Public administrators, also known as administrative services managers, work in federal, state, and local governments as well as’ the private sector. They plan, coordinate, and direct a broad range of services to ensure that organizations run efficiently, economically, and equitably.
Public administrators typically head centralized operations that oversee multiple departments. They analyze various data and information, plan budgets, oversee expenditures, implement public and government policies, ensure safety standards. As managers of people and resources, they generally act as stewards of the public interest.
People in public administration must deal with significant issues that address the needs of the public while saving money and avoiding tax increases. They implement new and innovative technologies to connect federal, state, and local citizens with their elected and appointed government officials. They also work to improve response time and capacity in local and natural disasters.
Public Administration Careers
The ‘Encyclopedia of Public Administration and Public Policy’ conveys three goals of public administration: efficiency, economy, and equity. Public administrators typically work in civil service, foreign service, and consulting — managing services that meet these three goals.
Most public administrators work for state and local governments, such as counties and municipalities. Some specific job titles for these public administrators include city manager, county manager, auditor, safety inspector, industrial relations specialist, mediator, and systems analyst.
The United States Department of State also employs public administrators in several categories. These include business management, economics, finance, and accounting; foreign affairs and international policy; engineering; human resources, information technology, and legal; domestic and international security; senior executive services; and support services.
Public administrators in foreign service work to promote peace and prosperity by advancing United States interests worldwide. They usually work in international embassies, consulates, and other diplomatic missions around the globe.
The consulting field is one of the fastest-growing sources of public administration jobs. Public administration consultants assist managers in a number of ways. They analyze operations, make recommendations, obtain funding, and assist with policy development. They may work on short-term assignments or long-term projects.
Public service managers typically spend their day in an office setting. However, as overseers of central operations, they make frequent visits through the building, around the grounds, and other to facilities under their management. Site visits may involve a walk-through in the office building or a trip to a different building on campus or across town.
People in public administration also travel to meet with off-site staff and product vendors. They also attend various meetings in their community and across the state. However, technology now allows public administrators to do much of their work remotely from the office, through teleconferencing and other innovations.
While some public administration jobs allow managers to work a standard 40-hour week, most work much longer hours. Certain projects require overtime work to meet deadlines and solve problems. Public administrators are usually on-call to address urgent problems and emergency situations that arise during nonworking hours.
Education and training for public administration careers vary greatly, depending on an organization’s size and complexity. For example, lower-level managers in a small municipality may only need a high school diploma or an associate degree, combined with relevant work experience and continuing education.
Larger operations and government departments usually require a bachelor’s degree, and most require a master’s degree in public administration. Some public administrators have degrees in other areas, such as business administration, human resources, accounting, or finance. Regardless of college major, public administration jobs usually require college coursework in public policy, accounting and finance, office technology, computer applications, human resources, political science, and business law.
Facility managers often have undergraduate or postgraduate degrees in business administration, facility management, construction management, or engineering. They may also have backgrounds in real estate. Property acquisition managers require knowledge and experience in purchasing, sales, supplies, machinery, and equipment. Contract administrators may have experience as contract specialists, procurement specialists, or cost analysts.
Public administrators need good leadership and communication skills in order to establish effective working relationships with other managers, supervisors, and professionals. They must also relate to clerks and blue-collar workers in the organization. The job requires managers to be analytical and detail-oriented, yet able to coordinate several activities at once. They must be flexible in their work, yet decisive and able to resolve problems quickly.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, organizations and government employed 240,320 administrative services managers in 2010. The annual wage ranged between $41,420 and $135,300, with the median salary at $77,890. The industries employing the largest numbers of public administrators were companies and enterprises, hospitals, local government, colleges and professional schools, and state government.
Public administration careers are expected to grow in response to the increasing consumer demands for health services, social services, and other quality-of-life services. Competition will be keen for high-level positions, and job prospects are better for generalists than for specialists.