Professional Doctorate

The Professional Doctorate

The Doctor of Public Administration (DPA) program is specifically designed to meet the educational needs of experienced practitioners in administrative and governmental positions at the state and local levels and in the nonprofit community. Bridging the worlds of scholarship and practice, the DPA equips students with the advanced analytical skills and knowledge of public management and public policy necessary to lead impactful organizations and solve complex problems.

The DPA Program requires students to complete core and elective course work, a qualifying exam, and a dissertation. As a part-time program, the length of time to complete the DPA Program may vary based on the amount of time available for academic study. The program has, however, developed a series of benchmarks in support of a 4-year time-to-degree from which students can work with their advisors to develop a personalized timeline.


A doctoral program faculty advisor will be assigned at the time a student is admitted to the DPA program. The advisor will assist the student in creating a formal plan of study. To ensure the best match, students may choose to switch advisors as their research interests develop or evolve.

Degree Requirements

Each student must complete at least 40 hours of course work, plus a minimum of 12 hours of dissertation credit. Students may submit a Student Petition form for up to 12 hours of transfer credit for post-master’s graduate work deemed appropriate for the DPA.

Core Courses
PAD 651 Leading Social Sector Change and Innovation 4
PAD 652 Public Management Seminar: Connecting Practice and Theory 4
PAD 653 Public Policy Seminar 4
PAD 654 Research Design 4
PAD 655 Qualitative Research Methods 4
PAD 656 Quantitative Research Methods 4
Students must complete 16 hours of elective course work at the 500-level or above approved by the doctoral program faculty. No more than four hours of internship credit may count toward elective credits. 16
PAD 690 Dissertation 12
Total Hours 52

Since the program admits students in cohorts, the core courses are offered once per cohort and will not repeat until the entire cycle has been completed.


After the student completes PAD 651, 652, 653, 655, and 656, he or she will be required to complete a qualifying exam to demonstrate competence in the required core fields. The exam contains both oral and written components and each student’s exam will be conducted and evaluated by a committee of faculty members, which includes core teaching faculty. Students who have not passed the qualifying exam after two attempts will not be allowed to progress toward their degree and future enrollment will not be allowed. 

Closure Exercise:  Dissertation Work

A Doctor of Public Administration degree will be awarded to students who have satisfactorily completed all degree requirements including the dissertation closure requirements, as prescribed by the DPA program committee.

For more information on the doctoral closure guidelines, please refer to the Doctoral Closure Guidelines in the Academic Information for Doctoral Students section of this catalog.

Reasonable Progress Standard

Students must maintain reasonable progress toward the completion of the doctoral degree. The DPA program defines reasonable progress as follows:

  • Completing all core course work within five semesters (fall and spring) once a student begins the program,
  • Completing the dissertation proposal within two semesters of passing the qualifying exams and completing all course work, and
  • Enrolling in and receiving credit for a minimum of one dissertation credit (PAD 690) each fall and spring semester until the dissertation is completed, defended, and accepted for at least 12 hours.

Leave of Absence

In the event that a student is unable to maintain reasonable progress toward the completion of the doctoral degree, the student may request a leave of absence from the program by completing a Student Petition Form requesting such a leave and submitting it to the student’s advisor and the director of the DPA program for approval. A leave of absence may be granted for up to one semester.  At the end of the leave of absence, the student may apply for an additional leave. If a leave of absence is not approved, there is no guarantee that the student will be able to progress because of the cohort nature of the program.