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Careers for Majors

Over 15 million people are employed by public organizations. This is approximately one-sixth of the work force in the United States, nearly as many people as are employed by all of the Fortune 500 private sector businesses.

There are approximately 86,000 governmental jurisdictions in the United States involving federal, state, and local governments. At the local government level they range in size from large political units such as Alameda County (10,000 employees) to small single purpose special districts such as the Hayward Area Recreation District. Public Administration involves the study of public policy development as well as issues and concepts of managing people in organizations. Public Administration requires people who value and are interested in serving the public good, in fostering thoughtful public policy development, in improving and changing public organizations, in achieving excellence in public management, and who are stimulated by the challenge of turning program ideas into public services for people as a way of serving the public interest.


Public sector salaries are generally competitive with those in private industry. Pay scales range from approximately $25,000 for the beginning employees with a 4-year college degree to over $130,000 for top level administrators. Beginning employees with Masters degrees can expect to earn $35,000 to $45,000 per year.

Employment Outlook

The prospects in public administration employment are at least as good as those of most other professional fields. The Department of Labor reported an unemployment rate of 5.5% in California.

Examples of Occupational Specialties:

  • General Management at the City, County, Regional, State or Federal Levels
    • (e.g., City Managers)
  • Legislative Services
  • Court Administration
  • Political Organizing/Activism
  • Data Processing
  • Office Management
  • Records Management
  • System Analysis
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Program Coordination
  • Policy Analysis
  • Accounting
  • Auditing
  • Budgeting
  • Revenue Assessment and Tax Administration
  • Treasury Management
  • Procurement and Supply
  • Personnel Analyst
  • Collective Bargaining
  • Employee Relations
  • Performance Measurement
  • Stress Management
  • Employee Development
  • Training
  • Affirmative Action
  • Human Relations
  • Educational Administration
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Roads Management
  • Public Building Administration
  • Parks Administration
  • Utilities Administration
  • Civil Engineering
  • General Administration
  • Welfare and Social Work
  • Gerontology
  • Hospital Planning and Administration
  • Health Care Administration
  • Health Care Finance
  • Health Care Evaluation
  • City and Town Planning
  • Regional Planning
  • Land Resources: Conservation and Use
  • Surveys, Records and Research
  • Real Estate Development/Procurement
  • Forest Administration
  • Environmental Planning
  • Agricultural Services Administration
  • Police Administration
  • Corrections Administration
  • Fire Protection

The Internship Experience

Internships in government agencies and in the private and nonprofit sector are an integral part of MPA programs. Internships give students the opportunity to learn in situations outside of the traditional classroom setting. On-the-job training also gives students firsthand experience and allows them to make contacts useful for future employment and occupational transition. In many cases, internships are salaried positions. Sometimes these jobs turn into full-time positions after graduation.

The following list illustrates the many kinds of internships typically offered:

  • Coordinate economic and political surveys
  • Develop management information systems
  • Conduct research and writing for think tanks
  • Write press releases and organize public relations events
  • Conduct evaluations of ongoing projects
  • Assist in the implementation of development projects
  • Research and design project methodology
  • Research and write grant proposals

Post-Graduate Internships

After receiving an MPA degree, many graduates enter one or two year professional internship programs within state, city, and county governments throughout the United States. These paid internships, which are available on a competitive basis, offer new graduates the opportunity to become active participants in public service organizations.

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