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Doctor of Philosophy in Public Administration

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Ph.D. Degree Requirements

The Ph.D. program requires a minimum of 66 credit hours of courses, including up to 30 hours earned completing the M.P.A. degree or its equivalent, plus a minimum of 9 hours for the dissertation, for a total of 75 credit hours. (An applicant with a KU M.P.A. may apply 30 hours toward the 75-hour course work requirement.)

All students who enter the Ph.D. program must already have completed the core curriculum (eight courses) for the KU M.P.A. degree or the equivalent at another university, or they must take the appropriate courses after entering the program.

The requirements for the Ph.D. are based on formal course work and independent study in several fields:

  • Foundations of public administration
  • Specialization field within public administration
  • Cognate field
  • Methods sequence

Foundations of Public Administration

4 of the 5 courses listed below are required of all doctoral students.

Substitutions require the approval of the coordinator of doctoral studies.

Public Administration Specialization

In consultation with the coordinator of doctoral studies, each student must develop a public administration specialization of at least 3 courses. Common specializations include budgeting, public finance, human resources management, public policy analysis and evaluation, public values and ethics, organizations and organization theory, public law and administration, and urban policy/politics and community building. Each has a basic course that is regularly taught in the present graduate curriculum at the 800 level, and it is presumed that at least an additional course would come from independent study. A third course could come from the school or could be taken outside. Potential cooperating units include the Departments of Political Science, Communication Studies, and Economics and the Schools of Education and Business. Additional subfield specializations are available in consultation with faculty.

Cognate Fields

The degree requires a cognate field in addition to the public administration specialization. The cognate field is a subfield in economics, political science, education administration, etc., or a policy specialization (environmental policy, transportation policy, etc.) The cognate field’s sequence of 3 courses requires the approval of the coordinator of doctoral studies and does not require a comprehensive examination.


The doctorate emphasizes the development of research skills. It requires PUAD 934 Research Methods in Public Administration, with the prerequisite PUAD 836 or its equivalent, and PUAD 935 Advanced Quantitative Methods for Public Administration. Students also are encouraged to take PUAD 937 Qualitative Methods in Public Administration. Substitutions require the approval of the coordinator of doctoral studies. The methods requirement satisfies Option 1 of the Foreign Language or Other Research Skills Requirement.

Note: Contact your department or program for more information about research skills and responsible scholarship, and the current requirements for doctoral students. Current policies on Doctoral Research Skills and Responsible Scholarship are listed in the KU Policy Library.

To become a Ph.D. candidate, the student must complete a comprehensive oral examination. No student may attempt the comprehensive oral until he or she has satisfied requirements for the cognate field and passed the preliminary written examination in both the foundations and specialization fields. The doctoral coordinator certifies that the student has met these requirements.

After passing the comprehensive oral examination, the doctoral candidate must write a dissertation approved by a dissertation committee and pass a final oral defense of the dissertation to qualify for the degree. If the aspirant receives a grade of unsatisfactory, the examination may be repeated, but under no circumstances may the student take it more than twice.

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