What Can I Do With a Public Administration Degree

Local Government

Areas

  • City Management
  • Financial Administration
  • Budget Analysis
  • General Services
  • Community Affairs
  • Social Services
  • Urban Planning

Employers

  • Counties
  • Municipalities
  • Townships
  • School districts
  • Special districts

Strategies

Learn local government job application procedures. Develop a network of contacts. Check statistics on growing communities for best opportunities. Gain relevant experience through an internship or volunteer position. Conduct applicable research that could be useful to your community. Get involved in community organizations and events.

State Government

Areas

  • Administrative Services
  • Legislature
  • Judicial

Employers

  • Various departments of state government
  • Legislative agencies including Legislative Reference Services, Bill Drafting Services, Legislative Councils, and Budgeting and Auditing staffs
  • State Supreme Courts
  • Personal staff of legislators
  • Intermediate Appellate Courts
  • Trial Courts of General Jurisdiction
  • Trial Courts of Limited Jurisdiction

Strategies

Research the organization of your state government. Develop specialized skills and interests for particular populations or issues, e.g. disability, education, homelessness, etc. Develop strong research and writing skills. Make political contacts through local legislators of both houses. Volunteer to work on political campaigns. Make contacts through referrals and informational interviews. Plan to earn a law degree to qualify for some opportunities.

Federal Government

Areas

  • Professional
  • Administrative
  • Technical

Employers

Various federal departments and agencies

Strategies

Obtain an internship in a federal agency or department. Often this is the best way to get a foot in the door for a permanent position. Learn federal job application procedures and how to write a federal resume including your KSAs (knowledge, skills, and abilities). Research various agencies and departments to discover which ones may be the best fit for your major and experience. Conduct informational interviews with government employees.

Federal Government

Areas

  • Legislative Branch
  • Legislative Agencies

Employers

Various agencies including: General Accounting Office, Library of Congress, Government Printing Office, and Congressional Budget Office

Strategies

Obtain an internship in a federal agency or department. Often this is the best way to get a foot in the door for a permanent position. Learn federal job application procedures and how to write a federal resume including your KSAs (knowledge, skills, and abilities). Research various agencies and departments to discover which ones may be the best fit for your major and experience. Conduct informational interviews with government employees.

Federal Government

Areas

  • Legislature
  • Administrative Staff: Washington-based, Home District, Committee

Employers

Offices of senators and representatives

Strategies

Understand structure of Congress and various opportunities available. Develop excellent research, writing, communication and organizational skills. Build a strong personal network. Explore districts other than your own.

Federal Government

Areas

  • Judicial Branch

Employers

  • Supreme Court
  • U.S. Courts
  • Supporting organizations

Strategies

Some positions require law degree and bar certification. Understand the structure and functions of the federal judiciary system.

Federal Government

Areas

  • Executive Branch
  • Office of the President
  • Management and Budget
  • Administration
  • Council of Economic Advisors
  • U.S. Trade Representatives
  • Executive Departments

Employers

  • Office of the President
  • Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, and Labor

Federal Government

Areas

  • Independent Agencies

Employers

  • Independent agencies include the following (not an exhaustive list):
  • Coordination and Public Safety
  • Emergency Response Policy
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  • Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • General Services Administration
  • National Archives & Records Administration
  • Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Office of Personnel Management
  • Securities & Exchange Commission
  • Tennessee Valley Authority
  • U.S. Information Agency
  • U.S. International Development Cooperation

Strategies

There are a large number of niche areas and specialized agencies within the federal government. Do extensive research in order to find the area that best matches your skills and interests. Take courses or minor in applicable interest area(s). Research applicable public service exams and hiring procedures. Complete an internship in a related area. Maintain a high grade point average to qualify for government employment. Consider earning a graduate degree to prepare for the largest number of opportunities.

Non-Profit

Areas

  • Administrative
  • Development
  • Program Management
  • Policy Analysis
  • Research
  • Grant Writing

Employers

  • Local and national nonprofit agencies and foundations
  • Charitable organizations
  • Trade or professional organizations
  • Research organizations and think tanks
  • Educational institutions

Strategies

Participate in internships and/or volunteer activities for related experience. Develop strong communication and leadership skills. Become a member of relevant organizations and seek leadership roles. Develop strong research skills and learn how to write grants. Research the organizations' values to find a good fit with yours. It is critical that you are knowledgeable about and care about the work you're going to do.

