What is Public Administration?

I have been asked many times what is studied/learned in a Public Administration degree program.  It is not an easy question to answer for a few reasons.  First, it is difficult to readily recall that much of what you learned in any class – though the bulk of the information is seemingly stored in a different part of the brain, ready for use when need be.  Second, the field of Public Administration is a soft science and involves some personal choice in terms of literature read and specific focus. 

It is a study of the workings of government – however where Political Science studies more of the legislative side of Government, Public Administration studies more of the interactions between laws and regulations and the citizens.  How are laws and regulations affected? What determines the efficiency and effectiveness of legislation? Because it is the Agencies and Departments that are charged with the implementation of legislation, Public Administration is an important field. There are many elements involved in carrying out the directive of the legislature including translations, fine tuning, monitoring of results and public sentiment – these are tasks that must be fulfilled in order to maintain good relationships between the citizens and their elected officials.

A good part of the studies involve Organizational Health and one thing that is sure Is that things can go wrong, things can fall apart.  Generally, methods to avoid this involve Respect – Respect for your customer (which in the case of government is a constituent) – develop an understanding of their needs regularly. Respect within the organization involves good working relationships – there is not an excess of resources that can be used for purposes that are not expected to better the circumstances of the citizens.        

Communication is often touted as a necessity of organizational health. And I wholeheartedly agree – parties need to be working with accurate information and this information needs to be communicated efficiently and regularly. That said, at times immediate reaction without pausing for learning, analysis, and reflection is a bad idea.

So these are a few things that are addressed in a degree in Public Administration.  Positions like Town/City Manager/Administrator and Secretary of State of two of the most common career goals of this degree program.