With one of the following online Master’s degrees in public administration, you can prepare to create positive change in your organization, community, and wider society.

In order to change the world, we need strong leaders who will unite people and create and implement transformative plans. Through one of Online College Plan’s 30 Best Online Master’s in Public Administration, individuals can build skills and gain the knowledge needed to lead effectively in the public sector. The following MPA programs are designed to prepare the next generation of public leaders and/or to advance the capabilities of current public sector professionals. They equip graduates to coordinate services and changes in organizations and communities, particularly in government and nonprofit agencies and industrial organizations. 

What Can I Expect to Learn Through an MPA Program?

Through the following programs, individuals can expect to build skills in areas such as budgeting and financial analysis, nonprofit management, policy analysis and implementation, and beyond. Areas of study may include human resources and organizational dynamics. Depending on their chosen program, students may have the opportunity to specialize in an area such as criminology, homeland security, or urban planning. For current public administration professionals or those who hold undergraduate degrees in a relevant field, an MPA program presents an opportunity to specialize in a particular industry or community area, to advance leadership status, and to begin affecting greater change.

What Are the Benefits of Earning My MPA Online or in a Hybrid Format?

Each of the 30 programs listed can be completed fully or partially online. Whether you are a current or aspiring public leader, a distance-learning format allows you the freedom to maintain your current personal and professional obligations while progressing toward a stronger future for yourself, your organization, your community, and human society.

What Are the Best Public Administration Degrees?

Online College Plan uses data from the National Center for Education Statistics to determine the best programs. We factor in how robust the school’s online education is, how well that school delivers on its promises, how affordable the program is, and how selective the school is as a whole. For more information, see our methodology page.

  1. MERIT: 100

    Pennsylvania State University’s online campus, Penn State World Campus, offers a Master of Public Administration. The degree program is offered in partnership with Penn State Harrisburg’s School of Public Affairs. Online courses are taught by the instructors who teach on campus. 

    In order to be admitted into the program, applicants should hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Students who do not have at least two years of relevant full-time work experience must complete a 300-hour internship. Degree candidates may pursue the university’s graduate certificate in homeland security by choosing 12 credits of homeland security electives. 

    The 36-credit curriculum is designed to prepare leaders for public service careers in government and nonprofits. The core curriculum covers topics including human resources, organizational behavior, and public administration research methods. Students can earn their MPA from Penn State World Campus in three to five years.

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  2. MERIT: 92.54

    Texas A&M University offers an executive Master of Public Service and Administration program through its Bush School of Government & Public Service. The part-time degree program is designed for students who work full-time. It combines fully-online coursework with one week of residency each year of the two-year program. 

    The 39-credit curriculum offers course options such as Economic Analysis, Public Policy Formation, and Quantitative Methods. Students choose between three track options: homeland security, nonprofit management, or public management. It is a non-thesis program, culminating instead in a capstone seminar and an applied project with the university’s partners in industry and government.

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  3. MERIT: 87.75

    Capella University offers an online program leading to a Master of Public Administration degree. The degree program follows a practitioner-scholar model with an emphasis on real-world application. Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from an institution accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

    Admitted students may take one to three courses per 10-week quarter. The interdisciplinary curriculum consists of 48 quarter credits and includes an integrative project. Course examples include Ethics in the Public Sector, Public Sector Budgeting, and Public Sector Policy Analysis. Students can expect to engage in weekly assignments and virtual discussions.

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  4. MERIT: 86.84

    The University of Southern California offers an online Master of Public Administration program through its Sol Price School of Public Policy. The online learning program includes live virtual courses and a free membership to the worldwide network of WeWork coworking spaces. 

    Applicants must submit proof of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Those who do not have at least five years of managerial work experience and a minimum GPA of 3.0 must submit scores from the Graduate Management Admission Test or the Graduate Record Exam. 

    The MPA program includes two multi-day residency experiences on the USC University Park Campus in Los Angeles, CA. The 40-unit curriculum culminates in a residency capstone course with a competitive presentation component. Students may apply their electives toward a certificate in either City or County Management of Public Policy. The degree program is designed to be completed in 24 months.

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  5. MERIT: 86.45

    The University of Central Florida houses a Master of Public Administration program within its College of Community Innovation and Education. The online degree program incorporates community partnerships, real-world experiences, and service learning. UCF students have the option to pursue a dual degree program to simultaneously earn an MPA and a Master of Nonprofit Management.

