Doctor of Philosophy in Public Administration

School of Public Affairs

The Doctor of Philosophy in Public Administration provides a broad-based academic program combining conceptual foundations with research and analytical skills. The goal of the program is to educate professionals with the ability to create and apply knowledge through teaching, research, consulting, and management.

Graduates of the program work in such occupations as:

  • university or college professor;
  • president, community hospital;
  • senior positions, state and federal government;
  • senior training officer, national executive development institute;
  • health care consultant;
  • president, nonprofit organization

The program retains the traditional requirements of the Ph.D. degree – advanced course work, comprehensive examinations, residency, a research dissertation, final oral examination, and standards of excellence – in a program that allows students to combine study and work. Students may pursue the program on a full- or part-time basis. The emphasis is placed in critical thinking, research, writing, and mastery of a broad body of literature. In the emerging "information age," public administrators are both producers and consumers of research. The roles of administrator and scholar are increasingly blurred, as scientific reasoning and data gathering increasingly permeate public managerial decision-making. Creating and accessing knowledge that is useful to address organizational and policy issues is increasingly important.

Degree Conferred: Ph.D.

Program Requirements for Admission

Requirements More Information

Applicants for the Doctor of Philosophy in Public Administration should hold a master’s degree in public administration, public policy, or a related field such as business, economics, political science, or sociology. Applicants with master’s degrees in other fields also will be considered. Students may be required to take additional courses after admission to the program to make up for any deficiencies.

A student must have taken the following graduate courses as program prerequisites or co-requisites: Public Organization and Management (P ADM 500), Introduction to Public Policy Analysis (P ADM 507), Research Methods (P ADM 503), and Organization Behavior (P ADM 510).

Professional Experience Most applicants should have five years of relevant professional work experience.
Supporting Materials
  • scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), with official verification
  • three letters of reference attesting to both academic and professional capabilities (at least two of the three letters should be from academic sources, such as prior professors or academic advisers)
  • a letter of approximately 500 words outlining significant work experience, career goals, and academic objectives
  • a recent personal vita
  • a substantial academic paper written for a previous graduate course (e.g. seminar paper)
  • a resumé

Application Deadline

To assure course availability and maximize progress, applicants should carefully consider when to apply to the program and begin study. In general, students should plan to begin taking P ADM 570 (Scope and Methods of Public Administration) and other doctoral seminars during the fall semester.

Fall Admission
  • Applicants for fellowships and assistantships must complete and submit materials by January 30.
  • Applicants who must take one or more prerequisite courses typically should apply by October 31. This will enable them to take the necessary prerequisite courses during the spring semester and/or summer session and begin doctoral seminars the next fall. If in doubt about the need for prerequisites, an applicant should meet the October 31 deadline.
  • Students who are not required to take prerequisite courses may submit their application materials by October 31 or March 15. However, we encourage students to apply at the earliest possible date. The program coordinator can answer individual applicant questions about application and entrance dates.

Application Process

Gather supporting materials and begin the standard graduate application process.

The Admissions Committee may interview individuals whose application material indicates they qualify for entry into the program. These interviews may be face-to-face or by telephone. Interviews help assure a good fit between individual interests and the program.

Degree Requirements

Students progress through the following phases and take the required courses indicated as part of their study for the Ph.D.

Precandidacy and Provisional Admission – Applicants who do not have necessary background, but otherwise meet the criteria for admission may be admitted provisionally and must (1) make up any deficiencies in graduate courses in public administration noted in the letter of acceptance, (2) complete P ADM 570 (Scope and Methods), P ADM 575 (Research Design), and at least one course from the P ADM 571 (Seminar in Organization Theory), P ADM 573 (Research and Theory in Public Policy and Governance), and P ADM 574 (Research and Theory in Public Management) seminar series, with an average of 3.5 or better, and (3) pass a candidacy exam. Students who must make up deficiencies are considered to be provisionally admitted into the program. A student may remain in this temporary classifi cation for a period of no longer than two semesters following admission. Upon successful completion of the requisite courses noted in the letter (with a 3.5 grade-point average), the student will be removed from provisional status and be regularly enrolled. It is to be emphasized that the provisional condition must be met before a student reaches an academic benchmark (doctoral candidacy, comprehensive, and final oral examination). A student will not be permitted to graduate with a provisional status remaining on his or her record.

Comprehensive Examination – Candidates take additional course work to prepare for comprehensive examinations in three subfields of study, complete a period of residency, and write the Ph.D. dissertation. The three formal subfields of specialization are: organization theory and behavior, policy analysis and governance, and public management. Additional subfields of study, such as health care management and policy, criminal justice, management information systems, and training and development may be selected with the approval of the student’s doctoral committee.

Residency – A period of two consecutive semesters of concentrated study and research as a full-time student; 9 credits per semester.

The Dissertation – Under guidance from the dissertation committee, the candidate prepares a detailed research proposal that serves as the basis for the written dissertation. The writing and defense of this original contribution to the theory of public administration is the capstone to the Ph.D. program.

Grade-Point Average and Time Limit

Part-time students can complete the program in approximately seven to eight years of continuous study. Full time students may complete the program in four to five years. Students must have a 3.50 grade-point average to graduate.

Graduate School Fellowships

Full-time incoming doctoral students starting in the fall semester who are interested in a graduate school fellowship should contact the program coordinator. Students must be nominated for a fellowship by their program coordinator.

Students applying for a graduate school fellowship should submit scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or similar examinations by January 30.

Ph.D. Courses

  • P ADM 570 SCOPE AND METHODS OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION( 3). Prerequisite: P ADM 500, P ADM 503, P ADM 507, P ADM 510
  • P ADM 573 RESEARCH AND THEORY IN PUBLIC POLICY AND GOVERNANCE(3). Prerequisite: P ADM 570 or permission of program
  • P ADM 575 ADVANCED RESEARCH DESIGN( 3). Prerequisite: P ADM 570
  • P ADM 579 PUBLIC LEADERSHIP AND ETHICS (3). Prerequisite: P ADM 570 and P ADM 574 or permission of program
  • P ADM 590 COLLOQUIUM (1-3)
  • P ADM 591 READINGS IN PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION (3). Prerequisites: P ADM 570 and permission of program
  • P ADM 597 SPECIAL TOPICS (1-9)
  • P ADM 600 THESIS RESEARCH (1-15)

Our Current Students

Current students in the public administration Ph.D. program come from an array of industries, including academia; local, state, and federal government agencies; and public office. Please visit our current students page to find information on some of the students currently enrolled in Penn State Harrisburg’s Public Administration doctoral program.

Our Alumni

Alumni of the public administration Ph.D. program have gone on to positions in academia; local, state, and federal government agencies; and public office. Please visit our alumni page to find information on some of the distinguished alumni of Penn State Harrisburg’s Public Administration doctoral program.

This page is not a part of the official Penn State University Bulletin.