Last Reviewed: December 9, 2019

Consider an online MPA program currently accepting applications.

Click for online MPA programs that are currently taking applications.

Public affairs acts as the bridge between companies and public service workers. Their goal is to provide the perspective of a business when it comes to public policy, working directly with those that create policy and legislation.

They have an ability to influence what is drawn up, providing factual and evidence-based information on how certain policies and restrictions can impact the business. While similar to public relations, a key difference is they do not share a responsibility to promote the business.

Consider a Featured Online MPA Program

University / School Online Program Admissions
Johns Hopkins University AAP
Master of Arts in Government Website
Drake University
Master of Public Administration Website
Aurora University
Online MPA (one year) Website
Johns Hopkins University AAP
MA in Non-Governmental Organization Management Website
University of Delaware
Master of Public Administration Website

There are a number of groups that public affairs impacts, such as the community in general, shareholders, media, and politicians. A major goal for those working in public affairs is to protect the company brand and reputation among those groups. Some of the most prevalent topics that public affairs deals with are energy use, environmental impact, and economical impact. It is important to remain viable by keeping up with the latest trends, innovations, and changes in legislation.

Best Degrees for Public Affairs Careers

A Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctoral degree can all directly be earned in public affairs, with similar alternatives in public policy, public relations, or public administration. The difference within the various levels are obtaining a competitive advantage when going after job positions that require more experience or hold larger responsibility. A program for the Bachelor's degree will focus on the primary skills needed, where higher-level education will focus more on management, theory, and research.

The O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University in Bloomington provides a Master of Public Affairs program that is completely available online. There are a number of concentrations to specifically tailor the degree to a certain category, such as energy, information systems, policy analysis, public management, and more. Students are not limited to specific concentrations and can select other electives for further customization. The completely online nature of the program provides flexibility for working professionals.

Another option is to pursue the much more common Master of Public Administration. The difference between the two are that public administration deals more with managerial and director roles in the public sector. Students can customize the degree to focus on public affairs, but less work experience is typically required for a Master of Public Affairs. A Master of Political Science


Consider an online MPA program currently accepting applications.

Typical Educational Requirements

Professionals in public affairs typically have at least a Bachelor's degree in the field of journalism and communication for entry-level positions. Some job examples are being a market researcher or a communications specialist. In some cases, a high school diploma is satisfactory if there is some similar work experience, or a certain number of hours gained in the military with specialized training if applying to be a public affairs officer.

When looking at managerial or director roles, such as a Director of Government Relations or a Communications Manager, a Master's degree in the field of public administration can provide a better opportunity. In many cases, being admitted into a Master program requires an undergraduate degree and at least a few years of related work experience.

When looking for a higher education program, especially online, it is important to look at what universities have accreditation. The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) has a peer-reviewed accreditation process that ensures the curriculum of a graduate program at a particular institution meets high standards in public service. Typically, requirements to get into an accredited Master's degree program are an undergraduate degree with prior work achievements and career goals. There are over 300 colleges around the world that have received this accreditation, and it requires annual overview of teaching capabilities and updating the curriculum to maintain high standards.

Recommended Public Affairs and Administration Coursework

When pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in the field of public affairs, students will be educated in more fundamental aspects of the career, such as economics, communication, writing, and an overview of government roles and politics. Some of the courses required when obtaining of Bachelor of Science in Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Dallas: Professional and Technical Communication, College Algebra, Introduction to Philosophy, State and Local Government, and American National Government.

A Master of Public Affairs will focus more on leadership opportunities, strategies, and analysis. At the University of Missouri, example core courses are Organizational Dynamics and Leadership, Public Policy Processes and Strategies, and Research Methods and Inquiry in Public Affairs. There are also electives in Grant Writing, Organizational Change in a Community, and Human Resources Management within the public and nonprofit sectors.

Helpful Skills to Work in Public Affairs

Both public affairs and public relations careers have similar skills needed for success. One of the most important is writing ability to create articles, press releases, copywriting, and presentations. With most of this work representing the company, it must meet their standards along with the potential outlet it may reach. One of the common goals among public affairs positions is having an influence on decisions made by policymakers. It is also beneficial to have originality and provide unique viewpoints instead of generic or robotic material, breathing life into the writing.

In a similar way, communication skills are a priority when informing those about the company. There must be a natural ability to encourage discussion and be able to present a confident viewpoint. It is common to hold meetings or to present information with other workers. With the growing use of social media, it is important to understand the impact various platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can have on the company. Proper use can drive an organization’s message further among the community.

Strategy and organization is also an important aspect in a public affairs career. These positions typically require a message to be thought out and understood. For example, a market researcher will determine the best method of surveying and acquiring information. Being able to showcase significant and reliable evidence will have a bigger impact in writing or communicating for the organization.

Public Affairs Career Opportunities

Public Affairs Specialist

A specialist in the field of public affairs has numerous responsibilities in terms of representing the organization, generating content that provides information to potential investors in the private sector or the general community in the public sector. Other duties can include being a spokesperson for the organization and conducting interviews and talking with other leaders, or managing things behind the scenes, such as distribution and setting up meetings. Growth rate for job opportunities as a specialist are growing six percent between 2018-28 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Law Enforcement Officer

Officers that work in public affairs at law enforcement agencies have a very important responsibility to keep the community safe and to maintain a good relationship with them. They will also handle any media inquiries and are typically needed for distributing any important news information, especially in regard to the services they offer. Unlike more traditional public affairs positions, there are usually more steps needed to confirm information.

Research Analyst

Another position in public affairs is heavy on researching data and optimizing the organization. These workers will be able to find specific problems and determine what solutions are needed. They must also explain their analysis to other employees or clients when needed, which requires strong communication and writing skills. This position differs from a market researcher as they look into the data more than gathering the information.

Public Affairs Career Salaries

When receiving a Bachelor’s degree in the field of public affairs, most jobs fall into the median salary of just over $60,000. This includes public affairs specialists, political scientists, and legislative analysts. Those working in the criminal justice system or representing a government agency will typically see a bit more salary or further incentives.

Those in managerial, director, and senior roles normally hold a Master’s degree and are compensated in the six-figure territory. Example positions include a human resource manager, senior economic policy analyst, or a public affairs specialist with a federal organization, like the US Department of Agriculture.