Is a Master in Public Administration Worth the Investment?

Is a Master in Public Administration Worth the Investment?

Is a Master in Public Administration Worth the Investment? banner

A Master in Public Administration (MPA) can be an excellent career choice for those looking to make a meaningful difference in their community. It is a highly rewarding and versatile field; positions in the public administration sector can range from working for a small-town mayor’s office to helping shape national policy as part of the civil service. Not only is the job professionally and personally gratifying, but it can also be a lucrative job choice.


A master’s degree in public administration can open up many exciting career opportunities. This diverse field of study focuses on helping prepare individuals to lead and manage within the public sector through adopting strategies and tactics to help promote efficiency, legibility, and democracy. Students gain the skills necessary to analyze and improve government structures locally and globally. Every day brings new challenges, such as adapting to the evolving political climate or tackling difficult ethical questions. Individuals with a keen interest in policy research, program evaluation, economics, or law should strongly consider pursuing an advanced degree in public administration.

Master in Public Administration Salary

The salary prospects for individuals holding a Master in Public Administration (MPA) degree can be quite promising. Graduates with an MPA often find themselves in various rewarding and influential positions within the public and nonprofit sectors. While salaries vary significantly based on location, experience, and the specific organization, MPA holders generally earn competitive compensation. Someone with a master’s in public administration salary averages at around $68,599, but as professionals gain experience and move into more senior roles, their earning potential increases substantially. Those in top-level positions such as city managers, public policy analysts, or directors of government agencies can earn well into six figures, with the potential for even higher salaries in some cases. Moreover, MPA professionals often find their work particularly fulfilling as they contribute to the betterment of society through their roles in public administration and policymaking.


Pursuing a master’s degree in public administration is an excellent choice for professionals looking to develop critical skills related to communication, relationship-building, program management, and strategic decision-making. This degree provides graduates with the chops to work in any executive branch of government, within the nonprofit sector, or within the business world. Through courses such as budgeting, economic analysis, and human resources management, students learn the critical practice of ensuring efficient and effective public services, which is vital for strengthening communities. Those who gain a master’s in public administration benefit from the following:

Wide-Ranging Career Options

When you earn your Master of Public Administration degree, you’ll have the unique opportunity to explore a wide range of career paths while making a real difference in people’s lives. This broad field offers MPA graduates a multitude of options to work in needed areas of our society, including settings and roles as diverse as: 

  • Social services
  • Disaster management
  • Local government departments
  • Policy analysis
  • Governmental advocacy
  • Project management
  • Public administration

With the proper skill set, you’ll be qualified for highly sought-after jobs and make an impact that you can be proud of. And let’s not forget all the additional career pathways you can access based on where your interests lead you—you may end up creating your own job title! If a more structured route is preferred, then the MPA program can provide insights into jobs such as city management or planning director, where your work will have a widely-impactful reach. An MPA degree allows you to challenge yourself beyond the expected and discover what’s possible.

Interesting Coursework

With coursework that covers financial management, organizational behavior, and policy analysis, a master’s in public administration will offer you an array of subject matter to explore. You’ll study land use planning, health policy, and how to create public initiatives while gaining a greater understanding of public sector organizations and private sector businesses. Prepare to sharpen your leadership skills and take an educational journey through topics ranging from law and regulation to communication. The Master of Public Administration offered at Johnson & Wales University includes classes such as:

  • Effective Leadership
  • Public Personnel Administration
  • Strategic Planning and Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations
  • Public Policy Analysis
  • Program Evaluation
  • And more!

Specific Undergraduate Degree Not Required

Earning a Master in Public Administration degree does not require a specific undergraduate degree – it just needs to be from an accredited college or university. You can start your MPA journey simply by having a relevant bachelor’s degree and being passionate about making a difference in the public service world. Plenty of different disciplines and subjects can provide the foundational knowledge you’ll need – from business and communications to psychology and environmental studies. This flexibility offers a lifeline for those with careers, whether someone already established in the public administration field or looking to switch over.

