Public Administration Careers and Salaries

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 2019 by U.S. News & World Report in several government-focused areas, including:

Local Government Management (#2)

Public Management and Leadership (#15)

Public Finance and Budgeting (#17)1

UNC MPA graduates are sought after for their well-rounded leadership skills and ability to integrate theory into practice. Online MPA graduates apply their expertise in fields like:

Career Spotlight:
Budget Analyst

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 2018, budget analysts made a median annual salary of $76,220.2 This field is expected to add 2,400 jobs from 2018 to 2028, an average growth rate of 4% (as fast as average).3

Comparing Federal, State, and Local Government Jobs

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 government employees 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:

  • Consulting
  • Human capital management
  • Human resource management
  • Program administration
  • Strategic analysis
  • Marketing management
  • Compliance
  • Legal counsel
  • Operations analysis
  • 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.

These skills include:

Career Spotlight:
Postsecondary Education Administrators

Postsecondary education administrators typically oversee faculty, students, and research at colleges and universities.

In 2018, the median annual salary for postsecondary education administrators was $94,340.5 Salaries can vary depending on several factors, such as whether the institution in question is public or private.

This profession is expected to add 13,500 jobs from 2018 to 2028, a growth rate of 7% (faster than 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 2018, the median annual pay for this profession was $114,800.7

From 2018 to 2028, this profession is expected to add 6,300 jobs, a growth rate of 8% (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.

International Relations Jobs for MPA Graduates

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:

  • NGO and nonprofit management
  • Government administration
  • Embassy and diplomacy work
  • Program and project management
  • International development
  • Intercultural communications and negotiation
  • Foreign and public policy
  • National security
Learn about the international relations concentration.

Career Spotlight:
Politcal Scientists

Political scientists work for organizations that study, inform, or advise on policy topics. They may work for nonprofits, private companies, or political institutions.

In 2018, the median annual pay for political scientists was $117,570.9

The field is projected to grow as fast as the average for all occupations (5%) from 2018 to 2028.10

Public Health Jobs for MPA Graduates

From policy implementation to education to evaluation, public health and public administration are deeply intertwined.

That means administrators who concentrate in public health are uniquely positioned to improve the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities.

These professionals can apply their skills in clinical, policy, and corporate environments, including:

  • Budget analysis
  • Health-care management
  • Hospital administration
  • Health services management
  • Health-care policy regulation
  • Government relations
  • Health and human services
  • Public safety
  • Emergency management and disaster response
Learn about the public health concentration

Career Spotlight:
Medical and Health Services Manager

The demand for medical and health services managers is expected to grow 18% from 2018 to 2028—much faster than the average across all occupations.11

The field is lucrative, too: In 2018 median pay for medical and health services managers was $99,730.12

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:

  • Emergency management
  • Budget and financial management
  • Professional communication
  • Human resource management
  • Community engagement

MPA@UNC enables military students to earn their degree while continuing their service.

Learn more about earning an MPA as a military service member or veteran.

UNC MPA Career Development Resources

MPA@UNC and the School of Government offer helpful career resources for online students and alumni.

All students—including those who are looking to move into or advance within one of the specialties outlined above—will benefit from:

  • Personalized career coaching services
  • Online and in-person networking events
  • Public administration-focused career news
Read more about career services for students.

Personalized Career Consulting

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.