Your intended career path should be an important factor when considering a Master of Business Administration vs. a Master of Public Administration. Both are sought-after degrees that can be beneficial in a variety of fields, including:

  • Government
  • Healthcare
  • Nonprofit
  • Finance
  • Education

That said, these two options are designed to support distinct career opportunities. U.S. News & World Report puts it clearly: “An MBA is geared toward aspiring business executives and an MPA is tailored to future public service leaders.” Even if they share similarities, the two degrees are distinct as they teach specific management skills that apply to two different sectors. An MPA could be considered the equivalent of an MBA in the public sector.

Read on to see how MPA vs. MBA compare in terms of curriculum, program outcomes, career paths, and corresponding salaries.


MPA vs. MBA

Curriculum

MPA Courses MBA Courses
Economics Accounting
Public and nonprofit budgeting Finance
Government/public leadership Private leadership
Data Analysis Marketing analytics
Community-based management Entrepreneurship

MBA programs build upon foundational business skills and knowledge to help students achieve high-level leadership and decision-making positions in the private sector. MBA programs may offer specializations like marketing or healthcare (e.g., for-profit hospitals). An MBA can take anywhere from one to four years to complete.

MPA programs also build foundational leadership skills but the focus is in the public and nonprofit sectors, with some offering optional concentrations or specializations. At Pace University, online MPA students can choose a course of study in Government Management, Healthcare Management, and Nonprofit Management. An MPA can take one and a half to three years to complete.

Program Outcomes

MBA program outcomes generally include the ability to think strategically, the soft skills to lead various teams, the critical thinking to apply business principles to solve problems, and the training to use new technology in business.

Comparatively, the critical thinking principles that aim at solving complex public service problems, and the applied and ethical leadership responsibilities of public service are at the core of many MPA programs. For example, learning outcomes of the online MPA program at Pace University not only touch on management and problem solving, but also community-based solutions and public service.

At a Glance MPA Learning Outcomes at Pace University

  • To lead and manage in public, nonprofit and healthcare governance.
  • To participate in and contribute to the public policy process.
  • To analyze, synthesize, think critically, solve problems and make evidence-informed decisions in a complex and dynamic environment.
  • To articulate and apply a public service perspective.
  • To communicate and interact productively with a diverse and changing workforce and citizenry.

Careers with an MBA and MPA

The average salary of an individual with a Master in Business Administration (MBA) is $91,000 (as taken from Payscale in January 2022). An MBA is beneficial for a number of different business careers including the following:

  • Management consultant
  • Marketing manager
  • Financial controller
  • Financial analyst
  • Accounting manager

According to Payscale, the average salary of an individual with a Master of Public Administration (MPA) is $67,240 (information taken in December 2021). An MPA can prepare you for the following careers in the public and nonprofit sectors.

Career Average salary
Policy Analyst $54,099
Program Manager $54,318
Data Analyst $62,505
Public Affairs Specialist $64,039
City Administrator $73,066
Financial Manager $93,369

Source: Payscale


Learn more about what you can do with an MPA.


Policy Analyst

Policy analysts research complex societal problems and recommend solutions. Policy analysts work in government agencies and think tanks, tackling issues that impact national defense, education, and healthcare among other issues. Tasks for policy analysts include collecting and compiling information, analyzing potential policies, and making recommendations on new and existing policies. Research is also a big part of a policy analyst position. According to Burning Glass, the top skills for a higher salary are policy development and economics. Given the political nature of the work, it’s not surprising that the majority of policy analyst job listings are near Washington, D.C.
The top four locations for policy analyst jobs as of December 2021 are:

  • Washington, D.C.
  • California
  • Virginia
  • Maryland

Program Manager

A program manager handles the program activity for an organization. Program managers work in many different areas including administration, human resources, marketing, finance, production, and technology. To be successful, a program manager must possess a wide range of skills such as program management, project management, and budgeting. According to Burning Glass, a top skill for a higher salary is stakeholder management.

Data Analyst

Data analysts use surveys and other collection methods to find, gather, and interpret information about specific topics (which vary depending on their agency or organization). Once they find the information, data analysts dispense it to their organization or the public in the form of reports and charts. Skills yielding the highest salaries for data analysts include data management, data cleaning, analysis, visualization, and reporting. Successful data analysts possess not only technical knowledge about programming languages used to visualize and analyze data (e.g., R, Stata, Python, Qualtrics, NVivo, Tableau, GIS) but they also possess critical thinking and presentation skills to ably communicate solutions to complex problems.

Public Affairs Specialist

A public affairs specialist’s main task is to make sure their company or organization is seen in a positive way. One way that public affairs specialists get their message out is by hosting events for their organizations. Other ways include creating and using the following materials:

  • Presentations
  • Brochures
  • Newsletters
  • Social media posts
  • Emails
  • Press releases

Public affairs specialists also work as spokespeople for their organization, taking part in press conferences and coordinating media responses and inquiries. In order to achieve success, public affairs specialists should have excellent communication skills as well as the ability to think on their feet.

City Administrator

A city administrator is a government employee who directs and manages the operations of a city under the direction of the mayor and the city council. Tasks can include overseeing communications for the city, supervising subordinate department heads, and hiring and training staff. Career paths that are similar to city administrator include county, town, and village administrator roles.

Financial Manager

A financial manager is responsible for the financial health of a company or organization. Tasks include planning and directing financial activities; preparing financial reports, forecasting reports, and financial statements; and developing plans for the long-term financial goals of the organization. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of financial managers is projected to grow 17% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations. (Information taken March 2022).


About the online MPA Program at Pace University

The 100% online Master of Public Administration (MPA) program from Pace University’s Dyson College of Arts and Sciences prepares working professionals and aspiring administrators to lead in public service. Students can choose from one of three tracks: government management, healthcare management, or nonprofit management. MPA graduates find a wide range of opportunities within federal, state, and local governments as well as advocacy and community organizations. Through flexible, hybrid, and cutting-edge learning environments, our students get the quality education they want and the upskilling they need to be successful in the changing world.