MPA graduates are typically employed in either the public, private or nonprofit sector. Although MPA salaries can vary greatly depending on sector, experience, geographical location and other factors, it is still useful to look at average salary data to determine the value of earning an MPA degree.
The Cornell Institute for Public Affairs at Cornell University has reported on average salaries by employment sector for 2010-11 MPA graduates. The highest average salary, $75,500, was reported for jobs in the private sector. In the public sector, the average salary for MPA Degree graduates was $51,630. In the nonprofit sector, the average was $40,000.
The National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) provides information about average salaries for different types of MPA jobs and positions:
Public Careers for MPA Graduates (Median Salary: $51,630)
- Chief Administrative Officer: $101,000 - $108,000
Also known as city managers, chief administrative officers handle all the administrative management on a local or state government level. Some duties include overseeing daily tasks of their communities, providing administrative support to day-to-day operations, and bringing their expertise to manage public services efficiently. Many of these positions are held by older employees preparing to retire, which will create a high demand for city managers in the near future.
- Policy Analyst: $40,000 - $68,000
The overall purpose and goal that policy analysts pursue is to influence positive public policy change. Policy analysts help to implement new regulations and laws and commonly work in a government setting, although some analysts work in non-government organizations (NGOs) instead.
Nonprofit Careers for MPA Graduates (Median Salary: $40,000)
- Executive Directors: $34,000 - $65,500
Executive directors are hired in nonprofit organizations and serve a similar role as chief executive officers in for-profit organizations. They have a varied job role, as they oversee many different departments of a nonprofit organization, including fundraising, marketing, and creating programs.
- Statisticians: $46,000 - $65,000
In a nonprofit setting, statisticans apply their expertise, analyzing and collecting data to solve issues in the various fields that the nonprofit organization covers. The job outlook for statisticians is above average and estimated to grow 34 percent from 2014 to 2024.
- Program Administrators: $40,000 - $55,000
Having their role primarily in a middle management level, program administrators are responsible for organizing teams and guiding them through day-to-day functions. Some of these functions include collecting donations, planning programs, and organizing events for the nonprofit organization.
Private Careers for MPA Graduates (Median Salary: $75,500)
- Public Affairs (PA) Specialists: $66,000 - $85,000
Charged with the responsibilities of delivering the for-profit organization’s brand message with multimedia products and researched communication plans, public affair specialists are experts in engaging and marketing to a targeted audience in various platforms, including social media, programs, newspaper articles, and more.
Federal employees are paid according to the General Schedule (GS) scale, which uses a series of ascending steps and grades. Many MPA graduates begin with a grade level GS-9 with a starting salary of $41,563. If they have relevant work experience, they may start at grade GS-11 with a salary of $50,287.
NASPAA reports that advancement within a grade usually occurs at the rate of one or two steps per year. Besides grade, federal salary is based on the cost of living according to geographic location. Some of the main sources for data about MPA salaries are colleges with MPA programs that conduct surveys of program graduates.
Job Outlook for MPA Graduates
Earning an master of public administration (MPA) degree in preparation for a career in public service can mean a substantial increase in salary and greater job security. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that earning a master's degree brings an annual salary increase of at least $15,000 over a bachelor's degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2011 the unemployment rate for workers with master's degrees was just 3.6 percent. This is significantly lower than the rate of 4.9 percent for bachelor's degrees and the national average rate of 9.1 percent.
Several surveys were conducted relating to MPA graduates and average salaries:
- A survey conducted by the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington, found that MPA graduates experienced an average increase of 31 percent in annual salary after they receive their degree.
- A survey from the University of Pennsylvania's Fels Institute of Government reported that MPA graduates received an average salary of about $61,400.
- A survey from Baruch College School of Public Affairs at City University of New York found that the number of graduates making more than $50,000 per year increased by 500 percent following graduation from the MPA degree program.