What’s the Difference between an MBA specializing in Public Administration and a Master of Public Administration?

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The Master of Public Administration and the Master of Business Administration with a specialization in Public Administration programs have many similarities, including some course overlap. At Ashford University, students in both programs take courses in Organizational Behavior and Management Communications with Technology Tools. Both programs require coursework in legal systems and business ethics.

A capstone course in Public Policy Development, in which students create and present an analysis of a public development project, is required for both programs, too.

Although the curricula are similar, the emphasis is different. In the Master of Public Administration program, students concentrate on the workings of government. In an MBA program with a Public Administration specialization, students learn about markets and other areas where business and government intersect.

Master of Public Administration

A Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree often is called “the MBA for government service.” Graduates of MPA programs learn the skills they need to broadly understand an agency, its mission, and its functions.

In most Master of Public Administration programs, students learn how to construct and analyze budgets, and how to manage public finances. Graduates acquire skills in urban planning and redevelopment including the use of technology.

The degree is a great choice for people interested in long-term careers in government, non-government organizations, or in non-profits. With a steady stream of baby boomer retirements, some see an increase in job openings in these fields in the coming years.

As with an MBA, a Master of Public Administration gives graduates the ticket they need to potentially reach higher levels of management. Many city managers and directors of larger agencies hold MPAs.

The MPA also prepares students for richer, more exciting work. A master’s can make the difference between being a legislative analyst and a big-picture career, like a research director overseeing an entire body of work.

MBA specializing in Public Administration

The core courses in an MBA with a Public Administration specialty focus on the skills needed in the corporate world – finance, economics, marketing, and accounting. Students also immerse themselves in topics such as business research and operations management.

The public administration component of the degree usually involves broad-brush topics such as government budgeting and policy development.

While an MBA in Public Administration prepares graduates for potential upper-level positions in government, graduate degree holders also draw demand among private-sector businesses that either work closely with agencies, or are in heavily regulated industries.

An MBA in Public Administration can also offer graduates greater flexibility to work in either the public or private sector - a good choice for students who haven’t settled into a definite career track.

While the Master of Public Administration and the MBA with a specialization in Public Administration have several similarities, there also are important differences. Setting goals for your career path and understanding the types of organizations where you want to work helps refine the choice.

Written by Ashford University staff.

For more information about on-time completion rates, the median loan debt of students who completed each program, and other important information, please visit ashford.edu/pd. Certain degree programs may not be available in all states.

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