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The Worth of a Public Administration Doctorate Degree


Allan W Austin, TX

I’m a civil servant employee with interest in pursuing a doctorate degree in public administration. What are the benefits of pursuing such degree? Would it be more advantageous to pursue a public administration executive certification? Is it possible to find grants and/or scholarships at the post-graduate/doctorate degree levels?

2 July 2021 8 replies Education & Training



Barron Evans Ann Arbor, MI

Allan: foremost, thank you for your service.

I'm offering an alternative perspective: I have an MPA from a D.C. university, but never worked a day in my life in the public sector. While it was certainly a valuable education, (my focus was organizational development), what it DID teach me was the ability to understand, navigate, and make an impact in large, bureaucratic, publicly-traded organizations.

If you envision the potential of working across public, private, governmental, and academic sectors over the years -- I would suggest the masters level degree is sufficient.

Best wishes for success!

2 August 2021 Helpful answer


Sheryl Wragg Ada, MI

Hi Allan:

My experience hiring many people over my career as well as having 2 siblings who are university professors tells me that a Ph.D. is best primarily if you are looking for career opportunities at a university. e.g. professor. So as others have mentioned here, your personal career goals will dictate whether a Masters or Doctorate degree is appropriate.

If you are looking for a career in politics (my Congresswoman has a Masters in Public Administration as do some of her staffers) or working in an adjacent field, I believe the Masters is sufficient. Here is a link to career outcomes for graduates of my public affairs program at Cornell.

Finally, as to your question about grants and scholarships, I will say that after my career at a Fortune 100 company, I am now studying for my Masters in Public Affairs. I am certainly not a traditional, mid-20s student yet I received a very generous fellowship from an excellent university. I wish you well in making your decisions and getting whichever degree fits best with your career goals. (Feel free to reach out to me if you'd like to discuss further.)

12 July 2021 Helpful answer


Allan W Austin, TX

I am amazed and very grateful for the plethora of responses and invaluable insights. I’ve literally read each response several times while sitting in my living wondering which road to travel. This is also very important because pursuing and achieving my extended education will come entirely from my pocket. To add to the confusion, I recently learned that the federal government is leaning more towards experience and moving away from requiring post-undergraduate education for many management and SES career positions. The aforementioned will benefit some and serve as disadvantages for others. All things considered, I sincerely appreciate and welcome all responses.

3 August 2021 Helpful answer


Jeff Westling Virginia Beach, VA

Allan, It depends on what your career goals are. Most organizations will state bachelors or masters preferred. PhDs or doctorates are seldomly required for most positions, including senior leadership. However, the research and practical application of research and problem-solving that comes with a terminal degree are of great value to organizations that focus on future relevancy. Like you, I worked my way through the decision to start my doctoral program (I chose the Doctor of Strategic Leadership (DSL)). My reason is that after doing a lot of research for adjunct positions at numerous colleges and universities, almost all require a terminal degree. While I have no intention of changing jobs, I want the flexibility and degree to support my 30+ years in uniform to provide opportunities for me to teach in the areas of my expertise, certifications, and experiences at the masters level. That requires a terminal degree based on all the research and informational interviews I conducted with many Deans and hiring officials, regardless of what the adjunct professor job descriptions say at college and university HR department postings.

8 July 2021 Helpful answer



My two cents: In the current and foreseeable future a Law Degree would be far more valuable. Look at the regulatory climate and the problems created by people in Public Administration who do not have the necessary legal knowledge.

7 July 2021 Helpful answer


Joseph Mack Garland, TX


All I have heard in response to your post is good advice. I like you, spent a lot of time in the military, and still wrestle with decisions like these from time to time. Allow me to share my perspective on your question. There are three keys to reaching your professional goals, a good education, experience in your profession, and a strong network. With this being said, the beginning of this journey is the most important step. That is, determining what success looks like for you, establishing your goal towards that end. A career in public administration, some political office, a fully tenured or adjunct public administration professor, whatever career you desire will determine the milestones or formulas of success you should use. Another key to success that must be considered in addition to education, experience, and a strong network, is timing. Timing can create exceptions to the normal paths of success. For example, if the timing is right, in some cases one or two of the keys to success (education, experience, or a strong network) may not be required. All of these factors in play complicate the answer to, what some might consider, a simple question. To avoid the risk of being presumptuous of your established goals, let's look a the degree itself and how it is best utilized.
For the field in which you seek a terminal degree (Public Administration), there are several options; Ed.D, Ph.D., and Doctor of. For the most part, a Ph.D. is sought by individuals seeking a career in academia. There are exceptions, but the majority of Ph.D. holders in the U.S. are tenured professors, who have authored or coauthored, one or several publications in their field. If you are seeking to teach students in college, this is the way many choose. It is important to understand that the Doctor of Public Administration (DPA) is not a Ph.D. That would be a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Public Administration. There are differences between the two degrees you should be aware of prior to moving forward with a decision to pursue one.

