Is the MPA the Service Master's Degree for You?

Tuesday, April 18, 2023


Bailey Schott

mpa vs mph

If you are considering a master's degree, recognizing the similarities and differences between public service degree programs is crucial when weighing the opportunities. Some of the most recognized service degrees—the Master of Public Administration (MPA) and the Master in Public Health (MPH)—focus on preparing students to take on leadership roles in public, private, nonprofit, and for-profit organizations, across a range of industries and fields. Despite the basic similarities, the curriculum delivered to students and the careers they are prepared for can vary greatly. These differences, and similarities, are outlined below. 

Masters in Public Administration 

A Public Administration degree program examines policy, law, and finance in the context of public-facing organizations. Public Administration "is often regarded as including also some responsibility for determining the policies and programs of governments. Specifically, it is the planning, organizing, directing, coordinating, and controlling of government operations."

Focused study of these areas paired with real-world applications develop the skills needed to run an organization in the public and nonprofit sectors. MPA curriculums often bring together concepts from policy, management, politics, and law to develop a well-rounded understanding of how policy affects citizens on a personal level. 

Master of Public Administration vs. Master of Public Health

mpa comparison

An MPH program and an MPA program both share pillars of leadership and implementation. The question to consider when choosing between an MPA degree and an MPH degree is do your passions lie exclusively in public health, or do you aspirations to effect change stretch beyond the health sector?

While they are similar, they have big differences. 

MPH degree programs are constructed for individuals striving to promote and prevent in the context of public health. These programs are centered around building strategies and skills that cover a range of problems affecting communities, from disease prevention to disability empowerment. MPA graduates possess the skills to manage and implement the policy surrounding the public health sector. MPH graduates are more prepared for administrative roles on the ground floor across public health sectors. Examples of MPH careers include: Health Educator, Hospital Administrator, Consumer Advocate, etc.

Why Become a Master of Public Administration Student?

A master's degree offers the tools you need to make a difference and effect change in the complex landscape of 21st century policymaking. At the Carsey School of Public Policy you will be prepared for strategic roles in a broad range of public and nonprofit institutions. 

Our online MPA program will enable you to achieve your full potential, effect change within your organization, and prepare for the next step in your career. You'll engage in hands-on opportunities during which you'll apply knowledge and skills developed in the program to real issues within your community. 

What Can I Do with a Master's Degree of Public Administration?

Career paths for Public Administration graduates vary from those listed above. With the pinpoint on policy implementation and management, examples of MPA careers include:

  • Administrative Director
  • City Manager
  • County Manager
  • Development and Fundraising Officer
  • Government Administrator
  • Human Resources Coordinator
  • Law Enforcement Professional
  • Nonprofit Coordinator
  • Public Affairs Coordinator
  • Research Analyst

As you can see, the similarities between these programs can make choosing your master's degree very difficult. However, while they are similar, they have big differences. Each program has its distinguishing qualities and offers a range of career options. While policy and leadership blanket each of these paths, a Master of Public Adminstration works to implement and manage policies to solve complex problems that span each of these sectors. With full-time, part-time, and accelerated options, the Carsey School's online MPA program fits students from all different backgrounds, from career professionals to current undergraduates.


Is this program for experienced professionals?

Absolutely! The Carsey School's online Master of Public Administration program offers training for public service leaders—both current and future leaders. The program is designed specifically for working professionals and can be completed in just 12 months. 

Additionally, professionals with 5 or more years of applicable experience can enroll in the Executive MPA option, allowing them to reduce their credit load by 6 credits—or 2 elective courses—and save on tuition. Financial options include: Scholarships and Education Awards (both partner-based awards and an award for First Responders).

What kind of careers can you pursue with an MPA degree?

With its focus on public and nonprofit management, the Master of Public Administration degree program at the Carsey School effectively prepares graduates for public service leadership. This entirely online curriculum accomplishes this by covering such aspects of the public service field as: collective bargaining, budgeting,  planning, program evaluation, and policy analysis.

So, what kind of careers will this training prepare you for? In short, you'll come away from the MPA program at Carsey with the skills and experience to lead agencies and organizations at the municipal, state, and federal levels, as well as nonprofits and NGOs of all different sizes. Potential careers include: City or Council Manager, Administrative Director, Human Resources Coordinator, Law Enforcement professional, Nonprofit Manager, or Public Affairs Coordinator.