Online Public Administration Schools

How to Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Public Administration Online

Public administration is an excellent career choice for motivated, organized people who want to make a difference in the world. Earning a public administration bachelor's degree online can help students launch a career in nonprofit administration, public policy, or community service management.

This guide offers an in-depth look at bachelor's in public administration courses, jobs, concentration options, and financial aid opportunities. The information below can help you learn about the public administration field and decide on the best public administration program.

How Much Can You Make in a Public Administration Career?

While no degree guarantees a particular job title or salary, an online bachelor's degree in public administration can lead to a variety of lucrative and fulfilling positions. Public administration degree programs help students develop the organizational and leadership skills they need to pursue jobs in administrative services management.

Students become familiar with public policy and affairs to prepare for positions in community organizations, emergency management, and social services. The table below compares salary expectations and job growth projections for several public administration careers available to bachelor's degree-holders.

Social and Community Service Manager

Social and community service managers can work in family services, nonprofit organizations, and local governments. They may also work in clinics, hospitals, and residential care facilities. These professionals oversee social service initiatives and community organizations, and they often meet with community members to determine the most important programs and services. In addition, these managers plan activities, supervise staff, and apply for funding.

Median Annual Salary: $65,320

Job Growth (2018-2028): 13%

Administrative Services Manager

Administrative services managers can work in many industries, including education, healthcare, finance, and government. They perform a variety of administrative duties that help keep an organization running smoothly. Administrative services managers may maintain records, manage facilities, and keep track of mail. They may also supervise staff and set objectives for their department. Administrative services managers need a bachelor's degree and some work experience.

Median Annual Salary: $96,180

Job Growth (2018-2028): 7%

Emergency Management Director

Emergency management directors typically need a bachelor's degree in a discipline such as public administration, public health, or emergency management. More than half of emergency management directors work in state or local governments, although many find jobs in hospitals and universities. These professionals coordinate with public safety officials, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies to plan for and respond to emergencies such as natural disasters.

Median Annual Salary: $74,420

Job Growth (2018-2028): 5%

Public Relations Specialist

Public relations specialists often work in nonprofit organizations, PR firms, government agencies, and political organizations. These specialists help organizations maintain a good public image and communicate with the media. Public relations specialists speak with journalists, draft press releases, post to social media accounts, and arrange media appearances.

Median Annual Salary: $60,000

Job Growth (2018-2028): 6%

Public Relations and Fundraising Manager

Public relations and fundraising managers often work in religious, social advocacy, political, and grantmaking organizations. Public relations managers supervise PR specialists and coordinate public relations activities. Fundraising managers secure donations for their organization by planning events, meeting with important donors, and organizing promotional campaigns. They may also apply for grants and supervise fundraising staff.

Median Annual Salary: $114,800

Job Growth (2018-2028): 8%

Public administration graduates typically earn high salaries, although specific pay for public administration professionals varies depending on factors including their geographic location, work experience, and industry.

For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that public relations and fundraising managers working in social advocacy organizations make about $115,000 per year, while those working in advertising earn nearly $164,000 annually. The list below details salaries and job growth figures for various public administration professionals across the United States.

What Courses Can Be Taken for an Online Public Administration Degree?

Public administration bachelor's degrees include a variety of courses that prepare students for jobs in community organizations, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations. Broadly speaking, programs typically cover subjects like public service, public policy, management strategy, and political science.

Though each program includes different coursework, many feature some similar classes. The table below describes a few possible courses that public administration students may encounter. Be sure to check with schools directly to learn about specific courses, general education requirements, and projects.

Fiscal Management

Fiscal management classes teach students to manage budgets and oversee public funds. Learners also explore financial decision-making and learn about the importance of audits and oversight committees.

Principles of Public Administration

Introductory public administration courses provide an overview of the role of public administrators in U.S. politics. Students explore career options, public administration issues, and the government's role in developing public policy.

American Politics

Students gain an understanding of the basic structure and functioning of the U.S. political system. They consider the roles of the president, political parties, interest groups, the media, and Congress.

Public Personnel Management

This class teaches students to manage human resources in government offices at the local, state, and national levels. Students learn about recruitment, training, evaluation, conflict resolution, and compensation.

Constitutional Law

In constitutional law courses, public administration learners study landmark Supreme Court decisions. They also explore constitutional issues on individual rights and the role of government. Students also consider theories of constitutional interpretation.

How to Choose the Best Online Public Administration Program

Learners should carefully research online public administration schools to determine which program best fits their needs and preferences. Each public administration program includes different coursework and requirements, and schools vary in terms of accreditation, reputation, and cost.

