Career Information for a Degree in Public Administration

Sep 28, 2019

A degree in public administration prepares students for leadership positions in fields such as state and local government, health care administration, non-profit management and human resources management. Find out about the curricula of these programs and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for public administration graduations.

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Public administration professionals include city managers, urban and regional planners and medical and health service administrators. A bachelor's degree is required to become a city manager or medical and health service administrators. Urban and regional planners must also have a master's degree.

Essential Information

Public administration students learn how to set public policy, communicate effectively, create budgets and understand financial reports. Organizing people and assets, mediating conflicts and designing programs are also covered in bachelor's and master's degree programs. Health care administrators, urban planners and city managers are all examples of public administration positions. Other possible careers include non-profit management, court administration and community organization.

Career Medical and Health Services Administrator Urban and Regional Planner City Manager
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree Master's Degree Bachelor's Degree
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 18% 11% 7% for general and operations managers employed by local governments
Average Salary (2015)* $113,730 $76,240 $105,510 for general and operations managers employed by local governments

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Careers in public administration are varied and demand a wide set of skills. Because of the importance of these jobs in the public sphere, postsecondary degrees and related experience are greatly valued by employers. Read on for job descriptions and educational requirements for healthcare administrators, urban and regional planners, and city managers.

Medical and Health Services Administrator

Health care administrators manage organizations such as hospitals and clinics. Duties can vary widely, depending on specialization and level within the organization. Clinical health care administrators might oversee trauma care or surgery departments, while general administrators manage the overall functioning of an entire practice or organization. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment of health care administrators, also called medical and health services managers, is expected to increase by 18% from 2018 to 2028, reflecting the overall growth of the healthcare industry ( The BLS also reported that, as of May 2018, mean earnings for this field were $113,730 per year. A master's degree in public administration is often necessary for these positions.

Urban and Regional Planner

Urban and regional planners help local governments determine how land will be used in order to solve various public problems. In addition to planning the building of parks, roads and other infrastructure, they also help write environmental and social legislation. In 2018, the BLS reported an average annual salary of $76,240 for urban and regional planners and predicted 11% growth in employment between 2018 and 2028, much faster than the average. Some urban planners have earned a master's degree in public administration.

City Manager

City managers fill the role of chief executive for cities that operate under a council-manager government system. Their job responsibilities are largely similar to other government executives. They oversee city departments, hire and fire administrative personnel and departmental heads, create and adhere to a yearly budget and communicate with citizens. Unlike mayors, city managers are usually appointed by the city council and do not represent a political party.

Competition for this position is strong because of the large number of qualified applicants who aspire to the office. Salaries vary from city to city, but average annual earnings for local government general and operations managers were $105,510 in May of 2018, according to the BLS. While not always required, many city managers have a master's degree in public administration or a similar area. A bachelor's degree is often the minimum education required.

A degree in public administration can prepare individuals for careers in urban and regional planning, medical and health services administration and city management. These professionals oversee staff and services they're responsible to provide. Individuals with a degree in public administration may also work for non-profit groups or community organizations.

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