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.

What are the Best Online Doctorate in Public Administration Programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:

Rank School Location
1 California Baptist University Riverside, CA
2 Old Dominion University Norfolk, VA
3 University of Colorado Denver Denver, CO
4 Valdosta State University Valdosta, GA
5 West Chester University of Pennsylvania West Chester, PA

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 Graduation Rate Description Toggle

California Baptist University

Riverside, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 55%

CBU delivers 40 online degrees through the Blackboard platform, including an online doctoral degree in public administration. Students learn to address complex issues at the local, state, and federal levels. Learners take accelerated, eight-week courses and can complete this program in three years.

The program's 50-credit curriculum covers topics like ethics and social justice, performance management and evaluation, and collaboration and networked governance. Students also delve into leadership in the public sector, learning how to implement outsourcing and collective bargaining strategies. The program also requires students to complete several on-campus residencies. All learners write and defend a dissertation.

Applicants need a master's degree earned with a minimum 2.75 GPA. CBU grants unconditional admission to students with a 3.0 GPA or higher. Admission requirements include a current resume and a personal statement.

Old Dominion University

Norfolk, VA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 52%

Based in Norfolk, Virginia, ODU serves more than 24,000 students, many of whom enroll online. The university offers an online Ph.D. in public administration and policy that prepares graduates for leadership roles in fields like social work, criminal justice, and higher education. This 49-credit program delivers coursework synchronously, requiring students to attend online classes at set times.

Required courses include multisector administration, applied statistics and data analysis, and qualitative research design. Students personalize their curriculum through four advanced electives, choosing from options like geographic information systems and public-private partnerships. Learners round out the program with a research-intensive dissertation project.

To enroll in ODU's online doctorate in public administration program, applicants need a minimum 3.25 GPA and adequate GMAT, GRE, or MAT scores. They must also submit a resume and a three-page essay explaining their academic and professional goals.

University of Colorado Denver

Denver, CO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 48%

CU Denver offers over 21 career-focused academic programs through its School of Public Affairs. One such offering is a doctor of philosophy in public affairs, which takes 4-6 years to complete. This program uses a hybrid delivery method, requiring some on-campus courses in Denver.

The doctorate in public administration curriculum includes courses like public management, the conduct of empirical inquiry, and advanced quantitative methods. Students also examine the economic and institutional foundations of public organizations. Participants conclude the program by defending a dissertation and taking a comprehensive exam.

CU Denver requires applicants to have a minimum 3.0 GPA on master's-level coursework. Prospective students also need GRE scores above the 50th percentile. Additional requirements include a resume or CV, a statement of purpose, and three recommendation letters.

Valdosta State University

Valdosta, GA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 42%

VSU offers more than 100 programs, including several online options like a doctor of public administration program. Through a practitioner-focused curriculum, learners gain the skills needed to succeed as nonprofit executive directors, public policy analysts, and chief information officers.

The program's 54-credit curriculum covers topics like applied research methods and the applications of technology in the public sector. Students personalize their education through electives and concentration options. To complete their online doctoral degree in public administration, learners also need to attend on-campus residency seminars the first weekend of each spring and fall semester.

Applicants need a regionally accredited master's degree and adequate GRE scores. They must also submit an up-to-date resume, three recommendation letters, and a two-page statement describing their research interests and career goals.

West Chester University of Pennsylvania

West Chester, PA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 75%

WCU serves more than 17,500 students every year. The university powers distance education with the Desire2Learn platform and offers a fully online doctoral degree in public administration. During this 45-credit program, students develop advanced skills in strategic management and financial decision-making.

Students also learn to analyze public policy to identify and implement effective solutions to organizational problems. Required courses include advocacy and leadership, applied research design, and quantitative and qualitative methods for program evaluation. The program culminates in a dissertation project and a comprehensive examination.

Admission requirements include a professional writing sample, a resume/CV, and three recommendation letters. Applicants without a relevant master's degree may need to complete additional coursework. WCU provides a variety of financial aid options, including graduate grants and assistantships.

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.


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