Online Ph.D. in public administration programs are the most convenient for senior-level government managers who elect to further their policymaking endeavors. According to the NASPAA, the 78 schools conferring public administration doctorates suit officials wishing to undertake substantive research in academia and politics. Reaching the highest echelon makes doctoral grads competitive for a federal sector with 1.7 million managerial jobs across 100+ agencies. The Economist reported that only 18 politicians, or 3 percent, of the 112th Congress studied beyond the master's, so your advanced education will stand out.

Pursuing a Ph.D. public administration online places professionals among elite doctoral-trained world leaders like Joe Biden, Angela Merkel, Xi Jinping, Hassan Rouhani, and Woodrow Wilson. Becoming a government policy expert on a civil servant's modest salary can be affordable and flexible at online colleges.


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To find the cheapest public administration Ph.D. online programs, we searched the College Navigator database created by the National Center for Education Statistics. Our staff also used Google to locate additional Internet-based doctoral degrees related to public administration and public policy. Getting your money's worth is important to Grad School Hub, so we only considered high-quality, regionally accredited colleges recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. Our initial pool included seven current and one up-and-coming online public administration doctorates. We then recorded the average in-state graduate tuition for each doctoral university on the NCES. Below we've ordered the most inexpensive online public administration PhD programs from high to low. All programs highlighted here cost under $15,000 annually.

Ranking Low-Cost Online Public Administration Ph.D. Programs

5. Capella University

Online Doctor of Public Administration Degree

Minneapolis, MN


Average Graduate Tuition: $14,526 per year

Affiliated with politicians like U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth and Arkansas Assemblyman Brandt Smith, Capella University is a behemoth for-profit, virtual learning institution presenting 142 programs of study to 35,889 students from its Twin Cities headquarters. Capella was designated an NSA Center of Academic Excellence and given the 2015 Eduventures Innovation Award. College Factual ranked Capella 59th for America's best-paid public administration graduates too. Reporting 84 percent alumni satisfaction, the School of Public Service Leadership streamlined the Online Doctor of Public Administration degree in 2014 to train post-grads for applying community advocacy research on the flexible GuidedPath. Each 10-week quarter, students prepare for the dissertation via case studies, policy analysis, and specialized electives like human resources management. Capella also awards online PhD in Criminal Justice and Ph.D. in Emergency Management programs for public-sector administration.

4. Walden University

PhD in Public Policy and Administration Online

Minneapolis, MN


Average Graduate Tuition: $12,844 per year

Devoted to a "Mission of Change," Walden University is a for-profit, distance learning giant owned by Laureate Education Inc. in Minneapolis-St. Paul that has 45+ years of experience teaching over 86,000 alumni as an NSA National Center of Excellence. Washington Monthly distinguished Walden as America's 19th best four-year college for students over age 25. Walden received 4.2/5 stars on and placed 22nd for public affairs on Super Scholar. In the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the PhD in Public Policy and Administration online starts quarterly to produce influential leaders who research sustainable governance solutions for citizen improvement. Taking a scholar-practitioner approach, the 88-credit curriculum directed by Dr. Shana Garrett offers 13 specializations, such as Homeland Security, Health Policy, Local Government, and Terrorism Mediation. Each track requires four residencies in Minneapolis. There's also a practice-oriented, online Doctor of Public Administration available at Walden.

3. West Chester University of Pennsylvania

Online Doctor of Public Administration (DPA)

West Chester, PA


Average Graduate Tuition: $11,592 per year

Enrolling 16,086 Rams from 23 countries, West Chester University of Pennsylvania is the largest public, civic-oriented PASSHE member that's settled atop a 409-acre Philadelphia Metro campus with 685 full-time faculty teaching face-to-face and online. According to the U.S. News & World Report, WCUPA is the 64th best Northern college and 53rd most military-friendly school. West Chester was also crowned the 21st best public value nationally in Consumer Digest. Fully NASPAA-accredited, the College of Business & Public Management confers the Online Doctor of Public Administration (DPA) via Desire2Learn to foster the highest level of governmental decision-making authority. Coordinated by Dr. Jeremy Phillips, the 43-credit, post-master's curriculum has rolling admission and waives GRE scores for graduate GPAs above 3.85. Courses culminate with a capstone project in students' declared concentrations of Public Policy, Social Work, Geography and Urban Planning, or Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement.

