Hilbert College Global Online Blog

8 Public Administration Careers and Salaries

Written by: Hilbert College   •  Jan 30, 2024
A Team of Urban Planners Looking at Blueprints and a 3 D Model.

8 Public Administration Careers and Salaries

Public service professionals shape the lives of millions of people. They assist in implementing government legislation and initiatives, promote public safety, help improve quality of life and beyond. Public administrators also play a critical role in developing and implementing public policies.

Pursuing a career in the public sector offers several benefits. Many public service careers report above-average salaries and strong employment demand. The field also includes opportunities in the nonprofit and private sectors. 

Careers in public administration require strong leadership, analytical and communication skills. A Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree program can help professionals move into managerial and decision-making roles in public administration.

Why Work in Public Administration?

Local, state and federal government agencies rely on public administrators to run programs, efficiently deliver public services and stay within budgets. 

The field of public administration covers many career paths. Public administrators handle a variety of tasks, including program planning, budget analysis and regulatory compliance. They also specialize in areas such as:

  • Social and community services
  • Housing
  • Public safety
  • Emergency management
  • Public works
  • Transportation

The average public administrator salary varies widely depending on degree level, job title and location. In general, professionals see their earning potential increase as they gain experience or obtain higher academic degrees.

Public administration careers also report higher than average employment growth, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. These career paths also report high job satisfaction. 

8 Careers in Public Administration

From fiscal management to city planning, public administrators work in many different areas. Policy analysts, human resources managers and political scientists also apply their skills to improve public services. 

Here are eight popular public administration careers, including salary data and job growth projections.

1. Urban Planner

  Urban planners help develop towns and cities. They develop and administer land use plans that revitalize and grow communities. As part of their responsibilities, urban planners analyze census, environmental and economic data. They also conduct relevant investigations, meet with the public to discuss projects and evaluate land use proposals. 

Demand for urban planners is projected to grow in both urban and suburban areas due to population changes and changing community needs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports jobs for urban planners will grow by 4% between 2022 and 2032.

The median annual salary for urban planners was $79,540 as of May 2022, according to the BLS. Urban planners who work for the federal government report a median salary of $105,620. 

Most jobs in urban planning require a master’s degree. 

2. Political Scientist

Political scientists research government and politics. They collect data using tools such as public opinion surveys or census reports. Political scientists then analyze data to test political theories, recommend public policies or measure the effect of government policies. Political scientists also forecast political trends.

Demand for public policy analysis is increasing, driving demand for political scientists. The BLS predicts political scientist jobs to grow by 7% between 2022 and 2032.

The median annual political scientist salary was $128,020 as of May 2022, according the BLS. Political scientists working for the federal government report the highest median wage, which reached $138,840 in May 2022. 

The government employs political scientists to research the impact of policy proposals. In addition, political scientists may work for political parties, lobbying organizations and research institutes.

Careers in political science typically require a master’s degree. 

3. Policy Analyst

Policy analysts evaluate public programs and policies. They research the potential impact of proposed policies and measure the efficacy of current policies. Policy analysts present their findings in reports that include recommendations on whether to implement proposals or change current policies.

The earning potential for policy analysts varies depending on their role, location and experience. The median annual policy analyst salary was around $63,900 in 2023, while senior policy analysts earned around $84,500 in 2023, according to the compensation website Payscale. 

Many policy analysts hold a master’s degree in public administration or a closely related field. They also often bring a background in policy analysis. 

4. Public Relations Manager

Public relations managers help organizations maintain a positive public image. They research target audiences and outreach channels to craft public relations strategies. Public relations managers also work closely with advertising, marketing and promotions professionals. Depending on the role, they may manage media inquiries, draft press releases and oversee public relations specialists.  

The median annual public relations manager salary was $129,430 as of May 2022, according to the BLS. The government is one of the largest employers of public relations managers.

Job demand for public relations managers is projected to grow due to organizations increasingly investing in customer relations and community outreach. In fact, the BLS projects employment of public relations managers will grow by 6% between 2022 and 2032. 

Management roles in public relations typically require work experience or a master’s degree.

