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2021 Public Administration Degree Guide

While in school, you were the treasurer of student council, editor of the school's newspaper, or class president; always acting as a catalyst for change. So, what's next for you? A Public Administration degree will prepare you for running the executive arm of local, state, and federal government - allowing you to create policies that will bring positive change.

Business principles as well as politics are important in a Public Administration program. Classroom lectures will infuse business lessons into public administration curriculum, with instruction focusing on: the management of public policy, public budgetary processes and financial management, public personnel management, professional ethics, administrative law, and research methods. Your program may even offer the option to specialize in urban studies, criminal justice, or public opinion.

A Recent Jump in Public Administration Degrees

#58 Most Popular Major
17.4k Degrees Awarded
3.3% Increase in Graduates

In 2018-2019, public administration was the 58th most popular major nationwide with 17,444 degrees awarded. This is a difference of 570 over the prior year, a growth of 3.3%.

There are 138 schools offering degrees in public administration in the United States. Our 2021 Best Colleges for Public Administration ranking analyzes 30 of these schools to determine the best overall colleges for public administration students. Continue reading to check out one of our many unbiased rankings of public admin programs later in this article.

What Are The Requirements For a Degree in Public Administration

Students in this program should have a passion for creating positive change for communities. Communication, teamwork, and policy development skills are crucial to creating change in the public sector. Public administrators often have to find common ground for a diverse group that are on opposite sides of an issue, so the ability to see all sides of an issue is also extremely helpful.

No matter what type of job you take in public administration, you will be expected to have a good understanding of the government and a knack for business. Analytical and research skills will be invaluable as you move forward with your career in public administration. Problem solving will become your specialty, as you discuss ways to fix society's most urgent issues.

Prior Education for a Public Admin Program

A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required for most public admin degree programs and many students will need a minimum GPA and SAT/ACT score depending on the school. Specific public admin careers may require a certain level of degree attainment or additional certifications beyond that.

Types of Public Administration Degrees

There are many different public admin degree levels. Public Administration programs offered by schools range from a associate's to a professional practice doctorate, which is the highest public admin degree you can get. The time it takes to complete a public admin degree varies depending on the program.

Degree Credit Requirements Typical Program Length
Associate Degree 60-70 credits 2 years
Bachelor’s Degree 120 credits 4 years
Master’s Degree 50-70 credits 1-3 years
Doctorate Program required coursework including thesis or dissertation At least 4 years

A bachelor's degree is the most common level of education achieved by those in careers related to public admin, with approximately 45.3% of workers getting one. See the the most common levels of education for public admin workers below.

Level of Education Percentage of Workers
Bachelor’s Degree 43.4%
Master’s Degree 15.4%
High School Diploma 14.5%
Associate’s Degree (or other 2-year degree) 7.9%
Some College Courses 5.9%

Most workers in public admin have at least a bachelor's degree. See the chart below for the most common degree level workers in public administration have received.


This of course varies depending on which public admin career you choose.

Public Admin Careers

Above Average Number of Jobs
$48.9k Average Starting Salary
8% Growth Job Outlook 2016-26

A career in public administration encompasses a wide range of interests in federal, state, and local government, advocacy groups, and non-profit organizations. Graduates find jobs as administrative officers of a municipality, policy analysts, city or county managers, safety inspectors, criminal or private investigators, custom or border guard inspectors, and labor management relations specialists. At the government level, you can work for the Environmental Protection Agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Growth Projected for Public Admin Careers

Want a job when you graduate with your public admin degree? Public Administration careers are expected to grow 7.9% between 2016 and 2026.

The following options are some of the most in-demand careers related to public administration.

Occupation Name Projected Jobs Expected Growth
General and Operations Managers 2,468,300 9.1%
Managers 1,071,700 8.0%
Chief Executives 296,800 -3.9%
Social and Community Service Managers 173,800 18.0%
Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Managers 123,300 6.8%

How Much Money Do Public Admin Grads Make?

Recently graduated public administration students earned an average of $48,859 in 2017-2018. Earnings can range from as low as $29,600 to as high as $98,300. As you might expect, salaries for public admin graduates vary depending on the level of education that was acquired.


Highest Paid Public Admin Careers

Salaries for public administration graduates can vary widely by the occupation you choose as well. The following table shows the top 5 highest paying careers public admin grads often go into.

Occupation Name Median Average Salary
Chief Executives $200,140
General and Operations Managers $123,880
Managers $115,590
Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Managers $102,850
Postmasters and Mail Superintendents $77,040

Getting Your Public Administration Degree

With over 813 different public admin degree programs to choose from, finding the best fit for you can be a challenge. Fortunately you have come to the right place. We have analyzed all of these schools to come up with hundreds of unbiased public admin school rankings to help you with this.

Study Areas in Public Administration

Public Administration is one of 5 different types of Public Administration & Social Service programs to choose from.

Related Major Annual Graduates
Social Work 57,499
Human Services 13,768
Public Policy 6,021
Community Organization & Advocacy 2,832
Other Public Administration 971

View All Public Admin Related Majors >


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