2. California Baptist University

Doctor of Public Administration Online

Riverside, CA


Average Graduate Tuition: $11,430 per year

Known for its International Service Projects (ISP) on six continents, California Baptist University is a private, WASC-accredited Christian liberal arts nonprofit that's endowed for $41 million and encouraging 9,157 Lancers to "Live One's Purpose" on its 160-acre PacWest campus in Riverside and online. The U.S. News & World Report crowned CBU as the West's 31st top college with the 73rd best online management degrees in America. College Factual even ranked Cal Baptist for the 46th most popular public administration programs. The Division of Online and Professional Studies provides the Doctor of Public Administration to maximize senior-level managers' legislative powers resolving federal, state, and local problems. Led by Dr. Elaine Ahumada in the James Building, the 50-credit, 36-month doctorate accelerates through online classes from legitimate bureaucracy to qualitative reasoning after a four-day orientation in Riverside. Credentialed faculty guide master's graduates with minimum 2.75 GPAs and 3+ years of experience through the dissertation process.

1. Valdosta State University

Online Doctor of Public Administration Degree

Valdosta, GA


Average Graduate Tuition: $4,374 per year

Established as South Georgia State Normal School by Colonel W.S. West in 1906, Valdosta State University is a public, research-based doctoral institution affiliated with Moody Air Force Base that's teaching 11,436 Blazers from its 168-acre Lowndes County campus and online via Blackboard Collaborate. Boasting our list's lowest price at $4,374, VSU is ranked the Southeast's 194th best bang for your buck in Washington Monthly. Valdosta State was also placed in the top 300 universities by The U.S. News & World Report. The College of Arts and Sciences grants the Online Doctor of Public Administration degree to develop managerial skills for the government and nonprofit sectors. Mandating minimum GRE composite scores of 295, the 54-credit, post-MPA program is directed by Dr. Gerald Merwin with just one weekend residency in Valdosta each semester. Online courses immerse working practitioners in topics like data management and fiscal analysis before an applied capstone project, not dissertation research.

Other Online Public Administration Ph.D. Offerings

Texas Southern University

Online Doctoral Degree in Public Administration (Launching soon!)

Graduate Tuition: $5,118 per year

Northcentral University

DBA Specialized in Public Administration Online

Graduate Tuition: $16,821 per year

Union Institute & University

Online Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies: Public Policy & Social Change Major

Graduate Tuition: $18,636 per year

What Types of Public Administration Doctorate Online Programs are Available?

All doctorates are strenuous, multi-year academic journeys taken to reach the pinnacle of achievement for one field's most exclusive jobs, but different kinds exist. Government officials focused on the practical applications of legislative theory and political science would be suited for Doctor of Public Administration degrees. The DPA covers leadership practices utilized in the public sector with internships and capstone action projects frequently replacing rigorous research. Doctor of Philosophy programs are the broadest and most popular with the National Science Foundation reporting 54,040 conferred in 2014. Online PhD in public administration degrees emphasize the theoretical and analytical skills needed to conduct inquiry-based research, especially the dissertation, in academic settings. Public administration doctorates online could also customize study in different disciplines, such as international affairs, economics, administrative law, municipal management, and public relations.

Related: Top 30 Most Affordable Online Master's in Public Administration Degree Programs

Which Career Pathways Open With an Online Public Administration Ph.D.?