High Earning Potential

A masters in public administration can open the door to a wide range of career opportunities with excellent earning potential. Roles such as City Manager or Chief Financial Officer often require a graduate degree and can offer salaries far above the national average. A master’s degree gives you the knowledge and experience necessary to land higher-level roles and signifies that you have the skills, expertise, and ambition employers seek. Those who pursue an MPA may be eligible for opportunities that wouldn’t be available to them without specialized knowledge and qualifications. A master’s in public administration allows individuals to develop skills that could ultimately lead to greater financial rewards over their lifetime.


There are many challenges inherent to a master’s in public administration that aspiring students should be aware of before embarking on their journey, including the following:

Potential for a Demanding Career

It is essential to understand that the role of public administration can be very demanding due to the complexities of the field. As an administrator, you will use your critical thinking and problem-solving skills as you face difficult decisions while managing people and resources. There may also be tight deadlines or unexpected circumstances that put added pressure on administrators. By understanding potential stressors, those pursuing this career are better equipped to handle them comfortably, ensuring they can focus their time and energy on making meaningful changes in their community or organization.

Competitive Atmosphere

The field of public administration is an ever-evolving and fiercely competitive environment. It requires staying ahead of the curve regarding industry knowledge, understanding policies and regulations, and lobbying for change within the system. Successful professionals often come from ambitious backgrounds with a passion for their mission and the ability to successfully communicate their ideas. This ambition, coupled with strong critical thinking skills, will be instrumental in navigating such a highly competitive atmosphere. Public administrators should ensure they remain up-to-date on developments in the field by reading industry publications and attending professional workshops, which can provide them with valuable insight into public administration trends.

Rigorous Curriculum

Because of the breadth of careers that can accompany a public administration degree, the corresponding coursework requires mastery of many subjects. Public administration curriculum can include economics, finance, legal analysis, and political science, all of which deeply impact the delivery of services to citizens. Public administrators serve communities through policies, procedures, and regulations, making it a complex, multifaceted field. Consequently, its curriculum requires an ever-evolving blend of technical, research, and leadership skills to tackle the complex needs of contemporary society. The workload can be demanding for those studying in this field and requires in-depth preparation and comprehensive understanding. As such, aspiring public administrators must possess a solid resolve to persist amid lengthy periods of intensive study. Nevertheless, with dedication and unwavering enthusiasm for the field, students can expect to graduate as well-rounded members of society who are prepared to make a difference in their local communities and beyond.


Earning a master’s in public administration can open up many exciting and interesting career paths. This specialized degree is valued by employers and provides a unique insight into how public service agencies work. A master’s in public administration equips you with the necessary knowledge and skills to successfully manage the finances, infrastructure, legal obligations, and ethical responsibilities to lead various institutions in roles such as the following:

Medical Service Manager

Medical service managers are critical figures in the healthcare field who can ensure that patient care remains efficient, cost-effective, and beneficial for all involved parties. They are responsible for keeping operations running smoothly, managing staff and budgets, organizing data collection and analysis, ensuring compliance with laws and regulations, and overseeing quality programs. These dedicated professionals must be well-versed in healthcare policies and procedures to ensure the safety and satisfaction of their patients. In addition to these technical skills, they must also have excellent communication and customer service skills to foster an environment of trust between staff, patients, families, and other stakeholders. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) categorizes medical service managers as medical and health services managers. According to the BLS, medical service managers make a median salary of $104,830, with a projected job growth of 28%, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Executive Director

An executive director oversees the activities and operations of a business, nonprofit, or other organization. They work alongside a board of directors to develop policies and strategies that reflect the vision and values of the organization while being conscious of any external forces or regulations that may affect how they do business. The executive director leads a team of staff and can be held accountable to internal boards and outside funders or investors. Executive directors may be responsible for tasks such as budgeting, fundraising, managing staff, and strategy development. Depending on the type of organization and its size, they may also manage sub-departments such as finance, human resources, marketing, or public relations. Executive directors have a great deal of autonomy to ensure the organization runs efficiently and meets goals.

