A career in public administration typically begins in a specialized position and progresses toward higher level positions in which generalist, leadership-oriented abilities are of greater importance. A city manager, for example, might have started as a junior budget analyst. MPA students may take six elective courses (18 credits) and we offer you great flexibility in designing a course of study that suits YOUR interests and career needs.
Most MPA students choose their electives from one of the Career Paths identified in the MPA Handbook. Others tailor their electives from more than one career path (combining financial and local government courses, for example). In choosing your electives, it is vital that you seek advice from the faculty members who have expertise related to the type of career path you wish to pursue. Each MPA student must obtain approval from a faculty member for their individual program of study.
When experienced students have specialized knowledge gained on the job, but they lack theoretical perspective in their field, elective courses in their field may provide valuable knowledge and enhance their career prospects. Elective courses that complement an existing expertise (e.g. in information resource management to complement existing expertise in personnel or financial management or emergency management) is often an attractive choice.
Other experienced students, however, may choose to take those electives that will best develop their capacities to become generalist administrators. The career path in leadership and strategic management is especially appropriate for experienced students who wish to prepare themselves for executive positions.
Pre-service students with liberal studies backgrounds usually need to take electives that will enhance their job ‘marketability.' Liberal studies degrees are valuable because they provide important insights into social problems, values, and human behavior. Pre-service students, however, need some specialized knowledge and skills to begin their careers.
Several of the career paths provide this specialized knowledge, including: local government administration, nonprofit management, emergency management, budgeting and financial management, policy analysis and evaluation methods. Certificates (that are 15 or 18 hours of courses) are also available in some of these fields.
Students may choose electives from other programs in the university such as political science, communications, business, adult education, population studies, comparative studies, criminal justice, social work, urban planning, and arts administration. These elective courses must be graduate-level courses (courses numbered 5000 or 6000). [Courses numbered 3000 and 4000 level are generally undergraduate courses.] In so doing, prior consent must be obtained (on the blue form) from a faculty advisor or the MPA director. Failure to obtain approval for elective courses taken outside the Askew School may result in the course being disallowed for the MPA degree. It is possible to take elective courses in several different subjects, with approval, so long as these lead to a coherent program of study.
An advantage of a large diverse institution like Florida State is that it offers many courses that are relevant to careers in public service. Reflecting our location in the capital city of a "mega-state," many departments across the campus include policy related studies in their curriculums.
Students may enroll for six hours of elective coursework in another department on a pass/fail basis. This may be advisable when taking elective courses in other fields where MPA students might be in competition with students who have had years of preparation in that field. Any course taken from the School of Law should be taken on the S/U basis as that school follows a different basis for determining grades. Public administration courses, however, may not be taken on the S/U basis unless normally so offered.