Public administration attempts to explain how government makes decisions as well as administrating projects to carry out those decisions. A diverse background is required for the degree, with classes in public policy, management, sociology, and political theory. It has a close association, interaction, and influences from several fields of studies including law, political and social science administrative science and human relations and even behavioral science. For this reason, many academics refer to public administration as a science as certain fundamental principles are applicable. Others believe it is an art because of the human behavior aspect.

Degree Choices

Perhaps this is why universities/colleges offer either a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration or both.  An arts program builds your knowledge of government structure, administrative management, fiscal budgeting, community dynamics, politics, and public policy. A Bachelor of Science program may focus on building skills around the topics of budgeting, personnel and financial administration, the management of organizations, public service leadership, law, political and government institutions, and ethics.

Regardless of the program,  most programs will involve public management, public policy, fiscal management and the theory of administration. The curriculum covers the basics of public policy and business skills that benefit the management of public service operations. By studying these topics, you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate theoretical knowledge for understanding, developing, and implementing public policy and administration
  • Integrate academic theory and practical applications
  • Apply management theory to the practice of public administration

Specialty Programs

There are programs offering a Bachelor of Science in Public Affairs (BSPA), which allow concentrating in other areas involving the affairs of the public. Similar in subject matter, a BSPA covers the basics of policymaking, budgeting, and finance. Within this degree, there is the choice of majors, for example, Public Management & Leadership. You will study public finance and budgeting, urban development and planning, and contract management while gaining a unique insight into public sector challenges.

Another possibility is a major Policy Analysis that exposes you to urban problems and solutions to national and international policy. Through the study of finance, economics, and law, you will develop skills in identifying, dissecting, and improving policy at the city, state or federal level. Mathematics is usually prevalent in this concentration since it uses quantitative analysis in advanced statistical modeling.

Additionally, there is a specialty degree there are colleges offering a specialty degree known as a Bachelor of Public Management (B.P.M.). The coursework provides a diverse understanding of the administrative structures and functions found in public sector organizations. In addition to equipping students with skills to work in public sector organizations, the B.P.M. encourages study in related areas. These run the gamut including architecture, business, criminal justice, political science, psychology, social work, and urban and regional planning.

Employment Prospects

People in public administration jobs analyze information, oversee expenditures, draft and implement governmental and public policy, manage people and resources, conduct safety inspections, investigate suspected criminal activity, serve as consultants, and in general act as stewards of the public interest. This diversity creates numerous career paths for graduates to begin using their degree in public administration. An abbreviated list of positions is in civil service, education, consulting, city manager, non-profit director, and other public service jobs.

Further Information

DegreeQuery featured this degree in our report on the 25 Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees for 2018.

A career in public service may take you into emergency management. Further information is in our report on the Top 35 Online Graduate Certificates in Emergency Management. In addition, our report on the Top 24 Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Emergency Management may interest you.