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University Bulletin

Graduate Degree Programs

Public Administration (P ADM)

JEREMY F. PLANT, MPA Coordinator
Penn State Harrisburg
777 W. Harrisburg Pike
W-160 Olmsted Building
Middletown, PA 17057

Degrees Conferred:

M.P.A., Ph.D.

The Graduate Faculty

  • Beverly A. Cigler, Ph.D. (Penn State) Professor of Public Policy and Administration
  • Cynthia Massie Mara, Ph.D. (Virginia Tech) Associate Professor of Health Care Administration and Policy
  • Goktug Morcol, Ph.D. (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) Associate Professor of Public Administration
  • Jeremy F. Plant, Ph.D. (Virginia) Professor of Public Policy and Administration
  • Bing Ran, Ph.D. (Waterloo) Assistant Professor of Public Administration
  • Odd J. Stalebrink, Ph.D. (George Mason) Associate Professor of Public Administration
  • Triparna Vasavada, Ph.D. (SUNY-Albany) Assistant Professor of Public Administration
  • James T. Ziegenfuss, Jr., Ph.D. (Pennsylvania/Wharton) Professor of Management and Health Care Systems

MPA Program

The Master of Public Administration (MPA) program is intended for those with career interests in public management, health and human services, government, and other public service and nonprofit organizations. The curriculum blends theoretical and applied concepts and assures “real-world” experiences for the novice administrator. In addition, it requires that students devote attention to general professional development. The MPA program is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA).

FULL-TIME OR PART-TIME--Students may begin the program in any semester. Three courses (or 9 credits) per semester are considered a normal course load for full-time students. Part-time students typically take one or two 3-credit courses each semester and one or two courses during the summer session to maintain steady progress toward the degree. The program, including an internship in a public agency or nonprofit organization for those without three years of managerial, supervisory, or professional experience, requires eighteen to twenty-four months of full-time study, or three to five years on a part-time basis.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must hold either (1) a bachelor's degree from a U.S. regionally accredited institution or (2) a postsecondary degree that is equivalent to a U.S. baccalaureate degree earned from an officially recognized degreee-granting international institution prior to starting the graduate program. Applicants who are still completing their baccalaureate requirements at the time of application may be admitted to the Graduate School conditional on the awarding of the baccalaureate degree.

Admission to the MPA program is based on clear suitability for the program as demonstrated by the application as a whole, including the following: a completed application with the application fee; evidence of a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college; a statement of career and educational goals; a successful undergraduate record with a grade-point average of 3.00 (either as the cumulative GPA or for the last 60 hours of relevant course work); satisfactory scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), or Law School Admission Test (LSAT) if the GPA is less than 3.0; and three references willing to provide recommendations.

Degree Requirements

The MPA degree program requires 36 graduate credits—18 in core courses, 15 in electives, and 3 for the research project. Up to 6 credits of 400-level courses may be taken as electives, with the approval of an adviser. In addition, a 3-credit internship is required of students who do not have at least two years of full-time relevant work experience that consists of supervisory, managerial, or professional work. The internship is waived for students with this experience before they enter the program or who gain it during the program.


P ADM 500, P ADM 502, P ADM 503, P ADM 505, P ADM 506, P ADM 510


With the faculty adviser's approval, a student selects 15 credits of electives from the courses list. Students also have the option of taking elective courses from one of the following concentrations: Government Administration, Health Care Management and Policy, Human Resources Management, Information Resource Management, Policy Analysis, and Criminal Justice, as well as the general Public Administration degree.

Examples of suitable elective courses: P ADM 507, P ADM 511, P ADM 512, P ADM 514, P ADM 515, P ADM 516, P ADM 522, P ADM 523, P ADM 524, P ADM 531, P ADM 532, P ADM 533, P ADM 534, P ADM 535, P ADM 550, P ADM 556, P ADM 557, P ADM 558, CRIMJ 563, CRIMJ 564, and CRIMJ 565. Courses listed under the Master of Health Administration program may also be taken: H ADM 539, H ADM 540, H ADM 541, H ADM 542, H ADM 543, H ADM 545, H ADM 546, H ADM 548, H ADM 551, H ADM 552.



Ph.D. Program

The Doctor of Philosophy in Public Administration provides a broad-based academic program combining conceptual foundations with research and analytical skills. The goal of the program is to educate professionals with the ability to create and apply knowledge through teaching, research, consulting, and management.

