Is a Public Administration Degree for You?

People who wish to pursue a degree in public administration must possess analytical, quantitative, organizational and communication skills. If you are interested in the socioeconomic, political and ethical environments in which businesses and governments operate, then a public administration degree may be the right fit for you. Collaborative work with peers is a large component of the public administration program, as it fosters students' abilities to work in a team for a common goal. Furthermore, students entering a public administration program should anticipate extensive writing assignments, as well as in-depth mathematical analyses of different aspects of business. While earning a bachelor's degree in public administration, students will also learn about conflict resolution and interpersonal relations.

Advice for Earning Your Public Administration Degree Online

Online public administration programs offer students the opportunity to complete degree requirements on their own time. Though online programs offer the same classes as campus-based ones, some students may find online course work difficult, as it requires self-motivation and independence. But regardless of the medium used to access classes, students are strongly encouraged to make sure their schools of interest are accredited. Accredited institutions are held to strict standards of education; as a result, they are accepted by employers. You can check the U.S. Department of Education's Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs to determine whether your college or university is accredited.

Required Courses

Because public administration encompasses such a wide array of areas, students within the public administration degree program take classes from several different academic departments. As a public administration student, you can expect to take courses in humanities, mathematics, history and political science. You will learn to master working with basic mathematical procedures, practice working with several individuals to solve difficult problems and construct written explanations of complex events. Some classes require public administration degree students to take course work in American government, public policy, sociology, business administration, economics, ethics, statistics and budgeting. Public administration students should expect to engage in extensive group work during many of their classes as well.

Common Career Paths

Public administration degrees lead to jobs within the governmental and nonprofit sectors. As cities and governments grow, skilled professionals with bachelor's degrees in public administration are needed to help manage programs. Common public administration positions include (but are not limited to):

  • Parole Officer: Parole officers are responsible for ensuring that offenders who are newly released from prison are closely monitored and are abiding by court rules and orders. Parole officers are also responsible for ensuring that their assigned ex-convict has acceptable housing arrangements and employment opportunities. To become a parole officer, you must have a bachelor's degree in public administration, social work, criminal justice or a related field. In addition to a training program provided by the state or federal government, applicants must also be at least 21 years old but must be no older than 37 if working at the federal level, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment opportunities for correctional treatment specialists are expected to increase 18 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS. Their median annual salary was $47,200 in 2010.
  • Policy Analyst: Policy analysts use a variety of methods including surveys, cost-benefit analysis and focus groups to determine the necessary approach to improving government policies. Anyone pursuing this career should work to obtain an advanced degree in public administration, public policy, economics, political science or another related subject. Salaries vary based on degree level and employer.
  • Urban and Regional Planners: Urban and regional planners create strategic plans that effectively make use of land, space and other resources. Specific job duties vary depending upon location; however, all urban and regional planners are responsible for helping local and governmental officials come up with solutions to issues pertaining to residential, commercial, institutional and recreational facilities. This may include formulating public and private zoning regulations, and recommending the best locations for new schools and roads. Planners must always consider short-term and long-term effects such changes will have on a community, as well as the economic and environmental issues that may arise. Most entry positions in this field require a master's degree in urban or regional planning. Employment of urban and regional planners is projected to expand 16 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their median annual salary was $63,040 in 2010.
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