Compare School Options

Most schools have rolling admissions and financial help so you can start your degree in a few weeks!

For students looking forward to advanced roles in public and organizational policy and requiring a flexible and accessible educational path, an online doctorate in public administration may be just what you need to succeed. These degrees are tailor-made for those desiring to make a significant impact in fields such as public policy analysis and political science, areas expected to grow by 7% over the next decade. Graduates often find themselves well-positioned in lucrative careers, with an average annual salary of $128,020 and top earners reaching upwards of $176,280.

Typically, completing these programs requires three to five years of full-time study, with tuition costs averaging $19,749. This investment in your education provides opportunities for influential and rewarding positions, shaping the future of public policies and programs.

How to Choose an Online Doctorate in Public Administration Program

Choose your area of study

Choosing your area of study is a crucial first step in selecting the right online doctorate in public administration program. This decision will help you align your academic pursuits with your career objectives, ensuring your education directly supports your professional aspirations.

For example, students aiming to influence policy development may enjoy concentrating in public policy analysis, while those planning to lead nonprofit organizations may excel in nonprofit management. Public management is best suited for future leaders in public sector organizations. Selecting a specialization that matches your career goals can significantly boost your expertise and employability in your chosen field.

Research schools and programs

When researching schools and programs for your doctorate, consider the following questions to guide your research:

  • What’s the program’s curriculum, and does it align with my career goals?
  • Who are the faculty, and what is their expertise?
  • How does the program support online students?
  • What are the graduation and job placement rates?
  • Is the program and institution properly accredited?

You can attend virtual open houses, review school websites, and speak directly with admissions counselors to find this information. These resources provide detailed insights into program structures, faculty qualifications, student support services, and accreditation status, helping you make an informed decision about your education.

Prepare for tests and applications

To best prepare for tests and applications, it’s important first to understand the standard application requirements. These often include academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and GRE scores.

Given the significance of GRE scores in the application process, enrolling in a test prep program can be highly beneficial. Such programs offer structured study plans, practice tests, and strategies to help you improve your scores.

Additionally, you’ll want to dedicate ample time to writing an engaging statement of purpose and gathering solid letters of recommendation. Starting early and organizing a timeline for preparation and submission can alleviate stress and improve the quality of your application — setting a solid foundation for your admissions process.

Select your program

Once acceptance letters arrive, it’s crucial to revisit your initial research criteria to select the best program for your educational needs. Consider factors such as curriculum alignment with your career goals, faculty credentials, and the support services available for online learners. Additionally, evaluate any financial aid opportunities, including scholarships, grants, and assistantships, as these can significantly impact your decision.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

To finance your degree without accruing significant debt, prioritize exploring financial aid resources, including those specific to doctoral programs. Start by researching scholarships and grants, as these do not need to be repaid. Consider federal student loans as your next option, taking advantage of lower interest rates and flexible repayment plans.

In addition, many programs offer teaching or research assistant positions, providing a stipend and sometimes tuition waivers in exchange for work. Fellowships may also be available. These are often merit-based and offer financial support without work requirements, allowing you to focus on your studies and research.

Best 50 Accredited Online Doctorate in Public Administration Programs

Best Online Doctorate in Public Administration Programs Badge

California Baptist University

Old Dominion University

Valdosta State University

Liberty University

West Chester University of Pennsylvania

Tennessee State University

Boise State University

The University of Illinois Springfield

National University

Discover More Options

How we rank schools

This list focuses on doctorate programs in public administration that are available online. These programs may award a Ph.D. or a Doctor of Public Administration (DPA) degree. While these programs are available online, some may require you to commit to a course schedule and remotely attend virtual lectures or study groups with peers.

All of the institutions on this list are approved by DOE-recognized accrediting organizations, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) or Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

What Can You Expect From an Online Doctorate in Public Administration Program?

An online doctorate in public administration program is designed to prepare students for successful municipal, state, or federal government careers by building the necessary knowledge and skills to lead, manage, and make impactful decisions in these organizations. Students delve into policy analysis, public finance, leadership, and organizational change management through a curriculum combining theoretical frameworks with practical applications. These programs emphasize research methods, enabling learners to contribute significantly to the field through dissertations on contemporary public administration challenges.

Typically, completing these programs takes three to five years, depending on the student’s pace, previous coursework, and dissertation complexity. The inherent flexibility of online learning allows students to balance their studies with professional and personal commitments, potentially shortening or extending the timeline. This adaptability makes this degree attractive for working professionals looking to improve their credentials and impact the public sector without pausing their careers.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online doctorate in public administration program

  • Quantitative Research Methods in Public Administration: This course introduces students to quantitative research techniques and statistical analyses relevant to public administration research. Learners develop skills in designing research studies, analyzing data, and interpreting results, enabling them to conduct rigorous research and apply findings to solve real-world public administration problems.
  • Advanced Public Sector Management: Focusing on the complexities of managing public organizations, this course explores strategic planning, performance measurement, and human resources management in the public sector. Students gain insights into leading organizational change, improving public service delivery, and fostering innovation within government entities.
  • Public Policy Analysis: This course offers an in-depth analysis of the methods and frameworks used to analyze and evaluate public policies. Students learn to assess policy impacts, effectiveness, and efficiency, equipping them with the skills to propose evidence-based recommendations for policy improvement and implementation strategies.
  • Ethics and Leadership in Public Administration: Here, students examine the ethical challenges and leadership responsibilities in public administration. The course emphasizes ethical decision-making, integrity, and accountability, preparing students to navigate moral dilemmas and lead ethically in public service roles.

Online Doctorate in Public Administration Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online doctorate in public administration degree program?

Although specific admission requirements differ across institutions, most programs adhere to the following standard criteria:

  • A master’s degree from an accredited institution
  • Relevant work experience in public administration or a related field
  • Academic transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • A statement of purpose
  • GRE scores

Before applying, it’s crucial to speak with an admissions counselor. They can provide additional insights into the program, help clarify requirements, and guide you through the application process to ensure your application is as strong as possible.

How much does an online doctorate in public administration degree cost?

The cost of these degrees varies widely, but for the 2020-2021 academic year, the average cost for graduate programs was $19,749. Additional costs to consider include:

  • Technology and distance learning fees
  • Textbooks and course materials
  • Internet access and a reliable computer
  • Graduation fees

Unique financial aid opportunities such as fellowships and research assistantships are often available for those pursuing a doctorate. These can significantly reduce the economic burden of higher education, making your academic pursuits more affordable.

How long does it take to earn an online doctorate in public administration degree?

Earning your doctorate in public administration online can take three to five years, depending on several factors. Online programs offer flexibility not always found in traditional, on-campus programs — allowing students to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations. Those who opt for part-time enrollment will generally take longer to graduate.

Additionally, the total number of required credits for these programs can vary significantly — programs requiring more credits may have a more extended duration than those requiring fewer.

Compare School Options

Related Degrees