What Can You Do With a Master’s in Public Administration?
Professionals who have earned a master’s degree in public administration (MPA) play crucial roles at local, national, and international levels.
The MPA is a broad-based, versatile leadership degree. While many may understand that an MPA will help boost their career in areas like government and nonprofit, they may not fully grasp how they can apply this degree to careers and positions both within and beyond the public sector.
UNC MPA graduates are working in leadership positions across the public sector including government, the military, and nonprofit organizations. They also go on to hold positions in private-sector environments such as consulting, financial management, corporate social responsibility, and community engagement.
Here are just a few examples of fields where MPA graduates can apply their skills:
What is Public Administration?
Learn more about the important role public administrators play in their communities.
Government and Public Sector Jobs for MPA Graduates
MPA@UNC students complete a curriculum that positions them for success as administrators in federal, state, or local government agencies, where they can influence policy, oversee agencies, or analyze efficiencies. Our graduates learn to think strategically, act with integrity, and serve with commitment to improve their communities and the government organizations for which they work.
Our faculty members, many of whom advise top public officials at all levels of government, bring highly relevant expertise to the classroom. UNC’s MPA program has been ranked among the best in the nation in 2022 by U.S. News & World Report in several government-focused areas, including:
Budget analysts help governments structure, allocate, and organize their finances. They determine the cost-effectiveness of different initiatives, assess budget proposals, and help institution leaders and legislators determine how funds should be leveraged and distributed.
In 2020, budget analysts made a median annual salary of $78,970.2 This field is expected to add 2,500 jobs from 2020 to 2030.3
Comparing Federal, State, and Local Governments
Local government employees typically deal with issues, programs, and operations that affect a specific town, city, or district (e.g., parks and recreation management, housing, transportation, waste management, county or city leadership, and community and economic development). UNC’s MPA program offers students a strong grounding in this area, allowing them to study the different divisions of government to learn how they individually and collaboratively impact their communities.
Local government jobs span various departments and issues, including policy analysis, budgeting and finance, community relations, strategic planning, and city/county management. Explore local government education at UNC.
State government employees work on programs and policies that affect state citizens, visitors, and those who want to conduct business within a given state. They shape education, state budgets, economic development, health-care administration, emergency management, communications, IT efficiencies, and many other critical areas.
Federal governmentemployees address issues of national importance, such as border security, international relations, transportation, tax and budgeting, national defense, environmental protection, public safety and health, and government accountability—just to name a few.
“One of the strong points of MPA@UNC is the fact that the professors are actually working in the real world, not strictly in academia. Their real-life experiences are valuable in shaping our education to be more useful and helpful.”
Kiia Owens Child Support Specialist, Randolph County Government Class of 2016
Private Sector vs. Public Sector
While many prospective students associate an MPA degree exclusively with public sector careers, the degree can also benefit those looking for positions in organizations where the private sector and public sector intersect.
Many students enhance their expertise in public-private partnerships or pursue private-sector jobs that directly or indirectly collaborate with government or the community to meet their business goals.
With their heavy focus on leadership and organizational efficiency, the skills students develop through MPA@UNC can be directly applied within a wide range of private sector careers, such as:
Human capital management
Human resource management
Corporate social responsibility
Public affairs and community engagement
Nonprofit Jobs for MPA Graduates
There are more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations4 in the United States currently.
Increasingly, these organizations need leaders who understand the specific budgetary, managerial, and legal processes to take on leadership roles in nonprofit organizations.
MPA@UNC offers highly specialized training for aspiring nonprofit leaders with a concentration uniquely designed to build real-world nonprofit management skills.
Career Spotlight: Postsecondary Education Administrators
Postsecondary education administrators typically oversee faculty, students, and research at colleges and universities.
In 2020, the median annual salary for postsecondary education administrators was $97,500.5 Salaries can vary depending on several factors, such as whether the institution in question is public or private.
This profession is expected to add 13,400 jobs from 2020 to 2030, a growth rate of 8% (as fast as average).6
Career Spotlight: Fundraising Managers
Fundraising managers design, implement, and supervise campaigns and initiatives that help secure donations for their organization. These professionals play an important role in nonprofits and similar organizations that rely heavily on donations and grants.
In 2020, the median annual pay for this profession was $118,430.7
From 2020 to 2030, this profession is expected to add 11,300 jobs, a growth rate of 13% (faster than average).8
Discover the Next Level of Public Service
Request information to learn how our online MPA program can help you advance your career and go after new opportunities.
Many administrators want to know how they can advance the public good on an international level, too.
Fortunately, MPA students develop skills and knowledge that empower them to serve global communities as well as domestic ones.
The most effective international administrators possess a combination of subject matter expertise, such as law and foreign policy, and functional abilities in areas like project and program management.
“This MPA is valuable in that it really has helped prepare me for anything that comes my way in this constantly changing space.”
Lorrie Fair Allen Program Director, Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project Class of 2018
In partnership with the American University School of International Studies, MPA@UNC offers an international relations concentration that prepares students for careers in areas such as:
Career Spotlight: Medical and Health Services Manager
The demand for medical and health services managers is expected to grow 32% from 2020 to 2030—much faster than the average across all occupations.11
The field is lucrative, too: In 2020 median pay for medical and health services managers was $104,280.12
Military Jobs for MPA Graduates
An MPA degree can be a powerful career accelerator for military service members—both those who wish to advance in the military and those who wish to transition out—and veterans.
Through their MPA program, military students can build on the leadership skills and expertise they’ve accrued as service members and learn more about topics that will position them for military growth or a transition into civilian roles:
Budget and financial management
Human resource management
MPA@UNC enables military students to earn their degree while continuing their service.
MPA@UNC students have the opportunity to partner with a dedicated career services consultant. Your consultant provides one-on-one coaching sessions, goal setting, and path identification.
Through a series of personalized sessions, we help students navigate every phase of their career, handle transitions, continue their professional development, and create a roadmap for success.
These sessions focus on:
Planning professional development and goal setting
Crafting résumés and cover letters
Strengthening interviewing and networking skills
Developing job search strategies
Negotiating job offers and opportunities
Please contact Student Success to schedule your appointment.
Attend Valuable Networking Events
The School of Government hosts and sponsors a variety of career, alumni, and professional networking events throughout the academic year, which MPA@UNC students are encouraged to attend.
These events focus on:
Managing career transitions
Developing a professional brand
Creating your professional development plan
Effectively using online resources
Developing a successful job search strategy
Utilize Other Career Management Tools
To help online MPA students stay connected to the career information and resources available, career management updates from the School of Government will be posted in the virtual Career Services Office.
Plan for the Career That Inspires You
Request information today to learn how MPA@UNC can help you design the career path you’ve been imagining—or identify one that suits your goals and interests.