5 Fast PhD in Public Administration Degrees Online 2023

If you’re interested in determining policy or government administration at the city, state, or even federal level, an online Ph.D. in public administration might be a perfect fit for you. This ranking presents five online Ph.D. programs in public administration that can be earned quickly. Most of the programs ranked here can be completed in three years or less, which is a year faster than most Ph.D. programs. Some of the schools even offer a dual master’s/Ph.D. in public administration, allowing you cut down your total time in graduate school even further. A Ph.D. in public administration is a versatile degree, qualifying you for jobs as city manager, college professor, county executive, finance officer, city administrator, public policy research analyst, and more. The degrees in our ranking all focus on both the academic research side of public administration and the practical, hands on business of running governments. We rank programs by affordability.

Reviewing Top Doctor of Public Administration Online Programs

#1. Valdosta State University

Online Doctor of Public Administration


Valdosta State’s fast online doctorate in public administration offers online students incredibly affordable tuition based on the school’s in-state rates. The full program ends up costing less than one year in many programs. Graduates from this program have found employment as assistant city managers, city managers, college professor, county executive, finance officer, human resources director, city administrator, public policy analyst, public policy director, and research analyst. If students take nine credits per semester, the degree will take approximately 36 months to complete.

  • Tuition: $15,822

#2. West Chester University

Doctor of Public Administration Online

West Chester-Public Administration Ph.D.s


Students in the online doctor of public administration degree program at West Chester can choose between concentrations in public policy and administration, criminal justice, geography and planning, and graduate social work. The program includes courses like advanced practice and applied theories of public policy and administration, advanced public sector economic and financial decision making, quantitative methods of program and policy evaluation, and strategic public management and governance.

  • Tuition: $28,710

#3. California Baptist University

Doctor of Public Administration Online

CBU-Online Ph.D. Public Administration


The fast online doctor of public administration degree from California Baptist University can be completed in as few as 36 months. The 50-unit program is offers its courses in an eight-week online format. Residency participation is required at key intervals throughout the program, but the majority of the program can be completed online. The three-year completion time includes the time dedicated to completing your dissertation. Available courses include performance management and evaluation, collaboration and networked governance, ethics and social justice, and leadership in the public sector.

  • Tuition: $44,850

#4. Capella University

Doctor of Public Administration Online

Capella-Online Ph.D. Public Administration


Capella University’s fast online doctor of public administration degree features 16 core courses, 2 residencies, and one capstone. The program can be completed in 36 months or less. You pay for what you take rather than a bulk tuition for each 10-week quarter. Capella uses the quarter-credit system. The full program is 74 quarter-credits, which translates to roughly 51 semester credits in terms of workload.

  • Tuition: $51,578

#5. Northcentral University

Online Ph.D. in Business Administration-Public Administration

Northcentral University- Online Ph.D. in Public Administration


Students in the online public administration Ph.D. program at Northcentral will participate in research related to government and public agency budgeting, government relations, public personnel policy management, and political systems and urban planning. The curriculum consists of 60 credit hours and can be completed in 45 months. This degree is currently offered online through the public administration concentration within the Ph.D. in business administration degree.

  • Tuition: $52,494

What can I do with a fast online Ph.D. in Public Administration?

There are three general areas in which public administration Ph.D.s find work: academic settings where they teach and conduct research at universities, research positions in think tanks, and actual public administrative positions at the local, state, or federal level. Those in the academic side contribute to research and instruct future public administrators. It’s common for these people to have several years or even decades of practical experience in public administration. Those in research at think tanks take a primary role in researching and developing new public policy. Those in administrative positions around the country are the ones responsible for implementing the policies, keeping track of the outcomes, and making adjustments based on what works and what doesn’t work for their area.

What is the career outlook for Public Administration Ph.D. holders?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job growth rate for computer and information research scientists is 19%. With 27,900 jobs in the current market, that’s a projected growth of 5,400 jobs between 2016 and 2026. The median pay for computer and information research scientists is $114,520 per year.

How do I Finance My Online Public Administration Ph.D?

There are three main ways to finance an online public administration Ph.D. First, federal grants and loans. There tends to be a bit less aid available from FAFSA for Ph.D. level programs, but it can be a great supplement to other sources. Another option is to teach at the university where you wish to earn your degree. It’s often free for faculty to earn degrees from the institution where they teach if they are full-time. The third common option is to ask your employer about professional development benefits. Many employers are willing to invest in the growth of their employees and will compensate you in part or in full for degrees you earn to increase your value to the company. Of course the fourth option is to pay for the program out of pocket (of course you only want to do this after you receive financial aid from FAFSA and if there are no other sources of funding available to you).

Is online learning right for me?

Online learning is quite convenient for those who want/need to work full-time. Online course delivery is developing at a rapid pace, and even though Ph.D. programs are offered rarely in comparison to other programs currently, they do exist and are becoming more common. However, despite the convenience of an online public administration Ph.D, you should still ask yourself some questions before deciding to move forward.

Are you the kind of person who can learn by watching videos? Would you be comfortable taking tests online? Can you handle not having any face-to-face interaction with your professors and fellow students? Are you highly self-motivated and disciplined? While online education is a powerful option, it’s not ideal for all students. Online learning at the Ph.D. level can be a double edged sword. Most Ph.D. programs, online or not, are self-driven, which actually makes them pretty suitable to the online format. On the other hand, many Ph.D. programs provide the benefit of close collaboration with your Ph.D. advisor. So it’s a good idea to ask the college about the kind of relationship you can expect to have with your advisor in an online program. If you’re unsure you are suited to online learning, there are a lot of free online college courses available through services like Coursera at both undergraduate and graduate level. It might not be a bad idea to try out one of these free courses to test the waters and see if the online format feels like a good fit instead of going in blind.

Bureau of Labor Statistics

National Center for Education Statistics: Tuition and graduate rates.


Related resources:

CVO Staff

This concludes our ranking of fast PhD public administration online degree programs.