Mapping Your Path to a Public Administration Career in 3 Steps

If you’re looking for work where you can match a passion for the public sector, diverse interests, and a rapidly expanding job market, a public administration career may be the right fit. California’s public sector has become a growing source of new public administration jobs in recent years, making this career path attractive for residents of the Golden State.

However, it’s not just opportunities for a public administration career that are on the rise; it’s also the education level employers expect.

Increasingly, employers want new hires to have the problem-solving capabilities and rigorous intellectual background that strong graduate programs provide. “MPA graduates stand out in today’s competitive job market using evidence-based decision-making to improve professional practice,” said Kimberley Garth-James, DPA, the director of Azusa Pacific University’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) program.

APU's MPA program provides an excellent opportunity to develop the professional and intellectual skills as well as experience needed for a lifelong career in the public sector. Here’s a look at three strategies that can help you realize your goal.

1. Define Your Calling

Making the decision to pursue a specific career isn’t one that should be made lightly. Other than putting investing time and resources into a career, you can use God-given talents to help others and transform the workplace.

Garth-James said when students first come to her wrestling with the decision to pursue a public administration career, she starts by praying with them. “As professor and director of the MPA program, my calling is to help others find their vocation (or voice) and serve,” she said. “Student engagement about career choice, and the Lord’s purpose for your life occurs when joining the MPA family and skill development during regularly scheduled student-student and faculty-student meetings.”

During their time together, Garth-James and her students pray and talk about the demands of serving the public. They also strategize and share ways to support peers. In these discussions, it often becomes easier for students to find—and understand—their calling.

2. Build upon Your Previous Experience

According to Garth-James, no single undergraduate field of study has cornered the market for preparing students for an MPA. A variety of undergraduate programs—such as accounting, business, education, environmental sciences, political science, philosophy, engineering, computer science, and communication studies—can prepare students for this path.

“In the MPA program, students can use their undergraduate knowledge to analyze and critically think about case scenarios, show application to real-world problems, and enhance leadership/management skills,” Garth-James said.

Students in the MPA program also come from diverse vocational backgrounds, leveraging their interest in public policy in government, religious, medical, and educational roles. Many bring those experiences into the classroom, where they provide a different perspective on critical public policy issues.

3. Take Advantage of Graduate School Opportunities

APU’s online MPA program is designed to help students become confident and ethical leaders. The coursework centers around research, writing, and managerial decision-making that prepares each student to be a “Christ-centered difference maker who promotes justice and leads transformative practice in the world.”

The program offers industry-demand concentrations, including Emerging Technology, Health Policy Administration, Communications, Public Sector Business Administration, and in fall 2022, the Certified Government Financial Manager certification for public accountants/budget specialists that are in demand by the public sector organizations. Students can also create their own specialization based on personal goals.

While in the MPA program, students have the opportunity to engage in outside training (some which provide certifications) during their normal coursework. Last fall, students participated in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Workgroups, which gave them an opportunity to talk with others about global pathways to peace, economic equality, and social action. Rebecca Silva, MPA ’22, is working with the global SDG-8 (Child Labor) initiative, attending meetings with groups from Latin America.

Want an exciting career in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors? Check out the MPA (online) program.