Where will a Master of Public Administration (MPA) take me?

The Master of Public Administration is suited to those seeking a career in government, civil society or similar public-sector organisations.
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Mike Dilnot
Team PostgradAustralia
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Studying for a Master of Public Administration (MPA) is the perfect way for candidates to prepare for a management career in all manner of public organisations. The style of the MPA program is broadly comparable to that of the MBA, only with the emphasis on issues of governance, rather than business. The program takes a highly structured, cross-faculty approach to a wide range of socioeconomic topics, and equips students with the skills to analyse situations from different perspectives and develop policies accordingly. Core topics within the program range from law and regulation to public sector finance and the environment. Above all, the program encourages debate and insight into the ever-changing factors that affect public policy at a local, state and national level.

There is no significant body offering accreditation for the MPA program within Australia, meaning that candidates are free to select programs based on personal preference regarding the location and course structure. Many programs do, however, offer the option to specialise in a range of disciplines, including urban planning, emergency management and cultural policy.

Former MPA graduates include the Prime Minister of Singapore and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, leaving little doubt as to the prestigious nature of the programs. Upon graduation, the majority of students will enter leadership positions within local government departments or similar public bodies. While senior managers in business may be driven by financial growth and corporate ambition, those seeking a career in public sector leadership may be more drawn to the ability to make a positive impact on society. A humble, and arguably more noble cause! With graduate base salaries in the region of $60,000 per annum, steady annual increases and excellent benefits, the remuneration packages on offer are very attractive.

The Master of Public Policy (MPP) is a another popular degree choice for students looking to advance their career in the public sector. While there is some cross-over, the MPA focuses more on developing skills to lead and manage public sector organisations, while the MPP specialises in policy research, formulation, and implementation.

While some MPA degrees can be entered into directly from undergraduate, many institutions encourage students to gain experience in the public sector workforce before they enrol. This ensures that students are able to contribute meaningfully in class, as well as having some practical knowledge to apply their learnings to.