5 Best Online Public Administration Doctorates

public administration

Students seeking to advance into executive roles in the public and nonprofit sectors should consider pursuing an online Doctorate in Public Administration degree program. These doctorates are professional programs designed for those who want to acquire advanced competencies in research, analytics, and statistics to become influential persons for social change.

In addition, Public Administration Doctorate degree programs are designed to prepare individuals for administrative positions in public and nonprofit organizations. These graduate-level programs typically combine both coursework and research in specialized topics, such as public policy, public finance, and organizational dynamics.

Public administration doctorates explore topics in applied research funding proposal writing, public management and leadership, strategic planning, and evidence-based decision-making.


A Public Administration doctorate can be a Doctor of Public Administration (DPA) or a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Public Administration. They’re both respected, terminal degrees. However, a Ph.D. program is best for those who want to incorporate more scholarly research into their curriculum and pursue careers in research and academia.

On the other hand, a DPA program is a practice-focused degree designed to equip students with the necessary abilities to apply theory in a professional setting.



We have compiled a list of high-caliber grad schools with online Public Administration doctoral programs. Each doctorate was picked with the following criteria in mind: 

  • Delivered fully or partially online with various on-campus opportunities for student learning and services 
  • Provides online students with the same academic rigor as the on-campus Public Administration doctoral program
  • Taught by world-class faculty with expertise in public service, management, and other executive positions in public administration
  • Offer students the flexibility and opportunity to tailor their degrees based on their career aspirations
  • Courses are designed to equip doctoral students with advanced skills in research, analysis, communication, and leadership
  • Obtained full accreditation from regional accreditation agencies

Please check out our Methodology and explore our ranking process.

Top 5 Online Doctorate in Public Administration Degree Programs

California Baptist University

California Baptist University - Online

Doctor of Public Administration

California Baptist University’s accredited Doctor of Public Administration is a 54-credit hour program with a completion time of 3 years. The program requires students to start and conclude coursework in a cohort learning method—this type of learning method allows students to have a closer bond with peers and faculty.

Courses of the program include Foundations and Theory, Leadership in the Public Sector, Strategic Planning and Management, and Public Policy, Advocacy and Economics. Each course lasts 8 weeks. Students can expect guidance from world-renowned faculty and support from various student services.

Interested applicants must submit official transcripts of their undergraduate and graduate degrees, which should be from an accredited college or university. The accepted GPA is a minimum of 3.0. Supplemental requirements include recommendation letters and professional essays.

Liberty University

Liberty University

Doctor of Public Administration

Liberty University’s online Doctor of Public Administration program prepares working professionals for career advancements in public administration, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and related fields. This is a 48-credit hour doctoral program with a fast-paced online learning environment that helps students graduate in 2.5 years, thanks to its accelerated 8-week courses.

This online DPA program has three sections: public administration courses, research-focused courses, and a capstone sequence. The program’s core topics provide students with sufficient knowledge of urban planning, strategic public management, public finance and budgeting, public administration ethics, statesmanship, and governance. Students will also explore topics in federalism, statesmanship, organizational leadership studies, and information management.

Prospective students must possess a master’s degree with a 3.0 or higher GPA from a regionally accredited college or university. Supplemental requirements include recommendation letters, writing samples, and a statement of purpose.

Walden University

Walden University

Doctor of Public Administration

Walden University’s Doctor of Public Administration is among the best online DPA programs structured to equip students with the practical tools and theoretical insights required to address complex public administration challenges effectively. A distinguishing feature of the DPA program at Walden is its emphasis on applied research. Students can conduct meaningful research projects that aim to drive positive change and make significant contributions to the field of public administration.

In addition to online classes, online students will have two academic residencies designed to help them grow as professionals. This face-to-face requirement will help students prepare for their capstone project. Students can complete the degree for up to 8 years. Core courses of the program include Ethics and Social Justice, Leadership and Organizational Change, and Governance and Public Policy.

Students interested in Walden’s Doctor of Public Administration online program must have at least three years of work in government agencies or nonprofit organizations a master’s degree from an institution with regional accreditation and received a 3.0 minimum GPA.

Old Dominion University

Old Dominion University

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Administration and Policy

The online Ph.D. in Public Administration and Policy at Old Dominion University is designed for students who want to conduct research on public administration and policy. The program aims to give students the advanced theoretical understanding and research abilities they need to address complex problems in the public sector. It requires students to complete 49 credit hours, 12 of which are dedicated to dissertations.