    The 42-credit curriculum includes nine core courses, four electives, and an Advanced Concepts and Applications in Public Administration capstone course. Core course examples include Analytical Techniques for Public Administration, Human Resource Management, and Public Administration in the Policy Process. Students who do not have administrative work experience in the public sector are advised to complete an internship for elective credit.

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  6. MERIT: 86.27

    Florida International University offers a Master of Public Administration program through its Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs. Applicants must submit proof of an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution. Those who do not demonstrate a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.25, significant work experience, or prior graduate coursework must submit GRE or GMAT scores. 

    The online MPA curriculum requires core courses including Leadership & Decision Making and Political, Social, and Economic Context of Public Administration. Students may choose from five areas of specialization, including homeland security and emergency management and international and comparative public administration. Those who do not have sufficient experience in public service will have the option to engage in a 300-hour internship at an instructor-approved site.

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  7. MERIT: 83.99

    The University of North Carolina’s School of Government is home to a Master of Public Administration program. Students can progress through the program at their own pace, earning their MPA in as few as 18 months or as many as five years. The competency-based curriculum requires a minimum of 45 credit hours and includes a professional work experience practicum in a public service setting. 

    The core curriculum includes courses such as Law for Public Administration, Organization Theory, and Professional Communications. Online elective offerings include City and County Management, Grant Writing, and Strategic Information Technology. In their final semester of study, each student can expect to complete a comprehensive oral exam and portfolio.

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  8. MERIT: 82.48

    Liberty University’s Master of Public Administration program reflects the university’s evangelical Christian worldview. The fully online degree program is housed in the university’s Helms School of Government and is split into accelerated, eight-week course sessions, offering students eight possible start dates each year. 

    All applicants must hold an accredited bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Students may transfer in up to 50 percent of the total credits required for the degree. Admitted students choose from six specialization options, including (but not limited to) disaster management, healthcare, and law and public policy. 

    The 36-credit MPA curriculum consists of asynchronous online courses, meaning each student can access course materials on their own schedule. Core course examples include Community Economic Development and Politics and Policy of Public Sector Budgeting. Students may complete an optional thesis or additional elective courses. Students typically complete the MPA program in a year and a half.

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  9. MERIT: 80.84

    The San Diego State University World Campus is home to an online Master of Public Administration program. The degree program is designed for individuals who hold current positions in government or nonprofit settings. Those who do not currently work in a relevant field may be considered if they have significant past experience relevant to the program. 

    The program follows a cohort model, with online groups of students collectively progressing toward the MPA. It is divided into six modules, each spanning two months. Students can expect to have a two-week break between each module. It also includes one on-campus experience at the beginning of the program and one at the end of the program. 

    The 36-unit curriculum culminates in a capstone research project with an accompanying on-campus presentation. Course examples include Administrative Theory and Scope of Public Administration. The accelerated program is designed to be completed in 16 months of study.

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  10. MERIT: 80.81

    Arizona State University’s School of Public Affairs houses an executive Master of Public Administration program. The online degree program is offered in collaboration with the McCain Institute for International Leadership. It follows a cohort model, with students focusing on one course at a time. The program includes three-day, face-to-face course sessions in Phoenix, AZ and Washington, D.C.

    The 30-credit course sequence includes required courses such as Data Analytics for the Public Good; Diversity, Ethics, and Leading Public Change; and Global Public Policy. It culminates in a three-credit applied public administration project. The accelerated degree program is designed to span 19 months of study.

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  11. MERIT: 80.49

    Indiana University offers a Master of Public Affairs through its O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. The Master of Public Affairs degree combines aspects of the Master of Public Administration and the Master of Public Policy degrees. To satisfy the program’s experiential requirement, each student must either receive credit for relevant prior professional or volunteer experience, complete an approved public affairs internship experience, or complete a research project.

    The 48-credit curriculum features six core courses, including Law and Public Affairs, Public Management Economics, and Statistical Analysis for Effective Decision Making. Students can also expect to take up to 10 advanced elective courses, choosing from areas including policy analysis and nonprofit management.

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  12. MERIT: 77.52

    The University of Missouri houses a Master of Public Affairs program within its Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs. The degree program offers a mid-career option, which can be completed entirely online. The option is designed for working professionals with three to five years of work experience and a demonstrated progression in responsibility levels. 

    Students must complete prerequisite coursework in microeconomics and statistics. The core curriculum features courses including Collaborative Governance; Democracy and the Public Service; and Strategic Management of Public Service Organizations: People, Information, and Money. Each student specializes in either public and nonprofit management or public policy. The MPA degree requires 33 total credits.

