Poised for the Future: Higher Ed Options in Public Administration and Law

As social conditions shift and growing awareness of the need for changes increases, nonprofit entities, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), businesses and governmental bodies try their best to respond. Modifications in business practices, law and public policy become necessary in order to best administer resources and promote policies that are ethical and fair. Law and public administration are both arenas that could see increased job growth, and additional education could put you in a good position to take advantage of upcoming opportunities.

Where Do I Start?

The education you’ll need depends on your previous coursework. You may be able to pursue an advanced law degree, such as the USC LLM (Master of Laws). However, if your undergraduate work was not in the legal field or if you have not completed a bachelor’s degree at all, you might be required to take additional coursework to compensate for any deficits before applying for advanced studies. Check with each school for their specific requirements.

However, if you’re interested in continuing education in public administration such as the USC MPA (Master of Public Administration) you may have a bit more latitude. Although the requirements of each curriculum can vary widely, some master’s programs may only require you to hold a bachelor’s degree without specifics as to the type or major. Previous coursework in business administration or public administration might be a plus, but research each program to know for sure.

How Do I Prepare?

Keep in mind that admissions requirements may be drastically different at each school. You might need to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT). Some schools have specified a minimum grade point average (GPA) for consideration. Obtain transcripts of all previous college course work. Finally, be prepared to also submit a resume, recommendation letters and a personal statement documenting your interest in attending their programs.

What Will I Study?

According to each program’s unique objectives, you will be exposed to relevant learning and sometimes interdisciplinary subjects to complete your education. For public administration students, expect to be exposed to classes in organizational leadership, public policy, economics, human and organizational behavior, finance, budgeting and urban planning. For Master of Laws learners, you’ll take coursework related to constitutional law, legal research, mergers and acquisitions, contracts and more.

How Do I Pay for It?

While everyone’s financial circumstances may be unique, there’s a good chance you will need additional fiscal resources to pursue additional schooling. U.S. News and World Report recommends taking stock of your personal finances and understanding your potential need in areas such as tuition, books and living expenses. While they tooled their advice specifically for law students, it’s good advice for anyone getting ready to make a major monetary investment in higher learning.

If you’re going to be enrolled in a program at least for half-time status, you will probably qualify for many forms of financial aid. Each school has slightly different eligibility requirements, and you’ll need to make your inquiries directly with them. In most cases, you’ll need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) early in the process. Additionally, it’s a wise idea to search for funding options outside of your school’s financial aid department, such as scholarships and tuition reimbursement programs from your employer.

Start Now to Plan Effectively

Even if you’re not in a good position to begin school this year, planning for the next academic season could prove to be prudent. You’ll have a few months to assess your financial needs, research schools and programs, and then make your final decisions and apply. Whether you choose to work in public policy and administration or further a career in the legal career, it’s important to weigh all your options, select a school that will help you achieve your objectives, and choose your funding wisely.

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