Top 9 Online PhD in Public Policy Degree Programs

online phd in public policy

Online doctorates in public policy are versatile degrees that prepare students to lead organizations. Akin to business degrees, these programs teach principles of management and leadership. Public policy administration differs from business administration, though, as it considers the public interest rather than the interests of a private corporation. Graduates of public policy doctoral programs are prepared to take on leadership roles in nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and educational institutions. In this ranking, we explore nine public policy doctorates that can be completed fully or partially online.


There are a limited number of online doctoral programs in public policy available. For this ranking, our editors identified nine public policy doctorates offered online by accredited colleges and universities. We then applied our site-wide methodology for graduate programs to develop the following ranking.

#9—National University

Riverside, California

Online DPA


Featured Programs

Points: 5

Tuition: $15,912

National University’s online Doctor of Public Policy and Administration is an accelerated program designed to be completed within 41 months. The comprehensive curriculum for the program emphasizes executive leadership and consists of courses such as:

  • Strategic Management in the Public Sector
  • Public Management Theory
  • Public Personnel Administration
  • Public Budgeting and Finance

A dissertation is also required at the culmination of the program. National University is accredited to award the public policy doctorate by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.


  • Accelerated format
  • One-on-one mentoring
  • More diverse


  • Less affordable
  • Selective admissions

#8—Liberty University

Lynchburg, Virginia

PhD in Public Administration


Points: 6

Tuition: $7,740

The online PhD in public administration from Liberty University’s Helms School of Government is a faith-based program that can be completed entirely online. The 48-credit hour program emphasizes public policy research and features course titles such as:

  • Organizational Leadership and Behavior in Public Administration
  • Advanced Public Administration Finance and Budgeting
  • Intergovernmental Relations & Public Administration
  • Information Management in Public Sector Organizations

Enrolled students will also take a series of research courses leading up to the required dissertation. Liberty University is accredited to award doctoral degrees in public policy and administration by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.


  • High acceptance rate
  • Fully online


  • Less diverse

#7—California Baptist University

Riverside, California

Online Doctor Of Public Administration


Points: 7

Tuition: $14,184

The accelerated doctoral program in public policy from California Baptist University is an accelerated DPA program that can be completed within just 36 months. This asynchronous program features an embedded dissertation, meaning students can start working on their research as soon as they’re enrolled. Course titles associated with the curriculum for the program include:

  • Public Policy, Advocacy, and Economics
  • Ethics and Social Justice
  • Strategic Planning and Management
  • Leadership in the Public Sector

Scholarships may be available to eligible students. California Baptist University is institutionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.


  • Maximum flexibility
  • Accelerated format
  • Available scholarships


  • Larger class sizes

#6—University of Baltimore

Baltimore, Maryland

Doctor of Public Administration


Points: 8

Tuition: $14,472

The versatile online doctorate in public administration from the University of Baltimore features five concentration options:

  • Program Evaluation
  • Administration of Justice
  • Global Affairs and Human Security
  • Health-Care Systems Administration
  • Program Administration

Courses can be taken online or via a hybrid modality. Students will take core classes such as:

  • Foundations of Public Administration
  • Public Sector Financial Analysis
  • Seminar in Public Policy Making and Implementation
  • Doctoral Seminar in Organizational Theory

Fellowships and assistantships are available to eligible students. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education has accredited the University of Baltimore to award this doctoral degree online.


  • Top-ranked public school
  • Small class sizes
  • Tuition assistance


  • Low graduation rate

#5—Tennessee State University

Nashville, Tennessee

PhD in Public Policy & Administration


Points: 8

Tuition: $9,844

Tennessee State University offers a rigorous online doctorate in public policy delivered via a blend of synchronous and asynchronous modalities. Core courses required for the degree include:

  • Research Methodology in Public Administration
  • Public Policy Administration
  • Theory and Practice of Public Administration
  • Public Organization Theory

Enrolled students may also choose from elective classes in public administration, including:

  • Public Budgeting
  • Special Topics in Public Administration
  • Research Methods

A dissertation is also required at the culmination of the program. Tennessee State University is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.