The BLS categorizes executive directors with all top executive positions. According to the BLS, executive directors can expect a median salary of $100,090, with a projected job growth of 6%, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Urban/Regional Planner

An urban/regional planner is a professional responsible for evaluating, assessing, and managing land-use activities in a specified area. They manage the development of urban, suburban, and rural communities while considering the environmental impact of that development. Everyday tasks include writing reports, preparing presentations, conducting community meetings, and conferring with stakeholders. Planners also develop plans for robust economic development, including solutions to address transportation problems or building projects. With sound foresight, planners help shape cities, regions, and towns into better places to live and work.

Urban and regional planners make a median pay of $79,540 per year, according to BLS statistics. They can expect a 4% job growth rate, which is about average across all occupations.

Government Property Inspector/Investigator

Government property inspectors and investigators work for various local and federal government agencies to help protect citizens from unsafe or inappropriate land use while ensuring that public infrastructure, municipal services, and other properties operated by the government are properly maintained and in good working order. They examine building sites and structures for physical features such as terrain, land stability, accessibility, drainage, property conditions, sewage system plan approval, and soil conditions to ensure that they comply with relevant regulations. This role involves inspecting for safety hazards, assessing potential damage risks, recommending repairs and upgrades when necessary, producing detailed reports about findings, and working with certified contractors to complete essential maintenance tasks. 

O*NET online estimates a median salary of $71,690 for government property inspectors and investigators as of 2021, with an average projected growth rate (4% to 7%) through 2031.

Civil Service

A civil service employee works for the government or a public institution. While the primary role of a civil service employee is to carry out and execute the policies, procedures, goals, and objectives set by either the governing body or institution for which they work, they may also provide helpful services to citizens. Civil service employees are active in many different areas, such as defense, health and human services, consumer affairs, financial management and oversight, social security and welfare, border protection and control, justice departments, law enforcement, transportation services, and more. They play an essential role in helping to protect people’s rights, keep society safe, and create infrastructure.

Because of the vast array of roles and employers of civil service workers, it isn’t easy to provide specific salary or job outlook projections. Broadly speaking, those working in federal civil service earn an average annual salary of $82,674; entry-level and lower-paying positions may make $38,000, while those at the highest earn $123,000. Those working at the state or local level can expect lower averages than these, depending on their location employment.

Policy Analyst

Policy analysts play an important role in deciphering complex government regulations, making recommendations on improving them, and ensuring that policies are properly implemented. They have a unique blend of knowledge of the political landscape, law, economics, and social systems combined with strong analytical skills. They use these abilities to study policy proposals in greater detail and determine the best solution for a particular issue. By staying informed of current trends, understanding the federal and state legislative processes, and exploring economic research studies and reports, policy analysts can identify political barriers and develop recommendations that move the public or private sector in a potentially more profitable direction.

According to Indeed, the average base pay for a policy analyst in the US is $80,350, with salary expectations majorly impacted by location. For example, the average reported salary for policy analysts in Phoenix, Arizona is $63,412 per year, while those in Portland, Oregon reported an average of $82,879.

Social and Community Services Manager

A social and community services manager oversees the execution of activities that relate to social change and the promotion of community well-being. They typically advocate for and coordinate initiatives to improve their local community while advising and supporting individuals in need. On a professional level, they must be able to communicate effectively with all members of their team, maintain cohesive relationships between diverse stakeholder groups, develop convincing fundraising appeals, guide team members through program assessments, and manage personnel resources such as salaries and benefits. Social and community services managers provide a critical role in many communities by contributing their essential knowledge, skillset, and experience to helping others in need.

The BLS estimates a median annual pay of $74,240 for social and community services managers, with projected job growth of 9 percent through 2031.


When you’re ready to take on the challenge of public administration, a Master of Public Administration from Johnson & Wales could get you started. This 100% online master’s degree program allows you to complete your coursework when it works for you, making it an ideal choice for busy professionals. For more information about completing your degree online, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].

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