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Public Administration


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What to Expect

Students in public administration train for management positions in government departments and agencies. If you have business skills and a desire to serve your community, this may be the program for you.

Amy Wills earned a bachelor's degree in public administration at Oakland University in Michigan and worked toward an M.P.A. at George Mason University in Virginia. She says potential public admin students should prepare for a heavy course load, with about six hours of study per course per week in graduate school.

"We read a book a week and papers are often required on the reading," she says.

Wills believes an undergraduate program in public administration will give you enough knowledge in the field. "I don't think a master's is necessary because people can learn the same skills in an MBA program or just through work experience," she says.

She adds that most of her grad classes dealt with theory or academic readings. "Real-life managers don't need to know that stuff."

Geoffrey Leach took a bachelor's degree in public admin at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas. He says he chose his major during a political science course when his professor "proclaimed that 'the country's best people should be in government.' After some consideration, I agreed and decided to look deeper into the field of public administration."

As in many programs, Leach's curriculum included an internship. His job during his final semester with the City of Lufkin, Texas, interested him in a career as a city manager.

How to Prepare

Leach advises potential students to be prepared for difficult courses toward the end of the program. "The professors in this department are actually teaching graduate-level information to undergraduate students. We [had] a policy analysis class that is equivalent to a graduate-level quantitative analysis course," he adds.

High school students should try to take an advanced placement government course, suggests Leach, who often visited high schools through his campus group called Students for Public Administration. The club tries to educate students on the benefits of public administration careers.

Another good learning experience, he says, is attending city council meetings and interviewing local government employees about their jobs.


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