2021 Best Online Doctor of Public Administration (DPA) Programs

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Online DPA programs can provide you with advanced knowledge and skills in areas related to the administration of operational functions within government and non-profit settings.

Doctor of Public Administration (DPA) Programs

These public administration topics can range from effective decision making to management techniques and research practices. Professionals in the field can play an important part in the implementation of public policy and the execution of strategic objectives.

Careers in the field of public administration are experiencing positive career growth and typically offer higher than average salaries.

Online DPA Programs

Online DPA Programs

Online Doctor of Public Administration programs focus on providing advanced education in areas related to administrative functions in government and nonprofit organizations. This includes the development of effective management and leadership skills.

With your terminal degree in public administration, you may be equipped to take on roles as a senior public servant across the various government institutions that exist at federal, state, and regional levels.

Common senior roles include city manager, mayor, director of government relations, or chief administrative officer. You may also be well suited for senior roles in nonprofit agencies. Some graduates become a chief executive officer or chief operations officer.

A doctoral degree can also provide you with the qualifications needed to pursue a position in academia. Some doctoral graduates become members of faculty in a postsecondary school, where they can provide instruction to public administration students.

As part of an online doctor of public administration program, you’ll be required to complete a variety of coursework. Your course topics may include:

  • Finance and budgeting in the public sector
  • Human resources management in nonprofit and public sector organizations
  • Public administration ethics
  • Evidence-based decision making
  • Intergovernmental relations
  • Information management in public administration
  • Research methods
  • Public management and leadership
  • Organizational change

Many DPA programs require the completion of either a dissertation or capstone project in order to graduate. Research projects can allow you to explore a specific area or issue of public administration at an in-depth level.

Public Administration Careers & Salaries

Public Administration Careers & Salaries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a doctorate in public administration can help prepare you for a number of rewarding careers in the field.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Top Executives, Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services $208,000
Top Executives, Healthcare and Social Assistance $160,950
Political Scientists $125,350
Human Resources Managers $121,220
Administrative Services and Facilities Managers, Finance and Insurance $115,470
Top Executives, Government $113,270
Administrative Services and Facilities Managers, Local Government $95,220
Postsecondary Business Teachers $88,010
Social and Community Service Managers, Local Government $87,720
Postsecondary Political Science Teachers $85,760

A number of positions in the field of public administration are predicted to experience growth over the next several years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This includes top executives (4% job growth), administrative services and facilities managers (6%), human resources managers (6%), and political scientists (6%).

The positions of postsecondary teacher and social and community service manager are expected to see significant growth of 9% and 17% respectively (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Doctor of Public Administration Curriculum

Doctor of Public Administration

When pursuing a doctorate of public administration online, you may be required to complete a variety of coursework. Courses will typically pull on elements of ethics, management and leadership, research, and public policy.

  • Ethics and Social Justice: You’ll review the philosophy of ethics in public service and social justice, including the analysis of current and emerging ethical issues in public administration.
  • Public Management and Leadership: This course covers strategies in the management of public administration and adapting leadership methodologies to evolving societies.
  • Public Policy and Finance: This course explores the influence of micro and macroeconomics on the development and implementation of public policy.
  • Organizational Change: You’ll learn the role of leaders in managing changes within an organization, including ethical considerations, diverse organizations, and the relationship to social change.
  • Evidence-Based Decision Making: This course is an in-depth look at using big data and analytics in decision making to make more informed and effective choices.
  • Writing for Research and Funding: You’ll learn best practices used in writing research projects and developing funding proposals.
  • Research Methods and Design: You’ll take a look at research theory, design, and methodologies utilized in the field of public administration.
  • Quantitative Research: This course covers strategies for executing effective and thorough quantitative research.
  • Management Techniques in the Public Sector: This course is a review of various evidence-based practices for decision making in the public sector in relation to budget management, analytics, and performance improvement.
  • Governance and Public Policy: You’ll study the process of developing public policy and the role it plays in governance, politics, and public administration.

Depending on the program you choose, you may be required to complete a final dissertation or other capstone project. Some programs also require a residency workplace training experience in addition to coursework.

DPA Admissions Requirements

DPA Admissions Requirements

While the specific admissions requirements for online Doctor of Public Administration programs vary from one school to the next, some common criteria include:

  • Bachelors degree from an accredited institution
  • Masters degree from an accredited institution
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of intent
  • Resume or CV

In some cases, schools require that you submit GRE or GMAT scores, but this admission requirement is becoming less common for graduate programs.

Accreditation

Doctor of Public Administration Programs Accreditation

When a school and program is regionally accredited, it means that the educational programming they offer meets a specific set of predetermined quality standards.

Regional accreditation is an important consideration when determining which doctorate program you’ll attend. A school’s accreditation status can impact hiring decisions, credit transferability, and your eligibility to participate in professional organizations.

