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Doctor of Public Administration Online Degree Programs

Public administration involves creating, implementing, and assessing public policy and programming. It bridges government with other public, private, and nonprofit sectors.

Earning a PhD in Public Administration online may help professionals develop skills to do this important work. 

More specifically, doctor of public administration online degree programs help students look at the field through historical and contemporary lenses. Students learn how to research in the field and how to use theory and application to cause effective policy and administration.

PhD in Public Administration Online

What Is a Doctorate in Public Administration?

A doctorate in public administration or public policy is an applied research degree. It includes coursework and research, and helps students learn how to dissect and contribute to theory and practice in the field. Students might use their Phd in Public Administration online degrees to provide leadership or to otherwise contribute to the field. They might also work as scholars, researchers, and educators.

For people who want to affect change in politics and government, pursuing an advanced degree might be a perfect option. They might use their knowledge and research to help public servants meet the challenges of governance and public service at local, state, national, and international levels.

What Types of PhD in Public Administration Online Programs Are Available?

There are many types of doctorate programs in public administration available online.

  • The Doctor of Philosophy in public administration or public policy (PhD). PhD programs might also be in government or political science with an emphasis in public administration or policy.
  • The Doctor of Public Administration (DPA). A doctor of public administration online degree emphasizes public administration.
  • The Doctor of Public Policy (DPP). A doctor of public policy online degree emphasizes public policy.
  • The Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) with an emphasis in public administration or public policy. The DBA with an emphasis in public administration or policy emphasizes business administration and has a secondary focus on public admin or policy.

These are the primary public administration and policy doctorate degrees students pursue online.

What Does Earning a PhD in Public Administration Online Entail?

Many PhD programs require students to have bachelors and masters degrees from accredited schools. In some cases, you must have a masters in a related field. Here are some examples of related fields. 

  • Public administration.
  • Public affairs.
  • Policy analysis.
  • Public health.
  • Nonprofit management.

If you don’t have a masters degree in one of these areas, you might supplement your existing masters with professional experience in the field. Or, in some programs, you might pursue a masters degree as part of your PhD program. If all else fails, some PhD in Public Administration online programs offer prerequisite courses to act as a bridge between your current masters and a DPA program.

Courses & Research

In your doctor of public administration online degree program, you will do coursework and research. You’ll take core, elective, and research-based courses. At the end of your studies, you may take one or two comprehensive exams. You will also likely write and defend a dissertation. Your exams and dissertations will test your broad and specialized knowledge.

In some programs, you’ll do an internship as part of your program. You might also be a teaching or research assistant. Components like these help you develop your professional talent.  

Many students complete their programs in four to six years of fulltime study.

What Are the Goals of Doctor of Public Administration Online Degree Programs?

In your program, you’ll likely study the macro and micro elements of public administration. You’ll learn about public sector theory and behavior and how it affects institutions, communities, cities, and beyond. Learning how to identify problems and develop sustainable solutions will likely be part of the agenda. So too will be studying emerging literature, foundational knowledge, and current knowledge.

More broadly, the primary goals of many PhD in Public Administration Online programs is to help you do three things. 

  1. Gain skills in research, scholarship, and teaching.
  2. Conduct and produce original research.
  3. Prepare to pursue a career in government, education, or nonprofit sectors.

How Do Classes Teach This?

In the classroom, students do serveral things to meet these goals. 

  • Explore leadership theories and concepts.
  • Analyze evidence-based research, theory, and models.
  • Discern how to promote participation in policy processes.
  • Learn how to apply theories and concepts.
  • Discuss how to act and lead ethically.
  • Discover how to evaluate models and best practice using evidence-based research.
  • Develop skills to read and write at advanced levels.

Ultimately, students will likely learn how to implement a new level of influence on the field.

What Kinds of Classes Will I Take When I Pursue PhD in Public Administration Online?

This depends, of course, on the program! However, there are some similar classes across degree types you might take. Your coursework might cover numerous subjects. 

  • History of public administration and policy.
  • Government budgeting.
  • Resources acquisition.
  • Public organizations.
  • Governance and politics.
  • Leadership.
  • Equity and diversity.
  • Foundations of public administration.
  • Foundations of public policy.
  • Strategic management.
  • Policy making.
  • Organizational theory.
  • Corporate social responsibility.
  • Public-sector performance management.

You’ll also take numerous research methods courses. Most likely, you’ll study quantitative and qualitative methods in depth. You may also choose elective study in areas such as historical research methods, surveying, or statistics.

Knowledge & Skills Taught in a Doctorate in Public Administration Program

Some skills you may learn in classes like these include the following.

  • Designing research.
  • Using mixed methods.
  • Collecting and analyzing data.
  • Conducting different types of research.
  • Archiving methods.
  • Using technology and multimedia in research.
  • Proposing research projects.
  • Using statistical software.
  • Interpreting results.

Studying these and other areas in depth may help you become a strong educator, researcher, or consultant.

Students Can Also Chose a Specialty!

In many PhD in Public Administration Online programs, students have the option to specialize. Specializations may help make students experts in their fields. Students learn how to research in their area and contribute their knowledge to it. Here are some potential specializations.

  • Program administration.
  • Administration of justice.
  • Health-care systems administration.
  • Program evaluation.
  • International NGOs.
  • Global leadership.
  • Law and public policy.
  • Terrorism, mediation, and peace.
  • Sustainable communities.
  • Public management.
  • Nonprofit management and philanthropy.
  • Historical and legal foundations of public administration.
  • Urban affairs and administration.

These are just some of dozens of potential specializations. After all, nearly every area of government, policy, and administration depend on some level of specialized knowledge. Perhaps you will be the one to contribute it!

To pursue a specialization, students might have to do independent studies or take electives in partner departments and schools.

What Careers Might I Pursue with a Doctorate Degree in Public Administration?

Two common careers for professionals with an advanced degree public administration are college professor and political scientist.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that college professors earned a median annual salary of $72,470 in 2015. The BLS predicts that jobs in that profession will grow by 13% between 2014 and 2024.i

Political scientists earned a median annual salary of $99,730. The BLS predicts that jobs in this field will not grow between 2014 and 2024.ii However, political scientists might use their knowledge to work as researchers or consultants. What professionals earn in these occupations depends on their specific capacities.

What’s My Next Step?

PhD public administration online degrees are at your fingertips. Simply explore PhD in Public Administration Online program options here. You can get general information about a variety of degree programs. You can also contact programs directly for additional information. Pursuing a doctor of public policy online may send you on your way to supporting communities through education, research, or practical application. Earning a doctor of public administration may give you the tools you need to enhance government functions. Other programs might make you the perfect person to take public, nonprofit, and private organizations to the next level. No matter what, a PhD may help you apply advanced skills and knowledge to the field.

Begin your search to find government, public policy, and DPA programs online right here!


[i] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm [ii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/political-scientists.htm

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