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Distance Learning Doctorate Degree Programs in Public Policy

Learn about how to pursue a distance learning doctoral degree program in public policy. Get an overview of the program types, requirements and course descriptions available for this field.

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Essential Information

Public policy distance learning doctorate programs train students to work on solving problems and issues that governments and related institutions face, through laws, regulations, actions and funding. Because doctoral students are generally employed, a few schools have programs that are primarily online for the students' convenience. Both fully-online and blended programs might require that students complete in-person residencies. At the doctoral level, public policy is often combined with studies in public administration. Programs may be able to be completed in approximately three years.

Program Overview

Some public policy doctorate programs have a defined list of required courses in law, policy and research and offer few electives, in addition to the dissertation required for most doctorate degrees. Other programs allow students to choose electives from many leadership courses.

Common Courses

Some common course topics include:

  • Social justice and ethics
  • Politics and policy
  • Leadership, negotiation and change
  • Research methods

Residency Requirements

Every online public policy doctorate program requires some campus residency time, typically 10-20 days per year. Residency periods may be once a month on weekends, twice a year or at irregular intervals after the completion of milestones in the program. Residency work includes lectures, guest speakers, group meetings and projects, seminars, workshops, and individual meetings with faculty. The cost of flights and hotels to complete residency requirements is usually an extra expense the student is responsible for.

Online Learning Requirements

Between on-campus residency periods, students must complete online written assignments - sometimes as part of a group - along with presentations and readings. Distance learning doctoral degree programs in public policy may also include training through Web-based course sites and teleconferences, as well as e-mail and message boards.


Career Information for Graduates

A doctoral student's area of focus in his or her bachelor's and master's program may direct what area of public policy the individual works in. Nurses, sociologists and economists all have public policy specializations in their fields. An especially fertile field for careers in public policy is the political arena. A doctoral degree could lead to work as a political scientist or policy analyst.

Political scientists work for governments and businesses; they predict political trends, analyze current events and publish research findings. Some political scientists who hold a doctoral degree find work as college professors as well. Policy analysts examine the effects of political, social and economic policies. They also share their opinions with the public through editorials, websites and blogs.

Additional career options for doctoral-degree holders may include:

  • Elected official
  • Political advisor
  • Researcher
  • Lobbyist
  • Corporate affairs and communications officer

Online programs are available in public policy at the doctoral level. These programs emphasize a prescribed curriculum which features topics such as political science, leadership, public policy, social ethics and research methodology.

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