Online Ph.D. in Public Administration

October 13, 2021

Online Ph.D. in Public Administration

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Earn an Online Ph.D. in Public Administration

Completing a doctor in public administration (DPA) online opens professional doors for individuals who want to act as leaders in government, directors of public policy, and educators to the next generation of practitioners. This degree serves those with a demonstrated interest in policy and government, a strategic mindset, and a defined work ethic, preparing graduates for dynamic positions requiring attention to detail, perseverance, and an ability to work with diverse groups. The career outlook for online DPA graduates looks promising and steady in the coming years, as the country and its need for qualified public leaders continues to grow.

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Online Ph.D. in Public Administration Programs

Find a program that meets your affordability, flexibility, and education needs through an accredited, online school.

Reasons to Pursue an Online Doctorate in Public Administration

As students research their options within the public administration arena, professionals with their bachelor's degree might wonder if a master's or Ph.D. program should be their next move. Master's programs entail less commitment than doctoral degrees, with the former requiring two years of full-time study on average, and the latter calling for 5-7 years. Either degree could leave graduates with student loan debt, so prospective students should consider how much of a financial burden they want to assume before choosing their program. They should also think about desired outcomes: While master's in public administration programs typically train students for consulting and managerial roles, doctorate in public administration online programs entail different goals. DPA students often aim to work in the upper echelons of government, commerce, and academia, with common titles including city manager, university faculty, and public policy director.

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

When considering a doctorate in public administration online, prospective students should keep several career paths and specialty areas in mind. Some individuals may feel drawn exclusively to positions consulting on public policy and administrative issues, while others may decide to apply for a federal, state, or local government job. Regardless of your chosen path, remember the public administration sphere includes various job titles, and it's important to do your research before choosing one. Many individuals elect to pursue their DPA online, as it gives them the knowledge and skill sets they need to assume senior roles. Others pursue this degree path to teach at colleges and universities.

Career Subfields for City Managers

CONSULTING:External contractorGOVERNMENT:Specific sector or branch
ACADEMIA:Education, universities, researchINDUSTRY:Within an organization

Source: BLS

Common Career Paths and Salaries

Graduates of public administration doctoral programs may choose from many public and nonprofit roles upon graduation, depending on their interests. The following career paths highlight common options, but learners may undertake additional research to find others.

Mayor, Governor, City Manager, or County Administrator

Median annual salary: $60,275

Mayors and other local government officials ensure the towns, cities, and counties run smoothly. They work with others in local government to address concerns, oversee budgets, manage staff, answer to city councils and boards, and handle citizen complaints.

Budget Analyst

Median annual salary: $75,240

Working in public and private settings alike, budget analysts review the finances of the companies they serve to create consolidated budgets, recommend procedural changes, manage funding requests, review spending, and create financial projections.

Salary Progression

Salaries listed throughout this guide represent median annual wages based on national averages. As learners review these numbers, they should remember that several factors affect pay in meaningful ways. Some states and metro areas pay significantly more or less than others, while nonprofit employers almost always pay less than public entities. Industry also matters a great deal, as individuals working for the federal government enjoy higher salaries than those in higher education. Experience also factors in, as those who have spent decades working and honing their skills command higher salaries.

Public Administration Doctoral Program Requirements and Outcomes

As with many other Ph.D. paths, public administration doctoral programs frequently present steep competition for admissions, along with low acceptance numbers. Applicants must work to stand out from the crowd academically — most Ph.D. programs require GPAs of 3.5 or higher, combined GRE scores of 1200-1400, and at least two years of related work experience. Most programs require degree seekers to successfully earn 43-58 credits. Those with their master's in public administration or a related topic usually finish the program in four years of full-time study, while those without a master's or who want to study part-time usually spend 5-6 years completing all requirements. Most DPA programs online don't require campus visits, but some may organize intensive in-person residencies.

Common Courses

Other Requirements

Residency

Online programs often require students to visit campus each semester or academic year to take part in a learning intensive. These can last 2-10 days, and provide students the chance to learn face-to-face with their peers and professors.

Project/Comprehensive Exam

In place of a dissertation, some programs may allow students to complete a culminating project and take comprehensive exams, if they don't plan to work in academia or research. These usually require extensive research and development and must be presented before a panel of faculty advisers.

Dissertation

The culminating requirement for most Ph.D. programs, dissertations are usually ~90,000 words and require students to develop and argue a unique thesis, using significant primary and secondary research. These projects usually take at least two years to complete.

Dissertation Defense

After finishing the research, writing, and editing portion of the dissertation process, degree candidates must go before a panel of academics — including their advisers — to defend the dissertation, answer questions, address loopholes, and receive approval for their work.

Skills and Competencies

Online DPA programs impart a range of skills and competencies to help graduates perform their jobs and stand out from other individuals who don't hold their doctoral degrees.

Public Administration Professional Organizations

Whether a public administrator has worked in the field for decades or is still completing coursework for a doctorate in public administration online, joining a professional organization offers several benefits. Many organizations provide continuing education workshops, and some offer certification pathways. Those who want to stay current on industry trends benefit from the magazines, journals, and other in-house publications available from professional organizations. Individuals seeking networking opportunities may enjoy participating in annual national conferences and local chapter meetings.

Finding the right organization is critical; learners should research member benefits extensively to find an association that meets their needs. Aside from the benefits listed above, individuals can assume extra responsibilities by volunteering, serving on a specialized committee, or joining the governing board.

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