MPA degree profile: American Public University System
Here is a brief introduction to the MPA degree program at the Charles Town, W.Va.-based American Public University, part of American Public University System (APUS). It is part of Govpro’s series on Master’s of Public Administration (MPA) degree programs and their potential value to government administrators.
The APUS MPA degree program aims for a broad-level understanding of the goals and challenges of public administration, and the relationship of the goals to more specialized aspects of planning, organization, management and analysis in the public sector at the national, state and local levels. The MPA degree program is designed to provide advanced study, and prepare current and future government employees for management positions in government at all levels. Because of its focus on management and the expanding role of the private sector in providing traditional government services, the degree program also is applicable to industry and the non-profit sector.
Here are the views of Steven W. McNally, program director/assistant professor of Security Management and Public Administration at APUS.
Govpro: What benefits does a masters’ in public administration degree from APUS have to offer public sector and industry professionals?
Steven W. McNally: The MPA is a flexible, relevant, current course of study that is immediately applicable to a wide range of occupations. There are numerous possibilities in the public sector and an immediate need for a skilled, educated and trained workforce. The benefits of an online education, like the MPA program at APUS, are compelling. One major benefit is that it is asynchronous, so you can complete your studies in your home on your own schedule. While most of our students have families and work full-time — many of them are active duty military taking classes from overseas — they are able to complete the MPA in three years.
Our program is geared toward professionals, with special sensitivity to the challenges faced by our deployed students. We are preparing students with rich and varied government experience to transition to the civilian side of the public sector. While APUS is uniquely positioned to serve the military student, we are also skilled at preparing other public sector employees for professional advancement.
Another benefit of an online institution is flexible teaching. Many APUS faculty are active practitioners in their relevant field of study. At a traditional institution, faculty are often forced to choose between academics and the field. At APUS, in contrast, we encourage our faculty to remain plugged into their NGOs, their government jobs and their businesses, and to share that relevant experience in their classrooms.
Govpro: How can earning an MPA help government administrators advance in their career?
SWM: Public servants are increasingly being asked to do more with less. All levels of our government need employees who are prepared to creatively solve problems and do it on a tight budget. Military cutbacks, along with other structural economic shifts, will increase the number of people transferring to the civilian workforce. Many will seek public sector jobs so they can continue to contribute to or convert their government benefits. This potential influx of job seekers will make public sector jobs even more competitive, increasing the need for professional training and documented technical skills. An MPA degree can help improve your promotion or hiring prospects because you can demonstrate knowledge of budgeting, program evaluation and familiarity with employment law. You can help prepare yourself to meet the increased competition for the most desirable career opportunities by pursuing an MPA.
Govpro: Why should industry professionals consider an online MPA program?
SWM: Distance learning is ideally suited for students unable to relocate, living in a remote area, or wishing to complete their studies while maintaining their current position. Many traditional place-based institutions offer online MPA programs, or you could choose an online institution. Carefully consider cost, course availability and concentrations. Do the goals of the program and the institution match your goals? Are the faculty aligned with your goals for the future? If you haven’t considered online programs before, they have come a long way in the past few years. Programs are much more rigorous and competitive, yet remain flexible and relatively inexpensive.