Can an MPA Help You Get a Job in the Private Sector?


Most people think of a Master of Public Administration as a degree that’s most applicable to public sector and non-profit work. While it’s certainly true that an MPA will prepare you for a career in non-profit or the public sector, it’s also true the MPA teaches a number of skills that transfer easily to positions in the private sector. In fact, MPA grads even possess some skills that give them an advantage over MBA candidates.

Some of the skills you can apply to private sector positions as an MPA grad include your communications and management skills as well as your research and statistical analysis skills. Your strategic planning and budgeting skills, your sense of social responsibility, your practical problem-solving skills and your ability to understand the inner workings of an organization will give you an edge over the average MBA candidate. Click here to learn more about earning your Master of Public Administration online.

An MPA Imparts Communications and Management Skills

No matter what industry you’re in or what kind of position you seek, communications and management skills are important. An MPA will teach you the people skills you need to be a good leader and the management skills that will help you complete projects without a hitch. You’ll also learn presentation and marketing skills private sector employers will find valuable.

As an MPA grad, you’ll have an intimate understanding of how organizations work, which could prove valuable in the private sector, especially in government contracting, educational testing and other industries that work closely with public-sector organizations. Your insight into the inner workings of government agencies will make you an invaluable asset to any private sector team.

Quantitative Skills Give You an Edge Over MBA Candidates

Many MPA grads seeking employment in the private sector find that employers especially value their quantitative skills. Many MBA grads don’t have the skills needed for statistical analysis, budgeting and strategic planning. As an MPA grad, you will have the strong quantitative background many private sector employers need, and you may find you use your budgeting and planning skills more than any others. You’ll be able to perform research; analyze, evaluate and summarize your findings; and finally, translate dense technical talk into language that your supervisors, co-workers and clients can understand.

MPA Programs Produce Problem-Solvers

Problem-solving is one of the most coveted skills in the private sector, and for good reason. While MBA grads may be able to think around corners and come up with solutions to big problems, they may also aim too high and bring back impractical answers. MPA grads have a strong background in practicality and pragmatism, and they’re able to look at the bigger picture. They’re able to analyze the current situation and learn from the mistakes of the past to produce flexible, creative solutions. This is especially important in evolving industries.

MPA Grads Have a Strong Sense of Social Responsibility

While this may not seem like the most important or valuable skill for employers in the private sector, more and more corporations today are being asked to take on at least some responsibility for the greater good. Millennials are more interested than previous generations in supporting what they see as “socially responsible” companies, and 84 percent of them say they feel a personal responsibility to do good works. More consumers are choosing to align themselves with companies that uphold the values they find important, whether they be environmental sustainability, helping the poor or simply paying their employees fair wages and benefits. As more private sector employers seek to promote social causes, they will increasingly seek employees who will help them give back to the communities that support them.

What Private Sector Industries Are Best for MPA Grads?

While your skills will transfer easily to most private sector positions, you’ll have an edge over other candidates in industries that work closely with public sector organizations, like health care, pharmaceuticals, law firms, government contracting or educational testing and materials. MPA grads also do well in private education; private schools are administered in much the same way as their public counterparts.

A Master of Public Administration degree can impart a range of skills that transfer easily to the private sector. So don’t think that your MPA degree limits you to public sector and non-profit positions — you’ll find that many private sector employers will be happy to welcome you to the team.

About the Author: Contributing blogger Helena Marsden holds an MPA and has more than 15 years of experience working in the private sector in the educational testing industry.