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Distance Learning Ph.D. Programs in Public Administration

Learn about online doctoral programs with public administrations courses. Get an overview of the program types, requirements and course descriptions available for this field.

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Essential Information

Doctoral-level programs in public administration are available in a hybrid format that allows some online coursework and typically requires 10-20 days of clinical residency or colloquium. These programs are often intended for working professionals who want to pursue an advanced degree while maintaining their current employment. Applicants may need to have relevant work experience, accreditation or licensure. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) considers public administrators such as mayors, governors, city managers, and county administrators as a category of top executives. The BLS also reports that educational requirements for top executives vary greatly, but generally include a minimum of either a bachelor's or master's degree and considerable work experience.

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Distance Learning Ph.D. in Public Administration

Designed for working professionals, the ultimate goal of this program is to provide the learner with the education and tools to succeed in a position of government leadership. The course of study focuses on skills and strategies needed to overcome challenges within both government and non-profit management departments. Students learn the history and current status of public administration in America.

Program Information and Requirements

While some schools may accept candidates with a bachelor's degree in a related field, a master's degree from an accredited school is more often necessary to pursue a Ph.D. in Public Administration. Some programs may require additional licenses, accreditation or work experience.

In a distance learning program, the majority of course material is delivered online; therefore, students must have access to a computer with a dependable Internet connection in order to participate. In-person requirements vary, but typically 10-20 days are spent in clinical residencies or colloquium throughout the duration of the program. Schools ensure that students can access these events and locations as conveniently as possible.

List of Common Public Administration Courses

At the doctoral degree level, curricula are usually flexible to allow individuals to tailor their studies to some extent. Correspondingly, any original research or dissertation progress is expected to correlate with their chosen focus or specialization. A sampling of typical classes is described below.

Introduction to Public Administration

Lessons provide a broad overview of the history of public administration in the United States. They also introduce theories in social, applied management and political management. Students compare important events of the past and the individuals involved with modern-day experiences.

Urban and Regional Planning

The role of both public officials and public opinion is addressed in terms of decision-making and institutional planning within both the public and nonprofit sectors of the U.S. Students learn applicable planning techniques, tactics, conceptual skills and practices.

Nonprofit Management

This class discusses the management of non-profits and how this process differs from for-profit organizations. Specific topics touch upon budgeting, strategic planning and outcome evaluation.

Administrative Law

Students learn about both federal and state laws and how they apply to public administration. They use research to support public policy concepts. Topics include adjudication, case citation, legal libraries navigation, administrative due process and judicial review actions.

Urban Politics

The class familiarizes students with the people, places and policies of government as they relate to urban politics in America. By examining significant matters such as unemployment, planning, zoning, finance, budgeting and healthcare in an urban environment, students hone in on the issues arising from all of these topics and develop possible solutions.


Career Information

The doctorate is the highest degree attainable in this subject, and permits its holder to seek out potentially lucrative, high-level positions in a wide variety of fields. Many organizations, including government agencies, do not publicly disclose career outlook or salary information for top leadership positions. However, per the BLS, some top executives in the public sector do possess degrees in public administration. While competition is fierce for jobs of this caliber, average job growth of six percent is expected from 2014-2024, median annual wages for chief executives were $175,110 as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov).

Online doctoral programs in public administration may cover topics such as urban politics, regional planning and administrative law to prepare students for possible careers as top executives and other leadership positions. Graduates can often find work in the public and private sectors, but competition in the field is high.

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