MPA Specializations: Finding the Path Toward Your Dream Job in Public Administration

by Heather Nelson

Ask any public administration professional, and they’ll tell you that MPA specializations are an important part of getting the most out of a Master of Public Administration degree. With the right MPA specialization, you can build a valuable foundation toward leadership in your dream job in public administration.

At Azusa Pacific University, graduate students working toward an MPA can choose from four valuable specializations, or they can customize a concentration to fit their ideal career path.

Pursuing a graduate degree and gaining practical experience in this field set you apart as a competitive candidate in the job market. By choosing a specialization, you’re enhancing your résumé even further and distinguishing yourself from other applicants. Here’s a rundown of the specialization options offered at APU, and the public administration careers they can lead to.

Emerging Technology and the Public Sector

Public sector leaders need to be technically competent on the job. You’ll learn how to understand (and work with) data analytics as well as the industry-standard technology your specific profession requires. Often, graduates with this specialization go on to explore the implications of smart cities, artificial intelligence, and data collection and privacy.

Career Possibilities: Policy analyst, public manager, nonprofit executive, program manager

Health Policy and Public Administration

Public sector leaders often manage programs with a health policy or health administration focus. This includes work for community health clinics, health policy, management within the Department of Health and Human Services, and more.

Working within this area, health policy professionals can also help communities and municipalities prepare and build resiliency to face a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic and other significant public health matters.

Isidra Valdez ’21 is one year away from earning her MPA with a specialization in Health Policy and Public Administration from APU, and explained why she chose to concentrate in this area. “My dream job has been to work within the law enforcement field or helping troubled youth and their families,” she shared. “My long-term goal is to attain an administrative position at the state hospital for people who have been committed by the judicial system for treatment.”

Career Possibilities: Health policy analyst, social service director, health policy legislator, hospital program manager

Communication and the Public Sector

Public sector leaders are expected to have excellent communication knowledge, and interpersonal and team-building skills to work in any organization. Whether collaborating with government agencies like FEMA or within the private sector, organizations need professionals who can communicate effectively during emergencies and make smart decisions.

Career Possibilities: Nonprofit crisis manager, public relations consultant, communications director, United Nations representative

Public Sector Business Administration

Public sector leaders often are engaged in partnerships between the public and private areas of society that are mutually beneficial. You’ll use your knowledge of the public sector to help private companies navigate and monitor government dealings and regulations. Professionals in this field also lead in education policy, workforce development, and federal health insurance policy.

Career Possibilities: Government affairs analysis, lobbyist, ethicist or human relations manager, foreign services officer

Create Your Own Specialization

Kimberley Garth-James, DPA, the MPA program director in Azusa Pacific University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, encourages graduate students to create a concentration that aligns with their career goals and interests. She said she frequently tells her students to dream of their ideal positions, and asks them to envision their daily lives.

“What did you do yesterday? What are you doing today? And what would you like to do tomorrow?” Garth-James asks.

For some graduate students, this might mean choosing classes from the multiple concentrations. For others, it could be combining their MPA studies with courses from another program. Students are encouraged to complete elective courses from other APU online graduate programs to create a specialization that fits their career goals.

“We like to design the program so it meets graduate students’ needs and leads to their ideal job,” explained Garth-James.

Starting a Master of Public Administration at APU

Whether your interests lie in industry, politics, nonprofits, or somewhere in between, finding the right specialization while pursuing an MPA at APU can prepare you for leadership in the public sector, and for meaningful service to communities and society. Garth-James suggested that it’s the university’s unique culture that helps set graduates apart when they enter the field as professionals.

“We are a field that focuses on the economics, but we also want our MPA graduates to lead with character,” Garth-James said. “That’s where APU’s Four Cornerstones come in—Christ, Scholarship, Community, and Service. We emphasize the values of being a public servant and how to do it with ethics, morals, and grace.”

Interested in leading and serving in the public sector with one of these MPA specializations? Explore APU’s Online Master of Public Administration degree and apply today.