Public administrators are essential to the fabric of society. When you build a career in public administration, you’re strengthening our communities and helping them grow. But just as it is in many fields, competition in the public administration and public policy fields is stiff.
So, what does it take to stand out from the crowd during the hiring process and succeed once you’ve found a position? Successful public administrators have an advanced degree; many choose an academic specialty in a specific area of public administration or public policy. You should gather as much real-life work experience as you can while cultivating the personal qualities and habits that will make you an effective leader and help you sustain your career in the long run.
Know Your Career Goals
Before you set foot on the road to a career in public administration, know exactly what your career goals are. There are many different kinds of career opportunities in the public administration field, from postmaster to city planner to public policy researcher. Knowing exactly what kind of career you want helps you understand how to prepare yourself for that career.
Pursue an Advanced Degree
Most well-paid public administration jobs require an advanced degree. Since you’ve clarified your career goals, you’ll know exactly what kind of degree to get. If you want to an academic or research career, you may want to consider getting a Master of Public Policy degree. If you want to work in public administration, implementing public policy in the real world, then a Master of Public Administration (MPA) is your best choice. Check out this site to learn more about earning an MPA.
Round Out Your Public Administration Degree With a Concentration
Once you’ve chosen a degree program, give some thought to your academic specialty or field of concentration. Your field of concentration will consist of studies that complement your degree, making you more qualified to work in a specific area of public administration. You’ll choose your field of concentration based on what area of public policy or public administration you’ll ultimately want to work in. For example, if you want a career in public health policy, you may want to get a few biology courses under your belt; if you want to work in environmental policy, some courses in the environmental sciences will help strengthen your qualifications.
Get Some Work Experience
You can begin getting work experience before finishing your degree program. Take as many internships as you can while you’re studying. You can apply for internships through your program or seek out internships on your own. Though these jobs may not pay much if at all, they offer you the chance to get experience you can put on your resume and make contacts that can help you get a full-time job later on.
Lend a Helping Hand
You can also gain valuable experience in public administration by volunteering with non-profit groups and service clubs. These groups help you gain firsthand experience helping others and see public policy at work in the real world. Have you ever participated in student government, been a scout leader, coached a youth sports team or volunteered at the YMCA? These types of volunteer activities look great on a resume.
Cultivate the Traits and Habits That Lead to Success
To succeed in public administration, you’re going to need to cultivate the traits and habits of a successful leader. Good leaders are charming and persuasive; they know their strengths and weaknesses, and those of their followers. They care about helping others achieve their goals as much as they care about achieving their own goals.
You can best persuade others to see your point of view when you can show them how your way of doing things advances everyone’s best interests, cultivate selflessness and understand that a successful public administration career means working for the greater good. As a public administrator, you need to be personable and outgoing.
To maintain your career over the long term, you’ll need to develop a healthy work-life balance. Stay positive and make time for yourself, your family and the things that matter to you. Learn to manage your time meticulously and make sure the people closest to you support your ambitions.
The field of public administration is competitive, but with some careful planning and hard work, you can have a successful career. Earn the right degree, get as much relevant experience as you can and cultivate the personal habits conducive to success — and you’ll have the qualifications and skills you’ll need to excel in this competitive field.
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About the Author: Contributing blogger Elaine Travise has worked in public administration for over two decades.