5 Best Online Public Policy Doctorates

public policy

Professionals with a strong desire to contribute to making a positive change in the world through policymaking will fit perfectly in an online doctorate in public policy. This doctorate degree is designed to help people obtain the abilities necessary to address society’s most serious problems.

Doctor of public policy graduates often pursue careers as Political Scientists, which, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is expected to increase by 7 percent from 2022 to 2032.


Online doctorates in Public Policy, suited for seasoned professionals, are at the forefront of policy studies and designed to provide an unmatched learning experience with a personalized and flexible learning style.

This terminal degree program is an academic and professional degree created for people who want to become specialists in studying, coming up with, and assessing policies that deal with complex societal issues. The curriculum of these programs often incorporates several disciplines, including political science, economics, sociology, law, and management.



Choosing a college or university with the highest education takes a methodical and thorough approach. To help you narrow down your choices, we’ve listed the Best Online Doctorates in Public Policy.

Each Doctor of Public Policy program on our list meets these criteria:

  • Offered with fully or partially online courses to cater to the unique schedules of working adult students
  • Provides a rigorous curriculum that encourages the most effective research methods in public policy, aiming to identify and address critical issues to drive the discipline forward
  • The Doctorate in Public Policy program’s faculty consists of distinguished public policy professionals and authoritative figures in the industry
  • Require Public Policy doctorate students to focus on research and fieldwork, allowing them to apply qualitative and quantitative research methods
  • Has received full accreditation from regional accrediting agencies, ensuring that the doctorate will be highly valued in the workplace

Please read our Methodology for in-depth information on our ranking process.

Top 5 Grad Schools with Online Doctorate in Public Policy

Liberty University

Liberty University

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy

Liberty University offers a distinguished and thorough Ph.D. in Public Policy program designed to help professionals obtain the necessary skills and knowledge to address challenging social issues at the local, national, and international levels.

This 60-credit hour doctoral program can be completed 100% online in 3 years through accelerated 8-week courses. The pubic policy curriculum is designed to give students a comprehensive understanding of public policy challenges from various angles, enabling them to develop original and fact-based solutions.

Students enrolled in the online Ph.D. in Public Policy at Liberty can pursue a general track to choose a concentration. The program offers six concentrations: Chinese Affairs, Economic Policy, Education Policy, Foreign Policy, National Security Policy, and Social Policy.

Each concentration has its own specific set of courses. The program’s core courses include Foundations of Public Policy, Founding Era and the Constitution, Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations, Competing Visions of Statesmanship, and more.

Domestic students must possess a master’s degree from a regionally approved institution with a 3.0 or higher GPA. International students should show Proof of English proficiency, such as TOEFL or IELTS scores. Additional requirements include admission application, application fee, and official college transcripts.

Tennessee State University

Tennessee State University

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy and Administration

The Ph.D. in Public Policy and Public Administration degree program at Tennessee State University is one of the best doctoral programs that train students to become influential leaders and scholars in public policy and governance.

The rigorous and thorough curriculum of the program covers a wide range of subjects in public policy, government, and public administration. It places a strong emphasis on research. Students can work on innovative research projects with renowned faculty members that expand their understanding of public policy and administration.

The curriculum allows students to focus on particular public policy and administration areas to help them design a program that closely aligns with their professional goals. It offers an interdisciplinary approach that allows students to draw from many disciplines to address challenging societal issues, regardless of whether they concentrate on healthcare policy, education policy, urban development, or other topics. Students can get real-world experience by participating in the program’s policy internships and experiential learning programs.

Interested applicants must have a Master’s in Public Administration degree or a related field that offers courses discussing public administration. Additional requirements include GRE scores, official transcripts, a 3.5 or higher GPA on all graduate-level coursework, three letters of recommendation, a writing essay, and a single-author academic or professional writing.

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

University of Maryland-Baltimore County - School of Public Policy

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County, delivers a web-based PhD in Public Policy program featuring a comprehensive and multidisciplinary curriculum, including economics, political science, and sociology. These include policy analysis, program evaluation, and quantitative and qualitative research methods.

The Ph.D. program invites students to work with professors and peers from various academic fields, allowing them to learn from many viewpoints and apply multidimensional approaches to problems in public policy.

