What Does It Take to be Successful in Public Administration?

leader standing and other team members sitting by white board and discussing public administration
Category: Careers

By Matt Rowley
Posted on

The term “public administration” covers a broad spectrum. There are currently more than 7 million public administration jobs according to Data USA. Careers spent working for the government can be rewarding, but what does it take to be successful?

In this article, we’ve compiled some of the most helpful skills and knowledge for working in public administration.

1. Leadership Skills

You must think critically, communicate effectively, and motivate people to be an effective leader in public service. Critical thinking is an in-depth analysis of different situations to make educated decisions. A critical thinker can make intelligent predictions of possible outcomes before implementing potential solutions.

Organizations are run by teams; therefore, leaders must be able to motivate their teams. Public administration requires leaders who can inspire people to work toward a common objective.

Communication is another essential aspect of leadership. Even the most brilliant ideas aren't useful if they can't be articulated. Leaders should be able to listen, understand situations, and clearly express themselves to others.

2. Interpersonal Skills

Public service provides essential services that bring positive change in communities. In their work, public servants regularly interact with different individuals and groups, making interpersonal skills indispensable.

Interpersonal skills are expansive, covering teamwork, responsibility, active listening, negotiation, patience and problem-solving, among other capabilities. While you may not be perfect in every aspect, you can improve your weak areas with effort.

3. Management Skills

The public sector differs from the private sector in three distinct ways:

  • The primary objective is service delivery.
  • The public service is not business-oriented.
  • The public service relies on public funds.

If you are looking to pursue a career in public administration, it helps to be a good manager. You should be able to direct your team without getting carried away by factors like financial gains.

4. Budget Skills

No list of government skills is complete without mentioning budget management. You don't need to be a professional accountant to have a career in public administration, but being comfortable working with financials certainly helps.

Budget managers think critically to make sound financial decisions within their constraints. Managing all the resources allocated to your department efficiently becomes even more important when you are publicly funded.


At Columbia Southern University, we offer an online Master of Public Administration degree and concentrations in criminal justice administration and emergency services management.

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