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Where do MPA/MPP graduates work?  What do they earn?

Employment Trends

MPA/MPP graduates are found in a wide variety of workplaces, but are especially attracted to the public and nonprofit sectors. Data submitted by NASPAA-accredited programs shows that almost half of 2011 graduates were working in government six months after graduating. Of those, there is a roughly even split between federal, state, and local levels. MPA graduates were more likely than MPP alumni to be working in government or nonprofit, while a higher percentage of MPP grads were in the private sector. Of those in the private sector, 64% were conducting research or consulting.
source: NASPAA 2011-12 Annual Accreditation Data Report (p. 6-7)

Salary trends

Starting salaries for MPA/MPP graduates vary greatly by sector, geography, and work experience, among other factors.  We present salary data supplied by several NASPAA member schools, which are great examples but may not be applicable to all MPA/MPP graduates.

Is a Master’s degree worth it?
According to a 2009-2010 survey report from the U.S. Census Bureau, recipients of master’s degrees make approximately $19,000 more than those with bachelor’s degrees.

How much could my salary increase after obtaining an MPA or MPP?
The Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington found that their MPA graduates reported an average salary increase of 31%, as seen on the graph below.
Source: Evans School's 2011 MPA Employment Report

In addition, the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania reported that its 2011 MPA graduates have an average starting salary of $61,444.
Source: UPenn Career Survey

What could be my starting pay working for the federal government?
The federal government has a General Schedule (GS) pay scale that is based upon “grades” and “steps.” The links below show how much an individual earns at each grade and step. MPA/MPP graduates usually enter the federal government at GS-9, or at GS-11 if they have relevant work experience. In 2013, a GS-9’s annual pay starts at $41,563, while a GS-11’s starts at $50,287. Federal workers are usually promoted within their grade in 1-2 “steps” per year.

You can view the whole table by clicking here. Pay is also based on cost of living (geographic area). For example, a GS-9’s annual pay in Washington, DC starts at $51,630, a GS-11 at $62,467.  See the whole table for the DC Metro area.

What kind of jobs do MPA/MPP graduates have when they graduate?
Below is a chart that offers a few examples of positions often obtained by MPA/MPP graduates, starting with entry level positions. Again, note that the salaries for these positions vary greatly due to a number of factors, including but not limited to work experience, location, and sector.

Position Sector Salary
Local Government Analyst State/Local Gov $26,000 - $45,000
Program Coordinator Nonprofit $30,000 - $48,000
Program Assistant/Manager Nonprofit $32,000 - $63,000
Policy Analyst Nonprofit/Government $40,000 - $68,000
Statistician Nonprofit/Government $46,000 - $65,000
Research Associate NP/Gov/Private $50,000 - $60,000
Marketing/PA Specialist NP/Gov/Private $66,000 - $85,000
City Manager/Chief Administrative Officer State/Local Gov $101,000 - $108,000
Sources: Indeed, Payscale, ICMA, University of Pittsburgh GSPIA

What are the salary comparisons by employment sector?

Each of the three sectors offers its own advantages and disadvantages, which you must evaluate for yourself. Because of this, many factors should be considered before taking a job. Presented below is a summary of average salary, by sector, of 2011 MPA graduates of the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs.

Median Starting Salaries by Sector:
Sector Class of 2011
Public $51,630
Private $75,500
Nonprofit $40,000

Read the full Cornell report here
Here are reports from 3 other NASPAA member schools, presenting charts comparing starting salaries for their 2011 MPA graduates:
School of International and Public Affairs - Columbia University
(Click "Employment by Sector"), or
Evans School of Public Policy & Governance - University of Washington (2014), or
LBJ School of Public Affairs - University of Texas at Austin

updated July 2013

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