The curriculum offers specialized tracks to meet various interests and career objectives. Students at UMBC have the freedom to customize their studies to fit their career goals. They can concentrate on Educational Policy, Emergency Services, Evaluation and Analytical Methods, Health Policy, Policy History, Public Management, or Urban Policy.

UMBC houses numerous centers and institutions focused on public policy topics; students have a wide range of options and various opportunities to conduct research projects, connect with experts and decision-makers, and participate in policy debates and events.

The admission requirements for the Ph.D. in Public Policy at UMBC include a master’s degree in a related field, official transcripts, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, personal statements, writing samples, and an updated CV or resume.

Walden University

Walden University

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy and Administration

Known for offering a flexible online learning environment, Walden University is often one of the top choices for students seeking to complete their doctoral degrees without having to relocate. Walden offers one of the best online Ph.D. in Public Policy Administration degree programs designed to prepare graduate-level professionals for leadership roles in government agencies, public and nonprofit organizations, academia, policy analysis, and research.

It promotes international collaboration and understanding by encouraging students to examine public policy issues from a global viewpoint.

In addition to completing online classes, doctoral students must also fulfill the program’s Four Residency Requirements. Students delve into Public Policy and Public Administration, Leadership and Organizational Change, Governance and Public Policy, and Research Methods.

Students undertake original research and write a doctoral dissertation demonstrating their command of the material, adding to the body of knowledge, and advancing public policy and administration.

Applicants must have a master’s degree or higher in any related field, completed online application, and transcripts.

Union Institute and University

Union Institute and University

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy and Social Change

Students interested in a doctoral program that strongly emphasizes social justice and community involvement can consider Union Institute and University’s Ph.D. in Public Policy and Social Change.

Students are urged to confront inequality, discrimination, and injustice in their studies and lobby for public policy to influence constructive social change and strengthen vulnerable communities. This 66-credit hour doctoral program can be completed in a hybrid learning format in as few as 3 years.

The program places a strong emphasis on applying theory in real-world situations. Through internships, fieldwork, and group projects with community organizations and decision-makers, students can engage in applied learning.

These opportunities give students the chance to work directly with real-world policy issues. Moreover, PhD candidates can pursue “Embedded Certificates,” such as Creative Writing, Executive Leadership, Women’s & Gender Studies, Educational Leadership, and more.

UIU’s online PhD in Public Policy and Social Change requires interested applicants to possess a master’s degree in a related field. There are no GPA requirements. However, students must show they can finish the program by submitting letters of recommendation, personal statements, and writing samples.

What Are Online Doctorates in Public Policy?

Online doctoral degree programs in public policy are designed for busy working adult students. This type of learning format allows them to conduct advanced studies and research in the field of public policy remotely. Some online doctoral programs can be completed entirely online, while others require minimal on-campus residencies or visits. It is a terminal degree, denoting the height of academic achievement in public policy research.

Enrolling in this specialized program is best for those wanting to become public policy analysis, development, and assessment experts. It frequently focuses on giving students advanced information, critical thinking skills, and research capabilities to handle complex societal issues and influence policy locally, nationally, and worldwide. 

12 Common Courses in Online Doctorates in Public Policy

Online doctoral programs in public policy aim to give students a thorough understanding of public policy, research techniques, strategic planning, and advanced policy analysis. While specific coursework and titles vary from program to program, here are the most common courses included in most programs:

  1. Foundations of Public Policy: The fundamental ideas, theories, and concepts of public policy are covered in this course. It discusses the evolution of public policy, the function of government, and the formulation of policies.
  2. Ethics and Public Policy: The importance of ethics in decision-making, policy advocacy, and the effects of policies on vulnerable people are some of the ethical concerns covered by this course.
  3. Public Budgeting and Finance: This course focuses on budgeting, fiscal management, and income creation, among other financial aspects of public policy. Students study government resource allocation and budgeting procedures.
  4. Policy Analysis and Evaluation: The numerous techniques for examining public policies and gauging their efficacy are taught to students. They research methods for evaluating policy results, expenses, and effects.
  5. Policy Implementation and Evaluation: Students investigate methods for successfully carrying out policy objectives and the difficulties associated with policy implementation. They also learn how to assess the effects of policy implementation.
  6. Economics for Public Policy: In this course, students explore the principles of economics as they apply to public policy analysis. They learn how economic factors influence policymaking and develop economic models to evaluate policy options.
  7. Public Policy and Social Justice: The connection between social justice and public policy is covered in this course. Students investigate laws that support human rights, social inclusion, and equality.
  8. Global Public Policy: Global public policy issues are examined in this course. Students investigate global governance, issues of international politics, and how different national policies are connected.
  9. Policy Advocacy and Communication: To involve stakeholders, policymakers, and the general public in the policymaking process, students investigate tactics for persuasive policy advocacy and communication.
  10. Public Policy Leadership: This course focuses on the leadership abilities and techniques required for successful policy development and execution. Students gain leadership and management skills for managing policy projects in various organizational settings.
  11. Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods: An overview of the research approaches utilized in public policy research is provided in this course. In addition to learning how to design and conduct quantitative and qualitative research, students also learn how to interpret and analyze data.
  12. Dissertation Research and Writing: This is a core component of the doctoral program, where students work on their original research, leading to the completion of their doctoral dissertation.

12 Concentrations in Online Doctorates in Public Policy

A variety of specialization areas are frequently available in the Doctor of Public Policy programs, allowing students to concentrate on specific public policy topics that fit their personal and professional interests. Universities may offer different concentrations, and some programs may provide more or various alternatives than others. The following are some popular specializations offered by doctoral programs in public policy:

  1. Criminal Justice Policy: The focus of this specialty is on laws, prisons, law enforcement, and crime prevention policies.
  2. Economic Policy: The policies relating to trade, economic development, monetary policy, fiscal policy, and economic inequality are covered in this specialization.
  3. Education Policy: The policies about educational systems, curriculum creation, school funding, teacher preparation, and educational equity are the main topics of this emphasis.
  4. Environmental Policy: Environmental protection, sustainable development, climate change, natural resource management, and energy policies are all included in this emphasis.
  5. Health Policy: Students in this concentration research healthcare delivery, insurance, public health initiatives, and health inequalities policy.
  6. International and Global Policy: Students concentrate on issues including international relations, diplomacy, global governance, and international development that impact the world.
  7. Labor and Employment Policy: Students learn about employment laws, labor market policy, worker rights, and workforce development.
  8. Nonprofit Management and Policy: This concentration addresses policies and management practices in nonprofit organizations, philanthropy, and the third sector.
  9. Public Administration and Leadership: This concentration focuses on leadership and management in the public sector, including public organizations, governance, and public service delivery.
  10. Social Welfare Policy: This study examines social welfare programs, efforts to reduce poverty, social safety nets, and social services.
  11. Technology and Innovation Policy: Students who pursue this concentration learn about data protection, digital governance, innovation incentives, and technology adoption regulations.
  12. Urban Policy: Students who pursue this emphasis learn about the policies that affect urban planning, infrastructure growth, affordable housing, transit, and urban renewal.

9 Public Policy Jobs for Doctorate Degree Holders

A doctorate in public policy can lead to fulfilling job prospects in various fields where experts can greatly impact the creation, application, and study of public policy. Salary information is provided by ZipRecruiter, Zippia, Glassdoor, and the BLS. Following are a few typical public policy positions that people with doctorate degrees holders can pursue:

1. Nonprofit Executive/Leader

Doctorate holders can take leadership roles in nonprofit organizations, managing policy research, advocacy, and program implementation.

Median Annual Salary: $155,581

2. Public Affairs Manager/Director

Public affairs managers and directors work in corporate, government, or nonprofit settings to manage public relations, communications, and government relations.

Median Annual Salary: $106,744

3. Policy Advisor/Consultant

Policy advisors or consultants work with government agencies, nonprofit organizations, or private firms to provide expert policy development and implementation advice.

Median Annual Salary: $98,220

4. Urban Planning Consultant

With a background in public policy, individuals can provide consulting services on urban planning policies and community development initiatives.

