A Bachelor of Science in Public Administration can give you a foundation in civil leadership, business and governmental law, and finance and budgeting. A Master of Public Administration (MPA) is a broad-based, versatile degree that can develop your leadership, public policy, communication, problem-solving and management skills.
Sherman recommends the MPA for anyone looking to move out of a silo (police, planning or parks, for instance) and into general management of a city, county, state or federal agency or a nonprofit or community-based organization. “If you’re a planner and you have your sights on assistant city manager, it’s good to consider a master’s in public administration rather than a master’s in urban planning,” Sherman says.
An MPA creates leaders who know how law, policy and the public intersect, and can communicate to internal and public stakeholders effectively. Lana Salomonson, who serves with Sherman on the college’s IAC, says the skill set of an MPA holder is also transferable to the nonprofit world. She’s firsthand proof.
Salomonson, who began her career as a TV reporter, earned her MPA and then went on to work in management for the state of Illinois. Today, she is executive director of a large nonprofit organization in Springfield, Illinois.
“The master’s [in] public administration has helped me immensely in the nonprofit world,” she says, noting that the budgeting skills she learned immediately applied in both the government and nonprofit realms.
For example, she began with a zero-based budget in each and required staffers to justify expenditures and build their budgets from the ground up — a management skill learned during her MPA studies.
“An MPA really teaches you how to work for your public, whatever that is,” she says. “If you’re working for the city government, your public is citizens. If you’re working for a senior center, your public is seniors. If you’re working for an adoption nonprofit, your public is adoptive parents,” she says.