Public administration concerns itself with what is in the public interest. It focuses on the actions that need to be taken to ensure that resources are distributed and used in the right way to have the greatest positive impact. The emphasis is on the management of resources, such as money, time, and people. Some argue that everything the government does is public administration. On the other hand, others say that only the government’s functioning executive aspects are public administration. Either way, it is agreed that the goal is to make sure that public policy is properly implemented and enforced. This has to be done in a systematic and detailed manner. It goes above and beyond reviewing regulations, rules, practices, and policies, therefore.
What is Public Administration?
Public administration, in a sense, encompasses political and social systems. It brings those elements together, while also working on the three main branches of the government. Public administrators play a vital role in creating new policies, working together with individuals and groups who influence the community. This is where it differs from private administration. A public administrator has an integral managerial role.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), all administrative services managers earned $90,050 per year on average as of May 2016 at the bachelor’s degree level. They have also projected that from 2014 to 2024, there will be an 8% rise in demand for their skills, which is on par with the national average. This will translate to some 23,500 new jobs.
However, there is a lot of political uncertainty at the moment. President Donald Trump, after 100 days in office, has made it clear that he wants to get rid of redundant or unnecessary posts within the government, leaving some 600 top executive positions vacant. Additionally, there is a lot of uncertainty in terms of the public policies the President wants to repeal and those that he wants to implement.
According to the BLS, the average annual salary for administrative services managers stood at $90,050 as per May 2016. The bottom 10% earned $49,279 or less and the top 10% earned $159,330 or less. The BLS has indicated that administrative services managers who work in:
- State and local government, excluding education and hospitals, earned an average annual salary of $90,890. 11% of administrative services managers worked here.
- Educational services; state, local, and private, earned an average annual salary of $86,820. 14% of administrative services managers worked here.
- Healthcare and social assistance, earned an average annual salary of $83,810. 13% of administrative services managers worked here.
Generally speaking, public administration focuses on government (and thereby healthcare and education as well) positions. However, it is common for government entities to bring in outside organizations, including nonprofit organizations, to complete certain tasks of to work in collaboration. This is highlighted in the following Payscale.com report, which shows common job titles and salaries as being:
- Executive Directors earned an annual salary of between $39,149 and $129,791.
- Program Managers, Non-Profit Organizations, earned an annual salary of between $37,328 and $74,884.
- Directors of Development, Non-Profit Organizations, earned an an annual salary of between $41,217 and $95,205.
- Operations Managers earned an an annual salary of between $38,343 and $86,094.
- Human Resources (HR) Directors earned an annual salary of between $54,320 and $119,568.
- Program Coordinators, Non-Profit Organizations, earned an annual salary of between $33,973 and $57,812.
- Human Resources (HR) Managers earned an annual salary of between $42,361 and $97,444.
Geographical location is a determining factor in terms of how much someone can earn. That being said, it is important to understand that areas with relatively higher salaries also often have higher costs of living.
According to the BLS, the top 5 states to work in public administration are:
- New Jersey, with an average annual salary of $130,400.
- New York, with an average annual salary of $128,030.
- Delaware, with an average annual salary of $113,300.
- Rhode Island, with an average annual salary of $112,660.
- Maryland, with an average annual salary of $112,450.
Meanwhile, Payscale.com also looked at geographical areas. This showed that those working in:
New York, New York, earned an average annual salary of $69,791.
Washington, DC, earned an average annual salary of $70,478.
Atlanta, Georgia, earned an average annual salary of $60,635.
Chicago, Illinois, earned an average annual salary of $66,843.
Seattle, Washington, earned an average annual salary of $67,919.
Los Angeles, California, earned an average annual salary of $75,724.
Dallas, Texas, earned an average annual salary of $74,130.
What is perhaps of greater importance when it comes to potential salary, is the company that someone works for. According to the Payscale.com report, which, as stated earlier, demonstrates public administrators can work both inside and outside government, those working for:
- Booz, Allen, and Hamilton earned an average annual salary of $70,000.
- The U.S. Air Force (USAF) earned an average annual salary of $85,000.
- The American Red Cross earned an average annual salary of $55,387.
- Columbia University earned an average annual salary of $71,216.
- Mount Sinai Medical Center earned an average annual salary of $80,205.
- Kaiser Permanente earned an average annual salary of $85,500.
- State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany earned an average annual salary of $65,216.
- Centene Corporation earned an average annual salary of $49,637.
- Indiana University (IU), Bloomington, earned an average annual salary of $67,750.
- University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) earned an average annual salary of $69,175.
- Deloitte Consulting LLP earned an average annual salary of $151,974.
- University of Chicago earned an average annual salary of $60,266.
- Mount Sinai Hospital earned an average annual salary of $59,997.
- University Of Arkansas Medical Sciences earned an average annual salary of $43,997.
- New York University (NYU) earned an average annual salary of $83,250.
- Case Western Reserve University earned an average annual salary of $32,978.
- New York Presbyterian Hospital earned an average annual salary of $110,000.
- International Business Machines (IBM) Corp. earned an average annual salary of $125,000.
- Aecom Corporation earned an average annual salary of $66,300.
- University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) earned an average annual salary of $48,000.
- United Way earned an average annual salary of $48,000.
- Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) earned an average annual salary of $57,133.
- Entergy Corp. earned an average annual salary of $84,507.
- NYU Medical Center earned an average annual salary of $75,000.
- Long Island University earned an average annual salary of $58,782.
- The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation (BNY Mellon) earned an average annual salary of $53,429.
- University of Washington (UW) earned an average annual salary of $57,000.
