Best 10 Online Doctoral Programs in Public Administration in 2021

May 4, 2021 | Staff Writers

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Public Administration is a popular field that is growing exponentially. Earning an advanced Doctorate in this field will allow you to expand your research to impact people’s lives and their community positively. This degree focuses on public administration, including financial planning, local policy, organization management, and urban planning. Many programs will allow students to customize their Ph.D. program to suit their interests and career goals.  

What is an Online Doctoral Program in Public Administration?

An online doctoral program in Public Administration allows you to earn your Ph.D. from the comfort of your own home. Many of the online programs are broken into small, 8-week segments enabling you to fully and completely focus on one course at a time. Online degree programs make it easy and flexible to schedule classes when working around an already busy work schedule. These courses and programs are designed for career professionals seeking an additional advanced degree to augment their current careers. Public Administration is excellent for people who work in the public, non-profit, or government sectors and are interested in optimizing policy, organization, and administration to better the community.  

What Are the Benefits?

Having an advanced degree in Public Administration can quickly put you on the fast track to becoming a manager or executive. This position requires a great deal of analysis and critical thinking, so a person with a very logical and analytical mindset usually excels. Public administration managers often create and develop policies that impact people’s lives for the better. Working in any sector will allow you to address people’s concerns with urban planning, community health services, administration organization, and the community’s financial allocation.

What is the Outlook and Salary?

This exciting career is growing exponentially, with some experts anticipating an 18% career growth projection in the coming years. Earning your Ph.D. in Public Administration can open the door to several positions, including the chief executive, community manager, fundraising manager, or city manager. The average salary for a person with this degree is between $75,000 and $100,000 per year.  

Choosing the right school to earn your online Doctoral degree in Public Administration is a big choice that will broadly impact the course your future will take. To help make your decision easier, we have put together a list of the best online doctoral programs in Public Administration so that you can find the right plan for your needs and interests.  

The Best 10 Online Doctoral Programs in Public Administration

1. Saybrook University – Oakland, California (19 Points)

The program offered at Saybrook University is a comprehensive program designed to give students the necessary tools to find innovative solutions to manage a company’s organization. The program is intended for business professionals who already have their Master’s Degree. This program is featured entirely online, making it easy for working professionals to earn their degree still and manage a busy schedule.

The doctoral program allows students to focus on theoretical practices as well as experimental research and hands-on application. The program also allows students to cater their studies to one of several focus areas in the program, including Human Education, Leadership of Sustainable Systems, Educational Leadership, and Collaborative Strategic Management Specialization. This program will set students up to work in corporations, education, non-profit sectors, or management consulting firms.  

  • Tuition: $891 per credit
  • Application Requirements: Application, Application Fee, Master’s Degree and Official Transcripts, Resume, Minimum 3.0 GPA, Proven Ability to Work in Remote Learning Environments

2. North Central University – San Diego, California (15 Points)

If you are looking for a flexible doctoral program in Public Administration, North Central University has a fluid and flexible option for you. The program is offered entirely online, allowing you to work through your courses as you find the time. This program is intended for students who have already earned their Master’s Degree in a field related to Public Administration.

The coursework for this degree balances between theoretical studies and experimental practice. The program is designed to help students understand how organizations must be organized to provide fluency, clarity, and efficiency. This program highlights the many sectors that utilize public administration leaders, including government and non-profit ventures. Students who graduate with a Ph.D. in Public Administration become logistics managers, chief executives, transportation managers, or regulatory affairs managers.  

  • Tuition: $1,045 per credit
  • Application Requirements: Application, Application Fee, Minimum GRE Test Scores, Official Transcripts, Letters of Recommendation, Master’s Degree

2. Texas Southern University – Houston, Texas (15 Points)

Texas Southern University offers a detailed doctoral program in Public Administration for students who want to lead and optimize both for-profit and non-profit organizations. This degree focuses primarily on Urban Planning and Environmental Policy as it applies to Public Affairs. This field is a high-demand and emerging field that is quickly gaining traction. Students will focus primarily on research methods and regional analysis to implement new and helpful policies to maximize available space and efficiency.

This online program is easy for students to enroll in and allows students to customize their courses to fit within a busy working schedule. This program further teaches creative thinking and critical analysis to prepare students to make a significant impact in various sectors immediately upon graduation.  

  • Tuition: $909 per credit
  • Application Requirements: Application, Application Fee, Master’s Degree, Official Transcripts, Official GRE Test Scores, Minimum 2.75 GPA

2. Valdosta State University – Valdosta, Georgia (15 Points)

The Doctorate program at Valdosta State University allows students to pursue a terminated degree in Public Administration. Students must already possess a Master’s degree from an accredited university. This program focuses on the research and experimental methods used to develop and analyze a sound public administration system to benefit both for-profit and non-profit organizations. The knowledge acquired in this program can easily be used to enter several careers, including a town manager, public policy analyst, city manager, or budget director.

The Public Administration program is offered entirely online, making it a fantastic choice for students with a busy schedule. Course material and information are available to students 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This feature means that students will have the opportunity to research, study, and present their findings at their own convenient pace.  

  • Tuition: $734 per credit
  • Application Requirements: Application, Application Fee, Minimum GRE Test Scores, Minimum GPA, Master’s Degree, Resume, Statement of Purpose, Three Letters of Recommendation

5. Union Institute and University – Cincinnati, Ohio (13 Points)

In as little as three years, you can earn a Ph.D. from Union Institute and University in Public Administration. This degree takes 66 credits to complete and offers a combination of theoretical and practical hands-on experience, making it a well-rounded and informative degree. Students will be able to make knowledgeable decisions related to public policy and planning to help impact people’s lives for the better. The program will focus on ethics, communications, planning, and policy to impact the larger community.  

