Many schools of public administration/public policy offer the Ph.D. These degrees are structured very similarly to other Ph.D. programs in the social sciences.
Compared with a professional Master’s degree (MPA/MPP), the students in a Ph.D. program generally will experience much closer contact with the faculty, smaller class sizes, and much more analytical material. Many of the students intend to seek academic careers upon graduation, but there are considerable job opportunities in government, consulting firms, advocacy organizations and think tanks for Ph.D. program graduates. There are certain career tracks outside of higher education that expect the persons in those positions to have earned the Ph.D.
Admissions for Ph.D. programs generally are much more competitive than for an MPA/MPP. Some Ph.D. programs receive 10 or more applications for every student they plan to admit. The most important qualification for admission is a record of academic excellence especially in subjects that relate directly to the research focus of the Ph.D. program.
Persons who are very analytically oriented and are interested in conducting in-depth research on issues may find a Ph.D. program to be better suited to their career goals than other alternatives.
The number of stand-alone Bachelor’s degrees in public administration/public policy has been increasing over the past two decades, as has the number of minors in the field available to undergraduates. There is tremendous interest at the undergraduate level in these degrees and on some U.S. campuses they rank among the largest in terms of enrollment.
One of the major advantages in an undergraduate program is the opportunity to take a sequence of courses related to a specific issue such as health care or the environment. Professional Master’s degrees (MPA/MPP) inevitably focus much more on developing crucial analytical and managerial skills, and Ph.D. programs must place an emphasis on research methods and theory.
Graduates of Bachelor’s programs find employment in all sectors at the entry level, and can gain vital experience that will serve them well when and if they decide to apply for additional education.