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Career Advice

Public Administration: Working for Equality, Justice and Efficiency

When a politician wins his election, the suggestions and ideas for improving conditions in his city, state or country which he made throughout the campaign cannot possibly be put into action without the dedicated work of public servants.

Unlike the politician, these public servants are unelected to their positions and in most cases will be the product of four-year universities and graduate programs in public administration. Yet it is they, on committees, in meetings, at their desks studying facts and figures, not the recognizable faces of governors and presidents, who provide the means for every day public administration. They keep government policies in place and working, we hope, for the greater good of all citizens.

Public Administration or “The Management of Public Programs”

Without people working in the public administration sector, our modern-day society would come grinding to a halt. Though most of us don’t realize it, public servants are the legs upon which the structure of our day-to-day life exists. Politicians propose policies and then persuade their voters to buy into them; public administrators, in turn, actually implement the policies, making them a tangible reality to citizens.

For instance, in 2010, Philadelphia was experiencing a storm-water runoff problem; it was publicly announced that there was every possibility that they would have to spend $8 billion to build a holding tank, underground, to keep all the excess storm runoff and save it from flooding. Instead, city officials promoted the Green City Clean Waters program, implementing a series of green roofs, porous paving, stormwater planters, rain gardens and rain barrels all over the city, to keep excess storm water from infiltrating rivers with the dirt, oil and other chemicals the runoff picks up.

Not only was the program a wild success (people were even reporting thefts of the popular rain barrels), as it created jobs, improved the streets and benefited the community, it is a vivid demonstration of how public administrators – in this case, city officials and heads of the program, who had to research factors such as locations, cost and effectiveness, as well as hire engineers, environmental scientists and laborers – implement policies and programs from start to finish. In short, it is the job of civil servants everywhere to see that “things get done.”

However, public administration is also an ethical commitment to “the management of public programs.” Much like politicians today, who may not be enjoying such a positive reputation for ethical conduct, public administration demands of its adherents both strong moral scruple and accountability. This goes double for their private lives. For instance, someone in charge of managing city money might be dismissed if it came to light that they had committed some kind of tax fraud or were heavily in debt.

The Masters of Public Administration Graduate Degree

With the population influx and the growing need for strong societal organization, it should come as no surprise that many universities now offer a graduate degree in the field of public administration. The masters in public administration program teaches the core democratic values of improving equality, justice, security, efficiency and effectiveness of public services. The degree offers its graduates plenty of career skills: learning to communicate well in groups; helping to see and understand “big picture” problems and not just the bottom line. It prepares the graduate to take charge and act with decisiveness in a rapidly globalizing world.

Most programs take two years to complete and teach the six pillars of public administration: human resource management, Organizational Theory in Public Administration, ethics in public administration, policy analysis and public budgeting. The degree also allows for seamless transition between public, private and non-profit career opportunities, with diverse fields that focus on topics like  further degrees in urban planning, emergency management (even without a emergency management master’s degree) and equally popular areas such as health care or community development. Because of the wide variety of public administration fields, many students also find it useful to take courses in economics, accounting, sociology and psychology.

It has been noted that some MPA programs are housed within business schools, but the Master of Business Administration (MBA) focuses on economics and finance, while the MPA focuses on policy and research.

Famous MPA graduates of note include sitting director of the CIA and General David Petraeus, the president of Mexico, Felipe Calderon and the New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly.

This article was written by Annie Callen.  Annie is currently going to school getting her MPA degree.

This is a guest post for TheEmployable 


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