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Doctor of Public Administration (DPA)

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100% Online DPA

Complete your studies on your own time.

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New Start Date Every Monday

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41 Months to your DPA

Finish your DPA in just 18 courses.

National and Northcentral have merged, and this program is now offered by NU. Learn more.

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Doctor of Public Administration

Prepare for executive-level leadership roles with the fully-online Doctor of Public Administration (DPA) degree program at National University. No GRE/GMAT required. This advanced degree provides a deep understanding of public administration values and practices, including administrative law, public management theory, and the principles of organization and management.

The DPA concentrates on the most essential and timely administration topics, such as budgeting, information technology, personnel management, policy analysis, critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, and qualitative analysis. It’s all offered within NU’s unique one-to-one learning model, giving you the attention, personal guidance, and ongoing support necessary to get the most from this comprehensive curriculum.

Elevate Your Public Administration Expertise

Our DPA degree program will help you build the skills and experience needed to pursue executive leadership roles, find practical solutions using evidence-based research, and contribute to the body of knowledge within the public administration field.

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Course Details

  • Credit Hours: 54
  • Courses: 18
  • Estimated Time to Complete: 41 months

The Doctor of Public Administration (DPA) program can be completed in 54 credits. Each foundational course runs 8 weeks, and dissertation courses run 12 weeks. 

Course Sequence

This program can be completed with a minimum of 54 credit hours, but may require additional credit hours, depending on the time required to complete the dissertation research. If needed, additional courses will be added to the student degree program in alignment with the SAP and Academic Maximum Time to Completion policies. Students who do not complete their program in accordance with these policies may be dismissed.

Course Name

In this course, you will explain issues and challenges in managing resources in public organizations while analyzing concepts and theories that are relevant to the practice of public organizations, including government agencies and non-profit or non-governmental organizations. You will also explore the values that guide the practice of public administration. Finally, you will assess the challenges of ethical conduct and behavior as a public administrator working in a dynamic and changing environment.

The framers deliberately structured a constitutional republic to constrain the potential abuse of power through federalism and checks and balances. The growth of agencies and administrative law stress these notions of the limited role of government. In this course, students develop practical knowledge about administrative agencies and laws that govern their behavior, examine administrative law in the context of accountability to prevent governmental abuse of power, and apply critical thinking in a variety of case studies.

The management of public sector organizations introduces unique challenges to leaders. In this course, you will learn to categorize management concepts and theories as they relate to public organizations and assess the applications of theory that contribute to efficiency improvements in public organizations. You will learn to develop management models designed to address public sector issues. Finally, you will formulate positions on public policy that represent rational and independent thinking in order to contribute to the success of public agencies and nonprofit organizations.

Prerequisites: Fundamental requirement in General Management

In this course you will explore budget formulation, implementation, and execution within the context of public organizations and nonprofit or non-governmental entities. By the end of this course, you will be able to explain the craft of public budgeting, assess the tools used in the budgeting process, and depict the budget process for various levels of government. Finally, you will learn to evaluate capital public budgeting and asset management within the context of the public sector.

The management of public sector organizations presents unique challenges to public administrators due to the nature of work done in the public good. In this course, you will learn to navigate the unique attributes of public organizations and the people who work within them. You will critique the principles and techniques of management and organizational behavior, assess the challenges of supervising public employees, and learn the levels of organizational planning in public organizations.

In this course you will gain executive, high-level skill in differentiating leadership from management in government and other public organizations. You will explore the theories and strategies related to leadership in the public sector and develop methods for creating a vision for public sector organizations that contributes to mission-fulfillment.

Success in the public sector requires deliberation and planning in order to support leadership roles and stewards of the public trust. In this course, you will learn and apply those skills that will help you devise plans that strengthen operations in public sector organizations. You will also learn to apply strategic management techniques and skills to public organization operations that are guided by applied and theoretical knowledge. Finally, you will incorporate strategic planning as an integral component of performance development for government and other public organizations.