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  13. MERIT: 76.96

    The University of South Florida’s School of Public Affairs is home to a Master of Public Administration program. The degree program is offered in a hybrid format, which includes online course options and evening classes to accommodate working students. On-campus courses are held on the university’s campus in Tampa, FL. 

    The degree requires 45 credits of study, or 42 credits for students who hold a current managerial role in the public or nonprofit sector. The curriculum incorporates real-world experience through collaborative projects, mentorship, and internship placements at regional government and nonprofit agencies. Full-time students can earn their degree in two years. Part-time students typically take three to four years to complete the program.

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  14. MERIT: 76.64

    California State University Long Beach offers a Master of Public Administration through its Graduate Center for Public Policy and Administration. Housed in the College of Professional & International Education, the degree program is delivered in an accelerated, online, cohort format to suit working professionals. Cohort groups enter the program each spring. 

    Online courses are supplemented by a face-to-face Saturday meeting in Long Beach, CA. Students must engage in a live virtual lecture and discussion in real time once per week. The 39-credit curriculum includes courses such as Government Budgeting and Finance, Public Works Facilities and Urban Policy, and an elective seminar in urban affairs.

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  15. MERIT: 75.21

    The University of Texas Arlington offers an online program leading to a Master of Public Administration. Admission requirements include sufficient GRE scores, three letters of recommendation, a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0, and a short essay. 

    The core curriculum includes courses such as Ethics in Public Service, Foundations of Urban Research and Analysis, and Intergovernmental Relations. Each student must take an elective course in either Capital Budgeting or Nonprofit Management and Social Entrepreneurship. Each student must also engage in an internship experience in urban management and planning. The program culminates in an applied research capstone course and accompanying paper.

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  16. MERIT: 75.13

    The University of North Dakota offers a dual degree program leading to a Juris Doctor degree and a Master of Public Administration. Students have the option to earn both degrees through online study. Students typically complete the dual degree program within four years, and candidates have the option to speed up the process by taking summer courses. 

    The program consists of 112 total credit hours of study, including 84 JD credits and 28 MPA credits. Course examples include Civil Rights, Employment Discrimination Law, and Problems in State and Local Law. Students also have opportunities to gain hands-on experiences through internships at government agencies, nonprofits, and beyond.

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  17. MERIT: 74.11

    California State University Northridge offers a Master of Public Administration program that follows a cohort model. Applicants are expected to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0, and a successfully completed upper division writing proficiency exam. 

    Core course examples include Ethics and Professionalism, Public Budgeting and Financial Administration, and a seminar in Public Administration and its Environment. Students may specialize in health administration, nonprofit sector management, or public sector management and leadership. The curriculum culminates in a graduate project. The MPA program is designed to be completed in two years.

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  18. MERIT: 73.79

    Arkansas State University offers an online program leading to a Master of Public Administration degree. The degree program follows a public management track, which is designed to advance the career prospects of professionals in law enforcement and the public sector. 

    The 36-credit curriculum includes core courses such as Administrative Ethics, Grant Writing and Administration, and Techniques of Political and Public Administration Research. The public administration track includes courses such as Administrative Behavior and a public administration internship. Students culminate their studies by compiling a capstone portfolio. Degree candidates may earn their MPA from ASU in as few as 18 months.

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  19. MERIT: 72.91

    The University of Colorado Denver’s School of Public Affairs houses a Master of Public Administration program. Degree candidates may follow the accelerated, full-time cohort option, which requires 36 credits of study and can be completed in 12 months. Upper-level public administration professionals may enroll in the 30-credit executive program. 

    Individuals can pursue their CU Denver MPA online, on campus, or in a hybrid format. Required courses include Organizational Management and Behavior and The Policy Process and Democracy. Each student who does not have at least one year of relevant professional experience must complete an additional three-credit internship. Individuals have the choice to pursue a Master’s thesis or complete a capstone seminar.

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  20. MERIT: 72.52

    Clemson University offers a Master of Public Administration program through its College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences. While the degree program is delivered in a fully online format, it offers optional opportunities for group activities and face-to-face interaction. MPA candidates may choose from five specializations: emergency management, government, homeland defense and security, nonprofit administration, and regional sustainability.

    Core course examples include Public Data Analysis and Public Policy Process. Depending on their chosen capstone experience, students will be required to complete 39 to 42 credits of study. The capstone project option involves an actual course, and therefore requires three more credits than the comprehensive exam option.

