Many people want to change the world, but in reality, few are poised to do so.
When it comes to a career in government, world changing involves setting public policy, supporting local services, and developing programs for underserved populations, all of which fall within the field of public administration. Where else are you challenged to bring together public protection, policy, and governance with social services, environmental issues, energy, and health care?
Whether you’re currently (or looking to be) a city manager, political leader, social services administrator, or a fundraising and development manager, here are four essential skills you’ll need in order to move forward in your government career:
1. Effectively Manage and Raise Resources.
Leaders in public administration face increasing challenges in funding their programs.
Spending by federal and local governments on physical infrastructure and services provided directly by the government is gradually declining. And while individual giving rose 4.9% in 2013, nonprofit organizations retain only 27.3% of first-year donors, necessitating constant fundraising.
To be effective, public administration leaders need to know how to manage their resources effectively and bring in more funding. A Master of Public Administration (MPA) will give you the skills to:
- Manage your organization’s finances based on industry best practices.
- Work with local governments to fund programs and initiatives.
- Increase donations through effective donor-engagement programs.
2. Establish Collaborative Networks.
Today, administrators must build teams across diverse specialties – from government officials to scientists, donors, and people on the ground.
For example, to create a favorable business climate in a city, economic development directors bring together local business leaders, the Chamber of Commerce, and environmental advocates. On the other hand, social service administrators work with public policy advocates, counselors and caseworkers, and economic justice advocates.
Skills needed to bridge gaps and keep programs moving include the ability to:
- Communicate effectively about an organization’s goals.
- Encourage collaboration among diverse groups.
- Drive compromise among organizations with competing objectives.
3. Make Informed Decisions.
It’s impossible for public administration leaders to make their decisions in a vacuum. Programs as diverse as city infrastructure, job training, and crime prevention are highly connected to other fields such as public safety, social services, and health care.
Leaders need to know how to consider various factors – from population diversity to ethics and policy implications – whether they’re making decisions about where to construct new roads or designing services for underprivileged children.
An MPA addresses these requirements with course work that helps you:
- Advocate for ethical performance standards when developing social programs and working with local business leaders.
- Understand how social and political factors of your field and adjacent fields affect program performance.
- Navigate the tricky ethics of social services and public policy.
4. Develop Innovative Solutions.
In some fields, solving a problem is simple. Figure out what has worked before and mimic it. If you have to go outside your industry, simply look for other organizations facing similar challenges.
Public administration leaders face a different set of circumstances. Health care, the increased focus on the environment, high unemployment, and decreased government spending all combine to create a public policy world vastly different than one even a couple years before. Leaders can’t mimic previous successes because the elements affecting each challenge change day to day.
An MPA degree program will help you learn how to:
- Develop solutions based on citizen involvement and informed decision-making.
- Leverage existing knowledge of the factors affecting public policy to create fresh approaches to social problems.
- Evaluate and fine-tune the programs you develop for maximum impact.
Creating change within long-standing government frameworks is no easy task. It requires experience, advanced training, and passion for making a difference.
Capella University’s online MPA program teaches students to be effective public administration leaders who know best practices for finance and accounting, as well as how to work with local governments to fund programs and engage donors.