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.

Best Accredited 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 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.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.

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 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.


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.


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.


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.

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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.