If a public servant’s career goals include having a direct impact on policy, then that individual must pursue the necessary training to be prepared for the challenges that accompany positions with that level of responsibility. The master of public administration degree, or MPA, is one of the career field preparatory options available to current or prospective public servants. In addition, earning an MPA has the potential to do much more than prepare a person for public service. Milakovich and Gordon (2012) explained that, “it is common practice to give weight to education and experience, and, in some instances, enough of one or both can substitute for taking the initial examination. Graduates with the Master in Public Administration (MPA) degree, for example, typically receive “fast-track” appointments because of their recognized achievements” (p. 295). Most would agree that the effort it takes to earn an master of public administration is certainly worth it if it opens the door to career opportunity.

Why Earn a Master of Public Administration Degree?

An MPA is not required, nor is it the only degree that an individual may earn in order to begin a career in public service. There are a number of other degrees, such as a master of business administration (MBA), that are not uncommon to individuals in the field. However, Shafritz (2000) states that, “the master of public administration (MPA) is becoming the recognized degree for those who aspire to careers in public administration” (p. 8). One of the main reasons it carries such importance is due to the focused curriculum offered by most colleges. These programs are designed to prepare individuals for public service. For example, many programs require an individual to take courses in homeland security. As you can imagine, homeland security is an important issue in our world today, and it is vital that our leaders are capable of making educated decisions when formulating policy in this area.

The White House - Master of Public Administration

(photo courtesy of www.whitehousemuseum.org)

Pursuing a Master of Public Administration Degree is a Commitment

Starting the pursuit of an master of public administration is, obviously, a significant commitment to make, especially for an individual who is already in the workforce. A prospective student must take a number of factors into consideration. There are two factors that are generally at the top of the list: time and feasibility. A person working full-time will find it hard enough to work even part-time classes into his/her schedule. This issue is compounded when family commitments are taken into consideration. And then there is the money factor. Many employers have some sort of tuition reimbursement program, but some do not. So, the financial factor looms large for many.

One option that may alleviate the time factor is the availability of online programs. Most online programs are very flexible, eliminating a traditional class schedule and providing students with the opportunity to cover course material and complete assignments in a manner that is far more convenient. One of the drawbacks of distance learning is that some employers still view an online degree as a “lesser” degree, even though there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. In fact, Roussas (2006), through his research, reported that, “More and more studies, show that online education is just as effective as traditional classroom education” (p. 20). Still, a traditional classroom setting might be a more comfortable and familiar forum for some individuals, providing a more structured learning experience. The bottom line is, no matter what a person decides in terms of the program that best suits her/him, it is clear that earning an master of public administration is an important step in the career of a public servant.

References

Milakovich, M. E. & Gordon, G. J. (2012). Public Administration in American (11th ed). Independence, KY: Cengage Learning (http://www.cengage.com/us/).

Roussas, S. (2006). The effect of online education versus traditional education on employee productivity: A quantitative analysis within a high-tech company. ProQuest Information and Learning Company, 19. Retrieved January 8, 2013, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 3226229)

Shafritz, J. M. (2000). Defining Public Administration. Boulder, CO: Westview Press (http://www.westviewpress.com/home.php).