Doctor of Philosophy in Public Affairs


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.

The Program at a Glance

School: School of Public Affairs Campus: CU Denver Classroom: Online and on campus classes Recommended completion time: 4 - 6 Years Credits required for completion: 60 Maximum transfer credits: 3 Maximum 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. Application deadline: Fall: February 1

The Details

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.  

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.  

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 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

In addition to the three methods classes listed above, students must take an approved three-credit qualitative methods course of the student's own choosing. Depending on the student's interest, topics might include qualitative methodology, administrative law, geographical information systems or social network analysis.

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

Immediately following the completion of their core courses and soon after defending their dissertation proposal, PhD students must take and pass the comprehensive exam. Students then advance to candidacy for the PhD. Upon completing complete 30 hours of dissertation credit, students must defend their dissertation.


Applicants are encouraged to contact Dr. Chris Weible, director of the PhD program, at

Admissions Requirements

View the admissions requirements for the School of Public Affairs.

Learning Objectives

  • Students have extensive background knowledge and analytical skills in areas relevant to public administration, public management and public policy.
    • Historical and comparative foundations of public administration
    • Literature, concepts and theories of public management
    • Literature, concepts and theories of public policy
    • Emerging topics in public administration, management and policy
    • Quantitative Methods I
    • Conduct of empirical inquiry
    • Quantitative Methods II
    • Students earn a cumulative GPA of 3.3 or higher in core courses
    • Material covered in core classes build upon one another and can be integrated across courses, preparing students for dissertation research
    • Students are prepared to progress to preliminary examinations within two years of entrance into the program
    • Students are able to effectively communicate their knowledge and skills orally and in writing
  • Students are able to formulate and implement a high-quality research design and effectively analyze and communicate the results of their research to peers and faculty.

Contact us

Events for prospective students

Which MPA is Right for Me? (Webinar)

| 12:00 PM - 01:00 PM
Cost/fee: Free
During this one-hour webinar, you will learn about the School of Public Affairs' three different versions of the Master of Public Administration program (i.e. traditional, executive, accelerated). Specifically, we will discuss structural, curricular, and cost similarities and differences. You will have the opportunity to submit questions throughout the presentation.
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