Deciding between an MBA or an MPA


  • Deciding between an MBA or an MPA

    Determining the next step in your education can be an incredibly challenging decision. Being able to visualize your desired future career, or even just having a vague sense of where that chapter in life will take you, is hard on its own to do. Deciding how to get there, however, presents itself first. Many students who know they wish to work at a higher level within an organization, like administration, may find themselves stuck between a Master of Public Administration (MPA) – or a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Both degrees can provide essential training for management positions, like accounting, human resources and strategy. However, where a student wishes to fulfill a leadership role can play as a deciding factor.

    Master of Public Administration

    Those who graduate with a master’s in public administration often are looking to work in the public sector. An MPA is seen as an accepted and respected degree for upper-level public service professionals. This is the best fit for someone who is looking to have a long term career working for non-profits or government agencies, says Business Student. Generally, the goals of an MPA program are to make students well equipped for a career in public programs where they will develop their managerial skills and advance their understanding of how internal organizations function.

    The skills obtained in this program can make graduates an asset for leadership positions in the government and public sectors. Topics in these programs cater to teaching an understanding of social, economic and political environments that make up the development of public programs and inform how they operate. Below are some of the topics that one can expect to cover in an MPA program:

    • Public organization and management
    • Governmental fiscal decision-making
    • Research methods
    • Human resources in the public and nonprofit sectors
    • Introduction to public policy analysis
    • Organizational behavior
    • Community development
    • Analytical methods

    For those graduating with an MPH, some potential careers include:

    Urban and Regional Planner: Urban and regional planners are responsible for developing land use plans and programs that develop strong communities. They also consider population growth, revitalize facilities in towns, cities and towns – keeping community needs in mind to develop short and long term solutions to improve their communities. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the median salary for this role is $73,050 as of May 2018.

    Budget Analyst: Budget analysts help public sector organizations organize their finances, plan annual reports and evaluate budget proposals. Budget analysts are essential to government officials, as their work and provided information gives officials the knowledge they require to decide on the final budget for an organization. The median annual wage was $76,220 as of May 2018.

    Medical and Health Services Manager: The responsibilities of medical and health services managers include planning, directing and coordinating the business activities of health care providers. They work to improve efficiency and quality in delivering health care services, create work schedules and keep records of the facility’s services organized, among other organizational tasks. The median annual wage for this role is $99,730 as of May 2018.

    Master of Business Administration

    An MBA involves the study of business management, which includes directing and organizing resources. These resources consist of people, materials, finances and information. Typically, this program involves practical and theoretical training for business or investment management. It is a good program for general knowledge in regards to business management functions but is also commonly more specifically tailored for student’s interests. One can focus on fields such as accounting, finance or marketing. Actually, many schools now offer specialty MBA programs, like sports management, entrepreneurship, the entertainment business and health care.

    While courses cover an array of topics, management training is at the heart, says Investopedia. This means students will see a focus on leadership, planning, business strategy, organizational behavior and the human side of running a large or small business. While curriculum will vary in this program, depending on a student’s focus point, core classes one may expect to cover include:

    • Accounting
    • Ethics
    • Finance
    • Macroeconomics
    • Marketing
    • Management
    • Microeconomics
    • Operations
    • Statistics

    For those graduating with an MBA, typical careers may include:

    Advertising, Promotions and Marketing Managers: These professionals typically work with department heads to discuss topics such as budgets, contracts, marketing plans and the selection of advertising media. They also plan promotional campaigns, advertising campaigns, negotiate contracts and initiate market research studies. Depending on if their role is focused more within the realm of advertising, promotions or marketing – their primary job description will change. The median salary for advertising and promotions managers was $117,130 and for marketing managers, it was $134,290, as of May 2018.

    Financial Manager: The primary role for financial managers is to produce financial reports, divest investment activities and develop strategies for the long-term financial goals of an organization. They also analyze market trends to maximize profits and find expansion opportunities. The median salary for a financial manager is $127,990.

    Management Analyst: Management analysts, also known as management consultants, work to provide ways for organizations to improve their efficiency. They advise the managers of these organizations on ways to reduce costs and increase revenues. They interview personnel and conduct onsite observations to determine what methods, equipment and personnel are needed. They also develop solutions or alternative practices. Most work as consultants on a contractual basis. The median salary for a management analyst is $83,610.

    Deciding between an MPA or MBA

    While opting for an MPA may help those who know they want to work in the public sector take courses that specifically focus on those particular sets of challenges, like taxes and community resources, a student’s degree doesn’t necessarily dictate the rest of their career. There are people who work in the private sector with an MPA or people in government with an MBA. Those with MPAs are typically driven by a sense to make a difference and should expect a lower salary, typically due to budget restraints in the public sphere. If a student isn’t sure they want to work in the government or public sector, it may be advised they focus on obtaining an MBA. Either way, students won’t be locked down by their choice – but knowing what they want and picking the right degree can help better prepare them for their future.

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