Here is another segment in the Government Product News series on graduate degree programs and their value to government administrators. What follows is a brief profile of the Master of Public Administration (MPA) offering at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF). The program builds upon students' knowledge and interest in American government and public policy at the local, state, or federal level and in the nonprofit sector.

This MPA program is the original public administration academic offering in Orange County, Calif. Professionals have been achieving success and earning degrees through the Cal State-Fullerton MPA offering since 1968. Many of the school’s MPA graduates work in governments and non-profit organizations throughout Southern California. Alumni include city managers in at least four Orange County cities.

Year 3 of the MPA Program’s City Management Fellowship Program (CFMP) has recently started. The program pairs exceptional MPA students with Orange County city managers for an academic year. The CMFP is a partnership between the MPA program and the Orange County City Manager's Association. The CFMP offering provides professional, academic and financial support to four MPA students who demonstrate a commitment to public service and desire a career in city management.

Here are the views of Shelly Arsneault, public administration programs coordinator and professor of political science at California State University, Fullerton.

GPN: Can your school's MPA degree offer new opportunities to our readers?

Shelly Arsneault: Absolutely. The MPA at CSUF is well recognized in Southern California, particularly in Orange County. Since our program has been educating practitioners for over 40 years, an inquiry at any public agency in the county will reveal many of our graduates. The MPA degree itself is highly valuable to government leaders. In a recent study, more than 50 percent of public sector managers reported having earned their master’s degree in public administration. Our alumni tell us that our strength is in giving them the theoretical overview of the public sector that serves them over the long term as they advance through their careers.

GPN: Is 2014 a great time to earn an MPA for government administrators?

SA: This is probably the best time for someone to earn an MPA in the past five years. Public agencies typically lag behind the private sector in terms of economic downturns and upswings. Right now, we are beginning to see agencies hire again in our area — for the first time since the Great Recession started. In addition, the economic downturn thwarted the wave of retirements that we expected a few years ago. Now that people are beginning to see their retirement investments trending upward again, we have begun to see public sector retirements. This means even more openings for those wishing to take the next step in their careers.

GPN: Do CSUF MPA program administrators have any advice for our readers on choosing an MPA program?

SA: We always encourage those who are interested in an MPA to do their homework, consider what they need and what potential programs will offer. For example, we have four concentration areas for students to choose from, including Human Resource Management, Public Finance, Urban Management and Criminal Justice Administration.

Our program is excellent for bright students interested in networking with professionals — both in the classroom and at special events — and willing to work on honing their writing, critical thinking and analytical skills. Our web page is pretty thorough and updated regularly so potential students can see the scholarship and fellowship opportunities that we make available. For more information contact Arsneault at sarsneault@fullerton.edu.

GPN: Thank you, Shelly Arsneault, for your views.

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