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General Information


Program requirements

Required courses

Qualified students are admitted for the fall semester each year. Students should meet with the SPAA Doctoral Director after being accepted into the program and before the end of their first term of coursework to develop an initial Program of Study. Forty-eight semester credit hours are required beyond the master‘s degree, including:

This may be reduced to 45 semester hours if the statistics requirement is deemed to have been met at the time of admission to the program. Successful performance on the comprehensive examination and an article requirement is required of all students in order to continue in the program. Finally, successful annual reviews are required of students at all stages in the program and an overall grade point average of 3.0 is required for graduation. The following is an outline of the general requirements in the program.

Statistics requirements (3 credit hours)

Each student must take PADM 6070, Quantitative Data Analysis, or an equivalent statistics course. Students should be aware that many of the methods courses will require this so they are encouraged to meet this requirement early in the program. Depending on the specific sequence chosen to fulfill the methods requirement (see below), students may also benefit by taking a graduate-level introductory statistics course (that is equivalent to PADM 6070) from an appropriate department at Western. If an equivalent of this course has been taken within the five years prior to program admission, this requirement may be waived and the credit hours required for the doctoral degree may be reduced by three (3) credit hours.

Core requirements (15 credit hours)

The following five courses are required core components of the Ph.D. in public administration curriculum:

Comprehensive examinations

After completing the "public administration core," students will be eligible to take the written comprehensive examination. This exam will be offered once per year and will be prepared and graded by a group of the faculty who teach the public administration core courses. Outside readers may be used to assess the comprehensive exams as well. Results will be "honors," "satisfactory," or "unsatisfactory." Students with a score of unsatisfactory have one opportunity to retake the comprehensive examination.

Methods requirement (9 credit hours)

Each student is required to successfully complete a three-course (nine credit hours) methodology sequence in a specific discipline, in addition to the general statistics requirement. This sequence must include components in research design, qualitative methods, and quantitative methods. This sequence will be different for different students and must be developed and approved by the Doctoral Director in the student‘s Program of Study. The goal is to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to conduct independent research. The following list provides examples of course-sequences that are appropriate for students. It must be noted, however, that the specific courses included in students Programs of Study will depend on her or his previous exposure to research and quantitative and qualitative methodology as well as on their academic and research interests.

Doctoral seminar (3 credit hours)

Each student must take PADM 6970, Dissertation Seminar, which will focus specifically on developing a dissertation proposal and adapting her or his developing methodological expertise to the field of public administration.

Dissertation (minimum 12 credit hours)

Completing the dissertation is the final leg in the program allowing students to experience the process of an independent academic research project, including an application of the substantive and methodological expertise gained in the program.

Electives (6 credit hours)

Electives may come from within the public administration curriculum or may be linked to the disciplinary field that matches a student‘s methodological core and/or proposed dissertation topic. These must be in the student‘s approved Program of Study before the student takes the electives.

Other requirements

Article submission

Each student shall produce a "substantive" research paper and submit it to a recognized peer-reviewed journal before being designated "all but dissertation" (i.e., ABD). A traditionally ranked, tenured faculty member of the SPAA will need to determine that this article submission is of high quality and meets departmental standards. "Substantive" is intended to focus on empirical research papers excluding theoretical treatise or commentaries, book reviews, and other general expository pieces. This requirement must be met within four years of being accepted into the program in order to achieve satisfactory annual reviews. The purpose of this requirement is to allow each student to put his or her developing research and methodological tools to this real-world application. Students are therefore expected to demonstrate the application of specific research design approaches and methodological skills that were acquired while completing the "Methods Requirement."

Students wishing to present for consideration should submit their papers submitted to a peer-reviewed journal to the Doctoral Director. This submission should also include a description of the specific theoretical and application focus of the paper together with a discussion of how the methodological approaches and tools and techniques applied in its research are drawn from the relevant courses taken to meet the "Methods Requirement." Based on the theoretical content and methodological approaches of the paper, the Doctoral Director will request an appropriate SPAA faculty for further review and communicate results with the student.

