Online Doctorate in Public Administration Programs of 2021

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Published on July 28, 2021

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Public administration careers involve shaping public policy for communities at the local, regional, state, and federal levels. Pursuing a doctorate in public administration requires a significant investment of time and money, so it's important to choose a program that aligns with your personal career goals and interests.

Earning a doctorate qualifies students for a variety of jobs across industries like education, government, law, and healthcare. Employment data for the public administration sector shows that professionals earn an average annual salary of $64,280. Keep in mind that salary potential depends on industry and title.

Read on to learn more about what it takes to earn an online doctorate in public administration.

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Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

2021 Accredited Online Doctorate in Public Administration Programs

California Baptist University View School Profile Riverside, CA

A Christian university located in Riverside, CBU offers an online doctor of public administration. Students can complete the 56-credit degree in three years, including a dissertation.

Required courses cover topics like public administration foundations and leadership, strategic planning and management, collaboration and networked governance, and data analysis and interpretation. Before completing their nine-credit dissertation, participants learn research best practices. The program also requires a comprehensive exam.

Students need a master's in social work with a minimum GPA of 3.0 to qualify for admission. However, the program does not require students to possess work experience or submit standardized test scores.

CBU is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

Old Dominion University View School Profile Norfolk, VA

Located in Norfolk, Virginia, ODU offers an online doctor of public administration and policy. Students complete 49 credits of classes in a synchronous online environment with a cohort of their peers.

Program requirements include courses such as policy theory, multisector administration, and research design. Students receive training in data analysis and research best practices in preparation for dissertation work, which takes place over 12 credits in their final year of study.

Applicants must hold a master's degree from an accredited institution with a minimum GPA of 3.25 to qualify for admission. Students must also possess GRE or GMAT scores in the 25th percentile, although the school does offer waiver options.

ODU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Valdosta State University View School Profile Valdosta, GA

Based in Valdosta, Georgia, VSU offers a mostly online doctor of public administration. Students can access online coursework 24/7, although they must participate in on-campus residency seminars and meetings during the first weekend of each fall and spring semester.

Required courses in the 54-credit curriculum include financial management for public and nongovernment organizations, managing HR in public and nongovernmental organizations, the logic of inquiry in public administration, and information and data management.

Applicants need a master's degree from an accredited institution to qualify for admission. Aspiring students must also meet minimum GRE score requirements. VSU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

West Chester University of Pennsylvania View School Profile West Chester, PA

Based in southeast Pennsylvania, WCU offers an online doctor of public administration. Students can complete the 45-credit program entirely online.

Required courses include strategic public management and governance, advocacy and leadership in public policy and administration, and advanced public sector economic and financial decision-making. Learners also take a course sequence in research methods and may choose concentration electives from a variety of departments, including public policy, criminal justice, geography and planning, and social work. Thesis work comprises 12 credits, and students must pass a comprehensive exam partway through the program.

Applicants must hold a master's degree from an accredited institution to qualify for admission, although they need not submit standardized test scores. WCU is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

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

An online doctorate in public administration develops advanced skills in research, leadership, and strategic thinking to prepare students for management and other executive positions. Successful public administration professionals possess a passion for helping communities and shaping effective policies across industries.

An online doctorate in public administration develops advanced skills in research, leadership, and strategic thinking to prepare students for management and other executive positions.

Students planning to pursue a career in public administration typically earn a doctorate of public administration (D.P.A.) or a Ph.D. These degrees feature many similarities, but the key difference typically lies in the thesis or dissertation. In a Ph.D. program, the dissertation component often takes a theoretical approach. The D.P.A. focuses more on examining real-world situations.

Each online doctorate in public administration offers unique curriculum and graduation requirements. Most curricula consist of 43-54 credits. Most students take 2-3 years to graduate, but completion times depend on whether learners enroll full time or part time.

Some programs offer concentrations that allow learners to focus their degree on a particular area. Each school differs, but common concentration options include public management, ethical leadership, nonprofit management, analytics, and healthcare administration.

Admission Requirements for Online Doctorate in Public Administration Programs

Most online doctorate in public administration programs require students to hold a master's degree in public administration or a related field. Exact requirements vary by program, but many schools require a 3.0 or 3.5 GPA and certain prerequisite coursework. Some programs also require professional experience.

For more information, consult our graduate admissions guide.

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What Courses Will I Take in an Online Doctorate in Public Administration Program?

