MPA Careers in Government

For many citizens, policy creation and implementation, community service outreach and real high-level change are out of reach. For USC MPA graduates, these concepts become reality. Our online MPA in conjunction with our Local Government Management concentration and City/County Management certificate positions you to develop the core skills necessary to create solutions to the public’s most prevalent issues.

Can an MPA Help Me Enter the Government Sector?

Leadership, passion and a strong understanding of public administration processes and best practices are needed at every level of government. The USC Master of Public Administration online program directly addresses specialized government issues and concerns in the Local Government Management concentration and City/County Management certificate, preparing you to enter the field with the tools to succeed. What kind of skills can you learn with our online MPA and Local Government Management specialization?

  • Cost-effective public service planning
  • Social policy development
  • Strategic decision-making

What Roles Can I Pursue with an MPA?

Did you know that the largest employer in the country is government? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016 there were more than 22 million people employed by various levels of government, not including larger agencies such as the CIA and NSA. While government job growth has slowed in the past couple of years, 74% of the 145,000 new roles added were in local government (BLS). In fact, local government roles account for nearly two-thirds of public
sector employment (

As an MPA holder, your options in the government sector are varied. Some of the government roles you can pursue include:

Budget Analyst
Salary: $71,590 | Growth: 3%

Budget analysts are challenged to help institutions organize their finances through budget reports and supervising spending. These professionals must be analytical, detail-oriented and have strong communication skills. To become a government budget analyst, you must earn the Certified Government Financial Manager credential first.

For budget analysts, all the work pays off. The average budget analyst earns $71,590 per year, while the top 10% earn more than $108,600. Salaries depend on the level of government and can range from $65,480 for state governments to $77,230 for federal agencies. Like many government jobs, budget analyst roles are slow to grow. While budget analysts positions overall are expected to grow only 3% from 2014 to 2024, local government roles are expected to grow 6% during the same period (BLS).

Urban and Regional Planner
Salary: $68,220 | Growth: 6%

Making community-wide impact takes expertise and dedication, two traits necessary to succeed as an urban and regional planner. These professionals develop plans and programs that help bolster communities and accommodate population growth. They must stay current with zoning and legal issues and be willing to present projects to communities, officials and boards.

Urban and regional planner jobs are expected to grow by 6% from 2014 to 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is about as fast as the average occupation. With population growth, environmental degradation and resource scarcity on the rise, the demand for urban and regional planners should grow as well. These professionals on average can expect to earn $68,220 per year, though their level of government does affect their salary (BLS).

Local Government Administrative Services Manager
Salary: $87,110 | Growth: 8%

Local government administration services managers plan, direct and coordinate the support services within local government agencies. While their specific responsibilities vary, the average administrative services manager can expect to maintain facilities and supervise office activities.

These professionals earn a median salary of $87,110, and the highest 10% earn more than $153,570. Compare that to administrative services managers working in an educational service who earn $82,730 per year, and professionals working in health care who earn $80,770 (BLS). Administrative services, regardless of sector, are expected to grow 8% from 2014 to 2024, or faster than the average occupation.

Law Enforcement and Detectives
Salary: $60,270 | Growth: 4%

Law enforcement officers and detectives protect the public from criminal behavior by enforcing laws, responding to emergency calls and investigating criminal cases. While law enforcement officers and detectives can work in cities, they can also work for federal government agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration or the U.S. Secret Service.

Employment for law enforcement workers of all kinds is projected to grow 4% between 2014 and 2024 and is dependent on location and budget restrictions.

The demand for law enforcement and detectives might improve in upcoming years as the focus on public safety increases. The average professional in this role can expect to earn $60,270 per year, though the top 10% earn more than $100,560. As they accrue experience and further their education, law enforcement officers and detectives can expect to increase their earning potential.

Our MPA in Action

Many of our alumni work in local and state government, including the city of La Mesa, city of South Pasadena, and the California State Assembly. USC online MPA graduate Laura Albers works as an executive director for the Central Coast State Parks Association, a branch of the U.S. National Park Service, and believes that her MPA has helped position her for success in the government sector.

“[The MPA] allowed me to do a little analysis when I was prepping for interviewing for my current job. I brought in a binder full of my coursework because I wanted to show them the types of things I could do in this position, and I learned those from the coursework. Quite frankly, I just couldn’t have done that without my MPA.”
— Laura Albers, USC MPA Graduate

To read more about Laura Albers and other alumni, visit our student testimonials page now.