Is an MPA Worth It?

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Category: Value of Education

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Committing to pursuing a Master of Public Administration can feel like a huge decision. Besides the financial and time commitment, it may not be clear what advantages an MPA offers to justify advancing beyond a bachelor’s degree. What’s more, you could spend the same time and money earning a Master of Business Administration or another comparable master’s degree.

This means it’s critical to understand the potential benefits and costs of pursuing an MPA before enrolling in a program. In this article, we’ve put together some information to help you decide if an MPA is worth it to you.

The Major Benefits of an MPA

A master’s degree in public administration offers several key benefits, including:

  1. Studying and honing your skills and understanding of a wide range of subjects. Public administration degree programs cover a broad range of subjects, from financial administration and policy writing to analysis and emergency response, among others. This curriculum provides a huge range of interesting subjects for you to study, providing opportunities to find the topics that you feel are most interesting or important to you.
  2. Boosting career advancement and personal growth. Many people who work in public administration are first attracted to the profession because they want to make a difference in people’s lives. For those who start their careers working on the front lines – EMTs, firefighters, law enforcement officers and more – earning an MPA shows that you’re committed to your values and you’re willing to take major steps to push them forward. Whether you want to work in the public sector or for a nonprofit, an NGO, or even the private sector, an MPA gives you broader options and deeper insight into the many ways you can do work that provides value for people and communities.
  3. Improved earning potential. Education continues to be a worthwhile investment; the Bureau of Labor Statistics again reported that workers with higher levels of education – including master’s degrees – earned higher wages in 2022. And as of June 2023, Payscale reported an average base salary of $75,000 for workers with an MPA.
  4. Building a network of peers, advisors, and professional connections. An MPA provides a strong foundation in a broad range of subjects, and it gives you access to experts in these fields, researchers, and other professionals who can help advise you as you pursue your career. Your classmates can also prove to be valuable resources, both as study partners and for networking after you complete your degree.

Two Key Factors to Consider Before Pursuing an MPA

Before submitting applications to MPA programs, consider these factors:

  1. Earning an MPA signals that you are serious about your career and are looking to advance. If they weren’t already, your employer may start considering you for managerial positions or other leadership roles after you’ve completed a master’s degree. This can offer opportunities to put your values into practice, but it can also result in feeling a greater pressure in new roles. Consider whether you’re ready to take this step.
  2. Pursuing an MPA has opportunity costs, particularly as it relates to earning other degrees. For example, if you believe that the private sector is the best way for you to provide value and do meaningful work, you may want to instead explore an MBA or other business degrees. The differences between the public and private sector may be reflected in the course content for the two degree programs, as public organizations are typically focused on using tax dollars to provide services to communities while businesses are focused on generating profit.

As with any advanced degree, it’s important to review your personal situation and whether it makes sense for you to invest the significant time and financial resources necessary to get an MPA. Ask yourself:

  • What are the specific skills and knowledge I hope to gain from the degree that I couldn’t learn on the job or from a different program?
  • What do I plan to do after I earn the degree?
  • How much time can I devote to my studies on a weekly or monthly basis?

These are all critical questions that will enable you to position yourself to maximize the benefits of your studies and find a program that fits your schedule and goals.

The Value of an MPA Depends on You

Earning an MPA is a major step, one that speaks to your commitment to both your career and your values. However, given the amount of time and financial costs associated with it, you would do well to consider the benefits and costs as well as develop a clear set of goals that you’d like to achieve during and after getting an MPA. Once you have these in mind, it will be much easier to decide whether seeking an MPA is worth it for you.

Here at Columbia Southern University, we offer an online MPA program, as well as MPAs with concentrations in criminal justice administration and emergency services management. To learn more, visit the links below:

For more information about all our online degree programs, visit our website.

Multiple factors, including prior experience, geography and degree field, affect career outcomes, and CSU does not guarantee a job, promotion, salary increase, eligibility for a position, or other career growth.

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