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Should You Pursue an MBA or MPA for a Public Sector Career?

6 Min Read

As the job market has improved, many people are searching for ways to advance their careers and find rewarding positions through obtaining either a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or Master of Public Administration (MPA). Both are popular and equally great choices depending on your career aspirations. As of October 2015, 271,000 jobs were added by private businesses as unemployment stands at 5% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1 Nonprofit staff cuts have been reduced and 46% planned to hire more employees, signaling continued growth in the public sector.2

In today’s market, you can find a fulfilling job and career flexibility with either degree. Public administration positions, including those within the community, local, state and federal government, professional public services, and education, are expected to continue to grow.3 Non-profit sectors such as health, education, international/foreign affairs, and public/societal benefits employ millions. Advanced degrees in both sectors, business administration and public administration have proven to offer professional flexibility, growth and skills necessary to continue a successful career.

The Difference Between an MBA and MPA

MBA and MPA degrees are related to the management of organizations. A business administration degree program spotlights leadership, finance, economics, accounting, and marketing as a function of business management. A Master of Public Administration, adversely, prepares you for executive positions in government (municipal, state, or federal) and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs). Choosing the path of an MPA or an MBA depends on the best fit for your career. Even if you are considering work in a government agency or NGO, a MBA may be useful, but if you’re passionate about a community-based or non-profit career, an MPA might be a path you should consider.

If you’re a professional looking to secure a leadership or managerial position, below is a comparable outline of both programs to aid in aligning your goals with a chosen course of study.

Master of Business Administration

A business administration degree, can yield a high level of career flexibility. An MBA for private sector jobs gives you a background in managing business systems, people, and resources. You will learn to become an effective leader on many levels. The main aspects of an MBA program include:

  • Specialization: The ability to choose a specialization in your area of focus is one advantage of the MBA. Common specializations include public finance and management, business, health informatics, healthcare administration, and non-profit
  • Skill Set: You will develop skills for assessing market trends, driving change, finding areas for growth, and maximizing corporate profitability. Accounting, economics, investment planning, and human resource skills for succeeding in the business world will be developed
  • Flexibility: MBA graduates may find employment in a large multi-national company or small non-profit organization. Healthcare is area where both an MBA and an MPA can benefit you, the community and the employer. What you choose may depend on the type of healthcare organization you plan to work for
  • Financial Benefits: According to a recent survey, 84% of companies said they plan to hire MBA graduates. Salaries range from $85K to $110K, which is higher than a master’s degrees in management, accounting, or finance alone.4 The report also indicated over half of global employers plan to raise starting salaries for new MBA hires
  • Employment: While variations in the job market can impact the exact outcome of your immediate job search, an MBA qualifies you to manage, whether it’s a marketing team, human capital, or company finances
  • Job Choices: MBA graduates can find work in energy/utility, technology, consulting, supply chain, manufacturing, and international business sectors

A 2015 GMAC Survey found 89% of incoming MBA students worked full-time and averaged six years of work experience, showcasing a growing demand for degree programs with a flexible schedule and modality.

Master of Public Administration

As an MPA student, you learn essential skills for succeeding in a public organization, such as securing funds via tax dollars, government grants, donations, and foundations.

An MPA provides many of the same business foundations as an MBA, and provides additional focus on public sector and NGO topics such as policy development, analysis, and management. Rather than simply driving profits and growth, however, an MPA program develops strategy skillsets that help you balance organizational demands and those of citizens and public entities. The degree helps you learn how to create components of public policy, manage resources and personnel in policy-related projects, and understand/navigate ethical and accountability issues.

For comparison, here are some aspects of an MPA program to consider:

  • Flexibility: Anna Maria College offers fully online programs, ready to meet the needs of working professionals. Some benefits include user-friendly classes that will not interfere with everyday life, online interaction with your peers, and convenient 24 hour tech support
  • Specializations: In addition to non-profit work, you may also specialize in criminal justice, emergency management, fire and emergency services, homeland security, and others as explained on the MPA Degree website
  • Financial Perks: Earning an MPA raises your salary potential. How much depends on the field of work, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics average salaries for Fire Inspectors5 or Emergency Management Directors6 can range from $55,000 – $65,000
  • Financial Aid: Student loan forgiveness programs are more accessible and include the possibility of canceling out debt after three to five years of public service. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is an example
  • Public Service and Policy Focus: A career specifically related to leadership in resolving societal issues the online MPA curriculum provides the core focus you need
  • Tools for Social Change: Obtain a skill set for creating solutions to the most pressing public issues of the day. You’ll learn budget planning, executive organization, and human capital and public policy management

MPA graduates enter the job market positioned to take advantage of flexibility in career opportunities. Students may gravitate to public sector or non-profit jobs, but might also work for private NGOs or government agencies. There are many benefits to obtaining an MPA degree, including standing out in a competitive job market. Transferrable skills are an advantage for job candidates looking for (or moving between) private or public sector careers. Students learn management and leadership, analytics, and how to evaluate programs and systems. The skill set overlaps somewhat with that of a traditional business degree.


An MPA degree from Anna Maria College online can typically be completed in 1-2 years through a customized course plan. Corporate businesses aren’t the only ones with opportunities. Government agencies also require dignitaries, cabinet officials and other leaders to have public policy education.

Anna Maria College online offers many programs to satisfy your educational requirements for a private or public sector career. Request more information and find out how Anna Maria College online can help advance the career of your dreams.



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