Through a career as a public administrator, professionals can contribute significantly to the implementation of programs, policies, and regulations that provide guidance to citizens and improve their communities. Doing so requires public administrators to strategically confront complex issues of policy and ethics, all while balancing a limited budget spread across a diverse range of initiatives. Due to their expertise in social leadership, economic administration, and communications, graduates with an advanced degree in public administration can open themselves up to rewarding career opportunities working with government institutions, nonprofit organizations, law enforcement agencies and municipal departments.
At their core, careers in public administration are built upon a deep understanding of government and organizational theory, research and analysis, fiscal management and the framework of societies. Entry into a public administrator career typically requires a bachelor’s degree in public administration or a related field, such as business administration, public health, criminal justice or economics. By continuing their education with a Master’s degree in Public Administration, professionals can gain an in-depth understanding of the discipline and learn the most current leadership skills being applied by today’s public administrators. With these advanced skill sets, graduates can stand out in internship programs or entry-level positions with high-profile agencies, non-profit organizations, and government institutions. Further distinguishing oneself in the field can also be accomplished by receiving additional licensing and certification that is available through trade associations, such as the Academy of Certified Public Managers or the Public Health Practitioner Certification Board.
Roles & Responsibilities
While day-to-day duties vary depending upon position, public administrators are typically responsible for managing their organizations’ financial processes; facilitating the collection of data that can be used to identify the community’s needs; and analyzing current policies to identify whether they may be flawed and in need of review, replacement, or reorganization. Effectively administering these processes in non-profit organizations or public service institutions at the municipal, state or federal level requires creativity in order to beget effective solutions; especially at the highest levels of government, effective change can only be achieved through collaboration amongst a team of public administrators with practical knowledge of the following professional roles.
Budgeting and Fiscal Management
Regardless of their organization’s size, fiscal management is usually among the most important responsibilities of public administrators, as they have to consider which public programs receive funding. Public administrators in this role are required to develop tax policies that generate the revenue needed to power public services and pay salaries, all while remaining mindful of what levels of taxation are realistic for constituents. Beyond the regulation of tax revenue, public administrators must also brace their communities for economic downturns by placing regulations on commercial and financial institutions, providing citizens and private firms with financial guidance or assistance, and privatizing certain public services or facilitating fundraising programs when necessary. To determine when to reform taxes, redirect funding, or alter any other public fiscal procedures, public administrators must possess knowledge of business finance, as well as an understanding of economic concepts and practices.
Public administrators draw upon their expertise in budgeting, planning, research and operational strategy to effectively lead production and maintenance programs centered on public works, ensuring that public services and infrastructures are equipped to meet the needs of communities. Public administrators in this role must responsibly coordinate the implementation of emergency management solutions—such as natural disaster response initiatives and preparedness trainings—as well as develop programs that assure sustainability in the administration, development, and restructuring of public utilities, transportation infrastructure, waste management, water resources and public grounds. To further promote sustainability within their communities, administrators may also advocate for environmentally-friendly practices, like utilizing clean energy sources, promoting green infrastructure, and enforcing extensive pollution control regulations.
Public administrators play an active role in ensuring the social progress and well-being of the citizens in their communities. Social service, public health, crisis management and urban development programs are all examples of community development programs, which are often overseen by public administrators to benefit the social, economic and political institutions within a community. In this regard, much of their work is bureaucratic in nature, involving the utilization of policy research and analysis to address serious issues affecting communities; poverty, substance abuse, and criminal activity are merely a few examples. In order to simultaneously develop a hands-on approach to public issues, public administrators must supplement the bureaucratic aspects of this role with active participation in public programs, affording them the opportunity to listen to community members and channel feedback into an effective plan of action.
Key Skills for Public Administrators
Familiarity with the following professional skills can amplify a public administrator’s ability to successfully develop practical solutions to public issues and make evidence-based policy decisions.
By enhancing their communication skills, public administrators ensure that they will be able to effectively discern the issues that are most important to their constituents. Strong communication skills are also integral to their role as a community advocate, since highlighting a community’s needs and inspiring them to take action towards potential solutions requires the articulation of complex issues in a manner that makes sense to the average citizen. After gaining insight into citizens’ needs, public administrators must be able to convey the appropriate policy in an authoritative fashion to public officials and policy makers in order to properly serve the needs of their constituents. By developing communication skills, public administrators can provide effective leadership that keeps all public stakeholders engaged in the process of developing policies and programs that will improve their communities.
