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6 Undergraduate Degrees that Complement an MPA

May 7, 2020

Do you have a passion for helping others? Are you motivated by the thought of positively impacting communities and society? If you can answer yes to one or both of these questions, you may want to consider a career in public administration.

Public administration is an incredibly fulfilling field where public servants advocate for their communities and work to enhance the wellbeing of those they serve. Public administrators generally work behind the scenes in both public roles and private sectors at the county, state, and federal levels. These skilled and dedicated professionals implement, oversee, coordinate, and direct the policies within their realm of influence.

The Master of Public Administration (MPA) at Sacred Heart University (SHU) is a fully online degree, perfect for working professionals. Within the degree, students choose from three concentrations — Non-profit Management, Emergency Management, and a Self-Designed Concentration that allows them to tailor their education to their desired career path. Additionally, SHU’s Master of Public Administration program partners with the Institute for Public Policy and the Center for Nonprofit Organizations to give students the research and hands-on experience they need to thrive in their professional careers.

Download our guide to the Master of Public Administration at SHU and learn how  your graduate degree can prepare you with hands-on experience to tackle  real-world problems.

Undergraduate Degrees for Future Public Administration Leaders

While obtaining an MPA is an obvious choice to help you on a public administration career path, you may be wondering which undergraduate degree will best prepare you for your graduate studies. 

The good news is there is no one right answer. Any undergraduate degree can prepare you successfully for an MPA program. There are, however, several undergraduate degrees that can offer you a strategic advantage and position you to transition seamlessly into an MPA program. With this in mind, here are six common undergraduate degrees for MPA students and how they can prepare you for your graduate studies.

1. Political Science

An undergraduate degree in political science is a surefire way to prepare you for a role in public administration. A political science degree includes the study of political theory from domestic, comparative, and international perspectives, and covers the American constitutional framework and public policy processes. 

As a whole, this degree will develop your ability to think critically about the political world and prepare you for roles in both the public and private sectors. With a political science background, your foundation in public policy will provide you with the roadmap needed to succeed in your MPA and beyond.

2. Economics

An undergraduate degree in economics will help you develop the analytical and problem-solving skills needed to make calculated decisions in public administration roles. An economics degree combines economic theory with business applications to give you a well-rounded view of how economic trends affect public investments, markets, and wealth management in the real world. 

In this degree, you will be exposed to the economic effects and ethics of policy actions at local, state, national, and international levels. This robust approach will help you transition into an MPA with an acute understanding of how economics drives and influences policies in the realm of public administration.  

3. Business Administration

An undergraduate degree in business administration will help you develop the business acumen vital for public administration roles. In this degree, you will be exposed to disciplines such as accounting, finance, marketing, human resources management, international business, and management. Unsurprisingly, the business administration degree is one of the most popular undergrad majors for future MPA students as it primes its recipients for roles in leadership and sharpens skills in communications and critical thinking. A foundation in business administration will provide you with a dynamic understanding of business as well as the leadership skills needed to motivate people and make a difference in a public administration role.   

4. Marketing

An undergraduate degree in marketing will give you a well-rounded perspective in both marketing and business, which translates well into public administration roles. You will gain a general understanding of business and global markets and learn how marketing contributes to the political, economic, and legal aspects of the business. 

The combination of both business and marketing theory provides you with the opportunity to practice strategic decision making and develops your ability to present ideas that will make a strong impact. You will also gain an understanding of ethics and standards that will prove invaluable when studying policy in your MPA degree.

5. Sociology

An undergraduate degree in sociology provides you with a systematic and scientific view of social life and human behavior that is woven into public administration positions. In this degree, you will be exposed to the complexities of social and cultural diversity and the causes and consequences of social inequality. You will also practice applying social theory to real-world problems. 

A foundation in sociology will help you develop the critical-thinking skills you need to assess community needs and develop solutions from a culturally and economically sensitive perspective — helping you maximize benefits across the community. An undergraduate degree in sociology complements an MPA in that they both work to promote the wellbeing of society.

6. Criminal Justice

An undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice will help you gain a comprehensive understanding of the U.S. criminal justice system. As part of your degree, you'll take courses in the areas of corrections, law enforcement, legal studies, and security. This foundation will prepare you to apply criminological theory to evaluate policies, laws and how they affect the populations you'll serve as a public administrator.

Take the Next Step 

Choosing any of these undergraduate degrees will undoubtedly enable a smooth transition into a master of public administration program. At SHU, our 100% online Master’s in Public Administration empowers future leaders in non-profit, emergency, and community management to effect change and motivate people for the betterment of society. A foundation rooted in policy, business, human culture, or human behavior will set you on the best footing to understand the processes you will be immersed in during your MPA program.  

Whether you are currently enrolled in one of these undergraduate degrees (or any undergrad degree) or have graduated and are ready to begin your MPA, we invite you to get in touch with one of our admissions counselors to discuss your next steps. We look forward to hearing from you soon and best of luck! 

Ready to learn more about the field of public administration and the MPA program at Sacred Heart? Download — What Is a Masters in Public Administration?

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SHU Graduate Admissions Team

About the Author

We are the graduate admissions team at Sacred Heart University. We aspire to create a welcoming and supportive environment for students looking to continue their education while empowering them in mind, body and spirit. We hope you find our resources helpful and informative as you explore and pursue a graduate degree at Sacred Heart!

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