Doctor of Philosophy in Public Affairs

School of Public Affairs


Degree: PhD

Classroom Type: On campus

This program emphasizes scholarship in public administration, public policy, public management, and criminal justice/criminology in preparation for positions in academia and consulting firms, public management and administration, public policy analysis, politics and advocacy, and nonprofits.

Application​ deadlines

Fall: February 1

Program Details

Interest Categories: Criminology & Law Public Administration & Policy

Campus: CU Denver

Time required to complete the PhD program

The PhD program requires an intense commitment. Most core courses are offered during the late afternoon or early evenings. On average, students take four to six years to complete all of the requirements for the PhD program. 

Faculty Mentorship

Students are more likely to be successful in the PhD program when their research interests overlap with members of the faculty. Potential students applying to the program are urged to make an effort to learn about the faculty members at the School of Public Affairs, their academic research interests, their resumes, and their various specializations. Potential students can find out about faculty by taking courses, talking directly with faculty members, and talking with current PhD students. When applying to the PhD program, student candidates should explicitly identify one to three faculty advisors in their statement. Descriptions of faculty research expertise can be found on the Faculty web page of the School of Public Affairs website.

Financial Assistance

The School of Public Affairs will fund a small number of doctoral research assistantships each year based on financial availability and qualifications of the applicant. If you are a potential or incoming PhD student interested in one of these positions as a part of your admission, please contact

General requirements

Review CU Denver's Graduate Academic Policies.

Program requirements

A total of 30 hours of course credit and 30 hours of dissertation credit must be completed to earn the PhD degree. Students may complete the degree full time or part time.

Required courses

Students must complete the courses below:

  • PUAD 7007 - Qualitative Research Methods (3 credit hours)
  • PUAD 8010 - Historical and Comparative Foundations of Public Administration (3 credit hours)
  • PUAD 8020 - Seminar in Public Management (3 credit hours)
  • PUAD 8030 - Seminar in Public Policy (3 credit hours)
  • PUAD 8040 - Seminar in Economic and Institutional Foundations of Public Affairs (3 credit hours)
  • PUAD 8050 - Quantitative Methods I
  • PUAD 8060 - Seminar on The Conduct of Empirical Inquiry
  • PUAD 8070 - Quantitative Methods II

See which courses are being offered next semester. All course descriptions can be found in the Graduate Academic Catalog.

Elective courses

In addition to the required courses, doctoral students must complete 6 credit hours of graduate-level elective courses relevant to the student's dissertation plans. With approval of the PhD program director, students may apply graded graduate-level credit taken at other universities toward their elective courses.

All course descriptions can be found in the Graduate Academic Catalog.

Comprehensive Exam, Dissertation Proposal and Dissertation

PhD students must take and pass the comprehensive exam immediately following the completion of their core courses. Admission to candidacy (advanced to candidacy) occurs after completing in a satisfactory manner all of their coursework, passing the comprehensive examination unconditionally, and achieving a grade point average of 3.33 in doctoral coursework. Soon after they have advanced to candidacy, students must defend a dissertation proposal. Upon completing their research, students must defend their dissertation.


Applicants are encouraged to contact Dr. Deserai Crow, Director of the PhD program, at

Recommended Completion Time:4 - 6 Years

Max Transfer Credits:3

Max Credits Per Year:In most cases, students wishing to take more than 18 credit hours per semester (12 in the summer session) must have the overload approved by the dean.

Required Credits for Completion:60 Credits

Admission Requirements

View the admissions requirements for the School of Public Affairs.

Learning Objectives

Students will have extensive background knowledge and analytical skills in areas related to public administration, public policy, public management, and criminal justice and criminology. This includes the following:

  • Historical and comparative foundations of public administration
  • Literature, concepts, and theories of public management
  • Literature, concepts, and theories of public policy
  • Institutional and economic analyses
  • Quantitative and qualitative methods
  • Conduct of empirical inquiry
  • Formulation and implementation of a dissertation and effectively analyze and communicate the results of their research to peers and faculty.

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