5. Fundraising Manager

Fundraising managers raise donations for organizations. They create strategic plans to raise money, interact with donors and oversee fundraisers and volunteers. Depending on their organization, fundraising managers may also submit grant applications, manage capital campaigns and solicit potential donors for major gifts.

Many nonprofit and public organizations rely on fundraising to fund their operations. The top industries for fundraising managers include hospitals, civic organizations, colleges, arts organizations and social assistance organizations.

Job demand for fundraising managers is projected to grow by 5% in the next decade, according to the BLS, as diverse organizations increasingly depend on donations. In addition, many organizations are expanding their social media presence to aid fundraising efforts.

The median annual fundraising manager salary was $107,390 in May 2022, according to the BLS. 

Careers in fundraising typically require work experience or a master’s degree. 

6. Medical and Health Services Manager

Medical and health services managers direct non-clinical operations at health care facilities. Also called health care administrators, they design and implement plans to improve the quality of health care services. These managers also monitor efficiency and oversee staff.

Health care administrators specialize in areas such as regulatory compliance, financial management and informatics. Strong demand for health services continues to drive demand for medical and health services managers. Employment openings are projected to increase by 28% between 2022 and 2023, according to the BLS, which is much faster than the average for the U.S. job market as a whole.

Earning potential varies by industry. The median annual medical and health services manager salary was $104,830 as of May 2022, according to the BLS. Health services managers at hospitals, including state and local hospitals, report a median wage of $125,280, while those employed by the government earn $119,100. 

Many employers prefer to hire medical and health services managers who hold a master’s degree in health administration or a related field.

7. Social and Community Service Manager

Social and community service managers oversee public programs and organizations. They manage the administrative side of programs, including planning, outreach and funding responsibilities. Social and community service managers also collect data to analyze the effectiveness of programs. Depending on their role, community service managers may also write grants for social services funding.

A wide range of human services organizations rely on social and community service managers. For example, local governments, nonprofit organizations and religious organizations hire community service managers. 

Demand in this field continues to grow, particularly for organizations that serve older adults and people with substance abuse disorders. The BLS predicts a 9% job growth for social and community service managers from 2022 to 2032.

Social and community service managers earned a median annual salary of $74,240 as of May 2022, according to the BLS. Local government represents the highest-paying industry with a median salary of $96,050.

Management-level roles in human services generally require work experience or a master’s degree.

8. Human Resources Manager

Human resources managers oversee compensation, hiring, benefits and training for organizations. Some specialize in recruiting and hiring, often coordinating with executives on their organization’s workforce needs. HR managers also manage HR specialists and handle employment issues. Other focus areas include labor relations, employee development and payroll. 

Demand for human resources managers is projected to grow by 5% between 2022 and 2032, according to the BLS. As organizations expand operations, they require additional HR managers to meet organizational needs and comply with regulations.

Salaries vary by industry and location. The median annual salary for human resources managers was $130,000 as of May 2022, according to the BLS.

Careers in human resources management typically require HR experience or a master’s degree.

Other Public Administration Careers

Careers in public administration require strong management, communication and analytical skills. Earning a degree in public administration also prepares graduates for diverse career paths in addition to the public administration careers listed above. 

While public administration courses emphasize the knowledge and skills to work in local, state and federal government, these skills also apply to working in the nonprofit sector. Similarly, an understanding of public administration is advantageous to professionals in government affairs, law enforcement and NGO careers.

Other career paths in public administration include the following.

  • Government Affairs Director: Government affairs directors develop strong relationships between private organizations and government agencies. They build partnerships to launch new programs, encourage legislation that aligns with their organization’s goals and monitor political trends. An understanding of public administration benefits government affairs directors.
  • City Manager: City managers oversee administrative tasks in city government, including budget management, internal affairs and community engagement. They may manage a department, create city policies or monitor compliance with regulations.
  • Law Enforcement Officer: Law enforcement officers enforce laws and keep the peace. They work in local, state and federal agencies where they investigate crimes, interview suspects and testify in court. The law enforcement officer salary potential varies greatly depending on the job title and location.
  • Nonprofit Program Manager: Nonprofit program managers oversee specific programs at diverse nonprofit organizations. A background in public administration benefits nonprofit program managers and directors. These roles require strong leadership and communication skills.
  • Grants Manager: Grants managers oversee grant administration and compliance for organizations that rely on grant funding. They track grant allocation, report progress and adhere to regulations. Grants managers also report to organizations on the impact of grant-funded projects.

