Public administration is a similar degree to business administration. In both degrees, you gain a general knowledge of accounting, leadership, business management, economics and human resources. In a business degree, the focus is on the corporate world, or on entrepreneurial endeavors. Public administration, on the other hand, is related to the public sector. Folks with a public administration degree work in the public sector. This would include positions in federal, state or local government, as well as positions in non-profit organizations.
The coursework for a business degree in public administration will often be very similar to a regular business degree, just with a focus on the public sector. In both degrees, you’ll find yourself in courses focused on a variety of topics. Human resources and management courses will help you understand the nature working with people within any organization and give you some of the tools you’d need to be a leader in any type of organization. Accounting and other math courses will give you some knowledge on general accounting and budgeting practices, and the majority of these practices apply whether you are looking at the private or the public sector. Likewise, microeconomics and macroeconomics help you understand how the economic world works in any position.
Unlike a typical business degree, you will take classes that deal directly with the public sector, with topic that rarely come up in the corporate world. You’ll take classes on political systems and administration. You’ll learn about our government and its structure. You’ll also take classes about how politics affects policy and how your job in public administration may change as a result of political efforts. In addition, there are certain legal and political environments that exist within the public sector that do not exist in the private sector. You’ll study these laws and policies to better understand the scope of how public-sector positions are governed by law.
Future Opportunities with this Degree
Most with an undergraduate degree in public administration move on to work for a governmental agency. This does not mean that you are destined to work for the government. Many of the things you learn in a public administration degree translate well in the non-profit sector as well. Non-profits are also highly regulated and many depend at least partially on public funds in the form of tax revenue or grants. There may even be opportunity in the private sector, in fields that work closely with government agencies in the course of their work. All in all, a public administration degree is very versatile.
This degree becomes more versatile and profitable if you continue with your education. Someone with a master degree in public administration is well-positioned for higher level leadership roles. A student who combines a degree in public administration with a degree in education would be poised for a leadership position within the public-school system, particularly if one of those degrees was at the graduate level. Likewise, combined with a law degree, public administration would prepare you for specific legal positions in the public sector.
Whether you choose to advance your undergraduate degree or not, there are significant and growing opportunities in the public sector. Often these positions are less sensitive to economic environments, since the government needs to run regardless of the current financial state of the world.
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