Masters in Public Administration Salary Outlook

There has been significant growth in the nonprofit sector, and it does not look like it will slow down soon. In fact, the 2013 Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey showed that 44% of all nonprofit organizations across this country are looking at increasing their staff. At the previous count in 2011, this figure was just 22%. This growth is both steady and consistent, and it is also a known fact that there is a significant lack of succession planning in place for the rapidly retiring baby boom generation. As a result, there is a huge demand right now for qualified leaders.

People usually do not work in public administration for the big bucks, particularly if they find employment in the nonprofit sector. That being said, someone who holds a Master in Public Administration (MPA) can expect to earn a very significant salary. A lot of factors will determine exactly how much you can earn, however. Some students also prefer to complete a Master of Business Administration (MBA), because it is a more generalized degree with a greater amount of transferable skills. Salaries for MBA holders are, on average, much higher, because many end up finding employment in the private sector. If you, however, are passionate about improving outcomes across communities in the world, then the MPA is a more suitable degree.

Of course, finances are an important factor, even if you don’t plan to get into this field for the money. Completing an MPA degree is costly, both in terms of time and money. It is normal to want to see at least some return on investment. As a result, having some concrete salary expectations to help you decide whether or not the MPA is the degree for you, can be really beneficial. Below are some of the factors that show what you can expect after graduation.

General MPA Graduate Statistics

A number of studies have shown that holding an MPA will significantly increase the annual salary you receive for the position that you hold. The maximum earning potential for someone with a bachelor’s degree is around the $50,000 per year mark. For MPA graduates, however, the average salary is $68,000, raising salaries by at least $18,000 per year. As such, while a degree program will usually cost in excess of $20,000 to complete, the return on investment can be rapid.

Specific MPA Graduate Statistics

As an MPA graduate, there are countless positions that you could hold. Because of this, you can expect to earn anything from $35,000 to well above $100,000 per year. Most jobs are found in the public sector and nonprofit organizations, both of which are, on average, lower paid than private sector positions. Below are some of the average national salaries for specific jobs held by MPA graduates:

  • Human Resources Directors earn around $80,000 per year.
  • Program administrators earn around $60,000 per year.
  • Directors of Program Management earn around $60,000 per year.
  • Directors of Volunteer Services earn around $41,000 per year.
  • Entry level positions start at around $53,000 per year.
  • Mid-level positions usually start at around $75,000 per year.

In the public sector, the overall national average earning is $60,000. This means that half of MPA graduates in this sector earn less than that, and the other half earn more. However, all of these positions offer advancement opportunities. With advancement comes a higher salary as well.

Although most MPA graduates will get to work in the public or nonprofit sector, some businesses and companies also look for these particular skills and knowledge. Interestingly, however, the average national salary for an MPA degree holder in the private sector is also $60,000 per year. The potential to earn a lot more through promotions, however, is also available.

Specific job title and annual salary averages within the private sector include:

  • Program administrators, who earn around $40,000 per year
  • Purchasing managers, who earn around $53,000 per year
  • Government Affairs Executives, who earn around $100,000 per year
  • Top Research Executives, who earn around $100,000 per year

If you hold an MPA degree and find a job in the private sector, therefore, there is a real possibility that you will earn a six figure income, but you may also have to start at the bottom, with well below average salaries. The range of salaries in this sector is huge and depends on factors, such as your personal qualifications, the size of the company, the job requirements, and the company’s budget. Additionally, many companies also offer a bonus potential.

Salary Expectations by Factors

To give a clearer picture of the earning potential of someone with an MPA degree, it can be interesting to look in greater detail at the specific factors that may influence their earnings. Looking firstly at job titles:

  • Executive directors generally earn between $36,513 and $132,362.
  • Program managers in nonprofit organizations generally earn between $38,790 and $72,860.
  • Directors of development in nonprofit organizations generally earn between $36,766 and $102,765.
  • Program coordinators in nonprofit organizations generally earn between $33,458 and $53,091.
  • Human resources directors generally earn between $53,265 and $121,166.
  • Operations managers generally earn between $37,700 and $90,212.
  • Human resources managers generally earn between $48,479 and $106,900.

Another very important factor that determines overall salaries is the state in which you work. In fact, there are significant differences even between cities in these states. On average, however, salary expectations for MPA degree holders in some of the states are:

  • New York, where they earn an average of $69,723
  • California, where they earn an average of $79,002
  • District of Columbia, where they earn an average of $74,033
  • Texas, where they earn an average of $56,493
  • Washington, where they earn an average of $70,893
  • Florida, where they earn an average of $62,113
  • Illinois, where they earn an average of $60,242

Lastly, employers also pay a very wide variety of different salaries to MPA degree holders. Examples of employers and their corresponding average salaries include:

  • The University of Washington, which pays an average of between $46,501 and $107,235
  • Booz, Allen, and Hamilton, which pays an average of $67,138
  • The New York Presbyterian Hospital, which pays an average of $81,084
  • The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), which pays an average of $59,363
  • The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which pays an average of $106,272

As you can see, it can be very difficult to determine exactly how much an MPA degree holder can earn. However, since the majority of people complete this degree not for the salary but because they want to follow their passion, this is perhaps not so important anyway. What is important, however, is that you should always see a swift return on your investment.


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