Public administrators also work as budget analysts, community engagement coordinators, appraisers, financial examiners and regulatory affairs specialists. With a graduate-level degree, professionals can advance into managerial roles.

Public Administration Skills

The knowledge and skills gained through a public administration degree can also lead to careers outside of the public sector. Public administration programs emphasize project planning, budget analysis and public communication, which benefit professionals in a variety of fields.

For example, a master’s degree in public administration strengthens key skills that are universally in demand.

  • Program Management: Those who hold a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree develop strong program planning and evaluation skills, including the ability to oversee programs and projects. They also develop project leadership and communication skills.
  • Organizational Leadership: The MPA curriculum typically covers organizational theory, public management challenges, labor relations and decision making. These topics strengthen organizational leadership skills.
  • Financial Management: Coursework in budgeting and financial management prepares MPA graduates to oversee finances for a diverse array of public and private sector organizations. In particular, public administration programs emphasize budgeting and auditing.
  • Data Analysis: During an MPA, graduate students study research methods, statistics and data analysis. They learn how to design and conduct effective studies and draw conclusions from data.
  • Communication: MPA students strengthen public speaking and communication skills through coursework in public relations, grant writing and policy analysis. These skills transfer to many other fields.

Professionals with these skills may qualify for roles such as project manager, financial manager, higher education administrator and management consultant. 

Benefits of Earning a Master of Public Administration

A bachelor’s degree meets the requirements for many public service careers, including roles such as budget analyst and policy analyst. However, a Master of Public Administration (MPA) can lead to greater job responsibilities and higher earning potential. 

These are a few of the benefits of earning a master’s in public administration.

Job Impact

Earning an MPA prepares graduates for jobs that have a greater impact on society. For example, graduates can pursue executive-level roles such as county executive, public affairs director, director of operations or strategic planning director.

In these decision-making roles, public administration professionals influence public policy and impact countless lives. 

Increased Earning Potential

Many employers prefer to hire managers who hold a master’s degree—and an MPA can boost the earning potential of public service employees.

For example, nonprofit and public sector employees often see a significant salary increase when they move into management roles. Professionals with an MPA reported a median salary of $77,000 per year, according to 2023 data from Payscale.

Career Paths Outside the Public Sector

An MPA degree builds transferable skills that can lead to careers outside of the public sector. For example, an in-depth understanding of government regulations can lead to opportunities as a compliance director. 

While pursuing an MPA, graduate students can prepare for specialized career paths by choosing electives or a particular concentration. For instance, some MPA programs offer concentrations in high-demand areas such as health administration. 

Accelerate Your Public Administration Degree at Hilbert College Global

Careers in public administration make a difference in society. Whether you currently work in public administration or you’re interested in public service career paths, the online Master of Public Administration program at Hilbert College Global can help you reach your career goals.

You’ll explore program planning, budgeting, policy analysis and public administration leadership as an online MPA student. You will also complete an integrated research project to apply your knowledge to a real-world issue. Additionally, you can specialize your MPA with a general concentration or focus on health administration.

The program uses an accelerated format that can be completed in as little as 16 months. Contact Hilbert College Global to learn more about the accelerated MPA program.

Recommended Readings

5 Careers in Public Service

Crisis Management Plans and Public Administration

How to Work in Public Finance


National Grants Management Association, “What is Grants Management?”

Payscale, Average Policy Analyst Salary

Payscale, Average Senior Policy Analyst Salary

Payscale, Master of Public Administration (MPA) Degree

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Human Resources Managers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Political Scientists

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Public Relations and Fundraising Managers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Social and Community Service Manager

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Urban and Regional Planners

U.S. Department of Labor, CareerOneStop, “Government And Public Administration Career Cluster”

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