Media attention and public focus on elected officials obscures the work done by skilled practitioners at all levels of government. The U.S. Census Bureau found 19,495 municipal governments and 16,253 town governments in its most recent 2017 study. These governments, along with state and federal agencies, need data-driven leaders to improve policies.
This is an important time to be considering government sector jobs as we’re witnessing a historic level of retirements from government positions at all levels. Called the “ Silver Tsunami ,” the retirement of baby boomers from the public sector workforce is at a scale we’ve never seen before. Some cities, for example, are reporting planned retirements of more than 50% of their director-level staff in the next three years.
Experienced professionals can access master of public policy and leadership jobs after completing a well-regarded program. The Pepperdine School of Public Policy Online Master of Public Policy and Leadership (MPPL) emphasizes a servant leadership model for future government careers. This online master of public policy and leadership teaches students to innovate and lead in many different positions, including government jobs.
What Skills are Needed for Master of Public Policy and Leadership Jobs?
Any search for master of public policy and leadership jobs reveals what skills are highly valued by government employers. The Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)—a 38-country organization focused on improved economic policy—established a four-point framework for civil service success:
Policy advice and analysis
Service delivery and citizen engagement
Commissioning and contracting
Comparable frameworks are used by local, state, and federal employers when filling vacancies. We see that leadership is an in-demand talent even in positions without direct public contact. A public policy and leadership degree with an emphasis on leadership checks all of these marks.
OECD also offers a glimpse into how government sector employers evaluate their teams. Key performance indicators vary from job to job, but there are consistent themes. Your work in a master of public policy and leadership job will likely be measured on:
Impartial and ethical behavior
Demonstration of strategic thinking and collaborative skills
Willingness to innovate processes and tools for better outcomes
The future of government sector jobs will require flexibility, creativity, and a focus on digital services. Deloitte’s 2021 Government Trends report found agencies aiming for seamless service focused on user needs. Future leaders will need to keep the following advice in mind as they narrow the service gap:
“The real power of digital blossoms when you put all three aspects together: creating an experience that is personalized, frictionless, and proactive.”
Master of Public Policy Job and Leadership Opportunities
The government sector encompasses myriad opportunities for service-minded professionals. You can use your expertise to support public leaders or pursue leadership positions that can affect change. These jobs and the examples that follow illustrate how the leadership skills and policy acumen gained through a Master of Public Policy and Leadership can advance your career.
Local Government Managers
The position of city manager was created in the early 20th century as an appointed expert on public administration. Cities, villages, and towns look for managers who can manage teams while fulfilling the daily responsibilities of local government. The International City/County Management Association (ICMA) lists common responsibilities for local government managers, including:
Coordination with elected officials on budgets and strategies
Creation of performance metrics for public employees and services
Grant application and management
Oversight of staff recruitment, hiring, and supervision
There has been a trend toward managers with advanced degrees in recent years. ICMA found 59% of managers held a master’s degree in a relevant field. Public policy graduates use classroom lessons and past professional experiences to inform day-to-day decisions.
Salaries for local government managers vary significantly based on community size and job responsibilities. ICMA’s study of chief appointed officer (CAO) salaries found a median salary of $125,000 at the city level and $140,000 at the county level. Managerial professionals who accept positions in cities with one million or more people earned an average of $315,000.
Public policy and leadership students may not immediately think of political science as an avenue into the government sector. Political scientists have traditionally studied how governments function, interact, and evolve at research institutes and universities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( BLS ) dispels this perception by noting that approximately 50% of political scientists work in the federal government.
Federal agencies and departments employ advisors, analysts, and other experts with master of public policy and leadership degrees. Political scientists with leadership skills understand how government functions and how it can work better for the public. They lead teams within their department or agency based on data and policy directives.
The BLS found a median salary of $125,350 among political scientists in 2020. Practitioners employed by the federal government averaged $133,460 in the same year. This career path offers a lucrative and fulfilling path for public-minded professionals.
Preparing for Government Positions at Pepperdine University
The innovative degree offered by Pepperdine School of Public Policy sets graduates on the path to secure master of public policy and leadership jobs. The leadership-centered curriculum goes beyond the standard public administration degree focused on management skills. Program graduates are ready to improve policy and innovate the policymaking process.
The Pepperdine School of Public Policy online Master of Public Policy and Leadership degree is built on core courses called Public Policy and Leadership Foundations. Candidates for this degree choose from three specializations—including Local Government Leadership and Innovation—to build off this core. The School of Public Policy at Pepperdine University challenges future government leaders with courses like:
Collaboration, Conflict Resolution, and Negotiations in Public Policy
Leading Across Differences: Styles, Worldviews, and Connections
Prudence in Public Leadership: Case Studies in Leadership and Decision Making from the Founders through Today
Pepperdine School of Public Policy alumni work for government agencies like the U.S. Department of State and the Orange County Board of Supervisors. This track record and the school's national reputation make its online Master of Public Policy and Leadership a good investment for future leaders. U.S. News & World Report placed Pepperdine University among the nation’s best:
No. 23 in Best Colleges for Veterans
No. 47 in Best Value Schools
No. 49 in National Universities
Interested in studying on-campus? Learn more about the on-ground Master of Public Policy program we offer at our Malibu campus.