As part of its series on Master of Public Administration (MPA) programs that can help government officials in their careers, GPN reached out to Matthew Wilson, dean of the University of Akron’s (UA, Ohio) School of Law and professor of law.

The school’s MPA program prepares students for public service management positions in local, state or federal government as well as a variety of human service and nonprofit organizations.

The school also offers a combination JD/MPA degree. Wilson says the benefit of the JD/MPA joint degree is that the student will be prepared for the increasing number of positions in the public sector that prefer, or require, a law degree. “The legal training received in the School of Law, along with the social science training received in the Department of Public Administration and Urban Studies, will strengthen a student's education and better prepare him/her for job opportunities.”

The combined Juris Doctor and Master of Public Administration is 109-credit-hour degree for students seeking training in both the legal and public service fields. Students complete 11 courses (33 credit hours) in the MPA program and 76 credit hours in The UA School of Law. Students must be accepted to both programs to participate. Dean Wilson offers additional views below.

GPN: Is 2015-16 a great time to earn a JD/MPA degree for government administrators?

Matthew Wilson: In a competitive job market, acquiring a joint juris doctor/master’s degree in public administration (JD/MPA) can provide aspiring government administrators with valuable tools to secure employment, earn a promotion, gain better pay, and obtain more recognition among your peers. With applications to law school at a 40-year low, now is a prime opportunity to gain admission to law school. Also, universities have an increased sensitivity to the costs associated with a legal education and joint degrees.

Although knowledge and experience are gained through on-the-job experience, a joint JD/MPA degree can teach you law and policy, help sharpen your analytical skills, enable you to see the bigger picture and develop innovative approaches, and expand your network of connections. It can also provide you with the expertise necessary to lead an organization by connecting the law with government, policy organizations, non-governmental organizations, and other influential entities. Joint JD/MPA degrees enable you to combine two exceptional degrees in a creative manner that can open doors leading to leadership positions in government, the courts, or private legal communities.

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

MW: My recommendation would be to look at the objective outcomes associated with the JD/MPA program including your estimated return on investment. You should be looking at how well the university trains its students to pass the bar examination, the number of quality jobs obtained by graduates within 9 months of graduation, the cost of tuition, the positions acquired by alums of the institution, as well as the personal support received from the institution’s administrators, staff, and alumni base. At the University of Akron, we invest substantial time and efforts in all of these areas.

GPN: Thank you, Dean Wilson, for your views.


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