Overview of an Associates in Public Administration
If you'd like to enter the career field of public administration, you may be confused about which degree you should pursue. If you're considering entering an associate degree in public administration program, there are both positive and negative aspects to this choice and a variety of online and in-person options. Graduation from public administration programs offered by community colleges or universities prepares students for careers in the public sector, state and local government, law enforcement, political positions, and further academic learning in higher-level degree programs, whether a bachelor's in information technology or organizational leadership or a Master of Public Administration. The content of an online or traditional associate degree in public administration program can prepare students for the public sector and allow them to skip as much as half of the credit hours of a future liberal arts bachelor's program, no matter where their studies take them.
- An associate degree only takes about two years to complete, so you can enter the job market fairly soon whether you choose to earn an online degree or not.
- If you didn't do great in high school, you won't have to worry about being accepted into a four-year bachelor program that typically requires a minimum GPA. Most community college programs are relatively easy to get into and still offer financial aid with the right accreditation.
- Because they are offered at community colleges, an associate degree in public administration is low-cost compared to four-year colleges and many still offer the option for online courses and online programs.
- With an associate degree, you will typically earn more and have more opportunities than someone who holds no degree because your knowledge and skills will be better.
- When you graduate, you'll have a solid understanding of public administration and will be eligible for support roles within the public sector.
- When you finish, you will have half the credit hours needed for a bachelor's degree.
- You'll gain exposure to different careers with a public administration degree and be able to focus your goals more clearly.
- The majority of entry-level jobs in public administration require at least a bachelor’s level degree so you probably won't qualify for most positions within the field.
- Your curriculum will be limited, and you may not be able to take the courses you want; this may be an issue if there is a specific career or area of public administration you'd like to enter.
- Even if the curriculum is available, it may not be as likely to be available online from a community college. Or, if there are courses available online, you may need to complete the program through a hybrid (online and in-person courses) program or fully in-person.
- All of your credits may not transfer to a four-year college, so you have to track transfer qualifications, this may be especially true with an online public administration program.
- With an Associate of Arts degree in public administration, you won't qualify to earn special certifications within the field of public administration.
- If you're competing for a position with someone who holds a bachelor's degree, the other person will have a distinct advantage.
- You will most likely earn less than a person with a bachelor's degree, even if you hold the same position and seniority.
Certificate vs. Associates
Certification in public administration fields is restricted to higher degrees. For the most part, certification is for someone who holds an online bachelor or master degree in another field who wishes to switch careers to public administration. Certificate programs are also used when one holds an online bachelor's degree and is applying for a master's program and wants to expedite their knowledge base before earning their graduate degree. These certifications can often be earned online, but may not be available to those who have online earned an associate degree, whether it was earned online or not.
What Public Administration Associate Degrees are Available?
There are two degrees available for public administration:
- Associate of Arts (AA)
- Associate of Science (AS)
For the most part, an AA program will allow you more flexibility when choosing your elective courses. Your curriculum will be open to opt for classes in art, physical education, language, or any other subjects offered online or on campus at your school of choice.
On the other hand, an AS degree program is more restrictive in regard to electives. Your choices will be narrowed to several specific classes related to the subject of public administration.
Both types of degrees have merit. If your primary concern is raising your GPA for acceptance into a bachelor's degree program, you might find easier classes with an AA. On the other hand, with an AS you may find courses that are prerequisites to courses found in a bachelor program or are subjects within the career you plan to pursue. Your best bet is to compare the curriculum of each to several bachelor degree programs and see which aligns best with your long-term plans. You might even compare online vs. in-person degrees from around the country or near you to see what the differences are.
For the most part, the only requirement to enter an online or traditional associate program in public administration is a high school diploma or GED. That being said, in your first year of college you will need to take basic college courses in English and mathematics. If you are weak in one or both of these subjects, you may wish to take a refresher or remedial course before entering a full-time online program or even an in-person campus where you will have more access to assistance.
It's important to note that entry into an online bachelor's program is more challenging so you should strive to keep your GPA high throughout your associate degree program so you can easily enter a four-year college as your next educational step.
How long does it take to earn an online Public Administration Associates?
An online associate degree is considered a two-year program in that you can earn the degree in two years if you attend school full-time. Even online programs usually take around two years. You will need to complete 60 credit hours, which is about 20 college courses. Some schools offer expedited online degrees that only take 18 months to complete. You can also shorten your time in school by testing out of certain subjects such as English and mathematics.
If you're still in high school, you may qualify to take college courses in your junior and senior years. You should opt to do so whenever possible as you can complete one or more semesters of college before graduating high school.
Potential Careers in Public Administration with an Associates
Although your online associate degree won't qualify you for entry-level positions as a public administrator there are still many positions you might find once you earn your degree. Here's a look at some examples of positions you might find in non-profit organizations, government agencies, and similar employers and the average salary of each.
