The Master of Public Administration and a Master of Business Administration might seem quite similar – but choosing
the wrong one can lead you down a career path you don’t really want. When looking at the question of MPA vs MBA, it
quickly becomes apparent that the MBA has the sheer numbers to back up the popularity: DataUSA reports there are over 10.9 million people in the
workforce today with a business administration and management background, with over 380,974 degrees awarded in 2016
and a median salary of $88,037. Public administration is a much smaller arena, with 17,154 degrees awarded in 2016,
a median salary of $56,345, and only 735,273 individuals working in the field.

However, the question of MPA vs MBA should include other factors as well, such as job security, the ability to move
from the public to private sector if looking for a career change, and some intangible points, such as the
satisfaction that comes from moving into a career that utilizes your skills and interests in the best way possible.
Let’s dive into more pertinent information on the MPA and MBA degrees.

Similarities & Differences

Similarities & DifferencesThough the Master of Business Administration and
the Master of Public Administration both focus on managing organizations and thus offer several foundation courses
that might overlap with each other, they do eventually diverge into two distinct degree programs. Let’s look at the

The MBA trains students who intend to work in businesses and organizations in the private sector, so the program
places emphasis on finance, marketing, sales, management, and economics courses. Graduates often find work in
everything from small businesses to large corporations, along an enormous spectrum of goods and services. The
business world often expects to measure results in cold, hard numbers, and making a profit is usually the end goal.
Students in the MBA program can build skills that help them boost that bottom line, such as strong negotiation
tactics, the ability to dig deep into financial information, and the skills to firmly analyze a company’s strengths
and weaknesses.

The MPA, on the other hand, prepares students to work in the public sector, including public service and non-profit
organizations. As a result, courses tend to focus more on public policy, law, service leadership, and sociology.
Graduates often work in areas that are designed to serve the common good and slowly work toward goals that make the
world a better place. Given this, success can’t necessarily be measured by profits (though that is a component to
consider), and work might often be hampered by a difference in the interests of communities versus government, or
agencies that don’t see eye-to-eye on the best path forward. Therefore, MPA students can expect to build skills in
communication, problem-solving, and the fine art of compromise.

Is MPA Equivalent To MBA?

As long as the Master of Public Administration and the Master of Business Administration are earned from an
accredited school – or the program itself is accredited – then the programs will be equivalent in terms of quality.
MBA and MPA programs are both subject to strong accreditation overview. For the MPA programs, look for accreditation
by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration. For the MBA, look for accreditation
through the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the Accreditation Council for Business
Schools and Programs (ACBSP), and the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE).

So each degree program offers a quality education. But are there other points to ponder? Keep in mind that many
graduate programs are not covered by financial aid like undergraduate programs often are; therefore, students must
get creative in finding the appropriate funding for their degree pursuit. This might be easier with an MPA degree as
many grants are available for MPA students, as well as the opportunity to pay off their loan debt if they take their
services to a much-needed public service area for a few years after graduation. On the other hand, those who earn an
MBA might have the opportunity to move into a high-paying job in a quite profitable organization right out of
school, while those with an MPA might face more difficulty in bringing in a big paycheck during those entry-level

MPA vs MBA Salary & Career Outlook

When considering MPA vs MBA, many look at the salary they might expect to make upon graduation, as well as the
increasing salary during the trajectory of their career. But while salary is certainly important, so are several
other factors, such as the ability to move between the public and private sector.

MPA graduates often build a background of work in public policy, sociology, and law, as well as management and
financial skills; therefore, they might find it easier to move into the private sector if they choose to do so. MBA
graduates might not have the foundation of public policy education under their belt; however, they can choose to
remedy that while in school by choosing electives that focus on sociology, public policy, and non-profit management.

Another point concerning the MBA vs MPA is the job market. The MBA is by far the more common degree program; however,
there are arguably many more positions suited for the MBA graduate among large corporations and business
organizations. And while the MBA graduate might move from one company to another, there are often many new positions
opening up in the private sector that are suitable for a lateral or upward career move. The MPA graduate, on the
other hand, might find that they face a smaller pool of options when it comes to finding the best job for them.
However, those with years of public policy experience can often move into government positions, which commonly offer
strong job security.

Let’s take a look at some of the more common careers available to those with MPA or MBA degrees and how the salaries
and job security compare.

Career Median Salary (2019) Job Outlook (Growth from 2018-2028)
Urban and Regional Planner $73,050 11%
Top Executive $104,980 6%
Finance Manager $127,990 16%
Political Scientist $117,570 5%
Economist $104,340 8%
Administrative Services Manager $96,180 7%
Social and Community Service Managers $65,320 13%
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers $114,800 8%
Management Analysts $83,610 14%

(Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Next Steps

Once you’ve considered the MPA vs MBA and chosen your path, it’s time to take the steps toward your future career.
Begin your journey by taking a hard look at MBA or MPA programs and considering what you need to make your
educational journey a positive experience. For instance, do you need a part-time program, or do you have the time
for a full-time education? Do you prefer to be in a classroom, or does the flexibility of online learning work for

If you’re seeking a high-quality MBA program, consider CityU’s MBA degree
consistently ranked as a top producer of MBAs in Washington State, with an online program named a Top 15 program by
over 70,000 students surveyed by Get in touch and let’s talk about what it takes to earn your

Published January 22, 2020