Why an MPA?
On my first day of orientation for the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration (TSPPPA) at The George Washington University, a fellow student asked our professor, “What is a sexy way to explain MPA?” After a moment or two of laughter, the professor (Dr. Lori Brainerd, Director of the Public Administration Program) remarked, “That is a great question, and I am not sure I have an easy answer for you.”
The truth is that while Schools of Public Administration (and the like) have been around a long time, the degree is fairly unknown, and so you are forced to educate a lot of people. Some think that you say MBA, and you are forced to correct them – possibly in an awkward situation. In explaining the MPA, a lot of people defer to saying, “Its like an MBA, only for Government or Nonprofit Management.” Some may liken it closer to a Master of Public Policy, but with less mathematical skills required.
I am not saying that these are wrong. But in my humble opinion earning a Master of Public Administration degree is becoming an expert in cross-sectoral governance, managing complex organizations, and understanding how to navigate through the bureaucratic process. This could be applicable to public sector, private sector, or nonprofit sector work. The key difference between MPA and MBA is that MPA programs are less about competition and more about consensus.
So what is a sexy way to explain MPA? Well I am not sure that there is one. But I think it is a pretty valuable degree that will advance you further – learning how to work with others across sectors.