With young people flooding into urban areas, there are several jobs available in the public and nonprofit sectors of American cities. Consequently, there has never been a better time to earn a doctorate degree in public administration. College professors -- the most popular career for those with doctor of public administration online degrees -- are earning more than $75,000 per year, and Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the field will grow by 13% over the next 10 years. Now is the perfect time to earn an online doctorate in public administration.

Choosing a Program


While work experience can certainly help your application, you do not need previous work experience to get into an online doctorate in public administration program. However, you do need a master's degree in public administration, with at least a 3.0 GPA, and you will need to submit GRE scores.


There are currently only six doctor of public administration online programs. The programs primarily differ in terms of capstone experience; most require a dissertation, except West Chester University, which requires a project and a comprehensive exam. Each program awards a doctor of public administration, except Tennessee State, which awards a PhD.


Yes. Since a doctorate is more academically intensive than a master's, most online doctorate in public administration programs are taught synchronously. Classes typically meet online one night a week, since they are designed for the busy schedules of working professionals. The ideal candidate for these programs already works in public administration, though employment in the field is not required.


Most online doctorate programs in public administration only require one night of attendance per week. They fit a variety of schedules, to meet the needs of professionals already working in the field. The main advantage of earning your doctorate online is convenience. You can increase your salary and advance your career prospects without uprooting your life.

Online Doctorate in Public Administration Programs

School Location Cost Description Toggle

California Baptist University

Riverside, CA Cost: $$$$$

California Baptist University offers several online graduate programs designed for working professionals. CBU's online doctorate in public administration trains students to become innovative leaders in planning, policy, and governance in organizations at the local, state, and federal levels. This program uses a cohort model, enabling students to progress together through degree requirements. Students must enroll in one course for every eight-week session. The asynchronous course delivery format allows distance learners the freedom to complete coursework at their own pace while meeting fixed deadlines. Most students complete the degree in 36 months, including the dissertation.

This online Ph.D. in public administration develops the managerial training and leadership skills one needs to address complex issues faced by public and nonprofit agencies. The 50-unit curriculum offers coursework in strategic planning and management; performance management and evaluation; and public policy, advocacy, and economics. The program also emphasizes qualitative and quantitative methods in preparation for dissertation research. While students complete all coursework entirely online, the program requires three on-campus residencies: an orientation for new cohorts, a professional colloquium, and a culminating residency where students defend their dissertations.

Admission requirements for CBU's online doctoral program in public administration include a master’s degree from a regionally accredited university and a 3.0 GPA. Applicants also must complete an interview with the program director. Online students admitted to CBU pay a flat tuition rate, whether they reside in California or out-of-state. California Baptist University is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission.

Program Overview
Program name: Doctor of Public Administration
Tuition: $897/credit
Credit requirements: 50 credits
Program length: 3 years

Format: Hybrid

Admission Requirements
GPA: 2.75 minimum

Phone: (951) 343-3927
Email: cbuonline@calbaptist.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

Valdosta State University

Valdosta, GA Cost: $$$$$

Part of the University System of Georgia, Valdosta State University features an online doctor of public administration designed for professionals wanting to advance their careers in government and nonprofit organizations. This 54-hour practitioner-based degree leads to a DPA rather than a Ph.D., providing its graduates with the practical management, leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills needed to guide governmental and nongovernmental agencies.

The curriculum features 15 hours in core and foundational courses, nine hours in theory and methodology, six hours in electives, and 15 hours in a concentration that each student develops in consultation with the DPA program coordinator. Online students earn the remaining nine hours by completing the capstone experience and dissertation requirement.

VSU uses an asynchronous course delivery format, allowing students the flexibility to progress through degree requirements at their own pace. Excluding dissertation research, students typically complete the DPA degree requirements within three years. The curriculum offers all coursework entirely online except for two on-campus residency requirements. All students must attend these two-day residency seminars scheduled for the first week of the fall and spring semesters.

