MPA Degree Comparisons: Which Professional Degree Is Right for Me?

When it comes to deciding between graduate degrees, one letter makes a big difference. That’s why we’re here to help you make an educated decision. We’ve compared the top alternative degrees to a Master of Public Administration and highlighted the advantages below.


While MPA and MBA programs both focus on organizational management and leadership, there are myriad differences between the two.


Typically, MPA programs — and many of the organizations they filter into — are mission-driven. They are built on a foundation of passion and service to the community.

MPA courses focus on topics like analyzing public sector issues and designing effective public systems or developing strategic public policy to solve them. Their end goal is to help students increase social good. MBA programs — whose courses cover accounting, finance, marketing, etc. — tend to focus on improving a business’s bottom line.

Industry Outlook

The public administration workforce is aging while the industry is growing,¹ which means the demand for innovative new MPA graduates has increased.

Even in the private sector, the demand for MPA professionals is rising. Today, more private organizations are blending for-profit business models with public service ideals, which means the MPA mindset is more relevant than ever.

What kind of careers can I pursue?

Master of Business Administration Careers

  • Top executive
  • Marketing manager
  • Financial adviser

Master of Public Administration Careers

  • Program administrator
  • Top executive
  • Consultant
  • Executive director

MPA vs. Master of Public Policy (MPP)

While an MPA and MPP may seem interchangeable, the two degrees help develop different skill sets and will prepare you for slightly different career paths.

An MPA focuses on program management, leadership, and policy analysis and implementation, while an MPP is more focused on data management, financial analysis and policy creation.

Resulting Skillset

Both MPA and MPP degrees can lead to positions in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. An MPP typically focuses on analytical skill development, while an MPA will help you develop analytical, qualitative, communication and leadership skills.

Career Outcomes

Both public administration and public policy graduates are mission-driven — which means their ultimate goal is to solve social issues and implement improvements in their communities.

MPP graduates dive into the research and mathematical aspects of public policy, while MPA programs focus on public policy creation and implementation through leadership.

Industry Outlook

Many MPA and MPP graduates work in the nonprofit and government sectors — fields that are growing rapidly. MPA degrees allow graduates to pursue diverse roles in the private sector and health care, while MPP degrees allow graduates to deeply specialize in the public policy field.

What kind of careers can I pursue?

MPP Careers

  • Local government analyst
  • Statistician
  • Research associate

MPA Careers

  • Program administrator
  • Legislative or policy staff director
  • City manager
  • Local government analyst
  • Policy and program analyst

MPA vs. Master of Public Health (MPH)

Both an MPA and an MPH focus on organizational management and can lead to health care administration roles, but the two programs differ in many ways.

Career Flexibility

An MPH is ideal for professionals who would like to pursue a career in the health care field. But the USC Price MPA, with courses on strategic planning in public administration, public financial management and civic engagement, offers the flexibility to pursue careers across a few different fields — including government, nonprofits and the private sector.


Graduates in both the public administration and public health fields are mission-driven in their purpose. The difference is that as an MPA graduate, you can also create and implement policies that reach beyond the health care field.

USC Price offers a broad-ranging education and two certificate options so you can tailor your education to your personal career goals.

Industry Outlook

Today’s public administration workforce is aging rapidly. In fact, as of July 2018, a full 14% of federal employees were eligible for retirement.2 This means that one in four professionals in this sector are approaching retirement — which creates opportunity for fresh talent and new perspectives in the MPA and MPH career space.

What kind of careers can I pursue?

MPH Careers

  • Human resources director
  • Health educator
  • Medical and health service manager
  • Health care practice manager

MPA Careers

  • Program administrator
  • Purchasing manager
  • Government affairs executive
  • Local government analyst
  • Human resources director

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