DPA vs. Ph.D. -


Jerry Welsh Middleville, MI

Depends up what career you are seeking? I know public administration right, well like any major field there are many careers available. Higher education is one are PhD are sell-able. One of the best ways to answer your question would be to some digging on job boards to see how many positions in PA, actually require or prefer a PhD. In some instances more education can over qualify you, even if the salary may be acceptable to you recruiters may discount you immediately. Try some information interviewing in the public administration sector. What would be even more helpful would be to network with someone who has access to a large job board, start searching for positions available for positions requiring or requesting PhD.
The other key issue will be, how much experience is required with those positions. Keep in mind you have 26 years military experience, public administration experience. This is where a mentor with ACP or a mentor outside of education would be able to give you solid advice on the degrees. I have seen senior military passed over as over qualified with 2- masters and listing 20 years experience. Keep in mind, if you do your research the recruiter will select those closest to the position requirements, i.e. a masters preferred and 7 years of experience. That individual with two masters dropped one and listed 7+ years of experience. He still had to hard sell the logistical experience in the military versus commercial. Please get some advice outside of education, I am not discounting educators in career advice, outside of the fact bottom line their jobs are to sell degrees or college credits-not career advice. Here a couple of short reads. . Remember that you are part of the 0.5% of Americans who serve their country. You are very well respected, but the chance civilians have been part of the 0.5% simply means they will not understand your language or experiences-without translation. Thank you for your support and sacrifices. God Bless


James Watters Norman, OK

Master Sergeant Allen -
The following information is from an online school center which may have some bias.

“ Earning your online Doctorate of Public Administration degree can be a long, expensive process, but is it worth it? Will it really help your career? The short answer to those questions is, “yes.” Although there is a lot to consider, you will not regret following through with a doctorate program to help your career, as well as, meet your personal goals.

With an online Doctorate of Public Administration degree in hand, the opportunities are endless. The number one skill that most employers look for in their potential new hires is a good problem solver. Another important skill they are looking for is an excellent communicator. If you have remained persistent and conquered the dreaded dissertation or doctoral capstone project with ease and grace, then you have proved yourself worthy of these two important qualities that employers are looking for, no doubt.

The problems you may encounter within a career in Public Administration can be extremely complicated and will require a higher level of thinking that only your doctorate program will have taught you. This level of problem solving skills and communication skills is what will help you gain a management position and a premium salary to go with it.

A key point regarding communication involves the many different ways you will have learned to communicate through your online Doctorate of Public Administration degree program. Even if you had excellent communication skills before, your doctorate program will expand on them. Your written skills are very important to a new employer. It will showcase your knowledge of the English language, in addition to, how to use it properly and your ability to explain your subject with expertise. Oral communication skills involve communicating with others effectively, whether it is with an authority figure or other team members. Another part of communication involves accepting criticism and applying it accordingly to improve your own work skills.

Another advantage to earning your online Doctorate of Public Administration degree is that it will allow you to apply your skills to any category of job. Although working in Public Administration may be your career goal, your doctorate degree can be useful along any path you decide to take in the future. Your program will teach you various types of research methods, along with developing skills in data analysis, all of which can be used in any career. Your universal abilities will allow you to apply for most any position you are interested in, for you will have the knowledge and tools needed to address complex and advanced problem solving solutions. Your skills will qualify you for a government level security related field such as cybersecurity or as a political analyst. Or, you may choose to remain in academic research. Although a PhD often leads to a university professor’s position, it doesn’t have to. There are many large corporations that are looking for individuals holding a Doctorate of Public Administration degree. The sky’s the limit!

As mentioned before, higher wages, sometimes significantly, can be expected by earning a doctorate degree related to your field. Although the money is nice, perhaps you are looking for credibility in the workplace. You will be most desired by potential employers with the doctorate title in front of your name, as it will show them that you have invested your hard-earned money and your valuable time in being the best at your craft. Completing a doctorate program can be a lengthy process, as well, for this will show your dedication and determination to see a project through to the end… all good qualities to have and a potential employer will appreciate your efforts.

If you are interested in learning more about this field of work, please see our choices for the Best Online Schools for Doctorate of Public Administration degree programs.”. Source
Good luck Army.

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