People who choose to work for the public good are often motivated by different incentives than employees in private organizations. There are specific challenges you will learn to navigate throughout this course including the assessment of external environmental changes related to politics and policy that influence public personnel administration. Additionally, you will learn to evaluate the legal and policy framework associated with public personnel management and to critique the practices and trends unique to public sector personnel administration. Finally, you will learn the various management strategies that enhance human capital in the public sector.

The practice of public administration operates as part of the administration-policy dichotomy. In this course, you will develop the skills needed to explain models of public policy analysis and assess how different participants and stakeholders in the policy process impact decision-making. You will also explore and learn to evaluate how court decisions shape public policy. Finally, you will examine how the media influences public policy decisions that inform the work of public administrators.

In this course, you will engage in the process of scholarly literature reviews and academic writing. With an emphasis on how to (a) conduct effective literature searches, specifically in preparation for the dissertation, (b) develop a plan for writing comprehensive, critical, and synthesized reviews of research literature, and (c) critically review and write about underlying theory/conceptual frameworks, you will develop a foundation for future research. The overarching goal of this course is for you to conduct an exhaustive search of the peer-reviewed research literature in your topic area and identify potential areas of inquiry for your dissertation.

In this course, you will cultivate a statistical mindset through learning and nurturing skills needed to perform and interpret univariate inferential statistics. The course will facilitate building your statistical confidence in assessing and performing statistics. The course will cover univariate parametric and non-parametric statistical tests, interpretation of statistical output, and introduce skills needed to select statistical tests based on quantitative research questions.

During this course, as a scholar-practitioner, you will build the skills essential for designing quantitative studies; analyzing the data collected in these studies, and interpreting the results of data analyses. You will explore designs and statistical techniques to use with their envisioned dissertation research.

During this course, you will examine qualitative methods for studying human behavior including grounded theory, narrative analysis, ethnography, mixed methods, and case studies. You will explore designs and methodologies to use with your envisioned research.

The Pre-Candidacy Prospectus is intended to ensure students have mastered knowledge of their discipline prior to candidacy status and demonstrated the ability to design empirical research as an investigator before moving on to the dissertation research coursework. Students will demonstrate the ability to synthesize empirical, peer-reviewed research to support all assignments in this course. The Pre-Candidacy Prospectus is completed only after all foundation, specialization, and research courses have been completed.

Students in this course will be required to complete Chapter 1 of their dissertation proposal including a review of literature with substantiating evidence of the problem, the research purpose and questions, the intended methodological design and approach, and the significance of the study. A completed, committee approved (against the minimum rubric standards) Chapter 1 is required to pass this course successfully. Students who do not receive approval of Chapter 1 to minimum standards will be able to take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to finalize and gain approval of Chapter 1.

Students in this course will be required to work on completing Chapters 1-3 of their dissertation proposal and receive committee approval for the Dissertation Proposal (DP) in order to pass the class. Chapter 2 consists of the literature review. Chapter 3 covers the research methodology method and design and to includes population, sample, measurement instruments, data collection and analysis, limitations, and ethical considerations. In this course, a completed, committee-approved Chapters 2 and 3 are required and, by the end of the course, a final approved dissertation proposal (against the minimum rubric standards). Students who do not receive approval of the dissertation proposal will be able to take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to finalize and gain approval of these requirements.

Students in this course will be required to prepare, submit, and obtain approval of their IRB application, collect data, and submit a final study closure form to the IRB. Students still in data collection at the end of the 12-week course will be able to take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to complete data collection and file an IRB study closure form.

In this dissertation course students work on completing Chapters 4 and 5 and the final Dissertation Manuscript. Specifically, students will complete their data analysis, prepare their study results, and present their findings in an Oral Defense and a completed manuscript. A completed, Committee approved (against the minimum rubric standards) Dissertation Manuscript and successful Oral Defense are required to complete the course and graduate. Students who do not receive approval for either or both their Dissertation Manuscript or defense can take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to finalize and gain approval of either or both items as needed.

