Careers in Public Administration

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.

What Do Public Administrators Do?

Public administrators are those public faces between a company, business or city organization and the general population. They are executives who run these organizations with a public policy in mind. They could work for a mayor, be the city manager, or be an executive for a hospital or clinic. They are usually beholden to a hiring board of some type and the employees they may supervise since they work for the one and oversee the other.

A degree in or related to public administration can lead to a variety of career choices, whether you're interested in healthcare, government or urban design, among other areas. See the table below for more information on specific jobs.

Urban or Regional Planner City Manager Healthcare Administrator
Degree Required Bachelor's degree required; master's degree preferred Bachelor's degree required; master's degree preferred Bachelor's degree required; master's degree preferred
Licensing or Certification Licensing required in certain states None State-issued license required for nursing facilities
Key Responsibilities Create plans for use of public space; meet with public officials; solicit public opinion; work with architects and contractors Implement public policies; oversee personnel; manage budgets; allocate funds Manage staff; handle budgets; oversee schedules; monitor and implement healthcare-related laws and regulations
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6%* 7% (for all general and operations managers)* 17% (for all medical and health services managers)*
Median Salary (2015) $68,220* $81,690** $94,500 (for all medical and health services managers)*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **Payscale.com (October 2016)

What Are My Career Options in Public Administration?

With education related to public administration, you may qualify for a wide variety of careers in fields such as healthcare, education, business, nonprofits and government. Common career options include urban or city planning, city management and healthcare administration.

As a city or urban planner, you'll work with government officials, land developers and civic leaders to create plans for the best use of available land and buildings for public spaces, such as parks and museums. In a healthcare administration career, you may oversee personnel, budgets and various administrative issues in hospitals, nursing homes, clinics or other medical facilities. If you choose a career as a city manager, an appointed position, you'll work with government officials and workers to establish and implement policies. You may also oversee city departments and personnel while ensuring that daily government operations run smoothly and efficiently.

What Education and Licensure Do I Need?

While most careers in this field require that you have a master's degree, an undergraduate degree may qualify you for entry-level positions, such as a departmental assistant in local government or healthcare management. You might earn your degree in public administration or in a specialization particular to your intended career path, such as healthcare administration or governmental management. Public administration master's degree programs typically include courses in policy development, personnel management, public budgeting, law and public administration theory.

Some public administration careers also entail licensure. To work as a healthcare administrator in a nursing facility or, in some states, an assisted-living facility, you must obtain a license by earning at least a bachelor's degree, completing a training program and passing a licensing exam. Urban planners are only required to obtain licensure in New Jersey as of 2012; however, Michigan also required planners to become registered. You may also be required to maintain licensure by earning continuing education credits.

How Much Can I Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), healthcare administrators earned a median wage of $94,500 as of May 2015, while urban planners earned $68,220 (www.bls.gov). City managers earned a median wage of $81,690 as of October 2016, according to Payscale.com.

What Will My Job Prospects Be?

You job prospects in this field will vary according to the sector of public administration in which you work. Jobs for urban planners were expected to increase by 6% from 2014-2024, about as fast as other occupations. This growth projection is due mainly to the rising population and environmental concerns, which create the need for better and sustainable use of limited space. Healthcare administrators were expected to experience a 17% growth in employment in the same decade, an effect of the need to improve healthcare quality and the aging baby boom population remaining active later in life.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Similar occupations will depend on someone's personal direction. In the realm of urban planners, related professions include architects, civil engineers, research analysts, survey researchers and more. All of these jobs need bachelor's to begin with and work closely with companies in the design and construction of buildings or city projects. Some of these involve research work for marketing or data analysis of survey material. Those looking to work in other alternative areas can find careers as a human resource manager, an insurance underwriter or a service manager in working in community centers. These jobs need a bachelor's degree as well.

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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