In today’s interconnected world, being technologically savvy can help public administrators be more effective in their positions by supplementing their ability to communicate with stakeholders and colleagues, perform data analytics during policy planning, and implement public programs that require support from technology. For example, administering a survey using software that reaches out to community members en masse via targeted online advertising can be an extremely effective method of compiling useful data. Furthermore, government agencies and those working in the public sector also take advantage of technology as a medium for fostering a culture of community engagement by utilizing social media platforms to promote dialogue, monitor public safety, and crisis management procedures.
Through their efforts to coordinate interactions between community members and state and municipal governments, public administrators can efficiently deliver public services, manage the distribution of labor, motivate community members, and ensure that public programs deliver measurable results—all while certifying that their practices remain in accordance with current policies and procedures. As leaders of such sizable and diverse groups of people, public administrators must also be able to evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to identify areas where their emotional intelligence, practical skills or ethics may be impacting their ability to lead by example. Through constant self-evaluation and assertive delegation of tasks, public administrators can provide meaningful leadership and constantly adapt to the circumstances facing the communities that they serve.
Job Growth, Salary & Benefits
Those in public administration may enjoy competitive salaries, and if employed by federal or state governments, may also receive lucrative benefit packages.
Public budget analysts help structure an effective budget that accounts for the needs of private citizens and public institutions, granting decision-makers access to key fiscal information as to how much funding is available for their projects. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, budget analysts earned median annual wages of $78,750 working in the federal government, $62,950 working in the state government and $69,390 working in the local government as of May 2016 with an overall projected growth of three percent between 2014 and 2024.
Urban and Regional Planners
Planners are primarily responsible for plotting the layout of new public infrastructure and improving on existing public systems based on community response. In 2016, the median annual wage for urban and regional planners employed by state governments was $70,540, and $68,700 for those employed by local governments. Though new development projects are contingent on state and local government funding, the career outlook for urban and regional planners is projected to grow 6 percent through 2024.
Social and Community Service Managers
This job entails collaborating with community members and public representatives to administer programs that offer community members opportunities to participate in social service programs and other community organizations. Social and community service managers earned a median annual wage of $75,790 in 2016. The projected rate of job growth in this field is 10 percent through 2024, due to the aging U.S. population requiring more social services.
Medical and Health Services Managers
Many U.S. hospitals are run as non-profit entities that are managed by municipal, state, or federal governments, meaning public administrators can run these facilities or contribute to the process of organizing health services, such as transportation to hospitals for disabled patients or coordinating public preventive health awareness initiatives. Medical and health services managers employed by the government were paid an average salary of $104,110 in 2016, with the highest 10 percent earning $172,240. This occupation is projected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations, increasing 17 percent from 2014 to 2024.
Public administrators are responsible for facilitating interactions between public organizations and their stakeholders; their actions can set the tone for the success of important social, political, and economic programs that may impact the lives of many individuals. In order to achieve and sustain prosperity within the communities for which they advocate, individuals currently practicing or hoping to pursue a career in the field of public administration should aim to enhance their social leadership and administrative skills through a Master’s of Public Administration program.
As the nation’s oldest private military college, Norwich University has been a leader in innovative education since 1819. Through its online programs, Norwich delivers relevant and applicable curricula that allow its students to make a positive impact on their places of work and their communities.
Norwich University’s online Master of Public Administration program is a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary program that helps produce graduates with the skills needed to effectively manage a demanding and evolving industry. Our rigorous curriculum helps provide you with an all-inclusive study of organizational management concepts, decision-making processes, strategic planning, and fiscal management.
Administrative Services Manager, Bureau of Labor Statistics
Social Media and Political Engagement, Pew Research Center
Budget Analysts, Bureau of Labor Statistics
Urban and Regional Planners, Bureau of Labor Statistics
Social and Community Service Managers, Bureau of Labor Statistics
Medical and Health Services Manager, Bureau of Labor Statistics
New Traditions in Public Administration, Routledge