- USI Insurance Services Corp. earned an average annual salary of $86,334.
- Nova Southeastern University earned an average annual salary of $76,302.
- State of New Jersey (NJ) earned an average annual salary of $66,000.
To gain a lucrative career in the field of public administration, you will need a good education, and this starts with a bachelor’s degree. Fortunately, it studying has now become more convenient because many colleges and universities now offer certain degree programs online. One example of a bachelor’s degree in public administration is offered by Southern New Hampshire University. This degree, which is available online, includes the following courses in its curriculum:
- Public Speaking
- Introduction to Sociology
- Introduction to Community Economic Development
- Social Issues and Economic Policies
- Public Administration
- Public Administrative Ethics and Theory
- Municipal Government Operations
- Public Fiscal Management
- Disaster Recovery and Response
- American Politics
- American State and Local Government
- Social Science Research Methods
- Sociology of Social Problems
- Sustainable Communities
- Environmental Issues
- Energy and Society
To really advance your career, you should consider completing a master’s or MBA degree in public administration. This will give you the opportunity to gain advanced skills and knowledge in your field, and set yourself apart from the rest of the crowd. As with bachelor’s degrees, many master’s programs are now also offered online, which makes it easier than ever to complete a degree without having to completely stop working.
A very highly ranked degree is the Master in Public Administration offered by the Harvard Kennedy School, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Each school is entitled to set its own admission requirements. However, these are usually quite similar across the board due to the fact that these requirements demonstrate whether or not someone has the academic capacity to complete the program at the graduate degree level. The admissions requirements for the Harvard Kennedy School include:
- A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
- Official transcripts
- Three years full time professional work experience in the public, private, or nonprofit sectors
- Prerequisite courses
- TOEFL/IELTS for non-native English speakers
The GMAT/GRE is not required for this particular degree. Many other schools do have that requirement, as well as demanding a minimum GPA.
Schools are allowed to specify the curriculum for a particular degree program. This is why it is very important to study with an accredited university, as this guarantees prospective employers that your degree included courses that meet the minimum requirements for the profession.
The Harvard Kennedy School offers a very flexible curriculum, so that students can complete a degree that suits their own personal and professional goals, as well as their academic interests. As such, they can choose a policy area of concentration that they are interested in, completing two elective courses in that concentration. Furthermore, they must complete four credits in each of the following areas:
- Economics and Quantitative Analysis
- Management and Leadership
- Political Thought and Institutions
It is common for students at the Harvard Kennedy School to complete concurrent degrees, focusing particularly on medicine or law. This means graduates often complete two degrees, in a much shorter period of time.
Completing higher education, particularly to master’s degree standard, is very expensive. Luckily, colleges and universities will usually be able to signpost you to financial aid, and they may also have scholarships and grants available that you can apply for. At the same time, there are a number of external scholarships that you may want to consider. These include the:
- Herbert Roback Scholarship, to the value of $7,500.
- University of Alaska’s Anchorage American Society of Public Administration Scholarship, to the value of $250 per academic year.
- Oregon Chapter Public Works Association Michael Lindberg Scholarship, to the value of $2,000.
- Alfred M. Pelham Scholarship Endowment Fund, to the value of $500.
- Harry S. Truman Scholarship Program, providing students with the opportunity to complete government internships and even employment.
- George A. Nielsen Public Investor Scholarship, to the value of $2,500.
- American University Scholarships, including the Anita F. Alpern Scholarship Fund, the Bernard H. Ross Public Administration Scholarship, and the Susan Dweck Scholarship, each to the value of $2,000.
- Daniel B. Goldberg Scholarship, to the value of $10,000.
- Minorities in Government Finance Scholarship, to the value of $5,000.
- Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship, to the value of $40,000.
Applying for a scholarship usually means that you have to meet certain requirements. These include studying at a certain school, taking on a certain concentration, aiming to work in a certain field, demonstrating financial need, holding a minimum GPA, belonging to a certain minority group, being a member of a professional organization, or being of a certain gender.
It is not really required to become certified in the field of public administration, but it is certainly advisable. That said, completing certification does require a further investment of time and money, and you often have to maintain certification through continuous education credits. Nevertheless, a certification is considered to be a worthy investment because it opens new career doors. Some certifications that you may want to consider in the field of public administration are:
- Certified Administrative Professional (CAP)
- Certified Public Administrator
- Professional Certificate in Governance
- Certified Public Manager
- Professional Administrator Certification
It is recommended that you become a member of the appropriate professional organizations as soon as you decide to study towards a public administration degree, even at bachelor’s level. This is because professional associations and organizations often offer scholarships and grants that you could then become eligible for. Also, by being a member of associations, you will always be at the forefront of new developments within your field, ensuring your skills and knowledge are always up to date. Furthermore, you may be able to complete certifications and continuous education credits. Finally, it allows you to build a professional network that will serve to further career.
Some of the associations in the field of public administration you may want to consider becoming a member of are the:
- American Society for Public Administration
- Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management
- Alliance for Nonprofit Management
- National Conference of Minority Public Administrators
- International City/County Management Association
- Occupational Outlook Handbook – Administrative Services Managers. (2016, May). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/administrative-services-managers.htm
- Master of Public Administration (MPA) Degree Average Salary. (2017, Apr. 22). Retrieved from http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Degree=Master_of_Public_Administration_(MPA)/Salary
- BA in Public Administration. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.snhu.edu/online-degrees/bachelors/ba-in-public-administration
- Master in Public Administration. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.hks.harvard.edu/degrees/masters/mpa