The accreditation status of the school you choose to attend can also impact your ability to qualify for financial aid and scholarship opportunities. For more information on regional accreditation, or to find out if the school you’re interested in attending is accredited, you can visit the US Department of Education’s website.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Doctor of Public Administration Programs Financial Aid

Earning your DPA online comes with a cost, but there are a number of financial support options that may be available to you while you pursue your degree. Financial aid options include government aid, scholarships, and employer study programs.

Government aid may be available to you in the form of federal or state loans or grants. Loans generally require repayment while grants do not. Scholarships can be offered by government institutions, private businesses, and even universities.

If you’re currently employed, your employer may have a professional development or training program. If so, you may be eligible for funds to help cover the costs of your DPA degree.

For more information on financial aid opportunities that you may qualify for, you can visit the US Department of Education’s website and fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Public Administration Professional Organizations

Public Administration Professionals

Being part of a professional public administration organization can offer you a number of benefits, including networking, career and education resources, and training opportunities.

Some public administration organizations include:

Networking with other public administration professionals may help you find out about new job opportunities in the field, develop a deeper understanding of your specialty, or connect with mentors and leaders in your industry.

What Can I Do with a PhD in Public Administration?

PhD in Public Administration Online

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a PhD in Public Administration online can help qualify you for a variety of careers in the field. Common public administration careers include chief executive officer, mayor, and director of government relations.

Other positions can include political scientist, human resources manager, and administrative services and facilities managers. PhD graduates can typically qualify for careers in academia and research as well.

Professionals in the field who go on to teach within a postsecondary school may instruct students in various areas of public policy, administration, ethics in public service, and management and leadership.

What’s the Difference Between Public Policy vs. Public Administration?

Public Policy vs. Public Administration

Both public policy and public administration deal with policies, but there are important differences in how and when each area of study operates.

Public policy is primarily concerned with:

  • Identifying and evaluating issues within a population
  • Performing thorough analyses of issues and interpreting related data
  • Using information gathered to develop new policies or to modify existing policies

Public administration is responsible for:

  • Implementing those policies that have been developed
  • Overseeing their execution in various government institutions

There are overlapping elements of a PhD in Public Policy and a public administration PhD, as they both play an important role in the laws and regulations that exist in society or a population.

What’s the Difference Between a PhD vs. Doctor of Public Administration?

PhD vs. Doctor of Public Administration

While PhD and Doctor of Public Administration programs may cover similar subject matter, there are key differences between the two study options.

  • PhD in Public Administration: Generally, a Doctor of Philosophy is heavily based on research, including the development of research to add to the existing knowledge base in a particular field of study.
  • Doctor of Public Administration: Professional doctorate degrees are based on the application of knowledge. That involves taking the research and information devised by PhD graduates and putting it into action in a real-world scenario.

In some cases, DPA students may have the opportunity to write a PhD-equivalent dissertation.

What’s the Difference Between Public Administration vs. Political Science?

Public Administration vs. Political Science

Public administration and political science both deal with aspects of public policy and governance, but they do have key differences.

  • Public administration: This area deals with the implementation of public policy and law and may be responsible for coordinating and managing government operations.
  • Political science: This field is focused on the study of politics, governance, political institutions, and thoughts and behaviors surrounding politics.

The field of political science is an important contributor to the development of public policy by providing insight into public opinion. Political science may study or evaluate the effectiveness of public administration and the implementation of policy.

Is a DPA Worth It?

Doctor of Public Administration jobs

Yes, a Doctor of Public Administration (DPA) is worth it for many professionals. DPA graduates are generally prepared to take on roles in various levels of government as well as positions in non-profit organizations and teaching institutions.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job growth for several positions in the field of public administration over the next ten years.

This includes roles such as top executive (4% job growth), human resources manager (6%), administrative services and facilities managers (6%), political scientist (6%), postsecondary teacher (9%), and social and community service managers (17%).

Universities Offering Online Doctor of Public Administration Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

California Baptist University

California Baptist University

California Baptist University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

Capella University

Capella University

Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Liberty University

Liberty University

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Northcentral University

Northcentral University

Northcentral University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Old Dominion University

Old Dominion University

Old Dominion University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Tennessee State University

Tennessee State University

Tennessee State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Union Institute and University

Union Institute and University

Union Institute & University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Valdosta State University

Valdosta State University campus

Valdosta State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Walden University

Walden University

Walden is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

West Chester University

West Chester University

West Chester University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Getting Your Doctor of Public Administration Online

Doctor of Public Administration Online

A Doctor of Public Administration online degree program may be the right fit for you if you have a keen interest in how government institutions operate.

A DPA program can also help you gain the expertise and qualifications to play a role in the management and leadership of various organizations and businesses. You may have the chance to pursue a variety of trajectories throughout your career in different professional settings, such as government, nonprofit, or private business.

If you’re wanting to develop your expertise in this rewarding field, you can start your doctoral journey by exploring online DPA programs from accredited universities.

Brenda Pyzik
WRITTEN BY
Brenda Pyzik
Brenda earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Waterloo, with a minor in legal studies. She obtained a graduate certificate in human resource management from Georgian College. Brenda’s focus is on employment, entrepreneurship, business, and training and development.