The Doctor of Public Administration
(D.P.A.) is a terminal applied-research doctoral degree in the field of public administration (government), which focuses upon practice. The D.P.A. requires significant coursework beyond the masters level, and a dissertation. Upon successful completion, the title of "Doctor" is awarded and the post-nominals of D.P.A. can be used.
Ph.D. vs D.P.A.
Like a Ph.D., a D.P.A. is normally a terminal research degree. The U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) recognizes the D.P.A. as an equivalent to the more common Ph.D. and does not discriminate between them. The research focus of the typical D.P.A. addresses applied issues, with the results providing professional outcomes that are of direct relevance to practice. However, research is both theoretical and practical. The D.P.A. dissertation is usually at the same level as a Ph.D. in terms of effort, rigour, contribution to knowledge, supervision and assessment. A Ph.D. in the meantime is more concerned with developing theory and is more appropriate for people who wish to become professional researchers, or who wish to pursue a career in academia.
A study published by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration titled What's in a Name? Comparing DPA and Ph.D. Programs "finds few differences between the programs, noting that degree title is more informative about the type of students recruited than outputs" (Journal of Public Affairs Education, v5 n4 p309-17 Oct 1999).
Structure of Programs
Most D.P.A. programs require between 80-100 credit hours of combined graduate coursework; a portion of the credits typically come from a required doctoral dissertation that contributes to knowledge. The D.P.A. is preceded by a masters degree, typically the Master of Public Administration
or the Master of Public Policy
. D.P.A. programs are most common in the United States
and most are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration
. The D.P.A. degree may have a specialization such as management science, organizational behavior, implementation, non-profit management, public finance, national security, defense, education, environmental policy, international trade and immigration, policy making, policy evaluation, criminal justice, civil rights, health and welfare, federalism, strategic management, public health, administrative law, social welfare, tax policy, government-business relations, economic policy, public management, etc. Curricula may be offered on a full-time or part-time basis. The normal duration of a doctorate should correspond to 3-4 years of full time graduate study or 7-8 years of part time graduate study.
The Doctor of Public Administration program is designed to provide senior-level public managers, or quasi-public managers, with the substantive skills, knowledge and values necessary in this era. Students in most programs develop a thorough knowledge of the legal, ethical and political environments of public administrators. Students understand the administrative functions of governmental agencies and gain expertise in strategic planning, advanced management techniques, program implementation and results-based leadership.
D.P.A. holders typically practice in senior level positions in federal, state, or local government; practice in non-profit organizations or private sector organizations with some nexus to government; or some D.P.A. holders enter academia.
Schools Offering D.P.A. Degrees