Pros and Cons of a Public Administration Career
Public administrators play a major role in the decision-making processes that go on in government or public offices. Learn about the pros and cons of working as a public administrator to figure out if this is the right job for you.
|Pros of Being a Public Administrator|
|Field includes high median salaries ($71,000 for budget analysts, $80,000 for management analysts in 2014)**|
|Help make decisions that can affect your community*|
|Advocate for causes you believe in*|
|Opportunity to travel and work in new places*|
|Cons of Being a Public Administrator|
|Graduate degree often necessary*|
|Networking is an essential tool to the job*|
|Investments like internships are highly recommended*|
|Job openings are geographically spread out*|
Sources: *PublicServiceCareers.org, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Essential Career Information
Job Duties and Requirements
According to O*Net OnLine, public administrators are professionals who work in government or non-profit organizations. In addition, according to PublicServicesCareers.org, these jobs are geared toward the implementation of government policy through adequate financing and political will. Hence, public administration jobs do not concern elected officials, but the workers who are able to complete or fix public issues.
Public administration jobs may have varying responsibilities and duties. Some public administrators may work as executives, analysts, managers, treasurers and service administrators in government or non-profit organizations. They might focus on specific departments in these organizations, such as human resources, public works, health services and law enforcement. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many of these workers do work at the federal, state or local-level of government. For example, according to the BLS, 32% of budget analysts work for the federal government and state or local governments.
Job Prospects and Salary
Job prospects will vary depending on the type of work you perform in the public administration sector. For example, the BLS states that 16% of all management analysts work for the federal government or state governments. The BLS further estimates that there will be a projected 19% increase in employment between 2012 and 2022 for all management analysts, including those government employees. Management analysts earned a median annual salary around $80,000 in 2014.
In contrast, roughly 32% of budget analysts work for the federal or state government according to the BLS. However, there is only a 6% projected increase in employment growth for all budget analysts between 2012 and 2022, which is slower than average. The BLS reports that budget analysts earned an annual median salary of $71,000 in 2014.
PublicServicesCareer.org states that most workers in public administration have a bachelor's degree. Other positions in public administration might require a number of different degrees for consideration. The Master of Public Administration (MPA) or the Master of Public Policy (MPP) are common graduate degrees that can prepare you for a job in government service and public affairs.
What Do Employers Look for?
Different employers will have different expectations for aspiring public administrators. Some jobs require a candidate to understand budgetary issues, while others need employees who can form private business relationships or take on individual projects. The following job postings are available as of April 2012.
- A port city in Washington State needs an environmental analyst to look into environmental policies concerning the ports. The analyst needs to consider the cost-benefit and budgetary potential of environmental policies the city would enact on port governance. Candidate must pass a physical examination as well as a background examination.
- An Illinois city needs a public works department budget administrator to review project budgets. Candidates need a bachelor's degree in public administration or a related field, 2-4 years of professional work experience, and a driver's license.
- A New Hampshire town needs a wastewater manager to help civil engineers with daily management issues related to the town's waste. Needs to help with budget analysis and private-public contracts. Bachelor's degree and experience with wastewater operations needed.
How to Stand Out in the Field
Develop Related Skills
If you want to enhance your presence and experience in public administration, an internship is a wise investment. According to PublicServicesCareer.com, an internship builds some job experience while fostering your networking skills and building your expertise in politics. Investing in these opportunities while in school will help you be effectively prepared once you graduate.
Since public administration deals with government service, its important to know what most attracts you to political and public affairs. For example, if you are interested in working with publicly-elected officials and other managers deciding on law and code, you might want to pursue a policy analyst career. On the opposite end of public administration, if you enjoy fighting for policies and agendas that go into a municipality or state, you can take the position of a public advocate who fights for specific public investments.
Other Careers To Consider
If you have a passion for public service, but are more interested in legal code and regulations, you might be interested in a career as a lawyer. Lawyers may work for the government or work privately to represent businesses or individuals. Between 2010 and 2020, the BLS projects there will be a 10% growth in employment for lawyers. As of May 2011, the median salary for all lawyers calculated to $113,000.
If you enjoy politics, but want to focus your career solely in research, you may want to consider a career as a political scientist. A political scientist studies and analyzes the development and progression of politics in current events. Using statistics and social science methodologies, political scientists study how government works and how policies influence society. Many work for universities as professors, while others work as writers and consultants for government agencies and private research firms. The BLS projects that there will be an 8% growth in political scientists during the 2010-2020 decade. A political scientist's median annual salary, according to the BLS, calculated to $104,000 in 2011.