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What Does a Public Administrator Do?

For many people, a career isn’t just about financial gain. It’s also an opportunity to make a difference in our communities and improve the lives of those around us.

While there are many different ways to make a positive impact through your work, pursuing a career in public administration offers a particularly rewarding pathway for civic-minded professionals. But what exactly does a public administrator do, and how can you become one?

What Is a Public Administrator?

“A public administrator manages and oversees government programs and services,” explains Dr. Wendy Eaton, chair of Franklin University’s Master of Public Administration program. “They work closely with elected officials and community leaders to develop and implement public policy at the local, state and federal level.”

Public administration jobs are incredibly varied. Professionals in this field can work in areas including economic development, public transportation, housing, law enforcement, criminal justice and emergency management, among others. The Brookings Institution estimates that over 15% of United States employees hold public sector roles at the federal, state and local levels, which means that the number and range of these positions is vast. At their core, however, the people who hold these positions share a common goal of improving the world around them. 

How Do You Become a Public Administrator?

It’s possible to enter public administration through a number of different routes, which will vary depending on the specific position you’re seeking. Many entry-level jobs in public administration are open to early-career professionals with an undergraduate degree. While majors in public administration, business administration, or a field like public health may be helpful, graduates with a wide range of backgrounds have successful careers in the field. 

If you are interested in leadership positions, working to set an agency or organization’s priorities or helping to improve service delivery, you may find that earning a master’s degree opens up more possibilities for advancement. The most widely recognized degree in the field is the Master of Public Administration, which can help you develop the skills and knowledge you need and set you apart from other job candidates. 

“If you aspire to lead in local, state, or federal government, the MPA can help you develop the necessary skills to lead, manage, evaluate projects and programs, and address critical issues facing today’s public decision makers,” says Dr. Eaton. 

What Do You Learn in a Master of Public Administration Program?

Master of public administration programs cover a wide range of skills necessary to lead in government or nonprofits. Core areas of study often include:

  • Leadership 
  • Public policy creation and analysis
  • Program evaluation
  • Ethical leadership and decision-making
  • Organizational analysis and management
  • Budgeting and financial management
  • Personnel administration

Franklin University’s Master of Public Administration also covers critical skills that are missing from many MPA programs, including methodological reasoning, strategic organizational communication and applied analytical techniques for decision-making and problem-solving.

Depending on your school, you may also be able to take coursework related to specific areas of public administration. For example, Franklin offers MPA students courses on topics including health policy and healthcare delivery systems, criminal justice, strategic policing and labor relations. 

What matters most when choosing a master’s program? Compare features, benefits and cost to find the right school for you.


What Jobs Do Public Administrators Hold?

It takes a lot to keep a government agency or nonprofit running. Public administrators hold all of the roles you can think of for those organizations, from public relations to human resources. A few potential jobs in public administration and median salaries for professionals with master’s degrees include:

Budget analyst
Budget analysts work in government agencies to set and monitor budgets, track spending and oversee other financial matters. 

  • Median advertised salary: $65,200

Social services manager
Social services managers plan and oversee a community organization or agency’s services and offerings, often in areas related to health and welfare.

  • Median advertised salary: $66,300

Police lieutenant
Police lieutenants are frontline leaders responsible for setting priorities for and overseeing the activities of teams of officers and support staff.

  • Median advertised salary: $94,200

Director of economic development
A director of economic development works for a city, county or state to help grow the local economy. They typically work closely with other government administrators as well as the private sector. 

  • Median advertised salary: $103,200

Director of public affairs
A public affairs director is responsible for communicating activities and priorities on behalf of a government agency or department to the public and the media. 

  • Median advertised salary: $103,700

City manager
City managers are appointed to oversee the administration of a town or city, including managing its budget and directing its various departments and activities. 

  • Median advertised salary: $159,600

Launch Your Public Administration Career at Franklin

Are you looking for a versatile master’s degree that will help you prepare to drive transformative change as a leader in the public sector? Franklin’s Master of Public Administration program may be right for you. 

Franklin’s affordable MPA program is offered 100% online, with the flexibility you need to study while working. You’ll learn from experienced public service professionals who care deeply about helping you learn and develop. The accelerated program format means that you can graduate in as few as 17 months to move your career forward faster. 

Learn more about how you can learn to lead with an MPA from Franklin University

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