Annual student reviews

Each student must submit the Doctoral Student Annual Activity Report (DSAAR) each year and will receive an official annual review letter from the Doctoral Director. In order to continue in the program, each student must receive a positive annual review. This may be "positive with conditions" in which case the student will have one academic year to meet the conditions. A 3.0 grade point average is required to graduate and is therefore also an ongoing condition for positive annual reviews.


Each student is required to enroll each Fall and Spring semester until completion of the degree, and must also be enrolled in the term in which he or she will graduate. After all coursework is completed, students are required to maintain continuous enrollment in PADM 7300, Doctoral Dissertation, until graduation. During each of the first six semesters of PADM 7300, students must enroll for at least two credit hours.


Am I required to submit GRE scores?
Yes. Applicants are required to submit the verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing components of the examination. Please use School code 1902 and department code 4801 when identifying schools to submit scores to.

What are the PhD admission standards?
In order to be competitive, applicants must:

  1. Have an undergraduate degree with at least a 3.00 grade point average.
  2. Have a master's degree in public administration or a related academic discipline with at least a 3.25 grade point average in all graduate coursework.
  3. Have at least four (4) years of experience in a supervisory or administrative position, preferably in public serving organizations.
  4. Provide three (3) letters of recommendation using the WMU graduate reference form, at least one of which should be from a person acquainted with the applicant's professional work and at least one of which should be from a person acquainted with the applicant's graduate-level academic work.

Additional details about the admission process is available on the admissions page.

What application materials am I required to submit?
Applicants for admission to the Ph.D. program must submit the Application for Graduate Admission, official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate institutions that the applicant attended, the Departmental Application Form, resume, responses to the four essay questions, three (3) letters of recommendation, and GRE scores for the verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing components of the examination. For more information concerning the application process and materials, consult the admissions page.

What are the deadlines for submitting application materials?
The Ph.D. application deadlines are April 30 for fall admission. Late applications may be considered on a space-available basis while earlier applications may be required to meet university financial aid deadlines. For additional information, consult the admissions page.

University Policies

Is there a time limit for completing the Ph.D. degree?
Yes. University policy stipulates that all Ph.D. requirements must be completed within seven years of enrolling in the first course. (Note the seven year clock starts when the first class is taken - not when a student is admitted to the program). If program requirements are not completed within this time frame, a student must

The form for requesting an extension can be obtained from the Graduate College or on the web here. Approval of an extension request is not guaranteed so students are strongly encouraged to schedule their courses and manage their dissertation process so that all program requirements can be completed within seven years.

What is the policy concerning religious holidays and class attendance?
The University recognizes religious holidays of many faiths. If, due to the observance of a religious holiday, a student is unable to attend class, he or she should discuss the matter with the instructor in advance of the holiday.

Under what conditions are incompletes granted?
Incompletes are typically permitted only in unusual circumstances. The decision of whether to approve an incomplete rests with the professor and is determined by his or her course syllabus and policies. Students who may need to request an incomplete should discuss the matter with their professor as early as possible. They should not wait until the last week of the semester or term.

Is there a deadline for fulfilling the requirements of an incomplete?
Yes. University policy stipulates that all work must be completed within one year. If the remaining tasks for the course are not completed within this time period, the incomplete is automatically translated into an "X". This grade has the same impact on the GPA as an "E".

University Administration

How do I change my address with the University?
Students can submit address changes to the University via GoWMU. Students are also encouraged to submit address and e-mail changes directly to the School of Public Affairs and Administration to ensure the program has current contact information.

How do I register for classes?
Registration for classes takes place via GoWMU. More information on the registration process and how to use GoWMU to register for classes can be found on the Registrar's Office website.


What are the deadlines for applying for graduation?
The deadlines for application for graduation are Aug. 1 for fall graduation, Dec. 22 for spring graduation, and Feb. 1 for summer graduation.

What is the process for applying for graduation?
Students may secure an Application for Graduation Audit at any Western Michigan University campus (Battle Creek, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Muskegon, and Southwest) or online. The completed application and fee must be sent to the Office of the Registrar. Students should also ensure that the Doctoral Director knows that their permanent program needs to be completed and submitted to the graduation auditor.

For information relating to graduation procedures or commencement, please consult the the Registrar's webpage.