What kind of impact can a Master of Public Administration, one of the easiest online master’s degrees, have on your career? If you already work for the government, this degree could be your ticket to moving up into a leadership role or making more money. You might also use this degree to break into a government role, if your experience is working in the private sector. While a master’s degree in public administration is valuable in several ways, it’s not the only graduate degree that could help you move up in a career as a government employee.
Advancing in a Government Role
The focus of the field of public administration is the management of government entities and agencies across all levels of government – local, state and federal. If you currently work in a non-managerial role, then a Master of Public Administration degree can help you make the leap to a leadership position.
You don’t necessarily need a master’s degree to move up in the government, but having this advanced education can be particularly valuable if you want to shift the focus of your career function or move to a new agency or level of government. For example, if you work in a small local government agency where there isn’t much room for growth, a simple promotion within your department or agency might not be possible. You may have to apply outside your current agency, which means you can’t rely on your reputation as a good worker to get you the job (or even an interview). Having a master’s degree can help you get hired by a new employer, the Federal Times reported – and that graduate education can make you stand out from other candidates vying for the same position.
Not sure a career working for the government is right for you? A degree in public administration may also help you qualify for leadership roles in nonprofit organizations.
Qualifying for a Higher Salary Grade
Besides just moving up in job title and level, earning your Master of Public Health degree can also help you earn more money. The federal government utilizes the General Schedule (GS) system of job classification and salary range, with GS grades ranging from a low of 1 to a high of 15, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are also 10 steps within each GS grade, each with a different salary amount.
Having a master’s degree qualifies you for government jobs at the GS-9 level, the United States Office of Personnel Management (USAJOBS) reported. As of the 2020 General Schedule, that means the lowest you would expect to earn in a GS-9 position, if you started as a Step 1 employee, is $45,627, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. A GS-9 employee at Step 10 would earn $59,316 per year. If this amount sounds low, keep in mind that this is the General Schedule and may not apply precisely to your location, since the federal government also awards locality payments of up to 41 percent to employees in certain areas).
You can also advance to GS-10 positions with a master’s degree, although to rise to GS-12 roles, you would need a doctorate, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management reported.
Other Options to Consider Besides a Master of Public Administration
Before you enroll in a Master of Public Administration program, it’s a good idea to look at all of your options. Even though public administration degrees were made for public service and government careers, this particular degree isn’t always a better choice for government workers seeking advancement, according to the Federal Times.
What other graduate degree options should you consider? That depends largely on your field of work. If you want to work in an area of law enforcement, you might be better off seeking a master’s degree in criminal justice. Because the field of health care intersects with the public sector in a couple of different ways, you might choose to get a Master of Public Health versus a Master of Public Administration degree, especially if you want to study the spread and patterns of diseases.
Some other top master’s degrees for government jobs include the Master of Public Policy degree, the Master of Business Administration degree, the Master of Information Technology degree and the Master of Social Work degree. The Federal Times even suggests that a law school degree – which isn’t a master’s degree but instead a Juris Doctor – is valuable for working in government, regardless of whether your intended job role has anything to do with the law. Your possible graduate education choices for a government career range from the highly specific to the very general, but they can all help you advance a government career in some field or function. The only question is, which path is right for your academic background, experience, skills and job role?
One advantage of a Master of Public Administration is that this degree is broader and more adaptable in the field of government work. However, you can also pursue a specialization that will narrow your focus while still taking versatile generalist courses.