Median Annual Salary: $93,622

5. Policy Analyst/Researcher

Policy analysts and researchers conduct in-depth research on specific policy issues, analyze data, and propose evidence-based policy recommendations to policymakers and stakeholders.

Median Annual Salary: $92,550

6. University Professor/Researcher

Some doctoral graduates pursue careers as post-secondary instructors at colleges and universities. These instructors may offer students advice on pursuing their objectives in public policy, creating classes, assessing papers, and staying current in their subject.

Median Annual Salary: $79,640

7. Legislative Analyst

A legislative analyst study proposed legislation and its potential impact, providing lawmakers with informed recommendations.

Median Annual Salary: $77,084

8. Economic Policy Analyst

With expertise in economics and public policy, individuals can focus on analyzing economic policies and their effects on communities and industries.

Median Annual Salary: $72,577

9. International Development Specialist

Doctorate holders may work for international organizations, government agencies, or nonprofits, contributing to global development policy and initiatives.

Median Annual Salary: $76,507

These are just a few examples of the many rewarding career options open to a professional with a doctorate in public policy. The flexibility of this degree allows professionals to apply their skills and knowledge to various industries, making a significant contribution to society through well-informed policy implementation.

Public Policy Accrediting Agencies

The most prestigious type of accreditation for American institutions is regional accreditation. It ensures that the college or university and its traditional and online programs meet high academic standards. Only consider schools accredited by one of the following accrediting agencies:

  • 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)
  • SACSCOC-Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

9 Admission Requirements for a Doctorate in Public Policy

The admission requirements for the Doctorate in Public Policy may include the following. 

1. Master’s Degree

Candidates must possess a master’s degree from an accredited university. Public policy, public administration, political science, sociology, economics, or a closely related discipline, should be the focus of the master’s degree.

2. Academic Transcripts

All official transcripts from each college or university attended must be submitted by the applicant. These transcripts demonstrate the applicant’s academic performance and accomplishments.

3. Professional Experience

Some doctoral programs may favor candidates with relevant professional experience in public policy, government, nonprofit organizations, or similar domains.

4. Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation vouching for an applicant’s credentials, research potential, and dedication to academic pursuits are typically expected of applicants.

5. Statement of Purpose

A strong statement of purpose or personal statement is often requested of applicants. In this essay, candidates describe their educational and professional experience, areas of interest in research, their career objectives, and their motivations for pursuing a doctorate in public policy.

6. Writing Samples

Certain programs may ask for writing samples or research papers from prior academic work to evaluate the applicant’s writing and research skills.

7. Curriculum Vitae (CV) or Resume

A current CV or résumé highlighting the applicant’s academic and professional experiences, research endeavors, and any pertinent accomplishments is often required.

8. GRE Scores

Some doctorate programs no longer require the GRE, although some schools still consider GRE results a vital application component. 

9. English Proficiency (International Applicants)

If English is not the applicant’s first language, they may need to take a test like the TOEFL or IELTS to prove their English competence.

Online Doctorate in Public Policy - fact

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a career in Public Policy worth it?

A job in public policy may be incredibly fulfilling and rewarding for those passionate about changing laws that affect people’s lives and bringing about positive change in society. 

What are the differences between a Doctorate in Public Administration and a Doctorate in Public Policy?

While public administration programs concentrate on equipping students with the execution and management of those policies, public policy programs primarily deal with analyzing and creating policies to meet social concerns. 

Yes, criminal justice and public policy are strongly intertwined. Public policy, encompassing the laws, rules, and procedures that control crime prevention, law enforcement, courts, corrections, and rehabilitation, significantly influences the criminal justice system. 

How do students fund their online doctorate in Public Policy education?

Look for scholarships, grants, and other federal financial aid designed for doctoral students or those studying public policy. Many colleges and universities, private organizations, and government agencies offer financial aid opportunities based on academic merit, financial need, or other criteria.

Key Takeaways

  • Online doctorates in public policy programs are designed for working professionals seeking to gain advanced abilities for high-level policy work.
  • Public policy roles entail analyzing complex issues, researching, and developing evidence-based answers. 
  • Public policy doctoral programs allow professionals to develop careers and assume leadership positions, influencing public policy and fostering organizational transformation.


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Rowan Jones
Chief Editor