Doctor of Philosophy Requirements

Program requirements

Qualified students are admitted for the Ph.D. in public administration offered by the School of Public Affairs and Administration at Western Michigan University for the fall semester each year. Meet with the doctoral advisor after being accepted into the program and before the end of your first term of coursework to develop an initial program of study.

Required courses

Forty-eight semester credit hours are required beyond the master‘s degree, including:

  • Statistics requirement (three credits)
  • Public administration core (15 credits)
  • Methods requirement (nine credits)
  • Elective requirement (six credits)
  • Dissertation seminar (three credits)
  • Dissertation (a minimum of 12 credits)

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 the submission of a scholarly article is required of all students in order to continue in the program. Finally, successful annual reviews are required at all stages in the program.

General requirements

Statistics requirement (three credit hours)

  • PADM 6070: Quantitative Data Analysis

Each student must take PADM 6070: Data Analysis for Administrators, or an equivalent statistics course. Students should be aware that many of the methods courses will require this background and so they are encouraged to meet this requirement early in the program. If this has been done in the five years prior to program admission, this requirement may be waived at the student’s request and the credit hours required for the doctoral degree may be reduced by 3 credit hours.

Core requirements (15 credit hours)

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

  • PADM 6610: Intellectual History of Public Administration
  • PADM 6630: Leading the Public Organization
  • PADM 6650: Public Policy, Theory, and Research
  • PADM 6660: Contemporary Issues in Public Management
  • PADM 6840: Management of Public Financial Resources

Comprehensive examinations

After completing the public administration core, you will be eligible to take the written comprehensive examination. This exam will be offered once every 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 (nine credit hours)

Each student will be required to successfully complete three methodology courses beyond the general statistics requirement. This will include courses that have components covering research design (most likely PADM 6640), qualitative research (most likely PSCI 6900 - Qualitative Methods, EMR 6480 - Qualitative Research Methods, or SOC 6820 - Qualitative Research), and quantitative research (most likely PADM 6920). The methodology requirement will be tailored to meet the needs of individual doctoral students and must be approved by the Doctoral Director in the student’s Program of Study.

Doctoral seminar (three credit hours)

  • PADM 6970: Doctoral Seminar

You must take PAMD 6970: Dissertation Seminar, which focuses specifically on developing a dissertation proposal and adapting your developing methodological expertise to the field of public administration.

Dissertation (minimum 12 credit hours)

  • PADM 7300: Doctoral Dissertation (1 to 15 hours)

Each student must complete at least twelve credit hours of doctoral dissertation which focuses on scholarly investigation of a limited topic, issue, or problem of choice. This will be an independent research conducted by the candidate under the guidance of a faculty committee. The dissertation committee chair (first reader) plays a key role in guiding the candidate’s proposal development, research, and writing. The candidate must defend the proposal before the dissertation committee to formally begin research and defend the dissertation publicly once the research and writing is complete.

Electives (six credit hours)

Electives may come from within the public administration curriculum or may be in the disciplinary field(s) related to your methodological core and/or proposed dissertation. These must be graduate level (6000 level or higher) and must be in your approved program of study before you take the electives.

Other requirements

Article submission

You will produce a substantive scholarly article and submit it to a recognized peer-reviewed journal. A traditionally ranked, tenured faculty member of the School of Public Affairs and Administration will need to determine that this article submission is of high quality and meets departmental standards. A substantive paper is intended to focus on empirical research 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 increase your understanding of the peer-review process and their role as contributors to the development of academic knowledge. Another purpose is to allow you to put your developing research and methodology tools to this real-world test. "Substantive" is intended to exclude commentaries, book review, and general expository pieces.

A core public administration faculty member will need to determine that this article submission is of high quality and meets departmental standards. This article submission requirement will usually be met after meeting the comprehensive examination requirement and within four years of starting course work in the doctoral program. While obviously desirable for the student and the program, the article does not need to be published for this requirement to be fulfilled.

Annual student reviews

You must submit the Doctoral Student Annual Activity Report (DSAAR) each year by March 15 and will receive an official annual review letter from the faculty by May 15. In order to continue in the program, you must receive a positive annual review. This may be "positive with conditions" in which case you will have one academic year to meet the stated conditions. A 3.0 grade point average is required to graduate and is therefore also an ongoing condition for positive annual reviews.


You are required to enroll each fall and spring semester until completion of the degree, and you must also be enrolled in the term in which you will graduate. After all coursework is completed, you are required to maintain continuous enrollment in PADM 7300: Doctoral Dissertation in all fall and spring semesters, until graduation. During the first six semesters of PADM 7300, you must register for at least two dissertation hours.