  • Top HBCU
  • Diverse student body


  • Low graduation rate

#4—West Chester University

West Chester, Pennsylvania

Online DPA


Points: 8

Tuition: $9,288

The doctorate in public policy program from West Chester University is an interdisciplinary Doctor of Public Administration (DPA) that can be completed entirely online. The synchronous curriculum consists of administrative core courses such as:

  • Strategic Public Sector Management and Governance
  • Advanced Practice and Applied Theories of Public Policy and Administration
  • Advocacy and Leadership in Public Policy and Administration
  • Advanced Public Sector Economic and Financial Decision Making

A dissertation is also required. West Chester University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.


  • High acceptance rate
  • Nationally ranked public school


  • Less flexible
  • Larger class sizes
  • Less diverse

#3—Valdosta State University

Valdosta, Georgia

Doctor of Public Administration


Points: 8

Tuition: $4,572

The online public policy doctorate from Valdosta State is technically a hybrid degree program. While the majority of coursework is offered online, students are required to attend a weekend residency each semester. The DPA requires 54 credit hours of study, including course titles such as:

  • Culture of Formal Work Organizations
  • Managing Human Resources in Public and Non-Governmental Organizations
  • Information and Data Management
  • Administration and Government

A capstone seminar and dissertation are also required prior to graduation. Valdosta State is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award the doctorate in public policy.


  • Affordability
  • High acceptance rate


  • Low graduation rate
  • Required residencies

#2—Old Dominion University

Norfolk, Virginia

PhD in Public Policy & Administration


Points: 9

Tuition: $11,016

Old Dominion University offers an online doctorate in public policy through its distinguished Strome College of Business. Coursework for the program is delivered synchronously, meaning students will benefit from live lectures and real-time interaction. The curriculum for the program emphasizes public policy among multiple sectors and encompasses courses such as:

  • Policy Theory
  • Multivariate Analysis in Public Administration
  • Introduction to Applied Statistics and Data Analysis
  • Multi-Sector Administration

Students enrolled in the PhD program may also choose from a wide selection of electives, including:

  • Urban and Regional Economic Development
  • Collaboration in Public Administration
  • Introduction to the Nonprofit Sector
  • Public Financial Management

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges has accredited ODU to award the PhD in public policy.


  • High acceptance rate
  • More diverse
  • Dedicated academic advisor


  • Less flexible
  • Low graduation rate

#1—University of Illinois–Springfield

Springfield, Illinois

Public Administration DPA


Points: 9

Tuition: $8,910

The University of Illinois–Springfield offers a cohort-based DPA program that can be completed entirely online or via a hybrid format. The 52-credit hour program emphasizes social change and includes three concentration options:

  • Policy Analysis and Program Evaluation
  • Organizational Leadership and Management
  • Data Modeling and Analytics

Core courses required for the degree include:

  • Public Policy Seminar
  • Leading Social Sector Change and Innovation
  • Public Management Seminar: Connecting Practice and Theory
  • Research Design

A qualifying examination and dissertation are also required for graduation.


  • Accelerated format
  • Top-ranked regional university
  • Small class sizes


  • Lower graduation rate

Types of PhD in Public Policy Programs

Anyone embarking on a doctoral program in public policy should know that they are not all identical. In fact, each PhD in public policy is unique in some way. It can be important to learn about the various types of public policy programs at the doctoral level before choosing a school and program.

Fully Online Versus Hybrid Doctorates in Public Policy

Many online programs at the doctoral level require visits to campus, sometimes referred to as residency requirements. These programs can be described as hybrid programs since they combine online and on-campus elements. If you’d prefer to complete your PhD in public policy entirely online, it may be best to check with the school for any on-campus requirements prior to enrollment.  

