Undergraduate majors in public administration and competitor fields: How do student characteristics and career outcomes compare?

We know strikingly little about the people who earn undergraduate degrees in public administration/policy. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) for 2009–2014, this article expands our knowledge, examining the characteristics of people with bachelor’s degrees in public administration and public policy, the degrees they obtain, their unemployment rates, the jobs they take, and the amounts they earn. The news is generally good in terms of student diversity, graduate education, commitment to public service, and earnings, though unemployment rates tend to be higher than for other majors. People with bachelor’s degrees in public administration/policy have more gender and race diversity than graduates in most social sciences, business, English, history, and communications. They are among the most likely to choose public sector employment. Those who stop with bachelor’s degrees earn more than comparable graduates in most competitor fields; but nearly half obtain graduate degrees, more than most programs, and those who do also out-earn most competitors.