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Public Administration

The Breakdown

Have you always dreamt about going into public service?  Do you fancy yourself a problem solver?  Are you fascinated by the interplay between law, government and business?  Is bureaucracy one of your favorite words?  If all these questions hold true for you, you might want to think about majoring in public administration.

As a public administration major, you will learn all about management and leadership as they apply to the public sector (i.e., the government and non-profits).  Combining classes in political science, business and economics, you’ll study everything from coordinating budgets to how to effectively implement policy changes.  And you will become intimately acquainted with how decisions are made at all levels of government.  Be forewarned: this is not a slacker major.  You can expect a lot of reading, writing and research.      

If you major in public administration, you’ll come to rely on (or covet) impeccable organizational skills.  Further, as you no doubt realize, bureaucracy often involves a high degree of interaction with the general public.  Therefore strong communication and interpersonal skills will also prove invaluable.  Finally, this probably isn’t the major for you if you’re thinking about dabbling in anarchy.


Nuts and Bolts

Should you major in public administration, you’ll have the opportunity to take a variety of courses such as: Labor Law and Public Policy, Problems in Urban Geography and Urban Planning, Research Methods, Public Budgeting Finance, Legislative Processes, Public Policy Analysis, Land Use Law and Policy, Grants Management, Principles of Accounting, Decisions in Crises, Group Dynamics, Community Engagement and Civil Society, and Conducting the Public’s Business Ethically.

Decisions, Decisions

Public administrations majors are at the crossroads of the social sciences and business and thus might also be curious about political science, urban planning, economics, sociology, business administration, public health, education, criminal justice, government and politics, pre-law, social work, communications, statistics, finance and human resources.

What's Next

There are many professional avenues which a public administration major can pursue.  To begin with, many grads seek employment with the government.  These positions can be on the local, state or federal levels. Jobs can range from doing budget analysis for a school district to being part of the administrative staff of a senator or congressperson.  In addition, a handful of public administration majors might also aim to find work within the non-profit world.  Indeed, the skill-sets acquired as an undergrad can easily be applied to a variety of non-profits.  Graduates can seamlessly segue into careers in policy analysis, development, program management and even research.  Healthcare administration and public interest/lobbyist groups are also popular choices.  Of course, the business world sometimes beckons as well and public administration majors can be found working in human resources, management consulting and even public relations.  Regardless of your future goals, you can be certain that a degree in public administration will open many professional doors.



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Don Munce