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Is earning an MPA worth it?

When deciding whether or not to pursue a Masters of Public Administration, one of the biggest factors is cost of the degree. After all, post-graduate degrees can be very expensive; however, an MPA degree can be an investment that will pay off in the long run.

Employers value the knowledge that a post-graduate degree provides and they recognize the dedication it takes to complete a master's program. These factors lead to increased salaries for those who have their MPAs, not to mention higher visibility among other job candidates.

Higher education vs on-the-job training

"But I am already working in public administration, and that is way more valuable than anything I can learn in a classroom," people often argue. It is certainly true that on-the-job training and the skills acquired from the actual job are invaluable; however, an MPA degree can prove beneficial, as well.

First, many mid-level and top management job classifications in government and non-profit management require an MPA and years of experience are not a suitable substitute.  Second, even though you may have many years of government or non-profit work experience, your experience is likely within your undergraduate degree — not public and non-profit management. The MPA stresses critical management skills while your specific undergraduate degree prepared you for the front-line of accounting, human resources, public works, criminal justice, etc.

Finally, an MPA program can offer students a big-picture view, something that is difficult to obtain while going through the everyday motions of public administration. A master's degree sheds light on overall processes and concepts, rather than how something is done at one particular workplace. With the broader perspective gained from continued education, you can develop a better understanding of your job function without the blinder-effect of a specific employer's policies. Those insights are ones that someone with only an undergraduate degree may not have.

Higher salaries

When it comes to careers in public administration, this higher-level thinking adds great value to an employee. In fact, after earning an MPA degree, one can expect to be earning substantially more. The amount varies from region to region and from sector to sector, but the costs associated with obtaining the degree are easily overshadowed by the earning potential after the degree is acquired.

When it comes to the financial aspect of earning an MPA degree, it is most certainly worth the investment. Employers seek candidates with knowledge, dedication and a broad view of public administration. On-the-job training is great, but there are things that one can only learn in an academic setting, such as how to analyze problems by looking at the bigger picture. Post-graduate degrees can also put you on the path toward a higher salary, as employers recognize the advanced skills and knowledge you have acquired.


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