Investing time and money in Ph.D. public administration online degrees means becoming qualified for virtually any upper-level career related to governance. Some could even add credentials after the "Dr." in their names. For instance, the National Certified Public Manager Consortium grants the Certified Public Manager (CPM) title for individuals who've finished 300+ hours of structured training. Since 1997, the Certified Public Finance Officer (CPFO) distinction has been bestowed by the Government Finance Officers Association after passing a 175-question exam. If administrators have 5+ years of communications experience, pursuing the four-step Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) and from the Public Relations Society of America would make sense too. Though not exhaustive, here are some sample jobs for public administration online Ph.D. holders:

County Administrator- Unlike governors and mayors, county administrators are appointed top executives who head the elected governing board to manage regional policies, including for America's biggest counties of San Bernardino, Maricopa, Clark, and Riverside. They're busy supervising personnel like clerks, managing budgets, complying with state laws, seeking economic development, reviewing legislative proposals, coordinating commissioner agendas, setting purchasing practices, maintaining infrastructure, and representing the board at hearings.

Public Administration Faculty- Top public affairs schools, including Syracuse University, American University, Arizona State University, and the University of South California, need tenured, PhD-level professors to carry out academic and research activities. Faculty is responsible for shaping curricula, selecting textbooks, teaching U.S. government courses, evaluating student learning, keeping office hours for mentoring, assigning final grades, supervising field trips to cities like Washington DC, performing professional development, and finding pedagogical advances.

Executive Officer- The federal government is filled with agencies, such as the Congressional Budget Office, Federal Trade Commission, Office of Veterans Affairs, Census Bureau, and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, that need executive directors, sometimes appointed by the President into the Cabinet. Their CEO-like duties include effecting organizational goals, authorizing policies, facilitating program innovations, modifying budget funding, auditing for compliance, attending legislative committee meetings, hiring staff, and developing governmental relationships.

Foreign Service Officer- Going global after online Ph.D. public administration programs is possible if graduates pass the Foreign Service Officer Test and travel to assignments at 265 embassies around the world from Portugal to Peru and Pakistan. FSOs represent the United States abroad with free overseas housing to create diplomacy channels, facilitate trade interests, report on political strife, advocate for human rights, negotiate peace treaties, protect tourist citizens, fill consulate vacancies, and network with world leaders.

Government Affairs Director- One of the few private-sector jobs for public administration doctorate online graduates would be government affairs director. Current job listings show that corporations like Chobani, Comcast, and Cigna are hiring directors to set strategies complying with federal regulation, identify operational law issues, collaborate with elected officials, lobby for beneficial legislation, influence policy outcomes, promote corporate market positions, give congressional testimony, create PR policy messages, and build legislative coalitions.

How Much Do Public Administration Ph.D. Online Graduates Earn?

Cheap online public administration PhD programs are ideal for tight budget keepers to reap good ROI in their civil service calling. For the public policy and law category, the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce report average doctoral pay of $84,000. PayScale estimates that Doctor of Public Administration graduates make a median wage of $127,000 as executive directors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that political scientists snag average income of $114,290 each year. Urban planners bring home top pay of $105,320. Public management analysts consult their way to $91,910 annually. Postsecondary teachers in public administration departments generate mean profits of $96,770. According to, public administration online Ph.D. grads can excel in careers like government affairs director, regulatory relations manager, and quality control executive for median wages of $144,305, $118,438, and $186,016. City managers and governors fall into the CEO umbrella for an average salary of $103,950.

What is Current Hiring Like After Ph.D. Public Administration Online Programs?

Government hiring outlooks have been doom and gloom over the last decade. According to a CNS News report, federal employment has declined by 11,000 and state government jobs slid by 2,000 in 2017 alone. College tenureships are the best bet for public administration PhD online grads since the Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting a 15 percent rise in higher education for 1.51 million faculty jobs. In comparison, the expected growth through 2026 is 2 percent for political scientists, 6 percent for government economists, 10 percent for administrative services managers, 8 percent for emergency management directors, and 9 percent for lawyers. Another burgeoning U.S. demand is for public management consultants, where 96,500 new hires are expected over the next 10 years. Choosing affordable online Ph.D. in public administration degrees could give post-grads the edge needed for the appointed leadership job of their dreams.

GSH Staff

January 2018

This concludes our ranking of the five most affordable online PhD in public administration programs for 2018.