Online Master’s Degree in Public Administration

Public administration focuses on the planning and implementation of public programs and government policy. An online masters degree in public administration is designed to equip students with the general knowledge base and strong analytical and decision-making skills needed to excel in this field. Graduates of this type of program may find opportunities with a variety of local, state, and federal government agencies, ranging from healthcare to education. Jobs for public administration majors may also be available with nonprofit organizations.

Most online masters programs in public administration are designed to be completed in one to three years. Of course, the number of required courses, any applicable transfer credits, and the student’s level of enrollment throughout the program can all influence time to completion. Some schools may offer credit for past life experience for their adult students to help accelerate the degree path. However, it is important to verify the school’s specific policy, since not all institutions offer this type of credit.

Classes for an Online Masters Degree in Public Administration

Individuals enrolled in an accredited online masters degree program should expect to complete the same type of courses as their on-campus counterparts. In the field of public administration this often includes topics in leadership, finance, policy and law, and research fundamentals. Depending on the specific school, students may also choose an area of specialization, such as healthcare management, emergency services, or criminal justice. Some course examples from actual masters degree curriculums include:

  • Applied Research in Legal Studies
  • Leadership in the Public Sector
  • Public Policy and Health Administration
  • Applied Managerial Statistics
  • Managerial Decision-Making

Students completing an online masters degree program in public administration may also need to complete a thesis or capstone research project. This is designed to demonstrate the student’s ability to synthesize the knowledge they have gained through the degree program into real-world applications. While the majority of this work will be completed as independently, students will receive periodic guidance and assistance from a faculty advisor as well.

A Career as a Graduate with an Online Masters Degree in Public Administration

Individuals who earn their public administration masters degree online are equipped with the knowledge and skills to pursue management-level positions with a variety of government agencies as well as nonprofit organizations. With a number of potential specializations, public administration graduates may work in areas such as healthcare, education, criminal justice, or emergency services, to name a few options. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for social and community service managers is expected to grow by 27% from 2010 to 2020. This is nearly double the anticipated growth for all occupations during this time frame. The majority of individuals working in this capacity are employed by local and state government. The median annual wage for social and community service managers in 2010 was $57,950. Those who worked for local government agencies earned a median wage of $69,670. The job outlook for medical and health services managers is also strong, with 22% growth expected over the projection period. The median reported salary for this occupation was $84,270 in 2010. It is important to note, however, that job openings and actual salaries will differ based on education, past work experience, the specific type of employer, and geographical location.

Positions in this field are available to candidates who hold only bachelor’s degrees. However, in order to move into management positions, a masters degree is preferred. Since a wide variety of fully online masters degree programs are available, working adults now have the flexibility to continue working while pursuing further education. This degree may also be a good option for individuals who are interested in shifting their career path.


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