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  21. MERIT: 72.40

    Sam Houston State University offers an online program leading to a Master of Public Administration degree. The program offers an optional concentration in disaster and emergency management. Alternatively, students may arrange to concentrate in an area of public administration that relates more closely to their goals and interests. 

    Courses are delivered online, with enrollment typically limited to 20 students. Those who do not have relevant professional experience will be required to complete a three-credit internship experience. The 36-credit curriculum consists of 24 core credits and 12 concentrated credits. Course examples include Ethics in Government, Organizational Theory and Behavior, and Scope and Methods of Political Science.

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  22. MERIT: 72.32

    Indiana State University offers students the opportunity to earn a Master of Public Administration degree online. The university’s online MPA program is primarily delivered through the university’s political science department. It is designed for working professionals with experience in nonprofit organizations or the public sector. 

    The 36-credit curriculum includes core courses in Budgeting in Governmental Agencies, a Proseminar in American Administrative Institutions and Public Policies, and Public Personnel Administration. Elective offerings include Campaigns and Elections, Ethical Concerns in Current American Public Administration, and The United States Congress. 

    Students have the option to concentrate in criminal justice, human resources development, or public health. Those who do not have sufficient work experience will be required to complete an additional three-credit internship with a public agency. The curriculum culminates in a capstone project and presentation. Most students complete the program in approximately three years of part-time study.

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  23. MERIT: 71.48

    The University of Delaware houses a Master of Public Administration program within its Biden School of Public Policy and Administration. The MPA degree program is delivered in a flexible online format with an emphasis on experiential learning. Specialization options include emergency management, nonprofit management, and public policy analysis.

    The 36-credit curriculum includes core courses in Economics in Public and Nonprofit Sectors and Information Technology and Management. Students who have fewer than two years of public or nonprofit work experience will need to complete an internship seminar. The degree program can be completed in 30 months, or two and a half years. Graduates of the program will be prepared to work in government, nonprofits, and the private sector.

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  24. MERIT: 71.09

    Central Michigan University Global Campus offers an executive online Master of Public Administration program. The degree program covers areas of public service including public policy, fiscal management, and strategic planning. Applicants must have an accredited bachelor’s degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.7.

    Required core courses include Administration, Globalization, and Multiculturalism; Financial Analysis, Planning, and Control; and Organizational Dynamics and Human Behavior. Elective options include The Emotionally Intelligent Organization, Managing Modern Local Government, and Politics and Policy in Urban Communities. Candidates can culminate their program through either an applied administration research project or a directed administrative portfolio.

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  25. MERIT: 71.05

    The University of Nebraska Omaha offers a professionally oriented degree program leading to a Master of Public Administration. The program is housed in the School of Public Administration within the university’s College of Public Affairs and Community Service. 

    The online MPA program is taught by the same faculty as the on-campus program, but its concentration options differ slightly. Online students can choose from six concentrations: aviation, emergency management, local government, nonprofits, public management, or public policy. The online program offers an additional specialization in criminology and criminal justice. 

    The 39-credit curriculum includes core courses such as Analysis and Decision Making and Policy Design and Implementation. It culminates in a capstone research project. Students may also choose to pursue a dual degree program leading to either a Master of Managing Information Systems or a Master of Social Work concurrently with the MPA.

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  26. MERIT: 70.85

    The University of Illinois Springfield offers a fully online program leading to a Master of Public Administration degree. Applicants must have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.5 or high Graduate Record Exam scores. The university also offers online graduate certificate programs in community planning and management of nonprofit organizations. 

    The 36-credit curriculum includes core courses such as Human Resource Management, Information for Decision Making, and Organization Dynamics. Additional course offerings include The Changing American Family and Public Policy, Nonprofit Sector and Society, and State and Local Community Development. The program culminates in a capstone seminar in public administration with applied research paper and oral presentation requirements.

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  27. MERIT: 70.68

    Johns Hopkins University’s Krieger School of Arts and Sciences is home to a Master of Arts in public management program. Applicants must submit a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0, a resume, a statement of purpose, two letters of recommendation, and a policy-oriented paper. Admitted students may enter the program in the fall, spring, or summer term. 

    The curriculum consists of 12 courses and culminates in a real-world capstone project. Core courses include Economics for Public Decision Making and Fundamentals of Nonprofit and Nonprofit Management. Students may complete their program on a full- or part-time pace in 16 to 24 months.

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  28. MERIT: 70.38

    Rutgers University Newark offers a Master of Public Administration through its School of Public Affairs and Administration. The fully online degree program consists of 42 credits of study, including 33 core credits and nine elective credits. Students may concentrate in budgeting and financial management, healthcare administration, nonprofit management, or public and nonprofit performance management. 