Synchronous Versus Asynchronous Online PhDs in Public Policy

Online doctoral programs offer a level of flexibility not available via on-campus programs. Still, some of these programs are more flexible than others. For example, asynchronous degree programs offer the maximum level of convenience, enabling students to work on their coursework and dissertation on their own schedule. On the other hand, synchronous degree programs are more structured, requiring specific log-on times for students to attend live lectures and class discussions.

Admissions Requirements for Online Public Policy PhD Programs

Admission requirements for online PhD programs in public policy often mimic those of on-campus programs. These requirements sometimes include:

  • Bachelor’s degree in public policy or related field
  • Professional resume
  • Standardized test scores (i.e., GRE)
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Completed application and application fee
  • Writing sample
  • Personal statement

Keep in mind that admissions requirements may vary depending on the school you are applying to. Visit the school’s website for more information.

Online Doctorates in Public Policy: Curriculum

When choosing an online doctorate in public policy, it may be crucial to evaluate the program’s curriculum beforehand. You’ll want to make sure the program is aligned with your specific career goals and academic interests. Though each program is unique, there is usually some overlap from one program to the next. Below, our editors provide some sample core courses you can expect to see with a PhD in Public Policy.

Core Courses

  • Theory and Practice of Policy Analysis
  • Applied Quantitative Technology in Policy Analysis
  • Public Budgeting
  • Public Finance and Human Capital
  • Philosophical Foundations of Policy and Administrative Research
  • Politics, Institutions, and Public Policy
  • Advanced Economic Analysis for Public Policy
  • Leadership and Organizational Change
  • Governance and Public Policy
  • Public Policy Processes
  • Perspectives on Institutions

Invariably, a doctorate in public policy will also include some sort of capstone element toward the culmination of the program, and online programs are no exception. Typically, students will need to complete a doctoral dissertation or field experience (sometimes both) before receiving their credentials.

Frequently-Asked Questions Regarding Online PhD in Public Policy Programs

It’s not uncommon to have questions before deciding to pursue an online PhD program in public policy. These programs can require a significant investment of time, effort, and money. Below, our editors have compiled some of the questions prospective students frequently ask about such programs. The information provided here is intended to help you make the best decision about a degree program, but it is not intended to replace advice from an enrollment counselor.

Q: How long does it take to earn an online doctorate in public policy?

A: It varies. Every program is unique, and the experience and academic background you bring to the program may also affect your time to completion. Generally speaking, though, it could take between three and six years to earn your doctorate in public policy online. To finish your degree as quickly as possible, it’s advisable to choose a full-time or accelerated program.

Q: How much does an online doctoral program in public policy cost?

A: Tuition expenses for these doctoral programs can vary widely. During the research required for this ranking, our editors identified online public policy doctorates ranging in cost from less than $5,000 per year to over $15,000 annually.

Career Questions for Public Policy PhDs

Q: What can I do with a doctorate in public policy?

A: A doctoral degree in public policy is a versatile degree that can lead to a variety of jobs and positions. Some of these may include:

  • Public Policy Analyst
  • Intelligence Analyst
  • Policy Researcher
  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
  • Professor
  • Government Analyst
  • Research Analyst
  • Economist
  • Higher Education Administrator

Q: How much will I earn with a PhD in Public Policy?

A: It’s impossible to predict an exact amount since your salary will depend on a variety of factors, including your employer, position, and geographic location. Still, PayScale estimates that individuals who hold this degree earn $106,000 per year on average.

Q: What is the job market like with a PhD public policy degree?

A: It’s hard to predict the job market for a doctorate in public policy since the degree can lead to so many different career paths. Still, many of the careers associated with this credential are growing faster than average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here are some examples of such careers alongside their predicted growth rate over the next decade:

  • Management Analysts: 10%
  • Postsecondary Teachers: 8%
  • Economists: 6%

Q: What professional associations can I join after finishing my public policy doctoral program?

A: Some of the professional organizations in public policy that you may be eligible to join include:

  • American Society of Public Administration
  • American Association for Budget and Policy Analysis
  • American Evaluation Association
  • The Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management


  • National Center for Education Statistics: College Navigator
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics