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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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Kerwin Hall, Room 306

SPA: Graduate Admissions 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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PhD in Public Administration

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.

For detailed program curriculum information, review the Program Handbook.

Publishing Cutting-Edge Research

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.

From the first day of orientation to the final dissertation defense, each student works one-on-one with a faculty mentor to develop and apply the skills needed for a career in academia. We encourage students to produce 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.

See our list of recent PhD Student publications and conference presentations.
Review faculty profiles and explore mentorship opportunities.
Read about recent research conducted by SPA faculty.

Research Seminars

In addition to formal coursework, students take four semesters of Colloquium (PUAD-089), that consists of research seminars by external scholars, departmental faculty, and PhD students on a variety of topics in public administration and public policy. These weekly seminars expose students to innovative research and provide an opportunity to internact with nationally recognized scholars.

Review the current Departmental Research Seminars schedule.

Meet Our Doctoral Students

With expertise spanning public management, global health governance, regulatory policy and more, our PhD candidates bring the knowledge and action necessary to make great impact in the fields of public administration and public policy. Each of them are dedicated to pushing the boundaries of scholarship to new heights, educating the next generation of public affairs leaders, and researching the significant issues of the day.

Review our current doctoral students' profiles, and learn more about our doctoral students on the market.

Placements and Achievements

We have had remarkable success in placing graduating students into the top programs in public administration and public policy. In the course of their programs, students receive professional mentoring focusing on job search, application, conference participation, interviews and job talks.

Review the placements of our recent graduates.

Frequently Asked Questions

Review answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the SPA PhD Program in Public Administration and Policy.

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

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). In addition, students take four semesters of colloquium credit (PUAD-089), a required zero-credit course.

As work on the dissertation project progresses, students register for 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.

See more information about course requirements.

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 8 is the deadline for application to the program. 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.

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. Students entering with a bachelor's degree alone are granted a fellowship with full funding for five years of study. Fellowship is contingent on maintaining satisfactory progress each year. Unless applicants expect to be funded through a reliable external source, they must request consideration for funding on their application.

The fellowship with full funding includes tuition benefits as well as an annual stipend. Please, contact the SPA Graduate Admissions Office with questions about the annual stipend during a particular year of admission. As a requirement for the fellowship, students work 20 hours a week with a faculty member.

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.

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