Why Earn an MPA Degree?

There are many reasons someone should consider pursuing a master of public administration (MPA) most of which have to do with career aspirations and personal aptitudes. Typically, those who are interested in MPA degrees have ambitions to work in government, nonprofit organizations, or other parts of the social sector. An MPA is a great way to gain skills in leadership, program management, and analysis and can be a pathway to become a thought-leader in fields like public policy and economics.

Other viable degree options that have similar focus areas as an MPA include a Master of Public Policy (MPP) and a Master of Business Administration (MBA), and prospective students should carefully weigh their options before choosing which degree program to enter.

So, why earn an MPA degree instead of the other options available to you? An MPA degree might be the right choice for you if you have dreams of influencing change in local and federal governments, if you wish to gain management expertise to help organizations achieve their mission, or if you have other aspirations that involve functions of public administration.

Earn an EMPA online from Syracuse University's Maxwell School

Syracuse’s online MPA for Executives program prepares mid-career professionals for leadership and management roles in public service. The program can be completed in as few as 15 months. No GRE required.

  • No GRE required 
  • An Executive MPA for mid- career professionals  
  • Complete in as few as 15 months


Online MPA from the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government

Lead in government, lead for communities. Earn your MPA online from UNC-Chapel Hill’s nationally ranked program in as few as 18 months.

  • Complete in as few as 18 months
  • Accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA)
  • Five concentrations available


Benefits of an MPA Degree

1.) Flexible Career Options:

One of the best things about an MPA degree is the flexibility in career options it may offer once you graduate from a program. From nonprofit management to local, state, and federal government work to education administration – careers exist in a wide variety of fields. Opportunities to concentrate your studies in a specific specialization can help you tailor your experience to whatever field interests you the most.

2.) Open the Door to Leadership Positions in Your Field:

Two of the main emphases in many government degrees, including MPA degree programs, are leadership and management skills. Some MPA courses are specifically designed to teach students the best ways to manage programs and employees and set them up to become leaders in their field and within their organization. Obtaining an MPA can be a great way to demonstrate to your employer that you are taking your career in public administration seriously and are ready to advance within your organization.

3.) Versatile Course Structures and Study Options:

MPA degree programs are often designed with the mid-career or early-career professional in mind, meaning they are typically highly flexible in their course structures and options for study. One option that caters to the working student is the executive MPA (EMPA) format, where professionals with multiple years of experience in a field related to public administration are rewarded with a quicker estimated program completion time. Another option is to enroll in an online MPA program where you can work on coursework at a pace that works with your schedule.

MPA vs MBA: At a Glance

Two degree programs that are commonly compared against one another are MPA and MBA programs. This might be due to the fact that they both stress leadership training and seek to help their students succeed in corporate or organizational environments. In choosing which program type is best for you, it’s important to weigh your MPA career or MBA career aspirations and interests. Below is a helpful chart to help prospective students decide what is the best route for them.

Degree ComponentsMPAMBA
MPA programs prepare students for managerial positions in government agencies and organizations that receive government funding.
MBA programs prepare students for managerial positions at private companies and organizations. Learn more about whether an MBA is worth it.
Average Time to Complete
1-2 Years
1-2 Years
Common Specializations
-Healthcare Policy
-Education Policy
-International Development
-Nonprofit Administration
-General Management
-International Management
-Finance Leadership
Example Career Paths
-Financial Manager/Analyst
-Product Manager
-Management Consultant
-Marketing Manager
-City Manager
-County Executive
-Research Analyst
-Parks and Recreation Manager

Learn more about the differences between MBA and MPA programs!

Is an MPA Degree Worth It?

At the end of the day, only you can decide if an MPA degree is worth it. If you discover a program that seems to align with your ideologies, interests, and career aspirations then it is likely that the skills and knowledge you gain will prove valuable in the long run.