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  Dec 12, 2017
 
 
    
American University Catalog 2017-2018

Public Administration (PhD)


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Offered by the Department of Public Administration and Policy , School of Public Affairs , the mission of the PhD program is to educate scholars who produce original research that is methodologically sound, socially relevant, and makes important contributions to knowledge and theory.

Admission to the Program


Applicants are considered and admitted for the fall semester only. January 1 is the deadline for application for admission. All applicants must submit scores from the verbal and quantitative sections of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). The normal minimum for consideration is a grade point average of 3.20 (on a 4.00 scale) in all previous academic work. Applicants are admitted for full-time study only.

Degree Requirements


  • 36-54 credit hours of approved graduate coursework, exclusive of  / 
    • Students entering with an approved master's degree must complete 36 credit hours of approved coursework, exclusive of  /  
    • Students entering with a bachelor's degree only must complete 54 credit hours of approved coursework, exclusive of  /  
    • A minimum grade point average of 3.2 in all coursework is required to remain in good standing and to earn the degree
  • Major Field: Public Administration
  • Advancement to candidacy is accomplished by successfully completing a written qualifying examination on the major field at the end of the second semester of study
  • Students take two written comprehensive examinations, the first in public administration. The second field may be a concentration in the Department of Public Administration and Policy  including policy analysis, public management, public finance, public administration and law, organizational theory, policy processes and institutions, or others with faculty approval. In addition, the second field may be a field elsewhere in the School of Public Affairs  including American politics, comparative politics, justice, or law and society, or any other field offered in another doctoral degree-granting teaching unit. Under special circumstances, students may take a field outside American University, subject to the approval of the SPA director of doctoral programs
  • The PhD is fundamentally a research degree. Understanding scientific inquiry and correctly using research techniques require extensive preparation. All students in the program take four courses designed to help doctoral students comprehend the nature of science and master tools of research (see Course Requirements, below)
  • Each student selects a research specialization in which he or she will complete an original project under the direction of program faculty and write a dissertation. Students may choose research projects within one of the major areas or they may select a research specialization from one of the other graduate fields within the school
    • Each student prepares a research proposal for the dissertation project. It is the responsibility of the student to secure the agreement of a School of Public Affairs full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty member to serve as the chair of the dissertation committee. One of the two other members of the committee may be from outside the School of Public Affairs. Each student must publicly defend the research proposal before the dissertation committee and other interested faculty
    • The committee and the SPA director of doctoral programs (acting for the dean) must approve the defense and the research proposal. The topic covered by the proposal must be related to ongoing research or publications of the supervising faculty
    • As work on the dissertation project progresses, students register for directed study. Substantive coursework may be used as part of this requirement where it contributes directly to the research specialization and is specifically recommended by the dissertation chair
    • Upon completion of the research and the written dissertation, the candidate submits his or her manuscript to the dissertation committee for review. If the committee members approve the manuscript, the candidate must complete an oral defense of the dissertation and the general field in which it lies before the committee and other interested faculty. The committee determines conclusively at this point whether the dissertation and examination are acceptable
    • The dissertation must consist of high quality original research directly relevant to the student's doctoral program. A dissertation proposal may be rejected if the topic does not address a major research issue in political science or public administration, the research design is inadequate, the methodology is inappropriate, or because no full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty member in the School of Public Affairs is academically competent or available to supervise the project. If the candidate fails to maintain satisfactory progress toward completion of the dissertation, his or her candidacy may be terminated

Course Requirements


Major Field (12 credit hours)


Second Field (6-12 credit hours)


  • 6-12 credit hours in additional advanced courses in public administration selected in consultation with the department

Research Design and Methodology (12 credit hours)


Research Methods Courses


Complete 6 additional credit hours in research methods courses from the following:

  • GOVT-615 Research Design (3)
  • 3 credit hours of Conduct of Inquiry III
  • 3 credit hours of Conduct of Inquiry IV
  • Other approved methodology courses

Electives (0-24 credit hours)


  • 0-24 credit hours chosen in consultation with the department, depending on number of credits taken for the second field and the total number of credit hours required on the student's approved Program of Study

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