The ROI of a Degree in Public Administration

The ROI of a Degree in Public Administration-image

Sure, earning a graduate degree is an investment of your time and money. But, the good news is that when it comes to your return on investment (ROI) it’s worth it. 

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the median earnings of those with a master’s or higher degree in 2021 were $74,600. (That’s about 21 percent higher than people  with a bachelor’s degree.) Plus, people who’ve earned a graduate degree have more job opportunities to choose from. 

But some programs pack more of an ROI punch than others. For example, earning a master’s degree in public administration can open the door to a variety of high-earning careers at government agencies, private firms, and beyond. 

Read on to learn more about what an MPA is, the jobs available to graduates, and what the ROI is when it comes to earning this degree.  

What is an MPA?

Relative to other professional degrees, the MPA is more interdisciplinary, drawing on the fields of economics, finance, management, political science, and psychology. This provides students with the tools required to navigate conflict and bring people together to improve lives.

MPA students take courses in subjects like administrative, political, and policy processes; economic analysis and public finance, and quantitative analysis. Also, there’s typically the option to add a concentration in an area like environmental policy or social policy.

 Practical experience is also an important component of this graduate program. So, students may have the opportunity to complete internships, externships, and/or certificate programs to enhance the ROI of their degree.  

MPA programs can be offered as both residential and executive options. For example Cornell University’s Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy offers a residential MPA, which is completed on-campus over about two years.

 Jobs in Public Administration

Public administration generally involves managing cities, government agencies, and organizations that work for the public. But there’s a world of opportunity with an MPA for motivated professionals. What careers can you pursue with a degree in public administration?

  • Science Technology and Infrastructure Policy. In this field, you can influence how communities and governments leverage technology and infrastructure. You might work in roles such as policy analyst or urban planner in a tech firm or government agency, working on initiatives like renewable energy or smart cities development.  
  • Nonprofit Management. In this field, you can create social impact, whether it's through charities, health organizations, or educational institutions. Job opportunities might include executive director, program manager, or development director in nonprofit agencies, where you'll guide initiatives, manage teams, and drive fundraising.  
  • Government Policy. In this field, you’ll influence the development and implementation of policies that impact communities and nations. Job opportunities might include policy analyst, city manager, or government affairs director. In these positions, you could be responsible for researching, drafting, and implementing policies on a range of issues, from education to environment.
  • Infrastructure Policy. In this field, you’ll make decisions on the development and renewal of critical infrastructure like bridges, roads, and public utilities that improve quality of life and foster economic growth. You could work in a role like urban planner, infrastructure policy analyst, or project manager within a government agency or consulting firm.  

The Personal and Professional Benefits of Getting a Degree in Public Administration

In addition to serving as a launchpad for a career in public administration, here are some of the other benefits of pursuing an MPA.

Professional Benefits of Pursuing an MPA 

  • Higher Earning Potential. On average, people who’ve earned an MPA can expect an average salary of $68,000 — that’s about $18,000 more per year than people with only a bachelor’s. Check out this MPA Career Report for more salary information.
  • Network Building. Earning an MPA helps you broaden your professional network by connecting you with faculty members, guest speakers, and peers who are active in sectors ranging from government to nonprofits. These relationships provide invaluable insights, mentorship opportunities, and potential job leads within the field of public administration and beyond.
  • Access to Robust Career Management Programs. Many MPA programs offer tailored career guidance, skills workshops, and job placement services to help graduates navigate their career paths. Students have access to resources for personal branding, interview preparation, and networking strategies.

Personal Benefits of Pursuing an MPA 

  • Improved Communication Skills. MPA programs place a strong emphasis on refining your ability to communicate effectively, both in writing and verbally. Excelling in communication can enhance your relationships and your ability to advocate for policies and programs.
  • Civic Engagement and Volunteer Opportunities. This degree program often emphasizes the importance of civic engagement, which means that volunteer opportunities can be part of your curriculum and provide personal fulfillment.
  • Global Perspective. While earning your degree, you’ll likely study international policies and governance, providing you with a global perspective. This broader understanding can open up international career opportunities.

Position Yourself for Personal and Professional Success: Cornell's MPA Program

An MPA is the premier degree for public administration roles because it combines interdisciplinary academic rigor with practical, career-oriented benefits — all aimed at fostering leadership and making a tangible difference in public service. And, as we’ve shared, the ROI on earning an MPA is well worth the investment graduates make.  

For example, more than 90 percent of Cornell Brooks MPA students find full-time employment in the field or move on to further graduate study within nine months of graduation. 

Cornell’s coursework is designed to cultivate your critical thinking skills and to increase your knowledge about policy-making in general. Also, you’ll develop expertise in a specific area of policy of your choosing by focusing on one of eight different concentration options

To explore the value of an MPA and how to customize your coursework and resume, download our guide: Uncovering the Value of Cornell University’s MPA Degree.

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