any public sector career. Students in Arkansas State University’s online MPA program get real-world training through internships, and the program includes in-depth study of politics, U.S. government, economic issues, ethics, grant writing, and public budgeting and finance.
A-State’s 36-credit-hour online MPA program includes core studies that will help students achieve the following learning outcomes:
- Develop the knowledge and skills for problem analysis, successful teamwork and widespread solutions.
- Use clear communication and effective management techniques to build communities and social infrastructures.
- Integrate theory and practice through authentic, performance-based field activities.
The public management track explores even more government principles and practices as well as the structures and patterns of behavior in public sector organizations. The nonprofit track includes coursework in nonprofit management, fundraising/financial management, planning and marketing.
A-State’s MPA program is completely online and accredited through the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA). Each course is seven weeks long, and students can earn an MPA in as few as 18 months by taking two courses at a time. Enroll today and learn how to become an effective public administrator who can make a world of difference.