6 Less-Common Careers for Master of Public Administration Grads

Master of Public Administration (MPA) degrees are in demand, with many political science careers requiring this type of master’s degree and more than 6,720,000 search results for MPA degrees on Google. [3] And due to the broad array of applications that an MPA can have across industry, degree holders have a greater chance of being […]

To Put This in Context:

Civil service and nonprofit jobs account for more than 12.8 million jobs in the United States. [1] With this large variety and scope of positions, and last year’s 10% increase in civil service jobs, the Master of Public Administration degree associated with the field is sought by many looking to grow into leadership positions in the nonprofit and government sectors. [2] If you are a current student or professional seeking to change your career, read on to learn how you can prepare for a management position within these growing fields.

Master of Public Administration (MPA) degrees are in demand, with many political science careers requiring this type of master’s degree and more than 6,720,000 search results for MPA degrees on Google. [3] And due to the broad array of applications that an MPA can have across industry, degree holders have a greater chance of being hired into positions of leadership and prestige. [3] With that in mind, MPA graduates have found success by taking their degrees outside of the fields most commonly associated with public administration, branching out beyond the government and nonprofit sectors into fields such as anthropology, economics, sociology and private-sector regional planning — some happy news, as political science careers as a whole are expected to decline over the next decade. [4]

Luckily, the number of careers for which an MPA can open the doors is not in decline — far from it, actually. [3] The key is to use the degree to apply to larger management areas, macro-planning, and fields where success is dependent on satisfying competing interests and stakeholders at all times.

6 Less-Common Careers for MPA Graduates

Senior Manager in Journalism

Median Pay: $91,500 [5]

A journalist records an interview with a pair of microphones, tape recorder, and notepad.

In the journalism realm, leadership skills, knowledge of public policy, and a strong understanding of political scope could prove to be lucrative, according to a survey of senior management in the journalism field, whose salaries range from $90,000 up. [6] While reporters and correspondents at the lower levels of the field tend to net less than $38,000 per year — and typically only require a bachelor’s degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — the higher-paying management-level roles tend to favor candidates with a master’s degrees or higher, including MPA degrees. [6][7]

Urban and Regional Planner

Median Pay: $68,220 [8]

As an urban and regional planner, you’ll be responsible for serving the community through times of population growth and in project development through shared facilities, such as parks and other common areas. [8] While an MPA degree is mainly thought of as an entry point to a political career or director-level position within a nonprofit organization, certain skills associated with the degree — such as public interest management, strong communication, and knowledge of government procedure and regulation — are beneficial in this role.

Postsecondary Education Administrator

Median Salary: $88,580 [9]

Everything from student services and academic planning to management of faculty-related concerns falls under the scope of work facing postsecondary education administrators. [9] And with a 9% increase in jobs expected by 2024 — placing the career field at an above-average growth rate — universities and colleges could be in need of as many as 15,200 new administrators who understand large-scale management and civil interest as they relate to students. [9]

Case Service Managers

Median Salary: $63,530 [14]

A case service manager meets with a colleague and discusses an upcoming social project.

Case service managers exist within a subset of local government positions. These individuals work very closely in the public eye in coordinating new and existing social projects that affect entire communities or work on the state and regional level. Case service management also exists in a hot job market, with a higher-than-average growth rate outlook of 10% between 2014 and 2024. [14] Additionally, an MPA degree may serve as an adequate substitute for long-standing work experience when trying to enter the case service manager role at a higher level.

Emergency Management Director

Median Salary: $67,330 [10]

If you’re a military veteran and read our “Top Careers for Military Veterans” post, you know that the role of emergency management director carries high levels of responsibility. Emergency management directors are responsible for creating response plans for major threats to public health. Candidates can be hired in this position at a regional or national level, but with government job perks. Keeping up with the average job growth numbers for the United States, MPA graduates who are also veterans have plenty of opportunity to transfer their sense of service and ability to lead under pressure to this role. [10]

Chief Executive Officer

Median Salary: $185,850 [11]

Our top-paying job for this list is a rather broad one. Chief executive officers are necessary in both the private and public sectors, and while a MPA degree tends to lead toward public service, the level of process training and leadership development that this degree offers can clear a path to this top role — even in the private sector. [11] If you are interested in casting stirring visions for your company and governing an organization’s policies and directives, pursuing a chief executive role is an amazing career goal to have after you’ve obtained your MPA degree.

Real Results from Master of Public Administration Grads

A group of MPA students create a strategy on a dry erase board.

Scholar Joel A. Barker famously said that “vision without action is merely a dream.” Many MPA graduates have heeded this advice upon completion of their degrees and have reported successful results since.

In a study by the University of North Carolina, 100% of their MPA graduating class of 2014-15 were employed within six months of the completion of their MPA degree. [12] Similarly, in a series of interviews run in Governing magazine, graduates were asked about their satisfaction with their degree and career progression. One such graduate stated, “My MPA experience certainly added to my ability to think critically, evaluate ideas, argue esoteric concepts and simply agree to disagree without raised voices.” The respondent went on to state, “The degree has added to my salary through the years and added to my ability to do my job well and has added to my prestige with my peers.” [13]

How to Pursue Your MPA Degree

If you’ve decided that an MPA degree could help take your career to the next level and assist you in accomplishing your dreams, it’s best to begin looking at the types of programs available. Examine the concentrations and curriculum to determine if the specialization aligns with your educational and career goals. You’ll gain actionable knowledge that can prepare you for a fruitful future in a variety of industries.

Still considering other options for your graduate studies? An MPA degree is just one of many areas of focus with the potential for career growth. For more information, you can explore our guide to other online graduate programs that can pay off.

Alyssa Runner

Alyssa Runner is a marketing creative who just happened to fall in love with all things metrics-driven. A leader in data-driven marketing initiatives, incessant testing, and building up teams who find new visions of success, she focuses on driving great businesses and universities their best prospects. With a bachelor’s in Advertising and Public Relations and a master’s in Public Administration, her most important degree is from the school of hard knocks, learning from years of working in the education realm with professors, course creators, and students alike.