MPA degree: Walden University’s online program (with related video)
The number of local governments in the U.S. has dropped a little, says the U.S. Census Bureau’s Census of Governments. In 2012, 89,004 local governments existed in the United States, down from 89,476 in the last census of governments conducted in 2007. Even so, governments will need administrators in the years ahead to replace baby boomers as they retire and administrators who switch jobs to the private and nonprofit sectors.
Govpro learned about current opportunities for master of public administration (MPA)-degree holders from Jason Lum, faculty member in the School of Public Policy and Administration at Minneapolis-based Walden University.
Govpro: Does it make sense to earn an online MPA degree in 2012-2013?
Jason Lum: Yes, it does make sense to earn an online MPA degree because growth in the federal government is one of the few bright spots in the economy. An MPA degree has wide flexibility in an array of federal agencies and departments. Someone with an MPA could work at virtually any level of government, state, local or federal. I have had graduates who have worked in law enforcement, pharmaceutical regulation, homeland security, and a wide array of agency and departmental tasks. For many of these jobs, having some sort of graduate education was a requirement, and the MPA and the Master of Public Policy (MPP) were two of the most widely sought-after degrees for those job requirements.
Govpro: Can an online MPA degree help advance careers in government, or provide job security, or help develop new skills?
JL: Many of our Walden students are already federal and state employees, and they earn their MPA to increase job security as well as to increase their ratings for compensation purposes.
Govpro: Are there benefits to earning an online MPA degree versus earning an MPA in a traditional bricks-and-mortar program?
JL: One of the key benefits of an online degree program is the asynchronous environment. Many prospective Walden MPA candidates are working adults that are usually mid-level to senior public servants within government organizations. They are often very busy with their family and work responsibilities and it would be very difficult to uproot themselves, quit their job or reduce hours at their job in order to pursue an MPA degree. An online program allows students to participate at their convenience and provides them with the opportunity to earn a degree without sacrificing their other interests and commitments.
There is also a much greater impetus for online learning because of the extraordinary networking possibilities with public servants around the world. I’ve worked with government ministers from Argentina and Nigeria, and homeland security experts not only from North America but also from Israel and from the European Union. Many of my students at Walden University have collaborated outside the classroom on research projects, and indeed, often visit with their former classmates when they have the opportunity to travel to those countries. In the classroom, they frequently collaborate on papers and group projects highlighting their unique experiences in their countries. Online education provides a perfect mix of opportunities for people who want to not only learn about international examples within the public policy realm, but also want to network for job purposes.
Govpro: Does Walden’s MPA program have any unique features?
JL: At Walden University we offer many specializations in our MPA and MPP degree programs, because government agencies today are compartmentalizing tasks and are looking for policy specialists. The MPA program seeks to train generalists, but we also want to respond to the needs of the public sector for policy specialists — in other words, we want to give our students the best of both worlds. We are constantly expanding our realm of specializations, and currently we include specializations that touch upon law, homeland security, and other major policy areas. In addition, all of our courses are taught by scholar-practitioners, which provides our working-adult students with a better real-world experience and insight for which there can be no substitute.
The Capstone course is another unique feature and is a much-beloved finale to the MPA program that ties in all the learning from the previous required courses and helps connect the dots. Students leave Walden feeling as though they have received a broad-based education, but yet at the same time feel secure in the sense that they can market their specialization, not only to their current employers, but also to potential employers in the public and nonprofit realms.
Here is a past Walden University MPA profile on Govpro.
Here is video of Bill Clinton’s Summer 2011 Walden University commencement address.