Because both a Master of Public Administration (MPA) and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) focus on organizational management, students who want to work in the public sector are sometimes unsure about which professional degree to choose. If you have a passion for nonprofit organizations and want to enhance your skills and experience with an advanced degree, then it’s important to take a close look at the pros and cons of MPA vs. MBA programs.
Although there is some overlap in the coursework for these two degrees, there is a key difference in program focus. An MBA program provides training in private sector management. The success of a private business is primarily measured by its profitably, so business schools are geared towards training future managers to make as much money as possible. The emphasis is on economics, finance, and marketing, preparing students to lead business organizations where profit generation is the goal.
In contrast, an MPA program concentrates on management of nonprofit and public sector organizations. The mission of these organizations is to serve humanity and improve the social condition. Managers in public sector organizations need to understand that the success of their organization is difficult to measure. They also must be prepared to make trade-offs between the demands of competing groups of citizens and government agencies.
Another key difference between private businesses and public sector organizations is how they obtain funding for their continued operation. In the case of private businesses, funding is a component of profit generation. Public sector organizations are usually funded by donations, foundations, and government grants. An MPA program will provide the skills needed to obtain this specific funding.
In the end, MBA programs concentrate on the economic market while MPA programs are concerned with working towards social solutions. There is a world of difference between making an individual company or corporation more profitable and leading an organization that’s trying to make the world a better place.
If you’re determined to make positive changes in the world, an MPA degree provides the skills and knowledge to make your idealism a reality. An MPA will provide the training needed to navigate through the complex nonprofit environment, as well as providing opportunities to think about solving problems with immeasurable outcomes that are faced by public sector organizations.
There are also some practical considerations to take into account when choosing between an MBA and MPA degree. PublicServiceCareers.org reports that tuition fees for MPA programs are often much lower than business school fees. Business schools rarely offer financial aid and many graduates incur large amounts of student loan debt. Financial aid and grants are available for MPA students. There are also student loan forgiveness programs that allow graduates to repay student loan debts with a few years of public service employment.
An MPA degree may also provide more career flexibility. Most business school graduates stay in the private sector for their entire career, while MPA graduates can move between public, nonprofit and private sector employment. In addition, MBA graduates who want to work in the public sector may have a harder time finding employment since their academic background provided limited exposure to public policy subjects.
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