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How to Earn a Public Administration Degree Online

Public administration is a wide field. It means you plan, roll out, and assess public policy. It includes administering government services. And it involves

creating, running, and adjusting government programs and plans. Public administrators serve the public at local, state, and global levels. They work for non-profits, NGOs, government, and other agencies. Students may get the skills and knowledge they need to be a civil servant and work in this field by getting a public administration degree online.

The type of public administration degree online you should pursue is based on three things.

  1. What degrees do you already have?
  2. How much time do you want to devote to school?
  3. How much money are you willing to invest?

Once you’ve determined your needs, you just have to find a perfect program for you.

Public Administration Degree Online

How to Get a Public Administration Degree Online

On our site, you can find certificate, bachelors, masters, and doctorate degree online programs in public administration, public policy, and government. One of the first steps in earning a public administration degree online is learning what type of degree you want to earn. Let’s explore your options.

Public Administration Degrees Online: Types and Program Durations

Students typically study full-time for two years to earn a masters degree in public administration. They help students gain broad and specialized knowledge in public administration as a field and discipline. These are typically research-based degrees and give students advanced knowledge in the fields. Students need a  bachelors degree to apply for this masters program.

Bachelors degrees in public administration generally require four years of full-time study. Similar to a masters program, they provide both broad and specific information about public administration, public policy, and government. However, they tend to focus less on research than masters programs. You must have a high school diploma or GED to apply.

Certificate programs in public administration introduce students to public administration. Some of them provide an overview of key components of public administration, public policy, or government. Others help students focus their knowledge in an area of public administration. These are the shortest programs. Typically, you must have a bachelors degree to pursue one.

Doctorate programs in public administration help students specialize their knowledge in the field through intensive coursework and research. They generally take five to six years of fulltime study to complete. You must earn a masters degree before you can earn a doctorate. These too are research degrees.

Key Topics Across Program Levels and Types

These public administration degree online programs give students access to broad or in-depth studies of public administration. Within those studies, classes might dive into many topics. Subjects may include any or all of the following.

  • Public health.
  • Disaster recovery.
  • Homeland security.
  • Environmental health.
  • Land management.
  • Nonprofit administration.
  • Local government.
  • Urban government.
  • Rural government.

These are examples of what some students study. Students will also study subjects more broadly. Here is a list of topics it might have.

  • Theory of public administration.
  • Theory of public policy.
  • The basics of local, state, federal, and international government.
  • Business principles of finance, marketing, and human resources.

Study in subjects like these help students understand public administration, policy, and governance.

What Will I Study When I Pursue a Public Administration Degree Online?

No matter what program you are in, you’ll likely study core and elective subjects in many areas.

  • Theories and principles of public administration and policy.
  • Strategic management in public service.
  • Intergovernmental relations.
  • Public institutions
  • The legislative process.
  • The nonprofit and NGO sectors.
  • Campaigning.
  • Resource management.
  • Rural public administration.
  • Public policy analysis and implementation.
  • Program evaluation and monitoring.

Some of your studies will include business-oriented subjects.

  • Public human resources.
  • Strategic communications.
  • Organizational behavior.
  • Strategic planning.
  • Information technology.
  • E-trends.
  • Value driven leadership and ethics.

Many programs teach you how to research. The degree to which you’ll do so is based on the program level.

  • Statistics
  • Political analysis
  • Data science.
  • Data mining.
  • Predictive analytics.
  • Survey methodology.
  • Quantitative methods.
  • Qualitative methods.

In some program levels and types, you’ll get to specialize. Here are some areas in which you may specialize.  

  • Community and economic development.
  • International relations.
  • Public health.
  • Emergency planning.
  • Local government.
  • Nonprofit management.
  • Public policy and law.

Are you beginning to get a sense of how broad this field is? And this is just the tip of the iceberg. To truly assess what’s possible in a program, you’ll have to explore your options.

Why Should I Get a Public Administration Degree Online?

Public administration is a broad field. You may learn about a lot of topics. They might include some from the list shown here.

  • Political science.
  • Sociology.
  • Business.
  • Economics.
  • History.

Let's think how broad this field really is. Each and every single team in a government needs to have a certain know-how. Know that law, policy, and politics play important parts in the industry.  A good sense of how to do business is a must for governments to run smoothly. And a sound structure helps governments work well with public, private, and civil entities. There are a lot of changes in this field. So, people who work in it need to know their stuff. And a public administration online degree helps you develop what you need to work in the field.

Also earning a certificate or degree in public administration, public policy, or government is a great way to explore the field. You can find out what ignites your passion and what part of the field you want to work in. Plus, earning a degree or certificate in public admin could set you up to pursue a more advanced one. The possibility of further education in this topic is vast.  

What Do Public Administrators Do? 

You may work in public and private sectors across governmental, nonprofit, and NGO departments. And in these groups, you could have many kinds of jobs. Here is a list that gives you an idea of where you might work.  

  • School district policy.
  • Community safety.
  • Urban planning.
  • Rural development.
  • Healthcare reform.
  • Program development.
  • Economic development.
  • Resource development for minorities.
  • Fire protection.
  • Criminal justice systems.
  • Public works.
  • Parks and recreation.
  • Libraries.
  • Schools.
  • Public health.
  • Public transportation.
  • Housing.

Here are some positions people with a degree in public admin might hold. Statistics for these occupations come from the 2015 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • Emergency management directors. They earned a median annual pay of $67,330 in 2015 and must have a bachelors degree.i 
  • Urban and regional planners. They earned a median annual salary of $68,220 in 2015. They must have a masters degree.ii
  • Administrative services managers. They earned a median annual salary of $86,110 in 2015. They must have at least a bachelors degree.iii
  • Social and community services managers. They earned a median annual salary of $63,530 and must have a bachelors degree.iv
  • Financial managers earned a median annual pay of $117,990 as of 2015. You must have at least a bachelors degree to work in this area.v
  • College professors. They earned a median annual salary of $72,470 in 2015. They must have a masters or doctorate degree.vi
  • Budget analysts. They earned a median annual salary of $71,590 in 2015. They must have a bachelors degree.vii
  • Social workers. They earned a median annual salary of $45,900 in 2015. They must have a bachelors degree.viii
  • Public relations and fundraising managers. They earned a median annual salary of $104,140 in 2015. They must have a bachelors degree.ix
  • Political scientists. They earned a median annual salary of $99,730 in 2015. They must have a masters degree.x

How Can I Find My Perfect Public Admin Program Online?

Whether you want to pursue a public administration of public policy degree online, we’ve got some choice for you. You can explore options across program levels and types on this page. You can also use our menu to refine your search. Simply “Choose a Degree Level” and select your preference.

We’ll direct you to that page so that you can find online public administration degree programs at that level. When you’ve found a great program, contact the school for more information.


[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 [v] bls.gov/ooh/management/financial-managers.htm [vi]bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm [vii] bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/budget-analysts.htm [viii] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm [ix] bls.gov/ooh/management/public-relations-managers.htm [x] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/political-scientists.htm

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