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How to Choose Which Area of Public Administration Is Right for You

If you’ve settled on a degree in Public Administration, you still have decisions to make. Schools that offer degrees in public administration often offer an array of specialties. The choice you make will depend largely on your career aspirations; so when it comes to how to choose which area of public administration is right for you, consider the following.

Whatever degree program you choose, you should ensure that the program is accredited. In the United States, the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration accredits institutions offering public administration degrees. In Europe, the European Association for Public Administration Accreditation accredits public administration programs.

Public Administration Defined

Public Administration addresses public policy problems and challenges by gathering and analyzing statistics, demographic data and input from community stakeholders. Public administrators work to determine what direction a department or service agency should take. Planners make similar decisions for cities and other populated areas. Although it’s possible to obtain an entry level job with a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree is typically required to move into higher level positions.

Which Degree Should You Earn?

Typically, public policy workers earn either a Master of Public Policy or a Master of Public Administration degree. It’s also possible, but less common, to earn a Master of Business Administration degree with additional coursework in public policy. Many schools combine the MPP and MPA into one degree. However, there are differences between the two. MPP degrees are geared toward individuals who intend to focus on researching and evaluating public policy in their careers. By contrast, MPA degrees emphasize a more hands on approach, with coursework in policy implementation and management


Planners determine the development of a populated area. Zoning for areas designated for industry, residential development and commercial establishments represent a major portion of a planner’s job. Public administration degrees provide planners with the background to consider public policy and the well being of their communities in making zoning and other decisions. Public administration programs specializing in planning include coursework in public policy, mapping and federal and local law.

Environmental Policy

One of the “hot” areas of public administration is environmental policy. Environmental policy relates to protecting residents from the detrimental effects of industrial pollution. Public administration programs specializing in environmental policy may include coursework in the sciences in addition to law and core courses in administration.

Public Health

As baby boomers age, they place larger demands on public health resources. Public Administration degree programs that specialize in public health consider how resources are allocated within a community. Public health officials also direct educational programs designed to improve public awareness concerning issues such as inoculations or potential health threats such as West Nile Virus.


Without revenue, no municipality or organization can function. Public administration programs that specialize in finance train graduates in determining where funds are allocated. Such programs include coursework in accounting, taxation and budgeting in addition to core courses in management and policy.

Criminal Justice

Public administration degrees can also provide training for officials that determine public safety and corrections policy. Public administration officials specializing in criminal justice work to develop policy to address substance abuse, gang activity and related challenges. Public administration programs specializing in criminal justice include courses in law and ethics.

For Further Reading

American College of Healthcare Executives: Which Degree Should I Pursue?
European Association for Public Administration Accreditation: Affiliation and Participation Public Administration Degree Program and Course Overviews
National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration: MPA and MPP FAQ
University of San Francisco: Online Master of Public Administration – Resources
What Is Public Health: Frequently Asked Questions
World Wide Learn: What Is Public Administration?


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