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What Does a Public Administrator Do?

Public administrators serve pivotal leadership roles inside and outside the government.

Public administrators serve people in a variety of socioeconomic and demographic groups. Careers in public administration can vary widely, from public health to city management. There is steady demand for people to serve in these roles, and the median annual salary for administrative services managers is $98,890, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1 Increasingly, a master’s degree in public administration is the preferred level of education for many public administration jobs.

A quality MPA program, such as the online Master of Public Administration (MPA) program offered by Walden University, can help students develop leadership concepts applicable to the public sector, explore ethical solutions to improve the lives of citizens, and critically evaluate strategies for problem-solving in public policy and administration. Walden’s MPA program offers a General Program, as well as three specializations to help students tailor their degree to their goals and aspirations. You can choose to focus your studies on emergency management, law and public policy, or nonprofit management and leadership.

Regardless of specialization, MPA graduates will be prepared for a wide range of public administration roles. Here’s a sampling of some of those positions and the responsibilities they typically entail:

City Manager

In most areas of the U.S., a city council hires a manager to be the municipality’s chief executive officer. The city manager cannot vote on statutes or proposed changes to law, but he or she is responsible for implementing the mayor’s and council’s plans. Ultimately, the city manager’s goal is to operate the city as a successful business, overseeing all service departments and striving to keep everything from public transit to parks and recreation running smoothly. Interpersonal skills are of high value in this role, as success often depends on bridging gaps between other city leaders and finding compromises that everyone can embrace.

Public Health Administrator

A public health administrator serves as the head of a healthcare organization, either in the public or private sector. That might include city or county health departments and hospitals. As nonclinical leaders, they carry out administrative duties and are responsible for maintaining standards in patient care and overall workflow. They may also oversee public health initiatives and education programs, introduce innovative treatments, and work to improve access to care for underserved populations. Successful public health administrators have a deep interest in promoting public health and the ability to lead teams in a healthcare setting.

Human Resources Director

As overseer of an organization’s entire staff, the human resource manager or director plays an important role. He or she must anticipate the administrative needs of each department and screen potential new hires. In addition, the human resource manager typically acts as a point of connection between employees and management. They listen to workers’ concerns and work to mediate disagreements. Sometimes, their responsibilities also include oversight of employee benefit plans, compensation, and other financial issues.

Head of an NGO

Non-government organizations are citizen operated rather than government controlled. They are typically formed to fill specific needs within a community or region—for example, to promote human rights or advocate for improved access to healthcare. The executive director of an NGO operates under a board of directors and usually oversees managers and employees in several areas covering administration, communication, and program development. Heading up an NGO requires leadership skills, diplomacy, and a passion for the organization’s mission. If you want to make a tangible difference in the lives of others, managing an NGO can be a satisfying role.

Whether you want to work as a city manager, lead a government agency, or pursue a director job at a nonprofit organization, a public administration degree can provide an excellent foundation for a rewarding and challenging career as a public service administrator. And, when you earn an MPA degree online, you can broaden your skills while you continue to balance work and family obligations, from wherever you have an internet connection.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree program online with multiple specializations. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,