Degree Requirements

The University may accept a maximum of 12 semester credit hours in transfer toward the doctoral degree for graduate coursework completed at an accredited college or university with a grade of “B” or better.

The DPA degree programs have the following graduation requirements:

  • A minimum of 48 credit hours of graduate instruction must be completed through NU
  • Grade Point Average of 3.0 (letter grade of “B”) or higher
  • Satisfactory completion of the DPA Pre-Candidacy Prospectus
  • University Approval of Dissertation Manuscript and Oral Defense completed
  • Submission of the approved final dissertation manuscript to the University Registrar, including the original unbound dissertation manuscript and an electronic copy
  • Official documents on file for basis of admission: a conferred master’s degree from an accredited academic institution
  • Official transcripts on file for all transfer credit hours accepted by the University
  • All financial obligations must be met before the student will be issued their diploma and/or degree posted transcript. 

The DPA provides a deep understanding of public administration values and practices, including administrative law, public management, budgeting, information technology, personnel management, policy analysis, critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, and qualitative analysis. With these skills, the range of occupations you’ll be qualified to pursue include:

  • City Manager
  • Executive Director
  • Program Manager, Specialist, or Coordinator 
  • Director or Manager of Human Resources
  • Quality and Compliance Manager
  • Management Analyst
  • Budget Analyst
  • Accountant
  • Auditor

According to Emsi labor market analytics and economic data1, public administration jobs span a variety of governmental, educational, medical, and private industry settings, including: 

  • Local, State, and Federal Government
  • Public Sector Contractors
  • Management Consultants
  • Colleges and Universities
  • Health Care Providers and Insurers

SOURCE: Emsi Labor Analyst- Report. Emsi research company homepage at (Report viewed: 2/24/2022).

DISCLAIMER: The data provided is for Informational purposes only. Emsi data and analysis utilizes government sources to provide insights on industries, demographics, employers, in-demand skills, and more to align academic programs with labor market opportunities. Cited projections may not reflect local or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth. Current and prospective students should use this data with other available economic data to inform their educational decisions.


Faculty assists each NU Doctoral student to reach this high goal through a systematic process leading to a high-quality completed dissertation. This process requires care in choosing a topic, documenting its importance, planning the methodology, and conducting the research. These activities lead smoothly into the writing and oral presentation of the dissertation.

A doctoral candidate must be continuously enrolled throughout the series of dissertation courses. Dissertation courses are automatically scheduled and accepted without a break in scheduling to ensure that students remain in continuous enrollment throughout the dissertation course sequence. If additional time is required to complete any of the dissertation courses, students must re-enroll and pay the tuition for that course. Continuous enrollment will only be permitted when students demonstrate progress toward completing dissertation requirements. The Dissertation Committee determines progress.

Program Learning Outcomes

As a graduate of National University’s Doctor of Public Administration (DPA) program, you’ll be able to:

  • Evaluate current problems and ethical issues in public organizations
  • Formulate domestic and global solutions to public service and policy issues
  • Create practical strategies for public organizations from evidence-based research
  • Contribute to the applied literature within the field of public administration


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Program Disclosure

Successful completion and attainment of National University degrees do not lead to automatic or immediate licensure, employment, or certification in any state/country. The University cannot guarantee that any professional organization or business will accept a graduate’s application to sit for any certification, licensure, or related exam for the purpose of professional certification.

Program availability varies by state. Many disciplines, professions, and jobs require disclosure of an individual’s criminal history, and a variety of states require background checks to apply to, or be eligible for, certain certificates, registrations, and licenses. Existence of a criminal history may also subject an individual to denial of an initial application for a certificate, registration, or license and/or result in the revocation or suspension of an existing certificate, registration, or license. Requirements can vary by state, occupation, and/or licensing authority.

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National University degrees do not guarantee employment or salary of any kind. Prospective students are strongly encouraged to review desired job positions to review degrees, education, and/or training required to apply for desired positions. Prospective students should monitor these positions as requirements, salary, and other relevant factors can change over time.