State and local governments will be recruiting managers and administrators at a fast pace in the years ahead, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In its "Career Guide to Industries, 2010-11 Edition," the BLS predicts that state and local entities (except education and health) will boost their managerial, business and financial staffs by 10.2 percent through 2018. By comparison, the overall state and local government work force will grow just 8.4 percent in the same time frame.

The Master of Public Administration (MPA) or the Master of Public Policy (MPP) is the degree of choice for somebody who wants to make a difference, says Laurel McFarland, executive director of the Washington-based National Association of Schools of Public Affairs & Administration (NASPAA). McFarland's group represents nearly 300 MPA/MPP schools stretching from Harvard to Hawaii, and it accredits the MPA and MPP programs, as well.

McFarland defines the public sector broadly, including government at all levels as well as nonprofits, international development, the environmental arena and health care. "The MPA/MPP professional degrees arm you with the best knowledge, latest tools and most applicable skills for a career in the public sector," McFarland says. "The curriculum, core-study areas and faculty stay on top to teach you the latest theories, key trends and real-world examples."

MPA and MPP courses cover leadership and budgeting, management and policy, and decision-making and analysis, McFarland adds. "Whether you work, or want to start doing so in local government, state government or the federal level, the MPA or MPP will move your career up, ahead and forward so you'll make immediate impact."

Many MPA/MPP programs offer flexibility that fits students' interests, intellect and schedule, McFarland told "Most of the almost 300 MPA/MPP schools offer two-year programs that you can do full- or part-time. Some schools also offer specialized mid-career/executive programs for those with at least several years of experience. A few schools have online courses or degrees."

View some examples and biographies of MPA/MPP degree-holders who work in government. The same site has information on MPA/MPP degrees and the schools that offer them.

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