California State University, East Bay
Department of Public Affairs and Administration
CAREERS IN PUBLIC SERVICE
Over 15 million people are employed by public organizations. This is approximately one-sixth of the work force in the United States, nearly as many people as are employed by all of the Fortune 500 private sector businesses.
There are approximately 86,000 governmental jurisdictions in the United States involving federal, state, and local governments. At the local government level they range in size from large political units such as Alameda County (10,000 employees) to small single purpose special districts such as the Hayward Area Recreation District. Public Administration involves the study of public policy development as well as issues and concepts of managing people in organizations. Public Administration requires people who value and are interested in serving the public good, in fostering thoughtful public policy development, in improving and changing public organizations, in achieving excellence in public management, and who are stimulated by the challenge of turning program ideas into public services for people as a way of serving the public interest.
Public sector salaries are generally competitive with those in private industry. Pay scales range from approximately $25,000 for the beginning employees with a 4-year college degree to over $130,000 for top level administrators. Beginning employees with Masters degrees can expect to earn $35,000 to $45,000 per year.
The prospects in public administration employment are at least as good as those of most other professional fields. The Department of Labor reported an unemployment rate of 5.5% in California.
Examples of Occupational Specialties:
General Management at the City, County, Regional, State or Federal Levels
(e.g., City Managers)
Administrative and Policy Analysis
Revenue Assessment and Tax Administration
Procurement and Supply
Human Resources Management
Public Works and Utilities
Public Building Administration
Welfare and Social Work
Hospital Planning and Administration
Health Care Administration
Health Care Finance
Health Care Evaluation
Planning and Resources Development and Administration
City and Town Planning
Land Resources: Conservation and Use
Surveys, Records and Research
Real Estate Development/Procurement
Agricultural Services Administration
The Internship Experience
Internships in government agencies and in the private and nonprofit sector are an integral part of MPA programs. Internships give students the opportunity to learn in situations outside of the traditional classroom setting. On-the-job training also gives students firsthand experience and allows them to make contacts useful for future employment and occupational transition. In many cases, internships are salaried positions. Sometimes these jobs turn into full-time positions after graduation.
The following list illustrates the many kinds of internships typically offered:
- Coordinate economic and political surveys
- Develop management information systems
- Conduct research and writing for think tanks
- Write press releases and organize public relations events
- Conduct evaluations of ongoing projects
- Assist in the implementation of development projects
- Research and design project methodology
- Research and write grant proposals
After receiving an MPA degree, many graduates enter one or two year professional internship programs within state, city, and county governments throughout the United States. These paid internships, which are available on a competitive basis, offer new graduates the opportunity to become active participants in public service organizations.