Exploring five careers in public administration

September 10, 2018

 A Master of Public Administration (MPA) helps prepare individuals to efficiently manage public or nonprofit organizations and develop policies.

Coursework is specialized, allowing you to concentrate on specific areas, such as community development, public health, or transportation.

We spoke with Capella Public Administration faculty Thomas E. Poulin, PhD, to talk about five careers he sees as relevant to public administration.

1. Human Resources Director

What they do: Government and nonprofit organizations need talented, engaged employees in order to succeed. The role of the human resource (HR) department is to find, select, and develop employees that will help successfully execute the organization’s mission. An HR Director oversees these efforts, working with all departments to identify and fill their staffing needs. They also work closely with leadership to ensure the strategic HR efforts support the larger organizational mission.

Why you might like it:  All of HR is focused on working with diverse groups in diverse settings. If you are looking for a people-centered position with wide-ranging responsibilities and a critical role to play in achieving the organizational mission, the role of HR director would be a great fit for you.

2. Executive Director

What they do: Like the president of a private company, an executive director of a nonprofit is in charge of implementing the organization’s mission, programs, and policies. Working with and for a board of directors, the executive director helps create a collective vision for the nonprofit, marshaling staffing, resources, and networking partnerships to provide high quality services to their clients or members. Every nonprofit has an executive director, though the title may differ from organization to organization.

Why you might like it: If you seek a way to truly help an underserved group or want to improve your community through leadership, an executive director role may be for you. The role requires vision, strong leadership capacity, the ability to work well with others in a mission-based environment, and all the management related skills one might expect of a top-level position in any organization.

3. Budget Analyst

What they do: With municipal budgets in the millions–sometimes even billions–of dollars, it is critical to ensure that public funds are spent wisely, legally, and in a manner best suited to meet the needs and expectations of the community. Budget analysts help communities monitor and manage their finances. Some budget analysts focus on a specific aspect of the budget such as revenue, development, implementation, tracking, or evaluation.

Why you might like it: If you’re a numbers person that enjoys complex problem-solving and are interested in seeking ways to help the community, you could make a big impact as a budget analyst. You will work with people across many departments to find ways to provide the highest level of services in the most cost-effective manner, identifying and addressing funding issues before they become critical.

4. Policy Analyst

What they do: Policy analysis is about clearly identifying a problem facing the community, finding ways to address it, and bringing together the people, resources, authority, and plans to execute a solution. Policy analysts work closely with people from many government departments, with leadership of the community, and with members of community groups to find collaborative, innovative, cost-effective approaches to make the community a better place.

Why you might like it: You can follow your passion—whatever it may be. Policy analysts concentrate on specific areas such as education, healthcare, homeland security, and more to help improve the quality of life in a community with each effort.

5. City Manager

What they do: Sometimes known as a town manager, village administrator, or county supervisor, a city manager oversees the daily operations of a local government agency or department. They act as the chief executive officer for government services within their community. Responsibilities include managing the budget, advising city council members, and meeting with citizens as a public relations liaison.

Why you might like it: As a city manager, your job is to take the political vision of the city council and turn it into a reality. You will be tasked with creating a collective vision for all government employees, overseeing department heads, and ensuring public funds are spent wisely. Like the president of a corporation, or the governor of the state, you will be expected to run an effective and efficient set of operations.

Learn more about Capella University’s online Master of Public Administration.

These are examples intended to serve as a general guide. Some positions may prefer or even require previous experience, licensure, certifications, and/or other designations along with a degree. Because many factors determine what position an individual may attain, Capella cannot guarantee that a graduate will secure any specific job title, a promotion, salary increase, or other career outcome. We encourage you to research requirements for your job target and career goals.

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