Graduates of the program work in such occupations as:

  • university or college professor
  • president of community hospital
  • senior positions in state and federal government
  • senior training officer national executive development institute
  • health care consultant
  • president, non-profit organization

The Program retains the traditional requirements of the Ph.D. degree--advanced coursework, comprehensive examinations, residency, a research dissertation, final oral examination, and standards of excellence--in a program that allows students to combine study and work. Students may pursue the program on a full- or part-time basis. The emphasis is placed in critical thinking, research, writing, and mastery of a broad body of literature. In the emerging "information age," public administrators are both producers and consumers of research. The roles of administrator and scholar are increasingly blurred, as scientific reasoning and data gathering increasingly permeates public managerial decision making. Creating and accessing knowledge that is useful to address organizational and policy issues is increasingly important.

Application for Admission

To assure course availability and maximize progress, applicants should carefully consider when to apply to the Program and begin study. In general, students should plan to begin taking P ADM 570 (Scope and Methods of Public Administration) and other doctoral seminars during the Fall Semester.

The following information should also help applicants decide when to apply to the Program:
Fall Admission:

  • Applicants for fellowships and assistantships must complete and submit materials by January 30.
  • Applicants who must take one or more prerequisite courses typically should apply by October 31.
  • This will enable them to take the necessary prerequisite courses during the Spring Semester and/or Summer Term and begin doctoral seminars the next Fall. If in doubt about the need for prerequisites, an applicant should meet the October 31 deadline.
  • Students who are not required to take prerequisite courses may submit their application materials by October 31 or March 15. However, we encourage students to apply at the earliest possible date.
  • The Program Coordinator can answer individual applicant questions about application and entrance dates.

Admission Requirements

Applicants for the Doctor of Philosophy in Public Administration should hold a master's degree in public administration, public policy, or a related field such as business, economics, political science, or sociology. Applicants with master's degrees in other fields also will be considered. Students may be required to take additional courses after admission to the program to make up for any deficiencies.

A student must have taken the following graduate courses as program prerequisites or co-requisites: Public Organization and Management (P ADM 500), Introduction to Public Policy Analysis (P ADM 507), Research Methods (P ADM 503), and Organization Behavior (P ADM 510).

In addition, most applicants should have five years of relevant professional work experience.

Students are required to submit the following:

  • a completed application, with the application fee
  • two official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate course work scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), with official verification
  • three letters of reference attesting to both academic and professional capabilities (at least two of the three letters should be from academic sources, such as prior professors or academic advisors)
  • a letter of approximately 500 words outlining significant work experience, career goals, and academic objectives
  • a recent personal vita
  • a substantial academic paper written for a previous graduate course(e.g. seminar paper)

Interviews: The Admissions Committee interviews individuals whose application material indicates they qualify for entry into the Program. These interviews may be face-to-face or by telephone. Interviews help assure a good fit between individual interests and the Program.

International Students

Application deadlines: International student application materials must meet the following deadlines:
January 30 for Fall, September 30 for Spring, February 28 for Summer.*
*Applications received after the deadlines will be processed for the following semester.

The language of instruction at Penn State is English. International applicants must take and submit scores for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or the IELTS (International English Language Testing System), with the exceptions noted below. The minimum acceptable score for the TOEFL is 550 for the paper-based test, 213 for the computer-based test, or a total score of 80 with a 19 on the speaking section for the internet-based test (iBT). The minimum composite score for the IELTS is 6.5.

International applicants are exempt from the TOEFL/IELTS requirement who have received a baccalaureate or a graduate degree from a college/university/institution in any of the following: Australia, Belize, British Caribbean and British West Indies, Canada (except Quebec), England, Guyana, Republic of Ireland, Liberia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the United States, and Wales.

Degree Requirements

Students progress through the following phases and take the required courses indicated as part of their study for the Ph.D.

Precandidacy and Provisional Admission --Applicants who do not have necessary background, but otherwise meet the criteria for admission may be admitted provisionally and must (1) make up any deficiencies in graduate courses in public administration noted in the letter of acceptance, (2) complete P ADM 570 (Scope and Methods), P ADM 575 (Research Design), and at least one course from the P ADM 571, P ADM 572, P ADM 573, and P ADM 574 seminar series, with an average of 3.5 or better, and (3) pass a candidacy exam. Students who must make up deficiencies are considered to be provisionally admitted into the program. A student may remain in this temporary classification for a period of no longer than two semesters following admission. Upon successful completion of the requisite courses noted in the letter (with a 3.5 grade point average), the student will be removed from provisional status and be regularly enrolled. It is to be emphasized that the provisional condition must be met before a student reaches an academic benchmark (doctoral candidacy, comprehensive, and final oral examination). A student will not be permitted to graduate with a provisional status remaining on his or her record.

