Online Public Administration Degrees

Public administrators typically work within government agencies or nonprofit organizations and provide valuable services to their communities. A career in public administration may involve managing programs, people, and budgets, and professionals are often involved in the development and implementation of legislation and policies surrounding education, criminal justice, and economic growth.

Job opportunities in this field are abundant, and many graduates of public administration programs go on to become research analysts, government aides, city managers, political scientists, and program managers. The industry is expected to grow in coming years, and an increasing number of colleges and universities are now offering degree programs for a bachelor’s or master’s in public administration online, making this career path an attractive one for working students looking to enhance their skills and knowledge.

Online Public Administration Degree Overview

Degree Avg Degree Cost Avg Loan Default Rate Time Commitment Early Career Pay Mid-Career Pay Unemployment Rate
Associate $9,979 18.97% 2 years $29,800 $42,400 N/A
Bachelor's $17,448 10.73% 4 years $40,600 $62,700 6.1%
Master's $18,840 8.4% 2 years $47,100 $77,100 N/A
Whether you are new to the field, or looking to advance in your current career, you should weigh the costs and time of getting a new degree against its benefits. There is no one-size-fits-all degree. The best choice for you will depend on your current educational background, financial standing, employment history, and area of interest. For instance, those with no experience may want to consider an associate degree, due to its shorter time commitment and lower cost. If finances are tight for you, then you should prioritize the student loan debt and default categories, as you will want to choose a degree that offers you the best chance of improving your financial standing with minimal risk. If your employer or someone else is paying for your education, then you might want to consider the degree that will offer you the highest salary. All salary information is sourced from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and/or PayScale

The average salary in the field of public administration increases with the higher level of degree earned. Individuals with more advanced degrees are also able to explore a broader variety of career options. Many public administration jobs are available to those with a BPA alone, while earning an MPA online (achievable with an additional two-year commitment at a comparable cost to the BPA) provides the tools needed for public administrators to advance to upper-level management positions and an average $6,500 salary increase.

Choosing Your Public Administration Career

Average Public Administration Salaries

$55,680
$64,360
$102,750
$83,790
$104,920

City Public Relations Manager

Salary: $55,680
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
6% 240,700 Bachelor's None

Many organizations and companies employ public relations managers to help create and maintain a favorable public image. City public relations managers work within a municipality to moderate between the local government and the community it serves by informing the public about the activities of government officials and agencies. Completing a master’s in public administration online better prepares prospective employees for the requirements of this managerial position. Specific duties of a city public relations manager may include writing press releases, drafting and arranging speeches, and responding to requests from the media. Individuals who possess organizational skills, excellent speaking and written communication skills, and who enjoy dealing with the public are ideal candidates for this occupation.

Public Safety Director

Salary: $64,360
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
6% 10,500 Bachelor's CSP recommended

Public safety directors are employed by a city or county to work within a local government jurisdiction. The most important functions performed by public safety directors include the coordination and supervision of services provided to protect the citizens of their given jurisdiction. Public safety directors oversee and implement public safety budgets, procedural policies, and professional conduct codes. These duties involve close work with police departments, fire departments, emergency medical services, and animal control services. Flexible individuals with excellent organizational skills, problem solving skills, and analytical skills are ideal for this position, although related work experience in public safety is also typically required in order to be considered for employment.

Mayor

Salary: $102,750
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
6% 2,467,000 Bachelor's None

Mayors are chief executive officers in charge of local governments rather than companies. Duties of a mayor include management, negotiation, and establishment and implementation of policies and procedures. Additionally, mayors oversee local programs, budgets, events and activities, and the use of resources within their city. Mayors must be elected to their position by the public they intend to serve. Prior experience in public administration and the completion of an MPA online or on-campus program can be invaluable for those seeking a political career path. Individuals with excellent social skills, problem solving skills, and leadership skills are ideal for a mayoral position.

Administrative Director

Salary: $83,790
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
8% 287,300 Bachelor's CAP recommended, not required

Administrative directors plan, manage, coordinate, and direct the supportive services of an organization. Specific duties vary from one organization to another, but it is typical for administrative directors to assist with maintaining facilities and supervising the supportive services of an organization, such as recordkeeping, mail distribution, and office upkeep. Detail-oriented people with analytical skills, communication skills, and leadership skills are ideal candidates for administrative director roles. While a bachelor’s degree is often all the education one requires to land this job, individuals seeking advancement in this field benefit greatly from the completion of an online master’s in public administration.

Public Administrator

Salary: $104,920
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
-2% 6,200 Masters None

Public administrators must be flexible and prepared to perform a variety of roles in their workplace. Specific job functions vary from one position to the next and are determined by the needs of the organization or company they work for. In general, public administrators are placed in important leadership roles overseeing, implementing, and evaluating programs, public policy, and services within an organization or government body. Individuals who have completed on-campus or online MPA programs earn higher salaries in this field. A slight decline in job growth is projected due to the limited number of higher level administration service management jobs available, however, an increased number of retirements in upcoming years is expected to create more job openings.