An online doctorate in public administration develops advanced skills in analysis, communication, research, and leadership. Exact courses vary by school, but the following section delves into five common courses in these programs.

Public Administration

This course provides a comprehensive overview of administrative theory. Students explore the history of the field and applications of theory to current issues. The curriculum also explores the impact that organizational structures and the political or social environment have on administrations.

Quantitative Methods

This course introduces students to the foundational principles and techniques of quantitative analysis. Additional topics include statistical inference, regression analysis, other related estimation techniques, and commonly used statistical software packages.

Qualitative Methods of Program and Policy Evaluation

Students taking this course learn how to use qualitative techniques to design research to analyze current policies. Covered topics include case studies, focus groups, ethnography, and document analysis.

Strategic Public Management and Governance

This course provides an overview of the factors driving strategic management at organizations within the public sector. Covered topics include strategic planning and performance measurement. Students learn to lead teams to solve problems in the public sector.

Ethics and Social Justice

In this course, students examine the philosophy of ethics through the lens of social justice. The course explores theories of economic disparity, power, and privilege. Students also learn about accountability in leadership and best practices for ensuring fair and equitable treatment of people in diverse communities.

What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in Public Administration Degree?

Opportunities for public administration majors span several industries. Many careers in this sector require strong research, analytical, and interpersonal skills. Most positions involve looking at issues that impact individuals or communities and finding ways to create effective public policies with limited resources.

The following section highlights five common career paths you may consider after earning an online doctorate in public administration. For additional information, consult our guide on public policy careers.

Social Advocacy

Social advocates work with nonprofit organizations to create effective awareness campaigns and drive fundraising efforts. Professionals in this sector may also work for governments or for-profit social service companies. Primary tasks include analyzing data, suggesting improvements to processes or services, managing outreach activities, and writing proposals to gain funding.

Healthcare

Healthcare careers with a doctorate in public administration typically involve analyzing health trends and creating public health policies to encourage healthy habits across communities. Professionals in this field often work in offices, schools, or community centers. Job titles include health educator, community health worker, epidemiologist, and nutritionist.

Finance

Careers in finance involve monitoring an organization's finances and creating plans to maintain efficiency, profitability, and investments. Finance careers with a public administration focus include financial analyst, budget analyst, and financial manager. Primary tasks include budgeting, analyzing financial statements, and studying economic trends. Overall, financial experts ensure organizations use their limited resources effectively to eliminate waste.

Government

Public administration majors often pursue government careers at the local, state, and federal levels. Professionals in this field work with lawmakers, lobbyists, and other government officials to gain support for policies or initiatives. Job titles include sociologist, political scientist, diplomat, and urban or regional planner. This field also includes jobs in law enforcement, criminal justice, and corrections.

Education

Professionals with an online doctorate in public administration are qualified to teach at professional or vocational schools, community colleges, and universities. A postsecondary teacher's primary responsibilities include creating lesson plans, grading assignments and exams, advising students, and working with colleagues to develop and modify curricula.

Public Administration Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Frequently Asked Questions About Doctorate in Public Administration Programs

Is a doctorate in public administration worth it?

A successful career in public administration does not necessarily require a doctorate. Before selecting a program, you should determine whether or not you will receive a positive return on your investment. A great place to start is by establishing your career goals. For example, becoming a university professor typically requires a doctorate, but management positions often value experience more than an advanced degree. Competitive jobs, including in government and research, often value a doctorate.

What can I do with a doctorate in public administration?

Earning an online doctorate in public administration qualifies graduates for several jobs. Common job titles include social and community service manager, political scientist, urban and regional planner, college professor, and financial manager.

What's the difference between a doctorate in public administration and a Ph.D.?

A doctorate in public administration (D.P.A.) and Ph.D. share several similarities in curriculum and admission requirements. However, the main difference is that a Ph.D. program typically embraces a more theoretical approach to the subject, while a D.P.A. tends to focus more on real-world applications of course concepts.

How much money can I make with a doctorate in public administration?

Earning potential for public administration professionals varies by field, experience, and location. A doctorate is a terminal degree, meaning that graduates obtain expert-level education, which opens up the door to some of the most lucrative opportunities. According to PayScale, professionals with a doctorate in public administration earn an average salary of $102,500.

What are the highest paying jobs with a doctorate in public administration?

Salary data from PayScale shows that the best paid professionals in this sector are professors, data science managers, and executive directors.

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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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