How to Decide on a Career in Public Administration

Three Methods:Learning about Careers in Public AdministrationConsidering Your Fit for Public AdministrationGetting a Job in Public Administration

Public Administration is the work of civil servants who carry out government policies at the federal, state and local level. The term also applies to other organizations providing public services, such as Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).[1] If you are interested in a career in public service, public administration may be a great option for you. You'll have the ability to serve the public good, and to have an exciting and rewarding career as well.

Method 1
Learning about Careers in Public Administration

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    Learn what public administrators do. The term "public administration" applies to a wide variety of work. What ties this field together is an emphasis on public service.[2]
    • Public administration jobs range from studying traffic patterns to managing budgets, from helping organize programs for the homeless to working in an embassy overseas.[3].
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    Look into government jobs. Spend some time online looking up public administration jobs. Many of these jobs are with federal, state, or local government
    • Common government jobs in public administration include city and county planners/managers, human resources specialists, tax inspectors, accountants and budget analysts, and even prison wardens.[4]
    • You can search government job websites like to see listings of jobs currently open in this field. USAjobs is the official job site of the US government.[5]
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    Consider the nonprofit sector. Keep in mind that not every in job public administration involves working for the government. Non-profit organizations can be involved in the work of implementing government policies, often by administering aid of some kind.[6]
    • Non-profits are often looking to hire grant administrators, fundraisers, event planners, and marketing and advertising workers, among many other positions.
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    Explore private sector options. It may sound odd, but some public administrators work in the private sector, often as consultants that work closely with government agencies or non-profits.[7]
    • These consultants typically advise other organizations about how to meet deadlines, budgetary restrictions, and the like.
    • Some public administration consultants work freelance, while others work for consulting firms.
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    Look into career prospects in this field. You may be thinking: "Serving the public sounds great, but can I make a living on this?" Take some time to research what these jobs pay and how stable they are.
    • Over 8 million people work in public administration. The number of jobs available in this field is expected to remain more or less stable for the foreseeable future.[8] This means you should neither expect mass layoffs nor a hiring boom anytime soon.
    • The median salary for a government-employed pubic administrator is about $56,000 per year.[9] Salaries tend to be a bit higher for private sector employees, and a bit lower for those working in the non-profit sector.[10]

Method 2
Considering Your Fit for Public Administration

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    Assess your communication and leadership skills. Public administrators generally need to have good communication skills and leadership skills.[11] You should be comfortable and adept in both written and oral communication.
    • Many public administrators supervise or coordinate other employees, often in a human resources capacity. Having good leadership skills is very helpful in such positions.
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    Consider your aptitude for data and technical information. Public administrators need a strong capacity for analytical thinking.[12] Many public administration jobs involve some amount of data analysis.
    • Analyzing data, in addition to mathematical aptitude, requires a strong attention to detail.[13]
    • Experience and comfort with spreadsheets and other data display and analysis tools is also a plus.
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    Keep the work setting in mind. Most public administration work is office-based. If you are someone who really prefers working outdoors, this may not be the field for you.[14]
    • Public administration jobs often also involve a significant amount of travel. If you don't like flying or are uncomfortable with travel for other reasons, this could also present a problem.
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    Explore your willingness to get a college degree. Most public administration jobs require a college degree in public administration or a related field.[15]
    • Many higher-level public administration jobs require a master's degree in public administration or business administration. If you are serious about making this a life-long career, getting a master's may be a good idea. This is doubly so if you already have a bachelor's degree in something else.

Method 3
Getting a Job in Public Administration

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    Get a degree. If you don't have one, spend some time looking into colleges that offer a degree that can help you get the job you want. While a public administration degree is best, there are others you can use to get into this field.
    • US News and World Report ranks the best public administration programs annually. Their list may be helpful to you in deciding where to apply.[16]
    • Other degrees that may be useful in obtaining a job in public administration include political science, public policy, government management, and business management.[17]
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    Find an area of public administration that interests you. Over the course of your studies, you'll develop a sense of what area of public administration you want to go into. This includes both the types of tasks you want to be responsible for and the types of policies are you interested in helping implement.
    • For example, do you want to eventually work as an accountant? An analyst? Do you want to supervise other government employees? Work on city planning? Work overseas?
    • Likewise, are you most interested in helping the homeless? Protecting the environment? Improving education?
    • Depending on your answers to these questions, you could end up hiring road crews for local city government, directing an NGO that feeds the homeless, analyzing the impact environmental regulations for the Environmental Protections Agency, or managing the budget for a school district. [18]
    • Knowing what you want to do will help you specialize in your studies and narrow your focus in searching for jobs.
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    Do an internship. Many public administration degree programs provide opportunities to do an internship with a public administration organization or agency. Some programs even require it. This is because internships are a great way to gain hands-on experience with the work while making connections in the field.[19]
    • Numerous websites exist that can help you find an internship.[20] If possible, look for an opportunity to do the type of work you are most interested in doing after you graduate. Better yet, look for an internship with an agency you hope might hire you!
    • An internship is a good way to start building your resume, and to determine if what you think you want to do in the field is in fact what's right for you.
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    Join a professional association. Before you graduate, join one or more professional associations for public administrators. Being a member of one of the organizations will look great on your resume and help you build a network within the field.
    • The best known of these associations is the American Public Administration Society (APAS). APAS has an annual conference, a newsletter, a journal, and a jobs website that can all be of great value to an aspiring (or experienced) public administration professional.[21]
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    Apply for jobs. Once you've finished your training, it's time to start looking for a job in a field that interests you. Because of the research you already did in Part 1, you should have some idea of where to look, but here are a few places you can find jobs in public administration.
    • Government job websites like go government and USAjobs.[22]
    • Professional associations like ASPA and various local and state-level associations that may exist in your areas.
    • Other career-specific websites like[23]
    • The websites of public agencies and NGOs you are particularly interested in working for.

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Categories: Careers in Government