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,"
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.