The Ph.D. in Public Administration and Policy curriculum includes a combination of core courses, specialization courses, and research-focused seminars. Theory of public administration, research techniques in public policy, public administration ethics, and public budgeting and financial management are covered in core courses. Students can also explore cutting-edge subjects relating to their research interests and selected specializations.

The Public Administration and Policy at ODU has a very selective admissions process. Candidates for admission must have a master’s degree in a relevant area, a solid academic record, and the potential to do original research. Additionally, GRE results, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and a writing sample are requested from applicants.

National University

National University

Doctor of Public Administration

The online Doctor of Public Administration at National University is a 100% online doctoral degree program that can be completed in 41 months of full-time study. Students who gain admission to the program are automatically candidates for the $7,500 Key Grant. Graduates will have the abilities and experiences required to pursue executive leadership positions, make decisions through fact-based evaluations, and conduct research to add to the body of knowledge.

The program requires students to complete 54 credit hours, including foundational, core, research, and dissertation courses. Students enroll in 18 courses, which include Administrative Law, Public Personnel Administration, Principles of Organization and Management, and Quantitative and Qualitative Research Design and Methodology. Students learn from a faculty of experts dedicated to improving their skills and experiences by offering opportunities for research projects and practical experiences.

Admission to the program entails a master’s degree from an appropriately accredited educational institution, GRE or other standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, writing prompts, a statement of purpose, and a resume or CV.

Common Courses in Online Doctor of Public Administration Program

Doctor of Public Administration programs typically offer a range of common courses that provide students with a solid foundation in public administration principles, research methodologies, policy analysis, and leadership skills. Following are some of the most common topics/courses you’ll study and learn in online doctoral programs in public administration:

Ethics and Governance: This course examines the moral dilemmas that public officials and policymakers encounter. It looks at issues like openness, responsibility, and the function of public officials in advancing ethical leadership.

Leadership in Public Administration: The public sector-specific theories and practices of leadership are covered in this course. The use of successful leadership techniques in governmental organizations is taught to students.

Nonprofit Management: Some DPA programs may offer an elective course focused on nonprofit management, covering governance, fundraising, and program evaluation in the nonprofit sector.

Public Administration and Law: The legal and regulatory framework that oversees public administration, including administrative law, constitutional principles, and policy implementation, is studied by students.

Public Administration Theory: Students will gain knowledge of the theoretical and historical foundations of public administration through this course’s exploration of its fundamental theories and concepts.

Policy Analysis and Program Evaluation: Students learn how to evaluate the efficacy of various programs and examine the public policy. They research techniques for assessing policy effects and pinpointing development opportunities.

Public Budgeting and Financial Management: This course teaches students about creating, distributing, and administering public sector budgetary resources. Students will also obtain knowledge of basic accounting and financial reporting.

Public Personnel Management: This course covers employee development, performance reviews, and other aspects of human resource management in the public sector.

Public Policy Analysis and Implementation: The analysis and creation of public policies and methods for practical implementation in the public sector are the main topics of this course.

Public Sector Economics: Understanding economic principles and how they apply to public administration, particularly public finance, taxation, and economic policy analysis, is provided through this course.

Research Methods in Public Administration: The research methodologies utilized in public administration research are covered in this course, both quantitative and qualitative. Students learn how to plan and carry out empirical investigations that address problems in public administration.

Strategic Planning and Management: Students learn management methods to accomplish organizational goals and establish strategic plans for public organizations.

Career Paths for Public Administration Graduates

Graduates in public administration have various employment options available because their education has given them essential information and skills for the public and private sectors. Some common career paths for public administration graduates include:

Government Administration

Graduates frequently pursue positions in municipal, state, or federal agencies. They could have positions as program managers, public policy analysts, county administrators, city managers, and more.

Nonprofit Organizations

Many public administration graduates become executive directors, program managers, grant writers, or policy analysts in nonprofit organizations. Social assistance, healthcare, education, and advocacy are frequently the focus areas for nonprofits.

Public Policy Analysis

Graduates interested in studying and analyzing policy proposals and issues may work as policy analysts. They offer policymakers and government representatives data-supported advice.

Human Resources Management

Graduates can also find employment in corporate and public sector human resources departments. They might work on organizational development, benefits management, employee training, and talent acquisition.

International Development

Some graduates work on initiatives to enhance public services, infrastructure, and governance in underdeveloped nations as they advance their careers in international development organizations.

Public Relations and Communications

Strong communicators with public administration doctorates may find employment in public relations and communications departments, assisting governments and other organizations in reaching out to the general public and other stakeholders.