Applicants to Valdosta's DPA program must hold a master's degree from a regionally accredited university with a 3.5 GPA and present acceptable GRE scores. The admissions process gives considerable weight to letters of recommendation, a comprehensive resume, and a statement of goals outlining the applicant’s qualifications and professional ambitions. Valdosta State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Overview
Program name: Doctor of Public Administration
Tuition: $293/credit
Credit requirements: 54 credits

Format: Hybrid
Instruction style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.25 minimum
Standardized tests: GRE

Phone: (229) 253-2874
Email: gamerwin@valdosta.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

West Chester University

West Chester, PA Cost: $$$$$

West Chester University offers a doctor of public administration online program designed to meet the needs of regional employers and students based in the southeastern Pennsylvania area. The DPA curriculum provides students with the opportunity to gain experience with regional community services, expand professional networks, and develop collaborative relationships with governmental and nonprofit organizations. Coursework emphasizes program and policy evaluation methodologies, public sector economic and financial decision-making, and advocacy and leadership within public policy and administration.

The flexible self-paced format requires 43 credits. Students must take three courses in methodology and three courses in a concentration selected from electives in public policy and administration, criminal justice, geography and urban planning, or social work. The degree also requires a comprehensive examination, based on content from the core curriculum and methodology courses.

The capstone seminar, a distinguishing feature of the DPA program, requires students to complete a research project that applies the knowledge and skills acquired through coursework to a real-world issue experienced by a community public administration agency. This 12-credit capstone consists of four courses, each focusing on a different research component. The capstone project functions similarly to a dissertation in that students must choose an adviser to supervise their project, and then they must present and defend their research to a faculty committee.

Admissions requirements include a master's degree in public administration, policy analysis, public affairs, political science, or a related discipline. Applicants with a GPA lower than 3.85 must also submit GRE scores. West Chester University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Program Overview
Program name: Doctor of Public Administration
Available concentrations: Nonprofit administration and public management
Tuition: $625/credit in-state; $638/credit out-of-state
Credit requirements: 43 credits
Program length: 3 years

Format: Online

Phone: (610) 436-2438
Email: mpa@wcupa.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

What Else Can I Expect From an Online Doctorate in Public Administration Program?

Online doctorate in public administration programs differ mainly by coursework, specifically in terms of the capstone experience. While each program helps students build the same skill set, they do so through different coursework. Additionally, some programs require dissertations, while others require a concluding project.


Public administration curricula vary widely, but below are a few courses you'll find in most online doctorate in public administration programs.

Qualitative reasoning and analysis (methodology): This methodology course focuses on qualitative methods of research, which inform public policy decisions. Students learn to implement case studies, interviews, focus groups, and other qualitative data collection methods.

Quantitative reasoning and analysis (methodology): This course focuses on quantitative methods of research, as opposed to qualitative methods. Students learn to collect hard data, which will inform public policy decisions, and gain a broad foundation in statistics, advanced methods of statistical analysis, and surveys.

Public policy, advocacy, and economics: This wide-ranging survey course is often taken early in a student's doctoral studies. The course focuses on the causes and effects of public policy making, emphasizing the global economy and the impact of political organizations such as PACs and NGOs.


The time required to complete an online doctorate in public administration varies greatly. Programs generally require 43 to 54 credit hours, which part-time students complete in about three years. As most students are already working in the public administration field, all online doctorate in public administration programs are part-time.

Most online doctorate programs use a synchronous, cohort model, in which students complete coursework along with a group of peers. However, estimating the time required to complete a dissertation is difficult, so a program's dissertation requirement can drastically affect completion time.

Accreditation for Online Doctorate in Public Administration Degrees

Most online doctorate in public administration programs are either regionally or nationally accredited. The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) oversees the six regional accrediting bodies, which manage specific groups of states.

National accreditation is also overseen by the CHEA, but the accrediting bodies differ based on type of education; different accrediting bodies handle business schools, nursing schools, etc. When reviewing public administration programs, students should look for accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA).