Students will have the opportunity to choose from four different concentrations to allow them to follow an educational path that most closely aligns with their goals and interests. These paths include Educational Studies, Humanities and Culture, Ethical and Creative Leadership, and Public Policy and Social Change. 

  • Tuition: $1,154 per credit
  • Application Requirements: Application, Application Fee, Master’s Degree, Official Transcripts

6. West Chester University of Pennsylvania – West Chester County, Pennsylvania (11 Points)

West Chester University of Pennsylvania offers students the chance to earn their Ph.D. in Public Administration to pursue a rewarding and exciting career. This program is offered 100% online, making it an excellent option for people who have a hectic work schedule. Professors teach the degree with years of experience and active participation in public management and policy decision-making. The program focuses on the financial aspects of public affairs and explores the detailed thought process and analysis needed to make helpful, beneficial, and educated policies that impact the community.

This program offers the chance for students to complete a dissertation in a personalized process. This degree allows students to focus their research and studies on a field of interest and work one-on-one with their peers and professors to accurately and fully execute their research and experimentation. Many students who graduate with a Ph.D. from this program work in the local, state, or federal government.  

  • Tuition: $925 per credit
  • Application Requirements: Application, Application Fee, Official Transcripts, Master’s Degree, Minimum GPA, Personal Goal Statement, Resume, Two Letters of Recommendation 

7. California Baptist University – Riverside, California (9 Points)

The Public Administration program at California Baptist University consists of 56 credits and allows students to create a dissertation surrounding their research and findings. This program can be completed in three years and is entirely online. Courses are divided into easy-to-manage 8-week classes that keep the information and content concise and manageable. The online aspect of this program gives students flexible options for working professionals balancing a hectic schedule.  

Students can apply their doctoral education to both for-profit and non-profit organizations and expand their knowledge into the government sector. Students will examine public policy, urban planning, criminal justice, and health management. This program has a cohort model approach allowing students to work together and collaborate as they move through their studies and dissertation.

  • Tuition: $1,453 per credit
  • Application Requirements: Application, Application Fee, Master’s Degree, Official Transcripts, Minimum GPA, Three Letters of Recommendation, Writing Sample

8. Old Dominion University – Norfolk, Virginia (7 Points)

With a total of 49 required credits to earn a Ph.D. from Old Dominion University in Public Administration and Public Policy, students will have the opportunity to impact their communities in as little as three years significantly. This program gives students the necessary tools to become successful in both the public and non-profit sectors. Students who enroll in this particular program will also have the opportunity to concentrate on multi-sector administration. 

Many students who complete this intensive and competitive degree will go on to have great career outlooks. Many students go on to be community service managers, purchasing managers, chief executives, or even fundraising managers, all from the knowledge earned through this program. 

  • Tuition: $1,285 per credit
  • Application Requirements: Application, Application Fee, Master’s Degree, Official Transcripts, GRE Scores, Minimum GPA, Two Letters of Recommendation, Written Statement, Resume

9. University of Colorado – Denver, Colorado (3 Points)

The Public Administration program offered at the University of Colorado helps students earn the knowledge and experience needed to have a successful public administration career. This degree focuses on the research skills and analytical skills required to make accurate, informed, and beneficial decisions that impact the community. The program looks at public policy and public management as it relates to the people of the community. 

This degree takes between four and six years for students to complete. Entering students must already have a Master’s Degree in Public Administration or a closely related field. This program is perfect for students interested in working in the government, public, or non-profit sectors. Both a dissertation proposal and dissertation are required to complete the degree.

  • Tuition: $1,596 per credit
  • Application Requirements: Application, Application Fee, Master’s Degree, Official Transcripts, Minimum 3.5 GPA, GRE Scores, Resume, Three Letters of Recommendation, Statement of Purpose

9. University of Maryland – College Park, Maryland (3 Points)

The Public Administration Ph.D. program from the University of Maryland is intensive and complete, allowing students to earn the necessary skills to enter this exciting field. The program is heavily weighted to focus on analysis so that students can interpret their research effectively to make the best public policy decisions. The analysis is broken into the normal analysis, qualitative analysis, and quantitative analysis.

Students can usually complete this Ph.D. program in about two years. To complete the degree, students must present a proposed dissertation and defend their dissertation in front of their peers and faculty members.  

  • Tuition: $1,537 per credit
  • Application Requirements: Application, Application Fee, Master’s Degree, Official Transcripts, Minimum GPA, Letters of Recommendation, Resume, Statement of Purpose


To help us rank the best online doctoral programs in Public Administration, we have used a point system. Schools are awarded points in two categories and are rated based on the number of points they earn. The first metric that was used for our point system was the cost of tuition based on a per-credit basis. If schools listed yearly tuition, the price was divided in half, assuming two semesters, and then further divided by 12, assuming 12 credits in one semester. In all cases, the out-of-state tuition cost was used. Schools with the lowest price per credit were given the most amount of points and a higher ranking.

The second metric that was used to score the best online doctoral programs in Public Administration was the overall class enrollment size. Schools with a smaller enrollment size were given more points. It was assumed that schools with fewer students provide a better teacher to student ratio, increasing the one-on-one attention students will receive. The fewer students enrolled in a school, the more points they are awarded. The total points earned from the tuition metric and the enrollment metric are added together, giving one cumulative score. The most amount of points will receive our highest ranking in our list of the best online doctoral programs in Public Administration.  

If your school has been featured on our list, we would love to hear from you. We understand that programs and requirements are continually changing, and we want our students to have up-to-date information. If the information we have listed is not correct, just let us know. We are happy to update our data so that our students get the best information when choosing the right school and program for their interests.  

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