    Core courses include Administrative Ethics, Public Budgeting Systems, and The Public Policy Process. The program offers elective course options such as Government Revenue Theory and Administration, Grant Writing and Grants Management, and Resource Development for Nonprofit Organizations. The program culminates in a capstone project.

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  29. MERIT: 69.28

    Old Dominion University offers an online program leading to a Master of Public Administration degree. The degree program is housed in the School of Public Service within the university’s Strome College of Business. The 39-credit curriculum consists of 13 courses. Courses are asynchronous, which allows students to access course material on their own schedules. 

    The core curriculum includes courses such as Ethical Foundations of Public Administration and Public Policy Analysis and Evaluation. Elective concentration options include Human Resource Administration, Port and Maritime Management, and Urban Research and Planning. Students may apply their elective choices toward a certificate in public procurement and contract management.

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  30. MERIT: 68.69

    National University’s Master of Public Administration degree can be earned entirely online. The university welcomes applications year-round, and offers monthly start dates for maximum flexibility.  Courses are delivered in accelerated, four-week course sessions. The program requires a minimum of 54 quarter units of study and culminates in a capstone MPA project.

    The interdisciplinary curriculum includes core courses such as Ethics, Financial Management and Grant Administration, and Urban Planning and Redevelopment. Students may specialize in human resource management, which requires courses such as Compensation and Benefits and Legal, Ethical, and Safety Issues. The organizational leadership specialization includes courses such as Conflict and Power Dynamics and Leadership in the 21st Century.

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What Are the Typical Admissions and Application Requirements for an MPA Program?

As with most Master’s degree programs, Master of Public Administration programs typically require applicants to hold an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university. Most graduate programs have a minimum requirement for cumulative grade point average, which typically falls around 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. When compiling MPA applications, individuals can often expect to compile materials including transcripts, resumes, and letters of recommendation, and scores from tests such as the Graduate Record Exam. Some programs also require personal statements and/or writing samples that demonstrate commitment to the study of public administration. Because the programs outlined above are delivered fully or partially online, some of them are designed specifically for full-time working professionals in the public sector. These programs may require applicants to hold a current position or a sufficient number of years of relevant professional experience in the public sector.

What Job Titles, Duties, and Salaries Can I Expect With an MPA Degree?

Public administration is a broad field, but it often involves work in settings such as community and nonprofit organizations and government agencies. Broadly speaking, public administration degree-holders may move into roles as administrative service managers or financial managers in the public sector. 

Administrative services managers lead the services an organization provides, from the planning stage to implementation. Job requirements may vary by the services and scope of the organization, but a bachelor’s degree and relevant, progressive work experience is a minimum requirement for most positions. The demand for individuals to fill administrative services management roles is growing at a projected 10-year rate of seven percent, which is faster than the average growth rate across all industries. In 2018, administrative services managers made a median salary of $96,180, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Financial managers assess and coordinate finances for an organization. Job duties for financial managers may include preparing financial reports, directing investments, and creating plans and strategies for an organization’s financial future. A bachelor’s degree and lower-level experience in accounting, auditing, or financial analysis is typically required for the job. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for competent financial managers is growing at a projected 10-year rate of 16 percent, which is much faster than average. Financial managers earned a median salary of $127,990 in 2018. 

Many public administration professionals work in nonprofit organizations. A suitable nonprofit-based career for MPA-holders is public relations and fundraising management. On the public relations side, PR and fundraising managers are in charge of materials that manage an organization’s public image, such as press releases and media communications. On the fundraising side, these managers create fundraising campaigns that lead to donations and funding for the organization and their services and projects. The job outlook for financial managers is growing at a projected 10-year rate of eight percent, and financial managers made a median salary of $114,800 in 2018.

In government, from the regional to global level, legislators take charge of introducing, developing, and implementing laws and policies. While legislators often need to be elected, an MPA degree can help individuals gain the skills and knowledge needed to create policy in various communities and spheres. While salaries may vary by government level, legislators made a median annual wage of $24,670 in 2018.

What Kinds of Skills Do Public Administrators Need?

Leaders in the public sector can help highlight, address, and propose solutions for some of the most significant issues facing organizations, communities, and the world. Such issues may include health care, social policy, and urban development and infrastructure. Leaders are responsible not only for recognizing these issues, but also for responding to them effectively by creating positive change. Leaders must be able to analyze information, communicate effectively, manage funds, plan and implement effective policies, and strategize for short-term and long-term success. 

 

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