The NASPAA is the foremost national authority on accreditation in the public administration field. With 300 member schools across the country, the organization ensures the academic quality of graduate programs in public administration. For a list of accredited schools throughout the U.S., visit the Department of Education and CHEA websites.

Employment Outlook for Doctorate in Public Administration Graduates


Although a bachelor's degree helps professionals obtain entry-level positions in public administration, many positions, such as chief information officer or executive director, require doctorates. Professionals with doctorates earn higher salaries and face lower unemployment rates. The table below demonstrates the difference in pay among public administration professionals with various education levels.

Highest Degree Earned Average Mid-Career Salary
Bachelor's of Arts, Public Administration $62,500
Master's of Public Administration $74,833
Doctorate (PhD), Public Administration $137,500


Professional experience and education affect the annual earnings of professionals in the public administration field. The following table shows expected salaries for nonprofit executive directors, college professors, city managers, and public policy directors at different stages in their careers.

Job Title Overall Median Salary Median Salary for Entry-Level Median Salary for Mid-Career Median Salary for Late-Career
Nonprofit Executive Director $64,262 $51,965 $60,494 $80,979
College Professor $85,697 $59,687 $71,469 $99,017
Assistant City Manager $85,507 $62,000 $76,000 $133,000
City Manager $85,303 $70,000 $83,115 $109,535
Public Policy Director $76,435 $61,042 $79,332 $148,971


Public administration is a broad field. Those with a doctorate in public administration have a range of employment options, including the option to work in the nonprofit sector as executive and public policy directors. Below are a few of the most popular careers in public administration.

Chief Information Officer (CIO)

The CIO oversees all aspects of information technology within an organization—making decisions, hiring employees, and ensuring the organization's network runs smoothly.

Median Annual Salary - $103,950
Projected Growth Rate - 6%

College Professor

College professors teach students and perform research in their field. College professors teach several classes at a time, at the undergraduate or graduate level, and publish scholarly papers on their own academic research.

Median Annual Salary - $75,430
Projected Growth Rate - 13%

Budget Analyst

Budget analysts work in the public or nonprofit sectors to help organizations manage and organize their budgets. They create budgets and collaborate with executives to forecast future expenses.

Median Annual Salary - $73,840
Projected Growth Rate - 3%

Social and Community Service Manager

Typically working in the public sector, social and community service managers oversee the administration of social services and monitor community organizations. They often oversee a staff of social services professionals.

Median Annual Salary - $64,680
Projected Growth Rate - 10%

Urban and Regional Planners

Urban and regional planners work for cities to create land use plans and programs that account for and leverage population growth and expansion. They also reuse, repurpose, and revitalize facilities and buildings.

Median Annual Salary - $70,020
Projected Growth Rate - 6%


In the public administration field, networking and attending conferences can increase your employability. Particularly in the nonprofit sector, connections made at these events lead directly to jobs. Several professional organizations in the public administration field provide networking opportunities that lead to jobs and professional development. Below are a few of the best-known organizations in the field.

Financing Your Online Doctorate in Public Administration Program

Regardless of which online public administration program you choose, the first step to funding your education is filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Additionally, explore the numerous fully funded programs in public administration and adjacent fields, such as public policy. Doctoral candidates near Washington DC are even more likely to find programs offering substantial financial support.


Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.


Completing the FAFSA is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.


Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.


Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.


Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.

Rankings Archive

Best Online Doctorate in Public Administration of 2018
Rank School Location
1 Valdosta State University Valdosta, GA
2 West Chester University of Pennsylvania West Chester, PA
3 California Baptist University Riverside, CA
4 Texas Southern University Houston, TX
Best Online Doctorate in Public Administration in 2017
School Location
Valdosta State University Valdosta, GA
West Chester University of Pennsylvania West Chester, PA
California Baptist University Riverside, CA
Texas Southern University Houston, TX