Below you can explore answers to common questions about pursuing a public administration degree online. Continue reading to learn about strategies for selecting a school and taking full advantage of your public administration bachelor's program.

How should I go about choosing electives?

Each program boasts its own degree requirements and elective policies. In some programs, the bulk of credits come from required courses. Other programs let students choose many of their courses. After determining how many electives you can take, review course syllabi to decide which courses interest you the most.

Will I need to complete a capstone project?

Capstone requirements vary significantly between schools, but many public administration programs require students to complete an extensive final project. Some departments may require students to produce a plan that addresses a public administration issue. Other programs require seniors to complete a research project, compile a professional portfolio, or analyze case studies. Many curricula include a senior seminar covering advanced public administration topics.

How do online public administration courses work?

Each school uses an online learning management system to deliver online class materials, which often include video lectures, podcasts, reading assignments, and quizzes. Additionally, most online programs incorporate discussion boards that allow students to post ideas and respond to classmates. Some public administration bachelor's degree online programs include synchronous classes, which require learners to log on at a particular time.

Will I be able to choose a concentration area?

Many bachelor's programs allow students to focus their studies in a particular area of public administration. Common specializations include criminal justice, public policy, disaster management, homeland security, and public service. To choose a concentration area, consider the careers you are most likely to pursue after graduation. For example, future public servants may benefit more from different classes than aspiring emergency management professionals.

What accreditation should I look for in a public administration program?

Prospective bachelor's students should only apply to institutions with regional accreditation. Attending an accredited school ensures your degree will qualify you to pursue graduate programs, transfer credits, and apply for jobs. No subject-specific accrediting agency evaluates undergraduate public administration programs, although the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration accredits master's programs in the field.

Will I have the opportunity to complete an internship or field experience?

Some programs help students gain practical public administration experience through an internship or practicum at a nonprofit organization or government office. Students often undertake internships during their junior or senior year. Distance learners can typically complete internship requirements at a local organization or government office.

How long does it take to earn a bachelor's degree in public administration online?

Full-time students generally complete their bachelor's degree in public administration in four years. Bachelor's programs usually comprise 120 credits, but students who have an associate degree or some college credit may be exempt from some requirements. Some online public administration programs offer accelerated or self-paced courses that allow learners to graduate in less than four years.

Scholarships and Financial Aid for Public Administration Programs

Students pursuing a four-year degree can take advantage of many funding opportunities to defray college-related costs, including tuition and textbooks. Prospective college students should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to see if they qualify for any government-sponsored programs. Students should also search for grants and scholarships, which do not require repayment. The funding options below specifically target public administration majors.

Jeffrey L. Esser Career Development Scholarship

This scholarship program offers tuition assistance to professionals who are working to advance their career by earning an associate or bachelor's degree. Candidates must be studying part time to earn a degree in public administration, accounting, finance, or business administration with a government focus. Candidates need at least three years of work experience in local or state government. The Jeffrey L. Esser Career Development Scholarship offers 1-3 awards each year. Amounts range from $5,000-$15,000.

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Minorities in Government Finance Scholarship

The Government Finance Officers Association offers several scholarships for students planning to work in state or local government finance. The Minorities in Government Finance Scholarship provides one $10,000 award to a graduate or undergraduate student interested in a government finance career. Acceptable majors include public administration, business administration with a focus in government or nonprofit management, and governmental accounting. Candidates must submit a letter of recommendation from someone who can attest to the applicant's interest in the public sector.

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National Forum for Black Public Administrators Scholarship Program

NFBPA is a nonprofit organization that supports African American students who are interested in public service careers in state and local governments. The organization's scholarship program supports minority students enrolled full time at an accredited four-year university. Candidates must demonstrate excellent academic and leadership abilities, along with a commitment to public service. NFBPA offers several scholarships, which range in value from $1,500-$10,000. Applicants must submit an essay, two reference letters, and official transcripts.

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Samuel Huntington Public Service Award

Established in 1989, this award offers stipends for graduating college seniors, allowing them to spend one year in public service anywhere in the world. The program provides $15,000 to 1-3 winners each year. Applicant's must submit a proposal for a public service project. Candidates must produce a brief abstract, a 1,000-word proposal, and a budget plan. Applicants must also submit an official transcript, a resume, and three letters of recommendation.

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Young Women in Public Affairs Award

Zonta International Foundation — a charitable organization that works to improve the lives of women worldwide — offers this scholarship to U.S. and international students. Through this award program, Zonta seeks to advance the role of women in public service. Applicants must be 16-19 years old and demonstrate leadership abilities. Candidates need a passion for public service and civic issues, along with experience in local or student government. The award amount ranges from $1,500-$4,000.

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