MPA Graduates and the Dilemma of Job Satisfaction: Does Crossing the Sector Line Make a Difference
Blunt, Barrie E., Spring, Kris Anne, Public Personnel Management
This study examines levels of job satisfaction for MPA graduates employed in the public, private, and non-profit sectors. Findings are based on a survey and indicate that MPA graduates derive greater satisfaction with pay and promotion opportunities in the private sector than in the public or non-profit sectors. No significant differences were noted between the sectors with regard to work satisfaction or satisfaction with supervisor or co-workers. Further, no differences in levels of satisfaction were noted between four categories of public sector employment; federal, state, regional, or local.
Barrie E. Blunt received his Ph.D. degree in government from Florida State University. His teaching areas include personnel, research methodology, computer application, and administrative history. Professor Blunt has conducted a number of studies for executive agencies, legislative bodies, and other public and private organizations. He held directorship of a residential facility for children with handicaps and served with the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services as an administrator of habilitation planning. Professor Blunt has also published numerous articles on administrative history, organizational behavior, public policy, and empirical methodology.
Three basic employment alternatives are available to the NVA graduate: the public sector, the private sector, and the non-profit sector. One question in evaluating these options is potential for job satisfaction. In fact, previous research has suggested that there are differences in levels of employee satisfaction between the sectors (Rhinehart, Barrell, DeWolfe, Griffin, and Spaner, 1969; Rainey, Backoff, and Levine, 1976; Rainey, 1983, Blunt 1981; Caccioppe and Mock, 1984; Rainey, Traut, and Blunt, 1985).
The procedure for examining differences in employee satisfaction between sectors has generally been to survey randomly selected groups of individuals according to sector and contrast between calculated satisfaction scores. In an attempt to supplement the findings associated with these efforts, this study looks only at graduated students in public administration to determine if they are more or less satisfied in their chosen employment sector than public administration graduates who have chosen to enter the private or non-profit sectors. In short, the present study focuses exclusively on individuals with a professional education in public administration to determine if employment in specific sectors are likely to be associated with different levels of job satisfaction.
This is an important question with interesting implications. If, for example, the research suggests that MPA graduates are generally more satisfied in the public sector than the private sector, the discipline may feel comfortable that students of public administration have chosen a gratifying profession. If, however, it appears that public administration graduates do not find the public sector to be as satisfying as the private sector, the discipline may have reason for some concern.
Measuring Job Satisfaction
There are two widely employed survey procedures used to measure job satisfaction. The first is designed to present an overall assessment of the concept while the second attempts to measure various factors comprising the concept (e.g.; satisfaction with supervision, satisfaction with pay, and satisfaction with supervision). General consensus suggests that the more comprehensive approach - allowing the analysis of different facets of employee satisfaction - is preferable (Scarpello and Campbell, 1983; Cross, 1973; Ferratt, 1981).
The measure of job satisfaction selected for this study was the Job Descriptive Index (JDI) Smith, Kendall, and Hulin; 1969). The JDI Assesses the following five dimensions of work satisfaction:
1. satisfaction with the work itself,
2. satisfaction with pay,
3. satisfaction with opportunities for promotion,