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Department of Public Administration & Policy

Questions?

  • SPA: Public Administration
    Ward, Room

    Graduate programs: spagrad@american.edu

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PhD Degree Requirements

The PhD requires 60 hours of coursework and 4 semesters of colloquium credit. Students who enter with a master’s degree are typically allowed to apply 24 credit hours toward the PhD, reducing the coursework to 36 credit hours (or 12 three-credit courses). These courses are organized into three fields of study:

  • Major field in public administration (four courses)
  • Second field (four courses: a second major field or a minor field and two electives)
  • Field in research methods (four courses)

The second field provides students with flexibility in choosing courses that match their particular research interests. There are two ways to satisfy this requirement:

  • Students may elect a second major field in Public Policy, American Politics, Comparative Politics, Justice, or Law & Society. Major fields require four courses and a comprehensive exam.
  • Students may elect a minor field (two courses) and take two additional elective courses, for a total of four. Minor field options include Public Policy, American Politics, Comparative Politics, Justice, and Law & Society, as well as any minor doctoral field offered by another AU program. Alternatively, students may contract with a faculty member to supervise an individualized minor field, such as Nonprofit Management, Public Budgeting and Finance, or Environmental Policy.

In addition to the course requirements noted above, all students are required to present an original research paper at the end of the first year of study; sit for two comprehensive field exams; and orally defend their dissertation at both the proposal and final defense phases. 

More information about degree requirements can be found in the program handbook. The Office of the Registrar can provide you with the most up-to-date information about the schedule of classes, course descriptions, and the academic calendar

Alumni Spotlight

John Marvel, SPA/PhD ’12

John Marvel (SPA/PhD '12) is one of three individuals selected to receive a 2012 Emerging Scholar Award from the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs & Administration.

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