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PhD Public Administration

Be part of the next generation of leading scholars who produce methodologically sound, socially relevant research that makes important contributions to knowledge and theory.

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Phone: (202) 885-2940 Graduate programs: spagrad@american.edu Undergraduate programs: aupublicaffairs@american.edu

Kerwin Hall

Public Affairs, School of 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20016 United States

Contact Us

Graduate programs: spagrad@american.edu

Kerwin Hall

SPA: Public Administration 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20016-8070 United States

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Next Generation Research

In the historic tradition of the AU scholar-teacher model, the PhD in Public Administration at the School of Public Affairs is a full-time degree that prepares students for careers in research and teaching in the fields of public administration and public policy.

Opportunities to Publish and Present

From the first day of orientation to the final dissertation defense, each student works one-on-one with a faculty mentor to develop the skills needed for a career in academia. We encourage students to produce original research that is methodologically sound and socially relevant, and that makes important contributions to knowledge and theory. By the time they graduate, virtually all of our students have presented their research at key conferences and published their work in peer-reviewed academic journals.

Cross-Disciplinary

Students organize their programs around three fields of study. In their primary field, they specialize in a particular area within public administration. Their second field can be chosen either from within the School of Public Affairs-public policy; American or comparative politics; or justice, law, and criminology-or from a department within another school at AU that grants doctoral degrees. Regardless of their selected fields, students may enroll in courses from any department within the School of Public Affairs. The third field comprises research methodologies.

Next Generation of Leading Scholars

Our philosophy is that doctoral education should be about much more than coursework, so our program provides a rigorous, comprehensive, and multifaceted introduction to the research enterprise. Our mission is to build the next generation of leading scholars who will advance theory, develop knowledge, and enhance the ability of our institutions and professionals to apply that knowledge to today's most pressing challenges in public administration and public policy.

The PhD degree in Public Administration requires 54 credit hours of approved graduate work for students entering the program with a bachelor's degree alone, or 36 credit hours if entering with a related master's degree.

All students must complete 12 credits in research methodology, 12 credits in their major field of study (public administration), and 12 credits in their second field (public policy; American or comparative politics; justice, law, and criminology; or a doctoral field offered by another AU program).

The second field gives students flexibility in tailoring coursework to their individual research interests. You may fulfill this requirement in three ways:

  • Select a major field from within the School of Public Affairs-public policy; American or comparative politics; or justice, law, and criminology. This option requires four courses (12 credits) and a comprehensive exam.
  • Select a minor field, which includes two required courses and two elective courses (12 credits total). Options include the fields within the School of Public Affairs-public policy; American or comparative politics; or justice, law, and criminology-or any minor doctoral field offered by another AU program.
  • Create an individualized minor field, which includes two required courses and two elective courses (12 credits total). Students in this option work with a faculty member who advises them on course selection and who writes and evaluates the comprehensive exam. Recent individualized minors have included nonprofit management, public budgeting and finance, environmental policy, and global health policy.

In addition, students take four semesters of colloquium credit (PUAD-089), a required course (0 credit hours) that consists primarily of research presentations by PhD students, departmental faculty, and external scholars on a variety of topics in public administration and public policy. It also includes professional development sessions on publication, teaching, and job market strategies.

As work on the dissertation project progresses, students register for dissertation credit in order to maintain matriculation. They take Doctoral Continuing Enrollment (PUAD-898) during the third year of study if they have a master's degree (or the fourth year of study if they have a bachelor's degree) and Doctoral Dissertation (PUAD-899) after their dissertation proposals are approved.

A minimum grade point average of 3.20 in all coursework is required to remain in good standing and to earn the degree. Full-time status is considered to be nine credit hours per semester. Students are expected to complete the degree within four years for those entering with a master's degree and within five years for those entering with a bachelor's degree alone.

Students advance to PhD candidacy by successfully completing all required courses, passing the oral qualifier and two written comprehensive examinations (one in each of their fields of study), and defending their dissertation proposals. To earn the degree, students must pass a final oral defense of the dissertation.

More information about course requirements can be found here.

For more information, please contact the SPA Graduate Admissions Office at 202-885-6230 or spainfo@american.edu.

Applicants are considered and students admitted for the fall semester only. January 1 is the deadline for application to the program.

While previous academic or professional work in public administration or public policy is not required, applicants need to demonstrate a serious commitment to a career in this field. The personal statement on reasons for pursuing graduate study in the program is essential, along with the other required application materials.

We accept PhD applicants for full-time study only. Students must be funded either by the School of Public Affairs or by an external sponsoring organization (self-funding is not permitted for newly-admitted doctoral students).

For more information, please contact the SPA Graduate Admissions Office at 202-885-6230 or spainfo@american.edu.

The PhD in Public Administration is a 54-credit-hour program for students entering with a bachelor’s degree alone, or a 36-credit-hour program for students who already have a related master’s degree. To estimate the cost of tuition, please see the current cost per credit hour for graduate students.

Unless applicants expect to be funded through a reliable external source, they must request consideration for funding on their application. Upon acceptance into the program, students selected for AU funding are granted a fellowship with full funding for four years of study if they are entering with a master’s degree (five years if entering with a bachelor’s degree alone), contingent on maintaining satisfactory progress each year.

As a requirement for the fellowship, students work 20 hours a week with a faculty member. If at all possible, our graduate office will assign students to faculty members with expertise in their areas of research interest.

Students must advance to candidacy by the end of their third year of study (fourth year for those entering with only a bachelor’s degree) to continue receiving funding. If they have not achieved candidacy by then, they are required to find external funding or self-fund the remaining part of their program.

94 percent of SPA graduates are employed or in graduate school, or both