Online Public Administration Degrees

Associate

With a time commitment of two years and an average cost of $9,979, an associate in public administration degree is an affordable option for students interested in exploring the field. Aspiring professionals who earn an associate degree in public administration will be prepared to perform the functions required for entry-level careers with nonprofit organizations as well as local and state governments. APA programs cover the fundamentals of accounting, organizational management, and problem-solving, and students develop the foundational skillset required to run a department, group of staff, and to continue their education with an online BPA or online MPA.

Sample Courses
Grant Management, State and Local Government, and Survey of Legal Concepts
Common Majors
No specific majors
Potential Jobs
Social Services Professional, Law Enforcement Administrator, and Financial Consultant
Average Income
$29,790
Employment Prospects
11% growth by 2024

Bachelor’s

A bachelor's of public administration degree provides students with training in public policy and management. Earning a BPA typically involves a time commitment of four years at a university and an average tuition cost of $17,448. During these four years, students gain a background in fields like economics, management, and political science. Students who earn their BPA either online or in the classroom are able to enter a wide variety of occupations in local levels of government, national or federal levels of government, or in the nonprofit sector. Many students also opt to further their education by pursuing a master's in public administration online.

Sample Courses
Human Resources in the Public Sector, Municipal Government Operations, and Values and Ethics in Public Administration
Common Majors
No specific majors
Potential Jobs
Budget Analyst, Nonprofit Administrator, and Public Relations Specialist
Average Income
$72,583
Employment Prospects
7% growth by 2024

Master’s

At an average cost of $18,840 and a time commitment of two years, students may be interested in pursuing an in-class or online MPA after the completion of their bachelor's degree. Degree curriculum builds upon the skills and knowledge developed in the first four years of a student's education. Many schools offer an online master's in public administration, allowing students the flexibility to advance their career at their own pace. Online MPA programs and MPA programs in the classroom both provide students with practical skills and training required for upper-level managerial positions.

Sample Courses
Intro to Policy Analysis, Public Finance, and Communications for Public Administrators
Common Majors
Specializations include Healthcare Policy, Global Public Policy, and Education Policy
Potential Jobs
Political Campaign Worker, Criminal Justice Administrator, and Hospital Administrator
Average Income
$77,775
Employment Prospects
14% growth by 2024

The Top 5 Online Master's Degrees in Public Administration

Rank School Name School Logo City Cost
1

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill
  • in-state tuition: $8,340
  • out-of-state tuition: $30,122
2

CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice

New York
  • in-state tuition: $6,059
  • out-of-state tuition: $12,569
3

California State University - Long Beach

Long Beach
  • in-state tuition: $6,240
  • out-of-state tuition: $17,400
4

University of Colorado - Denver

Denver
  • in-state tuition: $7,933
  • out-of-state tuition: $22,057
5

Indiana University - Bloomington

Bloomington
  • in-state tuition: $10,209
  • out-of-state tuition: $32,350

See full rankings

Doctorate

The average cost and time commitment required to earn a doctorate degree in public administration varies depending on the institution. Like online MPA programs, many DPA programs are offered online and provide a flexible schedule for working and full-time students. Earning a doctorate in public administration often involves a research-based curriculum, requiring the completion of a dissertation and enrollment in advanced courses. Upon the completion of a DPA program, individuals are prepared to compete in the job market for leadership positions in government agencies, politics, or in public service organizations.

Sample Courses
Finance and Budgeting for the Public Sector, Qualitative Reasoning and Analysis, and Ethics and Social Justice
Common Majors
Specializations include Global Leadership, Health Policy, and Nonprofit Management
Potential Jobs
College Professor, Policy Analyst, Nonprofit Executive, and Lobbyist
Average Income
$86,770
Employment Prospects
10% growth by 2024

Professional Requirements

Students pursuing a public administration degree can further advance their professional skills and career prospects by earning certification. While there are no certifications specifically catered to those in the public administration field, there are several related certifications available which individuals may consider applicable to their overall career goals.

Certified Public Manager

The Certified Public Manager (CPM) program is a nationally accredited leadership development program which consists of classroom instruction, at-home assignments, application projects, and examinations. Specific application requirements and scheduling vary from program to program, but all require a minimum of 300 hours of training in order to enhance students’ leadership skills, personal effectiveness, and to promote the creation of innovative solutions in the public administration field. As an added incentive, CPM participants may also be able to earn credit toward an MPA online program or other college degree plan for their completion of the program.

Is it required?

No

How long will it take?

Typically 18-24 months

Joining the American Society for Public Administration

Formed in 1939, the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) is the largest professional association for public administrators. The ASPA offers varying levels of paid memberships, including memberships designed specifically for students, new professionals, or seasoned professionals, whether in the United States or abroad. Through the Chapters and Sections of the association, ASPA members are given the opportunity to become involved in local public administration communities, attend conferences, participate in professional development activities, and receive exclusive publications on public administration throughout the year. The benefits of an ASPA membership provide the keys to efficient networking and career advancement.

Is it required?

No

How long will it take?

Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis