Sheldon Gen, associate professor and director of the Public Administration Program at San Francisco State University, shared with GPN some of the key features of his school’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) offering. The degree program is housed in the School of Public Affairs and Civic Engagement in the College of Health and Social Sciences.

Within the school’s MPA offering there are six elective emphases available as well as an option to self-design an emphasis based upon the student's own career goals. More information on the elective programs is provided in the paragraphs near the end of this article. Professor Gen provides his views below.

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

Sheldon Gen: The MPA degree is a catalyst for professionals in public service careers to advance to leadership and managerial positions within their programs and organizations. At San Francisco State University (SFSU), we encourage students from all areas of academic training and professional experiences, because we believe that a diversity of backgrounds improves public services for our diverse population. Our MPA has helped artists become managers of arts programs, teachers become district leaders, agency staffers become directors, and campaign managers become candidates and elected officials.

GPN: When is the right time to earn an MPA for government administrators and people who want to work in government?

SG: The right time to pursue an MPA is when you’re looking for a change in your public service career. You might already be in a great organization, but needing to retool to advance to leadership positions, or maybe you’re thinking of switching sectors, agencies, or service areas. The MPA degree is a great catalyst to all these career changes. Even our graduates who aren’t looking for jobs tend to find new opportunities as they graduate.

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

SG: The MPA degree is a professional degree, so I encourage applicants to look for programs that have alumni in the kinds of jobs and levels of responsibilities that they seek for themselves. Geography is another important consideration, particularly if you want to relocate.

Great MPA programs should be well-networked with employers in their city and state jurisdictions. And of course, accreditation by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) is a strong signal that the program is mature. NASPAA accreditation also signals that the school’s MPA offering has qualified faculty dedicated to the program, and meets the standards that the profession sets for MPA degrees.

GPN: Is there anything that sets the SFSU MPA program apart?

SG: We are an accredited by the NASPAA and nationally ranked (US News & World Report). The MPA program is located in downtown San Francisco. Within walking distance of our classes are major city, state, and national agencies, plus one of the highest concentrations of nonprofits in the country.

As one of the oldest and largest programs in the area, we have alumni-leading programs and organizations throughout the region. Even our students who enter the program gainfully employed often find new opportunities while they study with us. The networks of classmates, alumni, and faculty, combined with the high-quality curriculum, make this the program that helps graduates break into the Bay Area public service job market.

We offer six elective emphases in public management, nonprofit management, public policy, urban administration, criminal justice administration, and environmental administration. Several agencies have routinely recruited our graduates, including Deloitte, the Government Accountability Office, and state and local agencies, including San Mateo and San Francisco counties.

GPN: Thank you, Sheldon Gen, for your views.

The video shows how SFSU students and graduates are global agents of change, creative artists, activists, inventors and company founders.

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