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Public Administration at WGU

Are You Looking to Get a Master of Public Administration Degree?

If you have a passion for working in public service, you might be thinking about what kind of degree program you should pursue. While a Master of Public Administration (MPA) is one path you can take, it's not your only option.

While WGU doesn’t currently offer an MPA program, this guide will help you explore how the skills learned in a Master of Business Administration, Master of Science in Management and Leadership, or a Master of Science in Human Resource Management degree program can be applied to a range of public service or nonprofit leadership positions.

Pathways to MPA Careers

Whether you want to help shape public policy, work in politics, or lead a nonprofit organization, having business experience is crucial. In fact, many of these careers require the same skills that any business demands, which is why an MBA, MSML, or MSHRM are all great options to consider.

The MBA, MSML, and MSHRM programs provide training in essential management competencies such as accounting, strategy, and communication, and can help you understand and be prepared for a job in politics, nonprofit, or public service.

Master of Business Administration

The MBA (Master of Business Administration) degree program focuses on operations management and concepts such as accounting, finance, and economics. The curriculum includes principles of effective management and leadership and incorporates teamwork, development, and simulations to help students master the knowledge and skills necessary to qualify for department management and even executive positions.

Some specific skills you’ll learn in an MBA program that directly apply to a career in public administration include:

  • Budgeting
  • Finance
  • Performance management
  • Economics
  • Leadership

Master of Management and Leadership (MSML)

The MSML master's degree program helps students develop the managerial and leadership skills needed to execute organizational change, drive strategic initiatives, and develop high-performance teams. It teaches leadership theory and ethics, business acumen, leading teams, and strategic and tactical change management. Graduates of the MSML program gain the skills needed to become qualified, capable leaders.

Some specific skills you’ll learn in an MSML program that directly apply to a career in public administration include:

  • Ethics
  • Organizational management
  • Communication
  • Change management
  • Leadership

Master of Science in Human Resource Management

A master's degree in human resource management opens rewarding career opportunities that align with your passion for understanding people and workplace cultures. This advanced program equips students with the expertise to connect with employees, nurture their growth, manage HR policies, and foster an inclusive workplace. Through courses in talent acquisition and development, communications, people analytics, and HR compliance, you'll acquire the necessary skills to make a positive impact on employees and within organizations in roles such as:

  • HR Manager
  • VP of People and Culture
  • VP of HR
  • Talent Acquisition Manager 
  • DE&I Manager
  • HR Compliance Specialist
  • Employee Relations Specialist

Payscale reports that the average annual salary for MPAs is $69,000, while the average annual salary for MBAs is $85,000.

MPA Career Options

Some people join an accredited MPA program because they feel called to public service—and many go on to work in local, state, or federal government or to lead nonprofit organizations. However, you don’t need an MPA to qualify for jobs in the public or nonprofit sector. An MBA, MSML, and MSHRM can give you the same knowledge needed to qualify for MPA-related careers and give you a broader set of business skills to work with. To help you understand your options, here are some public service jobs you can potentially land with an MBA, MSML, or MSHRM.

What is a City Manager?

City managers are local government leaders that serve residents by ensuring that city services run smoothly and efficiently. In most cities, all departments report to the city manager, who reports to the city council.

What is an Urban Planner?

These professionals specialize in land use. They develop plans and programs that help create communities, accommodate population growth, and revitalize physical facilities.

What is a CEO?

CEOs manage a company's overall operations. Some of their responsibilities may be to delegate and direct agendas, manage a company’s organizational structure and strategy, and drive profitability.

What is a Nonprofit Director?

A nonprofit director works to provide the board with the resources it needs to create change and promote growth. They also play a role in selecting board members and act as a liaison between the board and the staff.

What is an Economist?

Economists analyze the relationship between society and how it uses its resources. They study the correlation between a community or nation's resources and the products created from those resources to predict future trends for organizations or the government.

What is a Government Director?

A government director manages local, state, and federal relationships that benefit the programs and policies of a company. They generate public support for relevant issues, lobby for policy change, and stay up to date on government changes and actions.


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 0.7% annual growth for private and public employment from 2020 to 2030.

Why Choose WGU?

There are several reasons WGU’s online degree programs are a great fit for students:

  • AffordabilityTuition is charged per six-month term, not per credit hour—which means you can complete more courses in one term without paying more money. 
  • AccelerationCompetency-based education means you can use your knowledge to your advantage. Move through courses at your own pace, accelerating your program and graduating faster. 
  • AccessibilityWe offer scholarships and financial aid to help with our already affordable tuition, making college education accessible for even more students.
  • MarketabilityThe coursework in our online programs is directly applicable to your career and provides you with a portfolio of relevant work before you even graduate, which can make you even more marketable to future employers.

Prepared for Success on the Job

*From a 2023 Harris Poll of 300 employers of WGU graduates.

100% of employers said that WGU graduates were prepared for their jobs.*

97% of employers said that they would hire another WGU grad.*

98% of employers said WGU graduates met or exceeded expectations.*

Which Degree Should You Choose?


Master of Business Administration

The flexible MBA program you need, focused on business management,...

The flexible MBA program you need, focused on business management, strategy, and leading teams:

  • Time: Graduates can finish in 12 months
  • Tuition: $4,755 per 6-month term
  • Courses: 11 total courses in this program

Skills for your résumé you will learn in this program include: 

  • Leadership strategies
  • Talent management
  • Communication
  • Data collection and interpretation
  • Financial statements

Our competency-based model gives you an innovative learning experience you won't find anywhere else—and our MBA grads tell us they loved accelerating their program to see a faster ROI.


Management and Leadership – M.S.

An online master's degree focused on change management, innovation, and...

An online master's degree focused on change management, innovation, and leading teams:

  • Time: 60% of graduates can finish in 17 months.
  • Tuition: $4,755 per 6-month term.
  • Courses: 10 total courses in this program

Skills for your résumé that this program will teach you:

  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Coordinating
  • Communications
  • Performance Management 
  • Planning

Develop a comprehensive suite of leadership skills and your confidence to navigate changing business structures.


Human Resource Management – M.S.

A SHRM-recognized master's degree in human resource management...

A SHRM-recognized master's degree in human resource management

  • Time: 61% of graduates finish this program within 18 months.
  • Tuition: $4,755 per 6-month term
  • Courses: 10 total courses in this program

Skills for your résumé that you will learn in this program include: 

  • Performance Management
  • Communication
  • Management
  • Planning
  • Talent Acquisition
  • Human Resource Information System (HRIS)

Earn your M.S. in Human Resources and help companies create excellent cultures.

Frequently Asked Questions About MPA Degrees

MPA programs are focused on preparing students for careers in public service or nonprofit management.

MPAs can pursue jobs as a city manager, department employee or manager for public service teams, economist, CEO, human resources manager, urban planner, financial analyst, and more. An MBA or MSML can also qualify you for these jobs, plus give you a broader skill set to work with so you can pursue a wide array of job opportunities outside of public service.

MPA students learn how to analyze policy and manage government and nonprofit programs. Courses in an MPA program generally cover topics like land use, population growth, natural resources, and transportation.

If your heart is set on working in politics or the public sector, then an MPA might be a good fit, but it’s not your only option. An MBA or MSML can give you additional business skills that could expand your career options.

The average annual salary for MPAs is $69,000 while the average annual salary for MBAs is $85,000.

Some careers may require an MPA, but for the most part, if you want to pursue a career in government work, politics, or non-profit work, you could pursue another business degree instead of an MPA.