Have You Considered a Career in Public Administration?

What personal qualities have you discovered and honed during your military career?  If stamina, perseverance, and resourcefulness are among the attributes you can claim, chances are you’d be an ideal candidate for a career in Public Administration. There’s always a need for mission-driven leaders who can unite people, face challenges head-on, and get meaningful results on a limited the budget.

The many directions you can take a degree or certificate in Public Administration include international development, public management, health management, crisis management, nonprofit management, labor relations, policy analysis, policy making, and more. You could even chart a long-term plan to run for public office.

If you aren’t interested in working for the government, the non-profit sector offers a surprising number of rewarding career opportunities, and the pay is probably better than you think.  According to the most recent available data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were more than 12.4 million jobs in nonprofit organizations in 2017. That amounted to 10.2 percent of total U.S. private sector employment. Though some people might lead you to believe you’ll have to choose between making a difference and making a living, that’s generally not the case. A 2019 Study by Johns Hopkins University, documents the large percentage of non-profits that offer higher wages than for-profits operating in the same field.

If your spirit is more entrepreneurial, and you have a vision for helping others, you can work toward starting your own nonprofit. If you value independence, you can use your education to become a consultant or independent contractor.

As with any career, your level of success will depend on your level of dedication, drive, and talent. A masters degree in Public Administration (MPA) will unlock more doors than a bachelors degree or a certificate.  As with any graduate program, going for your MPA will mean you’ll need to specialize and strive to develop solid expertise in that chosen area.

Since the chosen paths for an MPA vary wildly, there is no “one size fits all” starting salary.  According to valuecolleges.com, an average MPA salary is around $68,000 per year, though it can be much higher or lower depending on the area of specialization and level of experience. (By comparison, the average income for a bachelor’s in public administration is around $50,000 per year.)

If Public Administration seems like the right general direction for you, there are many military-friendly programs including MPA programs at Yellow Ribbon Schools. This complete list of MPA programs by state is a good place to start. It provides links to the university websites which offer detailed information about each program. Different programs offer different areas of specialization.

If you’re still in active duty and want to re-enter civilian life with the advantage of a degree or certificate, you can choose an online program that will accommodate your schedule, location, travel, and deployments. Most online MPAs can be completed within two years.

There are lots of scholarships for MPA programs available. Here are some of the top MPA scholarships in 2020.

Life after military service will be as dull or as exciting as the choices you make. Finding a civilian career that continues to call upon some of the skills you honed serving your country is likely to keep you engaged, relevant, valuable, and making progress throughout the chapters of your life that follow. Whatever your specialty, your career in Public Administration can involve confronting important problems and working to solve them. Given your military service, you’re at a natural advantage to succeed.