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Program of study

Program design

The Ph.D. program integrates core knowledge in public administration and public policy with specialized knowledge and research methods in a unique curriculum that sets a national standard for doctoral programs. Faculty in the program work directly with students on active research projects that link course knowledge, faculty direction and student initiative in ways that produce nationally recognized contributions to the field. This integration of coursework, research, and mentorship takes place in a challenging and collegial environment, where future scholars gain the expertise, intuition, and networks necessary for career success.

Degree Requirements 

84 credit hours, a written comprehensive exam, an oral comprehensive exam, a prospectus and a dissertation

Required Core Courses (24 credit hours)

In the first and second years of study, doctoral students take eight core courses as a cohort. These required seminar-based courses focus on the foundations of the field of public administration, theories of public policy, research design, and quantitative and qualitative methods. The required courses include:

PAF 601 Advanced Public Policy Seminar (3). This advanced seminar course in public policy has a single objective: to develop a critical thinking of theoretical perspectives developed to analyze several dimensions of public policy. This class will focus on theories and perspectives across specific policy areas since our objective is to get used to analytical lenses not a specific policy area. This objective will be achieved by reading required books each week. This class requires the ability to analyze critically a body of literature as a prerequisite for advancing that literature. The general format of this course includes reviews of class material and discussion. Prior to each class, students are expected to read the required books listed in the syllabus. Students are responsible for contents included in the readings, even if it is not explicitly reviewed in class.

PAF 602 Advanced Research Design for Public Policy and Management (3). Logic, design, and conduct of applied social research. Traditional scientific explanatory research is a necessary prerequisite for any prescriptive research. The primary orientation of this course is to focus on development of social science explanations for public administrative phenomena and the development of research designs which permit testing of hypotheses derived from these explanations.

PAF 603 Advanced Economics for Public Administration and Public Policy (3)Topics include theory of utility and demand, theory of the producer, organization, and operation of product and factor markets, market equilibrium, regulation, risk and uncertainty, general equilibrium and welfare policy, market failure, public goods and taxation, and game theory.

PAF 604 Intellectual Foundations of Public Administration (3)Explores significant developments and themes in the theory of public administration, especially American public administration. Historical development of public administration as a body of thought and as a theory of politics; the enduring theme of public administration and democracy; various possible unifying themes, theories, and criteria; and prospects for future theory and research. Aimed at encouraging advanced students to refine their abilities to identify, analyze, interpret, critique, evaluate, and contribute to the literature and intellectual developments of this field of scholarship, as well as to place current and emerging trends in broader context. Builds on more basic courses in public administration and is intended in part to assist students in preparation for doctoral preliminary examinations in public administration. Assumes that students have a solid understanding of American government and bureaucracy.

PAF 605 Organization Theory and Behavior Seminar (3). This course is designed as an advanced survey of organization theory (OT) and organization behavior (OB) literatures for doctoral students. The seminar pursues multiple goals. It examines the intellectual foundations and historical progression of OT/OB research and explores the craft of conducting social science research related to OT/OB. The course will specifically analyze how current literature in public management and administration applies organization theory for research. The seminar is designed to develop a research-based understanding of main schools of organization theory so that students gain skills to enable them to engage OT/OB theories in their own research.

PAF 609 Advanced Quantitative Methods Seminar (3). This course will provide an opportunity to learn the tools necessary for carrying out empirical work through hands-on data work and analysis. Students will learn how to specify and estimate linear regression models and test hypotheses about model parameters under different statistical assumptions. Students will become proficient in programming statistical routines.

PAF 610 Advanced Qualitative Methods (3). Explores a number of qualitative research approaches and methods, including ethnography, ethnomethodology, participant observation, interviews, focus groups, content analysis, discourse analysis, and some comparative/historical methods. Also explore the important theoretical and ethical issues that bear on these approaches.

PAF 620 PA Professional Development Workshop (3). Prepares doctoral students to become productive and effective public administration scholars, teachers, and researchers. Pre-requisites: Doctoral PAF student

Electives (12 credit hours)

During the first two years of study, PhD students also enroll in elective courses that either support their subfield of study or provide additional training in qualitative or quantitative research methods. 

Research (6 credit hours)

PAF 792 Research (6). Independent study in which a student, under the supervision of a faculty member, conducts research that is expected to lead to a specific project such as a dissertation, report, or publication. Assignments might include data collection, experimental work, data analysis, or preparation of a manuscript.

Dissertation (12 credit hours)

PAF 799 Dissertation (12). After completion of the comprehensive exams, students move on to the dissertation stage of the program. This typically occurs during the third year of study. Students must first obtain approval of their dissertation proposal by their dissertation committee. Then, as doctoral candidates, they aim to conduct the research, write, and orally defend their dissertation before the end of the fourth year. Candidates are usually seeking employment during their fourth year of study.

Subfield Specialization

In addition to the core, Ph.D. students specialize in a subfield of study that is of primary intellectual interest and is matched by faculty expertise and interest.  Specializations include:

  • Public Policy subfields - education policy; energy and environmental policy; science and technology policy; social policy
  • Public Administration subfields – civil society and engagement; governance; public finance and financial management; public management
  • Integrative subfields - policy informatics; political and social theory; urban affairs.

Urbanism Concentration

The Ph.D. in Public Administration and Policy also offers an optional urbanism concentration. The concentration provides a mechanism for integrating perspectives on urbanism into the study of public administration.

Comprehensive Exams

Upon completion of core course work students complete a written core comprehensive exam and a written specialization exam with an oral defense.

Additional Curriculum Information

When approved by the student's supervisory committee and the Graduate College, this program allows 30 credit hours from a previously awarded master's degree to be used for this degree.