Career Opportunities with a Master's Degree in Public Administration and Policy

Establish a Career Leading and Defining Public Policy

Government, nonprofit, and for-profit organizations actively recruit professionals with the knowledge and skills to effectively and efficiently achieve public objectives. Candidates must have the leadership skills, insight, and critical thinking to craft policies and monitor their implementation and success. Those able to understand policy problems, craft effective solutions, and successfully put policies in action are in high demand.

Our online Master of Public Administration and Policy (MPAP) degree provides the core competencies of both disciplines for a distinctive advantage in the competitive marketplace. Our graduates put their skill set to use as project managers or program directors, or as public policy analysts, public affairs specialists, and consultants. The public and nonprofit sectors, as well as companies that advise and deliver public services, value managers and analysts with versatile skill sets who are able to effectively coordinate and communicate across sectors and levels of government. They value our graduates' ability to grasp complex problems and craft effective solutions to improve policies and public service delivery.

Your MPAP degree will prepare you for public administration and policy jobs in the following fields and industries:

  • Public policy administration
  • Project management
  • Public finance
  • Public policy consulting
  • Program evaluation
  • Nonprofit management
  • Community development
  • Government relations
  • City management
  • Leadership roles in government agencies

The strong analytics, creativity, communication, leadership, and problem-solving capabilities acquired through American University's online master's in public administration and policy prepare you to shape public service—whether you hold a position in government, or in the nonprofit or private sector. The skill set you gain through our MPAP serves as an advanced foundation for life, solidifying your ability to adapt to and easily advance within or across sectors. The skills you gain from a faculty of Washington insiders and experts on policy and government prepare you to add value to prospective employers of public administration jobs and grow your public service career.


Whether you're mid-career or new to public service, our online Master of Public Administration and Policy (MPAP) can empower you to make a bigger impact in the public sector. In fact, 80 percent of our MPAP graduates are successfully making a difference in government roles.1

As you develop your skills, you'll also be able to compete for promotion, leadership responsibilities, and higher earnings at different types of public administration jobs. As an employee entering the field of public service, you could pursue a career as a government program manager—a role that oversees projects and programs from conception through assessment, and earns an average salary of $88,333.2 Obtaining a Master in Public Administration and Policy qualifies you for level and step advances within the federal government's payscale.3

With a master's degree in public administration and policy, you can join an incredible set of AU alumni working in diverse roles in state, local, and federal government, including positions within any of the federal executive departments and agencies or working for Congress. Many of our graduates also pursue public service and administration jobs in international development, including roles with the U.S. Agency for International Development, international development think tanks, and international organizations.


Today's public services rely on the nonprofit sector in crucial ways. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nonprofits represent about 10 percent of the private sector employment in the U.S., and roughly 25 percent of those with a public administration and policy background go on to work for nonprofit organizations. Although most of these jobs are held in the health and social services, nonprofit jobs play an essential role in administering a wide range of public programs, ranging from environmental policy to urban planning, transportation, and international development.

Our online MPAP can help you enter the nonprofit sector—even prior to graduation. Many students looking to enter the nonprofit sector can find internships or entry-level jobs at nonprofits while obtaining their degree. Students looking to advance their careers within the sector can step into leadership roles, where they have the opportunity to apply their acquired skills to shape policy.

Upon graduating with an online MPAP degree, you could start out as a program manager with a salary of $49,603 per year.4 With experience in the field, you could become a director or chief executive officer of a nonprofit with a median annual salary of $61,6015 and $104,5756 respectively.


The passion and dedication that AU students have for learning translates into inspiring career outcomes.


JEFFREY RUTENBECK: AU undoubtedly is a place to help people get to their next level. It's kind of a combination of inspiring and scary, how intense some people can be about where they want to go. And they've shopped around and looked at dozens of programs. And they've found, this is the one that's going to get them where they want to go. And when that match is made, it's a beautiful thing.

JUSTIN SMITH: One of the nice things about the program is that it allowed me to apply directly, the lessons I was learning to the work that I was doing at the time. So that's kind of the advantage of going to school at the same time as working in the same profession that you want to continue in. Is that I was able to immediately apply the lessons and I was learning from the University into my work.

VICKY WILKINS: I think we also do pay attention to what the skills are the students need, and what employers are telling us is critical in the labor market to make sure we do shape an experience that prepares students to go out and work.

JEFFREY RUTENBECK: And this is one of the important things I tell people about going to graduate school, go to a graduate school where you are surrounded by people who have the same level of intensity and interest and passion as you do, because that will be one of the most important networks you will have going forward in your life.

KATIE KRESPAN: I think that I make a difference on an everyday level, but some days I wonder if I could be doing more. So coming back to American really gave me the opportunity, I think, to obtain the skills and the knowledge that I need to make a bigger difference.



 Learn about careers in Public Administration and Policy with this free guide.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that recipients of master's degrees on average earn roughly $19,000 more than those with only a bachelor's degree.7 According to NASPAA, the accrediting body for degrees in public administration and policy, while starting salaries for those with degrees in our field vary depending on prior experience and sector, graduates consistently report tangible benefits and rewarding careers.

Within a week of starting to apply for jobs, I had five interviews. Within three weeks of finding out I was a PMF finalist, I had more than one job offer.

– Sarah Schroeder, MPAP '18. Read the full story.

Within six months of graduation, 96 percent of master's graduates from American University's School of Public Affairs report being employed, continuing their graduate education, or both; and 100 percent of our MPAP graduates report as much. The school also has an ever-growing roster of impressive alumni in high-profile public sector positions, including:

  • Mayor of the District of Columbia
  • Chiefs of Council for the U.S. House of Representatives
  • Advisory Council member at the Department of Homeland Security
  • Chief of Staff for the U.S. International Trade Commission
  • State and local government officials
  • Ambassadors and international leaders
  • Financial officers
  • Attorneys

To learn more about American University's online Master of Public Administration and Policy, request more information or call us toll-free at 855-725-7614.


1American University We Know Success. (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2018, from
2Average Government Program Manager Salary. (n.d.). Retrieved October 12, 2018, from
3U.S. Office of Personnel Management (n.d.). Pay and Leave. Retrieved May 3, 2019, from
4Average Program Manager, Non-Profit Organization Salary. (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2018, from
5Average Director, Non-Profit Organization Salary. (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2018, from
6Average Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Non-Profit Organization Salary. (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2018, from,_Non-Profit_Organization/Salary
7Schenk, K. (n.d.). Public policy salaries for MPP and MPA grads. Retrieved September 25, 2018, from