General Public Administration Degrees: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Info

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What kind of job can you get with an associate's or bachelor's degree in public administration? Find out degree program requirements, online options and info on courses and public administration training programs.
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Studying Public Administration: Degrees at a Glance

The public administration field is concerned with the development and implementation of public sector programs. There are multiple career opportunities in human services, administration and human resources. Non-profit organizations, public agencies and government branches employ these professionals as administrators and civil servants. Public administration graduates perform their responsibilities in event and community planning, political, fundraising and community management roles.

An associate's degree program in public administration can provide an introductory education suitable for entry-level opportunities or advancement in the public sector. Bachelor's degree programs offer a more advanced education and can prepare you for mid-level management opportunities. You may find that a graduate education could make the best career opportunities available. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed that some occupations in the public administration field will experience good job growth. Human services assistants could see 28% growth from 2010-2020, while human resource managers might see 13% growth during that same period, the BLS reported.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Those interested in entry-level careers in public service organizations Those who wish to work as analysts, consultants, policymakers or other roles in public service organizations
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Human resources assistant ($38,000)*
- Social or human services assistant ($31,000)*
- Community and social service specialists ($41,000)*
- Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators ($76,000)*
- Training and development manager ($100,000)*
- Public relations or fundraising managers ($106,000)*
- Human resources manager ($109,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 60 credits
- Internship or field experience
- Roughly 120 credits in general education and core courses
- Internship or field experience
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate's in Public Administration

Associate's degree programs in public administration offer a foundation in the business, finance and legal components of non-profit and non-governmental organizations. The program offers a well-rounded business education that focuses on a variety of topics including urban studies. Graduates of the program understand how government regulations affect the operation of non-profit organizations. You can also take leadership, finance and program development courses.

Pros and Cons


  • It is a flexible degree program that offers a foundation for public, private or government career opportunities.
  • Programs offer a broad education that can transfer to for-profit business careers.
  • The degree will make you more competitive for positions that require a high school diploma.


  • Competition for some job opportunities against bachelor's degree holders will be keen.
  • Access to the best job opportunities may require that you further your education.
  • Obtaining certification will extend your training time and may require more money for continuing education coursework.

Courses and Requirements

The associate's degree offers a well-rounded education through approximately 60 credits of general education and core courses. Programs may require the completion of an internship or field experience. Following are some common courses offered by these public administration programs:

  • State and local government
  • Microeconomics
  • Statistics
  • Finance for community organizations
  • Public budgeting and finance
  • Administration of public personnel
  • Accounting for not-for-profit organizations

Online Course Info

Some schools offer the public administration associate's degree program as a complete online experience. Schools design programs to meet the needs of professionals who currently work in the field, but students who have no knowledge of the field can benefit from an online program. You will need access to the appropriate technologies, and researching a program's accreditation can ensure that your degree is recognized by the industry.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

The steps you take to boost your marketability will depend heavily on your selected career path. Here are a few things to consider for increasing your competitiveness:

  • Participate in field experiences, internship programs or collaborative projects during your studies to receive valuable experience.
  • Join an association related to the career you choose to follow. Association membership provides networking opportunities and can demonstrate your commitment to your field.
  • Apply for a relevant certification. Multiple associations and organizations offer industry-related certifications. They usually require a minimum level of education and suitable scoring on an exam.

Bachelor's Degree in Public Administration

The bachelor's degree in public administration can take your education further. Schools structure programs to provide upper-level classes that examine special and advanced topics and further develop your understanding of public policy, politics and business. Some programs offer technology courses so that you can gain the required technical skills for budget, finance and report creation tasks. You may find programs that require proof of work experience or transfer credits as a portion of the admissions process.

Pros and Cons


  • Employers are seeking candidates who have higher education.
  • This level of education could make management opportunities available.
  • Management personnel can earn competitive salaries.


  • A master's degree may be required for top positions in the field.
  • Job prospects will be best for those with a master's degree or Master of Business Administration in the human resources field.
  • Some programs do not offer focused technology courses, which may require that you pursue additional training or certification.

Courses and Requirements

The bachelor's degree combines roughly 120 credits of general education, core and advanced courses. Universities structure programs to include special projects and research topics. You may select from specializations, or electives, in organization or public policy. You can take courses in contemporary legal issues, the policy-making process, political parties, urban environments, management of change and business ethics. An internship is also often required, and you can gainexposure to the industry through supervised practice of the skills you learn.

Online Course Info

Online public administration bachelor's degree programs provide a complete online education experience. Schools design programs to meet the needs of working professionals and usually require 120 credits in general education and core courses. The online program may offer more flexibility in electives (up to 30 credits), which will allow you to tailor your education.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Similar to the associate's degree, seeking as much experience through internships and other work opportunities can increase your marketability as a graduate of a public administration bachelor's degree program. Student government organizations, collaborative projects or research opportunities offered by an instructor can each provide additional knowledge and experience. Certifying agencies exist for some of the major career paths in public administration, including human services, human resources and fundraising. For example, the HR Certification Institute confers a number of credentials for human resources professionals.

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