Comprehensive Examination--Candidates take additional course work to prepare for comprehensive examinations in three subfields of study, complete a period of residency, and write the Ph.D. dissertation. The three formal subfields of specialization are: organization theory and behavior, policy analysis and governance, and public management. Additional subfields of study, such as Health Care Management and Policy, Criminal Justice, Management Information Systems, and Training and Development may be selected with the approval of the student's doctoral committee.

Residency--A period of two consecutive semesters of concentrated study and research as a full-time student--9 credits per semester.

The Dissertation

Under guidance from the dissertation committee, the candidate prepares a detailed research proposal that serves as the basis for the written dissertation. The writing and defense of this original contribution to the theory of public administration is the capstone to the Ph.D. program.

Grade Point Average and Time Limit

Part-time students can complete the program in approximately seven to eight years of continuous study. Full time students may complete the Program in four to five years. Students must have a 3.50 grade-point average to graduate.

Financial Aid

There are a limited number of scholarships, fellowships, and research grants available, as well as graduate assistantships. Many students work full-time and take classes part-time. In many cases, employers have a tuition-reimbursement plan paying for partial or full tuition. To find other options available to you, contact the Financial Aid Office at 717-948-6307.



JEREMY F. PLANT, Program Coordinator
Penn State Harrisburg
777 W. Harrisburg Pike
Middletown, PA 17057-4898

Degrees Conferred:


The Dickinson School of Law of The Pennsylvania State University and the School of Public Affairs of Penn State Harrisburg, the Capital College, offer a cooperative program leading to the degrees of Juris Doctor, to be granted by Dickinson, and Master of Public Administration, to be granted by Penn State Harrisburg.

Admission Requirements

In order to be admitted to the program, students must first be admitted to The Dickinson School of Law under its regular admission procedures. Dickinson need not forward applications of all DSL admittees who have expressed interest in the MPA program and can withhold support for some admittees until they have demonstrated proficiency in their legal studies and a capacity for dual degree study. Penn State Harrisburg will make independent admissions decisions as to all dual degree applicants.

The Dickinson Admissions Office requires: application forms for DSL and PSH Graduate School, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), a completed LSDAS report, a one-page personal statement, employment record since high school, and two recommendations.

The Penn State Harrisburg Admissions Office requires: completed applications (Graduate School and MPA), with the application fee; evidence of either (1) a bachelor's degree from a U.S. regionally accredited institution or (2) a postsecondary degree that is equivalent to a U.S. baccalaureate degree earned from an officially recognized degree-granting international institution; a statement of career and educational goals; a successful undergraduate record with a grade-point average of 3.0 (either as the cumulative GPA or for the last 60 hours of relevant course work); satisfactory scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), or Law School Admission Test (LSAT) if junior–senior or cumulative GPA is less than 3.0); and three names of references willing to provide recommendations.

Degree Requirements

To be eligible to earn the Juris Doctor degree, a candidate must: earn credit for 88 semester hours of course work, have a cumulative average of at least 70.00, complete all required courses (currently totaling 41 semester hours) plus at least one seminar, and complete six semesters in residence.

The MPA degree program requires 36 graduate credits—18 in core courses, 15 in electives, and 3 for the Research Project.

A maximum of 9 credits for Dickinson School of Law course work may be transferred for credit toward the MPA degree at Penn State Harrisburg, subject to Harrisburg's approval based on relevance to the MPA program.

A maximum of 9 credits for MPA course work with a grade of B or better may be transferred for credit toward the J.D. degree at Dickinson. Courses for which such credit may be applied shall be subject to approval by the Dickinson faculty.

It is anticipated that students will complete a minimum of 79 credits from Dickinson and 27 credits (not including the internship) from Penn State Harrisburg in order to earn the J.D. and M.P.A. degrees. A student in the program, however, may obtain either degree prior to completing all requirements for the other degree. Students must earn at least a 3.0 grade-point average to be eligible for the M.P.A. degree.

Last Revised by the Department: Spring Semester 2012

Blue Sheet Item #: 40-06-255

Review Date: 04/10/2012

Date last updated by Publications: 5/23/11