Research and Academia

Some graduates decide to enter academia or research institutions, where they can advance their fields through scholarly publication, teaching, and research.


Public administration experts may act as consultants, offering their knowledge and suggestions to governmental bodies, nonprofit organizations, and private companies on various public policy and administrative challenges.

Healthcare Administration

Graduates interested in becoming part of the healthcare industry can manage operations, budgeting, and strategic planning in hospitals, healthcare systems, or public health organizations.

Urban Planning and Development

Urban planning is a specialty for public administration professionals working for city planning departments or consulting businesses, tackling infrastructure and urban development challenges.

Environmental Policy and Sustainability

Some graduates concentrate on environmental sustainability and policy, creating and implementing environmental projects in governmental or non-governmental organizations.

Public Finance and Budgeting

Graduates with experience in public finance and budgeting can manage budgets and ensure financial accountability in government finance departments or financial consultancy firms.

Public Administration Degree Accreditationm Agencies

It’s important to select online public administration programs that have received the necessary accreditation. Regional accreditation is the highest type of accreditation in the nation. Regional accrediting organizations are as follows:

  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges or SACSCOC
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

Some Public Administration doctoral programs may possess specialized programming accreditation from public administration and policy-related professional organizations. The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs & Administration is the foremost organization accrediting public affairs and administration programs. 

Public Administration Professional Organizations and Associations

American Society for Public Administration (ASPA)

ASPA is one of the most well-known organizations in the country for professors, practitioners, and students of public administration. It provides networking opportunities, seminars, publications, webinars, and more.

International City/County Management Association (ICMA)

City managers, administrators, and other local government leaders are all members of the worldwide organization known as ICMA. It offers education, analysis, and resources for efficient municipal government.

National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA)

NAPA is a nonprofit, autonomous organization that offers management and organizational concerns to government authorities. It carries out research, holds conferences, and provides advice on how to enhance public administration.

Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs & Administration or NASPAA

The NASPAA association accredits public administration, public policy, and public affairs graduate programs. It encourages high standards in public service education.

Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM)

Leading specialists in policy analysis and management belong to APPAM. It produces papers, organizes conferences, and enables policy-related discussion forums.

Public Administration Theory Network (PAT-Net)

PAT-Net is an international organization that promotes critical discussions and debates about public administration theories, ideas, and concepts.

National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA)

The NFBPA is a group that promotes the success of black public administrators. It offers chances for networking, mentoring, and professional growth.

International Association of Schools & Institutes of Administration (IASIA)

IASIA is a global network of institutes and colleges for public administration. It makes it easier for international collaboration and knowledge sharing in public administration research and teaching.

Online Doctorate in Public Administration - fact

Frequently Asked Questions

How will a Doctorate in Public Administration affect a professional’s chances of employment?

Earning a Doctorate in Public Administration can improve your employability and career prospects in the field, but it does not guarantee actual job growth and immunity from unemployment.

Is Public Administration an important field?

Public administration is a vital field that greatly impacts society and government. It affects the effectiveness of government operations, the provision of public services, and the adoption of laws that respond to society’s demands and problems.

Is Public Administration an exciting field?

Public administration careers are generally fulfilling. Public administration is unique because it can include routine administrative tasks like budgeting, human resource management, and visionary leadership motivated by organizational theory and constrained by ethical principles.

What are the pros and cons of Public Administration?

Pros of Public Administration:

  • Professionalism: Public administrations provide an opportunity for those trained and certified in government to apply their knowledge and skills in an environment that prioritizes professional standards and best practices.
  • Serve the Public: Public administration offers opportunities to do meaningful work that serves the public good.
  • Career Advancement: Public administration can provide a stable and rewarding career path with options for advancement.

Cons of Public Administration:

  • Bureaucratic red tape: Because of the strict adherence to process and protocol, decisions in public administration can take longer than in private sector organizations.
  • Limited resources: Public administrations often have limited resources compared to private sector organizations, which can determine their effectiveness.
  • Political pressure: Public administrations are subject to pressure from elected and appointed leaders, which can influence decision-making.

Key Takeaways

  • Public Administration is a broad field. It offers several specialties and subspecialties.
  • Candidates for doctoral degrees in public administration are prepared for demanding occupations requiring passion and drive to address organizational and bureaucratic problems.
  • Doctor of Public Administration programs are high-level degrees that require students’ 100% commitment. 
  • Online programs follow the same on-campus curriculum, only with added flexibility.

Rowan Jones
Chief Editor