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How Can MPAs Help Improve Quality of Life?

MPAs can help improve quality of life

A Master of Public Administration, or MPA, is the principal degree for leaders with management careers in public service. These leaders promote the well-being of citizens and work to improve their quality of life. Public administrators perform a variety of functions, including managing budgets and human resources; creating and implementing policies, legislation and development plans; and researching public needs. Public administration relies on many different occupations, which creates a number of career options.

Because public administration is the responsibility of governmental agencies, most MPA graduates find management-level positions in federal, state and local governments — or with nonprofit organizations. Common careers at the governmental level include financial manager, general operations manager, budget analyst, accountant, tax assessor, city manager, urban and regional planner, and foreign policy adviser. Nonprofit jobs include executive director, fundraising director, program director, marketing executive and grant administrator. No matter their title, all public administrators strive to bring positive social change to their communities and to make a difference in people’s lives.

What Skills Do Public Administrators Need?

Most public administrators need business and management skills as well as a college degree. An MPA program equips students with the skills and knowledge they need for a career in public service. These programs typically include a core curriculum that covers the roles and principles of public administration, public financial management, economics, accounting, research methods, policy analysis, ethics, leadership, public management, and program development and performance evaluation.

Depending on their areas of interest, MPA students can specialize in a variety of public sector fields such as urban and regional planning, urban management, economic development, community development, emergency management, nonprofits or cultural policy.

What Is Involved in Improving a City or State?

Planning, also known as urban and regional planning, plays a crucial role in creating and revitalizing communities. Urban and regional planning develops, implements and manages the strategies, policies, programs and projects that help improve people’s lives and their communities.

Planners work collaboratively with elected officials, developers, engineers, architects and the public to determine the best use of land, the design of the urban environment, the welfare of a community’s citizens, and the protection and enhancement of a community’s natural resources.

According to “Principles of urban quality of life for a neighborhood” in HBRC Journal, Vol. 9, Issue 1, “The desire to improve the quality of life in a particular place or for a particular person or a group is an important focus of attention for planners.”

Three Steps For Improvement

The latest report in McKinsey & Company’s Cities Special Initiative, “How to make a city great,” examines what it takes to advance a city’s performance, offering strategies planners could adopt. According to the report, “Cities can transform themselves into great places to live and work by doing three things.” They can achieve smart growth by adopting a strategic approach and planning for change. They can “do more with less” by assessing and managing expenses rigorously, exploring partnerships and embracing technology. And they can “win support for change” by crafting a personal vision, building a high-performing team and forging stakeholder consensus.

Data-Driven Planning

In order to improve a community, planners draw on the knowledge and skills from their MPA programs as they analyze various data, including censuses, economic and environmental studies, and quality of living index reports. A quality of living index can include such elements as life expectancy, the unemployment rate, education, infrastructure development, safety and security, and environmental sustainability.

Better Living Through Planning

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Quality of Life Index links life satisfaction to health, family life and community life. Gora Mboup, chief of the Global Urban Observatory at UN-Habitat and the author of Streets as Public Spaces and Drivers of Urban Prosperity, says, “Besides the provision of basic services, sustainable transport systems, green open spaces and cultural and sports facilities are major contributors to a better quality of life in cities. They promote social inclusion by ensuring high-quality public spaces that promote interaction among communities, by improving safety and security, and by promoting green spaces. . . . It is in any city’s best interest to promote these public goods.”

Learn more about the UTA online MPA program. 


Houston Chronicle: Careers in Public Administration

College Factual: Public Administration and Social Service

BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook: Urban and Regional Planners

American Planning Association: Career Center

Development Progress: Urban quality of life — concepts and measurements

ScienceDirect: HBRC Journal: Principles of urban quality of life for a neighborhood

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