- Program Administrator:
You’ll organize and lead a team in fundraising, planning missions and projects, and gathering donations within a non-profit organization. Program administrator is a middle management position that reports to a program manager and earns an average annual income of $55,500.
- Grant Writer:
You’ll write, apply for, and report on grants, most often for non-profit organizations. Grant writers often have flexible hours and may also work in a freelance capacity. They may be required to travel, depending on the company or agency of employment and earn an average annual salary of $48,900.
- City Clerk:
You’ll draft the bylaws and general agenda for city meetings, record the minutes of meetings, prepare reports, and answer correspondence as required. A city clerk may work with the public, maintain documents, and prepare ordinances for public notification. City clerks earn an average annual salary of $48,300.
- Occupational Safety Coordinator:
You’ll supervise the safety of a company's employees by ensuring safety requirements are in place and safety protocols are being followed by all employees. An occupational safety coordinator may also be charged with training employees in best safety practices as set by the employer. Their average annual salary is $55,200.
- Accounting Clerk:
An accounting clerk is well-trained in maintaining the ledgers of a business and must be fluent with accounts payable and receivable, cash transactions, and similar bookkeeping tasks. In a smaller company they may work on all aspects of record keeping, while in a larger corporation they may be in charge of a single aspect of an account. Their average annual income is $39,400.
Options to Advance
To advance in the field of public administration you should plan on earning at least an online bachelor’s degree. This will qualify you to apply for entry-level positions as an administrator. Once you are sure which area of public administration you prefer, you should enroll in a master degree program in order to become an expert in your field.
With an online master's degree, you’ll be eligible for positions in upper management. Your choice of specialization may also require you to earn one or more certificates, so you should research the requirements once you know what area of concentration you will study.
Best Online Associate of Science in Public Administration Programs
The majority of community colleges offer degrees in public administration, but not all degrees are created equal. Because this field requires a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions, you should verify two things before you enroll: all credits must be transferable to a four-year degree and the program must be fully accredited. Here's a look at five traditional colleges (on campus classes) that offer an online associate degrees in public administration:
Miami Dade College
Miami Dade College offers a pathway program, which means it is essentially the first two years of a four-year program. Successful completion guarantees the student admission into a state public university and will be accepted by most other schools as well.
- Public Administration Associate in Arts
SUNY Empire State College
Over 30 onsite locations across New York State
SUNY offers four different programs within the realm of public administration and the wide range of locations makes it an ideal school for many in the New York area. Students can choose a general public administration degree or a program that focuses specifically on public policy.
- AA Business, Management and Economics - Public Administration
- AA Social Science - Public Policy
- AS Business, Management and Economics - Public Administration
- AS Social Science - Public Policy
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, Alaska (plus six other locations)
With locations throughout the state, the public administration program at the University of Alaska offers both a terminal degree and a transfer degree for those who plan to continuing on to earn their bachelor’s degree.
- A.A.S. in Applied Business - Public Management
Wayland Baptist University
Wayfield offers an associate degree program that is concentrated on the justice system area of public administration. This is ideal for those who wish to work within the legal system or criminal justice field in an area that influences policies and procedures within the system.
- AAS in Justice Administration
Florida National University
Florida National University offers a transferable program for those who wish to enter the job market early while continuing their education. This program covers the same material as the first two years of an online bachelor degree and prepares the student for both the job field and their next degree.
- Associate of Arts, Public Administration
Traditional Schools Offering an AS Public Administration
Rio Salado College
Rio Salado focuses on communication and computer usage as well as the basic components of a public administration curriculum. The program is fully accredited and will transfer to a four-year degree if you choose to continue your education.
- Associate in Applied Science Degree in Public Administration
Tyler Junior College
This well-rounded program is designed to stand alone for those who wish to quickly gain employment in the field or to transfer to a four-year program at a later date. Students will be prepared to enter the job market in all sectors of public administration.
- Public Administration (AAS)
Lorain County Community College
Designed in partnership with local and state community leaders, this program offers credit for work experience, work-in-place assignments, and other perks for those who are already employed in the field of public administration.
- Associate of Applied Science in Public Administration
University of Maine at Augusta
The University of Maine offers a program that transfers as a block rather than by individual classes to make it easier to continue your education. All classes are offered online, delayed, or on campus to fit every life situation a student might encounter.
- A.S. Public Administration
Valencia offers a transfer plan that allows you to directly transfer to a public Florida university. To earn your Bachelor’s of Public Administration degree after you finish the initial degree program. Check with your prospective four-year college before enrolling to ensure all credits will be accepted.
- Associate in Arts Public Administration
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