What Does a Public Administrator Do?

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in public administration. Read on to learn more about career options along with education requirements and salary information. Schools offering Public Administration degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information At a Glance

Public administration covers a range of positions and work settings, including in government agencies and healthcare systems. Most jobs focus on implementing programs to serve the public good and/or the needs of a particular population. The following chart gives an overview of two of the paths you could take to enter this field.

Public Health Administrator Public Services Administrator
Degree Required Bachelor's degree; master's degree common Bachelor's degree minimum; master's degree may be preferred
Education Field of Study Bachelor's: health administration; master's: public health, health services, business or public administration Bachelor's: social work, public administration; master's: social work, public health, business or public administration
Training Required Work experience may be required Work experience often required
Key Responsibilities Develop, coordinate & oversee medical/healthcare services for public facility, health agency or health services group Manage social service programs within community, such as for elderly, homeless, veteran &/or disabled populations
Licensure/Certification Required Licensing may be required depending on state & type of employment; optional certification available NA
Job Growth (2012-2022) 23%* 21%*
Average Salary (2013) $101,340* $65,750*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Is Public Administration?

Public administration centers on developing, establishing and implementing government initiatives and operations that impact communities at varying levels. Many times, the organizations are local, state or federal government agencies. However, they can also be business firms and non-profit organizations.

Public administration encompasses a wide range of educational disciplines, such as sociology and psychology; career possibilities may range from human resources to corrections. The job title, 'public administrator', may be used interchangeably with 'public service administrator' and 'public health administrator'.

What Are My Work Responsibilities?

If you serve as a public administrator, you will usually work for a government entity. You may also be called a county/parish administrator or city manager. The duties will vary depending on your employer. You may implement government protocols that directly impact the public, or you may manage aspects of internal government operations that would ultimately affect public service activities.

For example, you may serve as a county appointed guardian looking after mentally incapacitated persons, ensuring that government benefits and other services are being rendered according to guidelines. As a city manager, you would oversee the daily operations of a municipality. This may involve a range of duties from budget to program management.

If you are a public service administrator, some of your work opportunities may center on managing projects, such as community programs to assist specific populations. Work as a public health administrator will primarily be geared toward health, healthcare or medical initiatives. For both public service administrators and public health administrators, in addition to working for government agencies, you may also find employment with non-profit organizations and business firms that provide or manage public service programs.

What Training Will I Need?

Your training requirements will vary with your responsibilities and employers. Bachelor's degrees are usually the minimum educational requirement, with some employers preferring or requiring graduate degrees. As a public administrator or public service administrator, degree programs that are consistent with your profession include public administration, public service administration, public affairs, public policy, business administration, social work and psychology.

Years of prior related work experience is usually another requirement when applying for management positions, such as administrators. Depending on your duties, some employers may require as little as three years of administrative work experience, while others may require at least ten years. Additionally, while professional certification is usually voluntary, it may prove beneficial for career opportunities.

Certification is generally offered through various trade associations. For example, designation as a Certified Public Manager is available through the American Academy of Certified Public Managers. Also, the Public Health Practitioner Certification Board offers a Certified Public Health Administrator designation.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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