As part of Govpro’s series on Master's of Public Administration (MPA) programs and their importance to government administrators, here is a brief profile on the MPA program at the Athens, Ga.-based University of Georgia (UGA). The MPA offering is in the university’s School of Public and International Affairs, in the Department of Public Administration and Policy.

Courses for the MPA program are offered on campus in Athens and at the UGA Gwinnett Campus in Lawrenceville, Ga.

The purpose of the MPA program at UGA is to educate students for professional careers in public service, including management and policy analysis in government and nonprofit organizations. The program is open to students without previous public service experience as well as students employed in the public sector who are seeking to advance their careers. While normally a terminal professional degree, some graduates of the MPA program have entered Ph.D. or other programs and have assumed academic careers. Graduates of the MPA program have obtained administrative and management positions at all levels of government and in nonprofit agencies.

Here are the views of Vicky Wilkins, the director of the MPA program at the University of Georgia.

Govpro: Can a UGA MPA degree offer new opportunities to our readers?

Vicky Wilkins: An MPA degree allows those working in government to reflect on their experiences using a theoretical framework — it provides a comprehensive perspective for on-the-job problem solving. Not only does the classroom experience add to a student’s understanding of what they see and experience in the workplace, a student’s experience in the field adds a great deal of relevance and depth to the learning environment. It is in many ways a symbiotic relationship.

As sectors blur, those that once worked for what we consider the “public sector” may find themselves doing similar work in the quasi-public sector. The degree allows graduates to move within or across sectors, and it often differentiates you from others in your field.

Govpro: Is 2012 a great time to earn an MPA degree for government administrators?

VW: It’s always a good time to make yourself more competitive whether you are a government administrator or someone just entering the work force. Recent calls to service have renewed attention and highlighted the importance of working in the public sphere.

Govpro: Does UGA have any advice for our readers on choosing an MPA degree program?

VW: The University of Georgia’s MPA program is ranked the fourth best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, and while rankings aren’t everything, they do provide an assessment of several key areas. Consider these questions when choosing an MPA program: How productive is the faculty — is this a place where I can learn from relevant, cutting-edge research? How accessible are faculty to the students? Who are my colleagues? So much learning takes place outside of the classroom, so the quality and backgrounds of students is a valuable measure and important component in assessing an MPA program.

Govpro has profiled MPA degree offerings at Northeastern University, Troy University and other institutions.