Salary Outlook with a MPA Degree

Created by Henry Steele

By Henry Steele - July 15, 2018
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Earning a master of public administration or MPA degree with equip you with the public administration and management skills that are necessary to qualify for many upper level management positions in the public and nonprofit sectors. After you have earned your master’s degree in public administration, you will have a bright career ahead of you.

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But a common question before embarking on getting a master’s degree is how much salary will you earn? To understand what you can make, this article highlights several factors that influence your salary with an MPA degree:

  • Whether you are getting a bachelor’s or master’s degree
  • The type of public administration career you choose
  • How many years of work experience you have
  • Geographic location

After you have reviewed this information, you will have a good idea of the salary you can get with an MPA degree.

Level of Public Administration Degree

There is ample research that shows that people who earn a master’s degree earn more money over their lives. While it is possible to get a lower level position with a bachelor’s degree in public administration, you are sure to make more money and attain a hire job status with your MPA degree.

See also How to Find the Best Online MPA Degree

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that on average, professionals with a bachelor’s degree earn $56,000 per year, while those with a master’s degree earn $68,000. BLS also notes that some of the positions that you may work in with a public administration degree will have a higher salary with a master’s degree:

  • Social and community service managers: $50,000 bachelor’s, $65,000 master’s, $15,000 wage premium
  • Social workers: $40,000 bachelor’s, $50,000 master’s, $10,000 wage premium
  • Medical and health service managers: $70,000 bachelor’s, $90,000 master’s, $20,000 wage premium
  • Social and human service assistants: $37,000 bachelor’s, $50,000 master’s, $13,000 wage premium also notes a disparity in salaries in having a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in public administration. These are the salaries reported with a bachelor’s in public administration:

  • Executive assistant: $51,200
  • Contract administrator: $53,800
  • Administrative assistant: $44,900
  • Administrative services manager: $73,500
  • Case manager: $39,200
  • Computer systems analyst: $70,100

If you have your MPA degree, reports the following salaries:

  • Executive director: $72,700
  • Program manager: $52,000
  • Program coordinator: $43,100
  • Director of development: $66,700
  • HR director: $82,000
  • Operations manager: $60,900
  • HR manager: $67,600

Earning a master’s degree in public administration will generally result in higher wages for you over time compared to only a bachelor’s degree.

Types of Public Administration Careers

The type of career that you choose in public administration will affect your salary. Below are some of the most common career options in this field:

Budget Analyst

A budget analyst assists public and private organizations to properly organize their finances. Budget analysts are responsible for preparing reports and monitoring the spending of institutions. They provide detailed financial and budgetary advice to governments, universities, nonprofits and businesses on how to organize finances. They also prepare annual and special reports and provide advice to senior managers about budget proposals. Budget analysts also analyze data to determine what the benefits and costs are of various programs, and recommend levels of funding based upon research.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median salary for budget analysts in 2017 was $75,000, with the top 10% earning more than $113,000. Median wages for this occupation varied by industry:

  • Professional, scientific and technical services: $82,300
  • Federal government: $80,700
  • Local government: $70,500
  • Educational services: $66,600
  • State government: $64,400

City Manager

A city manager is responsible for the oversight of various departments in the city government. This can include accounting, budgeting, purchasing and many others. It is very important to have a high level of skill in financial management; city managers often are directly responsible for budget oversight. City managers may also need to determine the best ways that finances should be allocated and where costs can be reduced. They also may take complaints and suggestions to determine how city problems can be dealt with. reports the median salary for this position is $86,300, with a range between $50,000 and $160,000.

Financial Manager

A financial manager is responsible for developing and monitoring the budget for a department in a public or private organization. Financial managers are tasked with making proper financial forecasts for the department or agency they work in. Financial managers work with other managers and staff to establish future budgets for the department; keeps track of expenses that are ongoing to ensure they are not over budget; ask managers for clarification when expenses go over the budget; responsible for reporting financial status to superiors. reports the median salary for financial managers is $88,400, with a range between $48,000 and $120,000.

Work Experience

The amount of work experience you have will influence your salary in the public administration field. For example, a city manager will see a large difference in pay over their career:

  • A city manager with less than five years of experience has a salary of $69,000.
  • A city manager with five to 10 years of experience has a salary of $82,000.
  • A city manager with 10 to 20 years of experience has a salary of $96,000.
  • A city manager with more than 20 years of experience has a salary of $108,000.

A budget analyst has a salary of $52,000 with less than five years of experience; $61,000 with experience of five to 10 years; $64,000 with experience of 10 to 20 years; and a salary of $69,000 with more than 20 years of experience.

Geographic Location

The last major factor that can influence your salary with a master’s degree in public administration is where you live. According to, the average salary of a budget analyst was $57,600 in the US in 2018, but the salary can vary based upon the city you live in:

  • Arlington: +29%
  • Dallas: +20%
  • Washington: +13%
  • Philadelphia: +12%
  • Boston: +10%
  • Houston: +8%
  • Denver: +4%
  • New York City: -1%
  • Los Angeles: -3%
  • Huntsville: -4%

Also, the following cities are good possibilities for public administration jobs, outside of Washington DC:

  • Cape Canaveral FL: Many federal agencies are based in Florida, such as NASA, as well as agencies for customs, immigration and agriculture
  • El Paso TX: This city has government medical centers, the US military, including Fort Bliss, which is the 2nd largest military installation in the US.
  • Honolulu HI: This beautiful city and state is the home to many diplomatic and commercial agencies, including many military installations.
  • Colorado Springs CO: Many federal government agencies are based in Colorado Springs, especially the defense sector and the Air Force.

Getting your master’s in public administration degree is sure to give you many opportunities for a great career and a good salary.


Henry Steele
Managing Editor
Henry is Managing Editor of He is a seasoned business professional who regularly consults with local business's throughout Southern California. Henry pursued his undergrad in Business and Economics at the University of San Diego and gained valuable life changing experience through a unique internship upon graduation.

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