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A Trend Toward #LocalGov

This post originally appeared on the Life, Well Run blog

It could be a lack of Federal jobs or a change in student philosophy, but it appears that more MPA graduates are entering local government jobs than in previous years, according to the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA).

In recent direct-to-graduate surveys, NASPAA found the trend toward local government to be rising, said Data Center Director. Stacy Drudy. While Federal Government has seen a drop by about 2%, local government has gone up, she said.  Also, in these new surveys, NASPAA has found that while pay may not be the highest, graduates report extremely high job satisfaction.

Historically NASPAA has conducted surveys of its member schools, which have also shown an increase in the percentage of graduates going into local government. In 2014, 15% entered local government. This number rose to 19% in 2015 and 20% in 2016.  However, this data comes from the schools that respond and not all of NASPAA’s nearly 300 member schools, or even the same schools, respond year over year.


In the past two years, 20% of the more than 1,000 graduates responding had taken positions in local government. Recent graduates rated their job satisfaction on three factors: value to society, the level of challenge, and salary.
Of the graduate respondents who are working in local government, 93% said they feel “satisfied” with their value to society and 52% said they are “extremely satisfied” on this measure.  And 65% feel their graduate degree was “very important” to their success.

On another note, 90% of all graduates said they achieved their goal or satisfied their initial motivation for joining an MPA program: “to enhance knowledge and skills to be a more productive or ethical public servant.”
The satisfaction rates with career and helpfulness of the MPA degree drop dramatically among graduates who enter the private sector.


While 94% of government-employed graduates said they are “satisfied” or “extremely satisfied” with their value to society, only 74% of those in the private sector could say the same.  And 61% of government employed graduates said an MPA degree was “very important” to their success. Only 31% in the private sector could say the same.

The graduate survey findings are presented at NASPAA’s annual Fall conference, which will be in Washington D.C. this year. Download the full 2016 presentation here.

Anecdotal Trends

The potential trend toward local government was also identified in a recent New York Times column by David Brooks who was the keynote speaker at the ICMA Annual Conference in 2016. He calls it the St. Benedict trend when those who want to resist corruption in government at the national level, work at the local level.

“Karlyn Bowman of the American Enterprise Institute notices that some of the interns in her think tank are thinking along Benedictine lines. In years past they were angling for career tracks that would land them in Washington, but now they are angling to go back to the places they came from,” he writes.

Brooks said contributing at the local level is one of the main ways to affect change in today’s political environment. NASPAA’s data seem to be consistent with this idea.