Political Support / Lobbying

Employers

  • Political Action Committees (PAC)
  • Various industrial, educational, and public interest groups
  • Political parties
  • Lobbying organizations
  • Large business firms

Strategies

Get involved with political party/group and develop a personal network. The ability to develop networks, coalitions and alliances with other associations is highly valued. Gain experience with government agencies or departments to help build relationships. Develop excellent public relations, interpersonal and communication skills. Learn how to persuade and negotiate. Participate on a debate team. Volunteer in organizations with similar interests and goals.

Business

Areas

  • Human Resources
  • Budget Analysis
  • Management
  • Sales/Marketing
  • Management Consulting
  • Occupational Safety Coordination
  • Public Relations

Employers

  • Business firms
  • Contracting and consulting firms
  • Association management firms

Strategies

Develop strong analytical, communication and technical skills. Obtain related work experience through internships and summer or part-time jobs. Earn a minor in business. Hone computer skills and learn software packages such as databases, spreadsheets and presentations. Get involved in student organizations and seek leadership roles.

Health / Medical

Areas

  • Healthcare Administration
  • Policy Development and Analysis
  • Health Delivery Systems

Employers

  • Hospitals
  • Healthcare facilities
  • Health Maintenance Organizations
  • Insurance companies
  • Nursing homes
  • Social service and community agencies

Strategies

Most positions will require graduate degree in public health or hospital administration. Complete an internship in a healthcare environment to gain knowledge of the industry. Learn to work well with different types of people.

International Affairs

Areas

  • Governance
  • Policy Making and Analysis
  • Public Sector Reform
  • Poverty-Reduction Strategy
  • Ethics and Anti-corruption
  • Human Rights
  • Public Law
  • Organization and Management Development
  • Resource Development
  • Public-Private Partnerships
  • Media/Communication Policy and Practice
  • Education

Employers

  • Intergovernmental agencies, e.g., World Bank, United Nations
  • National governments
  • Non-profit agencies
  • Policy and research organizations
  • Private businesses
  • Contracting and consulting firms

Strategies

Obtain internships or volunteer in order to gain valuable experience in areas of interest. Participate in overseas mission trips or spend a Semester at Sea.
Become familiar with national or international application procedures. Research the history and culture of countries or geographic areas of interest. Take steps towards obtaining work or study visas for various locations. Become proficient in at least one foreign language. Spend time studying or working abroad, especially working to make and maintain contacts in foreign countries. Earn a double major or minor in order to gain additional skills or knowledge needed for various positions (i.e., Africana studies, Asian studies, business, psychology, sociology, etc.). For higher-level positions an advanced degree is necessary. Research different programs and the concentrations they offer in order to find the best fit for your interests.

General Information

  • An undergraduate degree in Public Administration, with the appropriate experience, is sufficient for entry-level position in government and business.
  • A graduate degree in public administration or public health administration helps prepare students for management and upper-level administrative positions. Carefully research programs in order to choose specializations or concentrations of interest.
  • Consider law school for careers in upper level politics, administration or management. Explore joint J.D. and M.P.A. programs to see if they meet your career goals.
  • Obtain broad liberal arts background including written and verbal skills, communication and foreign language skills.
  • Part-time, summer, internship, and volunteer experiences are extremely helpful in government affairs, organizations or public service areas.
  • Develop strong leadership skills; run for office in clubs and organizations in school or community. Volunteer to organize or lead an event or project.
  • Get involved in Student Government.
  • Demonstrate interest/involvement in community affairs/events.
  • Join related social and/or professional organizations.
  • Employment opportunities in local government tend to follow population trends in terms of growth and decline in availability of positions. Be prepared to relocate to find the most opportunities.
  • Develop a strong personal network through informal contacts.
  • Political connections are helpful for appointed positions. Most agencies respond to professional connections.
  • Expect keen competition for federal positions. Prepare yourself with a strong academic background and good experience. Many government jobs have strict guidelines and want to carefully match candidates' KSAs (knowledge, skills, and abilities) to the job description. Research this first and seek the classes and experiences that will best prepare you.
  • Develop patience, persistence and drive in obtaining government positions.
  • Explore application to Administrative Careers with America (ACWA) and the Outstanding Scholar Program for federal positions.
  • Learn applicable application process for area of interest.
  • Research websites and books that address various government job opportunities, pay structure and hiring processes.
  • Consider military experience and training as an entryway into government jobs and public service.
  • Plan on following a flexible career path to higher positions. Many people begin on the clerical or entry level in order to gain experience and network.

Prepared by the Career Planning staff of Career Services at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. (1996, Revised 2002, 2007) UTK is an EEO/AA/Title VI/Title IX/Section 504/ADA/ADEA Employer