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All About a Public Administration Certificate Online

Public administration involves assessing and implementing public policy. This takes place at local, state, federal, and international levels of government. Public administrators often help deliver services, enact policy, assess programs and initiatives, and otherwise serve the public. Considered civil servants, professionals in the field might benefit from pursuing a public administration certificate online.

Online public administration certificate programs show aspiring civil servants understand how policy can positively affect communities. It helps students see how policy and programming can shape community environments and provide resources to citizens. Students may essentially learn how to contribute their knowledge and skills to enhance life for citizens through laws, programs, and services.

Online Public Administration Certificate Programs: The Basics

Online public administration certificate programs typically include four to five courses. Students commonly earn their certificates in less than one year of fulltime study. In online programs, students might take multiple classes at once or one at a time. This may enable professionals to work while pursuing advanced education.

Why a Public Administration Certificate Online?

The point of online public administration certificate programs is to introduce students to the basics of subjects across public administration.

  • Students might study the basics of public administration management.
  • They may learn about government analysis and statistics.
  • Or they might engage in a specific area of public administration such as public policy or local government.

Public Administration Certificate Online Programs will introduce students to a variety of topics. These might include.

  • Identifying the social, economic, and political factors and issues public administrators face and address.
  • Learning key values and competencies for public sector employees and organizations.
  • Navigating and building relationships with stakeholders.
  • Designing and implementing performance measurement systems.
  • Employing strategy to manage offices and resources.

What classes will I study in a Public Administration Certificate Online?

Students typically study areas like these through core and elective coursework. Core subjects come in many flavors. For example:  

  • Foundations of public administration and policy.
  • Strategic management in public service.
  • Intergovernmental relations.
  • The legislative process.
  • The nonprofit and NGO sectors.
  • Public human resources.
  • Statistics and political analysis
  • Quantitative methods
  • Public institutions

Areas of concentration

Through elective courses, students might broaden their knowledge or focus it in a specific area. Some areas they might study include:  

  • Data science.
  • Data mining.
  • Predictive analytics.
  • Survey methodology.
  • Campaigning.
  • Resource management.
  • Rural public administration.
  • Urban public administration.

As you can see, students may select several elective courses that deepen their knowledge in one area. Or they might study multiple areas. This can give them focused knowledge or broader knowledge. This list provides just a snapshot of subjects students might study through elective coursework.

Other requirements

In many cases, certificate programs do not require students to write a final thesis, take a comprehensive exam, or do an internship. Students typically must simply complete classes with a satisfactory grade. Working students might find that their courses enhance their knowledge and skillset on the job.

As you consider your options for earning an online certificate in public policy or administration, keep this in mind: Many online programs have restrictions for residents of certain states. Simply read through the program details and talk to someone in the program to determine if your state is affected.

Can I transfer credits?

After they’ve earned an online certificate in public administration, students might transfer into a master’s program. In some cases, master’s programs might count certificate credits toward the degree. They might also let the certificate take place of GRE scores.

If you intend to transfer your credits, you should talk to two entities. First, the institution offering your certificate. And second, the institution to which you intend to transfer. Policies will vary among schools.

By doing this, you can determine whether your credits will transfer. In addition, you may have to attend an accredited school if you intend to transfer your certificate credits. You may also need to confirm that your program has accreditation. This too can be negotiated with the institutions you plan to attend.

Why Pursue a Public Administration Certificate Online?

If you’re pursuing a public administration certificate online, you might be a working professional. Online programs may grant you the flexibility you need to balance work with school. If you’re already working in the public service sector, pursuing a certificate online may allow you to do so while applying your knowledge on the job. You might be able to enhance your current position or shift your career in a new direction. Finding a certificate program that offers the type of curriculum you need is key. So too is balancing your workload with your studies. Online public administration certificate programs may allow for both.

In addition, pursuing a public administration certificate online could enable you to live where you want to serve. Perhaps you want to work for a rural government. Or maybe you want to work internationally. No matter your cases, online education may enable you to live distant from where you study. This could make applying your knowledge to the environment of your choice possible.

Target your program to a specific environment

Professionals in public administration might have an impact in hundreds of areas of civil life. Some examples include:

  • School district policy.
  • Community safety.
  • Economic development.
  • Resource development for minorities.
  • Urban planning.
  • Rural development.
  • Healthcare reform.
  • Program development.

What Can You Do with a Public Administration Certificate?

People with a certificate of public administration, public policy, or related area may pursue many types of careers. They may work for a branch of government. They may work for a nonprofit or NGO. Or they may work as a consultant. They may work for local, county, state, federal, or international governments or organizations. Some examples of departments or organizations they may work for include:

  • Fire protection.
  • Criminal justice systems.
  • Public works.
  • Parks and recreation.
  • Libraries.
  • Schools.
  • Public health.
  • Public transportation.
  • Housing.

These are just some of many options. The focus of your certificate program could help direct your career.

Here are some occupations and their median annual salaries. They may give you a sense of what professionals in public administration might earn. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2015:

  • Emergency management directors earned a median annual pay of $67,330.i
  • Urban and regional planners earned a median annual salary of $68,220. Note that according to the BLS, professionals in this field must have a master’s degree.ii
  • Administrative services managers earned a median annual salary of $86,110.iii
  • Social and community services managers earned a median annual salary of $63,530.iv

These are just some of many occupations in public administration, policy, and government.

What type of work you’ll do and how much you’ll earn depends, of course, on your education, your skillset, and your employer. Pursuing a public administration certificate, however, could help you develop your knowledge and add advanced education to your resume.

Taking the Next Step: Finding an Online Public Administration Certificate Program

If you’re passionate about addressing social, political, and economic issues in communities, you’ve come to the right place. You can explore your options for pursuing an online public administration certificate here. Simply click on programs to read about them. Then contact them for more information. Most schools will be more than happy to give you the academic, financial, and program information you need.

No matter the role you strive to play, pursuing a certificate may help you get there. Look for a program that meets your professional needs, and consider how even five to six courses could enhance your career. Begin your journey now!


[i] bls.gov/ooh/management/emergency-management-directors [ii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/urban-and-regional-planners [iii] bls.gov/ooh/management/administrative-services-managers [iv] bls.gov/ooh/management/social-and-community-service-managers

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