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University Bulletin

Graduate Degree Programs

Public Administration (P ADM)

JEREMY PLANT, M.P.A. Coordinator, email:
GOKTUG MORCOL, Ph.D. Coordinator, email:

Penn State Harrisburg
777 W. Harrisburg Pike
W-160 Olmsted Building
Middletown, PA 17057

Degrees Conferred:

M.P.A., Ph.D.

The Graduate Faculty


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 507, 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, Policy Analysis, and Criminal Justice, as well as the general Public Administration degree.

Examples of suitable elective courses: P ADM 506, 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 mission of the PhD program in Public Administration is to provide advanced graduate education in theory and research in the field to prepare students for academic, research, and advanced professional careers in public administration.

Each student is expected to graduate with:

  1. Research experience working with public administration faculty
  2. Experience in presentation of scholarly papers and posters at national and regional conferences
  3. Experience in developing, authoring, or co-authoring with a faculty member, and submitting at least one article for a refereed publication
  4. Teaching experience at the college/university level

Application and Requirements for Admission

Individuals with superior academic records and a strong interest in careers emphasizing research and scholarship are encouraged to apply to the program. The program typically admits a Ph.D. cohort of full-time students to begin each fall semester.

Admission to the PhD program is based on the applicant's undergraduate and graduate academic records, standardized test scores, letters of reference, and the compatibility of their backgrounds and interests with those of the program faculty members, as expressed in the applicant’s statement of goals and research interests. All applicants must have completed a master’s degree. A completed master of public administration (MPA) degree is a preferred admissions requirement, but students with master’s degrees in related areas (political science, public policy, economics, sociology, anthropology, social work, business management, and health administration, for example) and Juris Doctorate degrees (law) will also be considered.

Application Deadlines: There are two deadlines for applications for the fall semester of the following academic year: January 15 and March 15 of each year. For those applicants seeking research or teaching assistantships, the deadline to submit all application materials is January 15. Late applications may be considered if assistantships are still available. Applicants who wish to finance their education with their own funds or other sources (foreign governments that fund international students for Ph.D. studies in the United States and other funding agencies, such as Fulbright commissions) must submit all their application materials by March 15.

Application Package: A complete application must include:

  1. A completed online Graduate School application
  2. Payment of a non-refundable application fee
  3. Official Graduate Record Examination scores (verbal, quantitative, and analytical) taken within the five years prior to the date of application
  4. A resume  that includes work experience, volunteer activities, academic and professional honors, honorary societies, extracurricular activities, offices held, any publications and other significant activities
  5. A statement of goals and research interests, including evidence of research aptitude and interest as well as “fit” with the faculty interests in the PhD program at Penn State Harrisburg. The candidate should make the case why this Ph.D. program at Penn State Harrisburg would be a good fit for him/her
  6. A writing sample that reflects the applicant’s background in conducting academic research and potential to conduct academic research in the future
  7. At least three letters of recommendation, preferably from faculty members who can comment upon the applicant's potential as a doctoral student
  8. Two official transcripts from each undergraduate degree-granting college or university and post-graduate college or university the applicant attended

International Students: 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).

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.

Funding and Financial Aid

Applicants may request to be considered for financial aid. Qualified students will be supported with 9-month merit-based research or teaching assistantships. The assistantship granted to a student may be renewed at the end of each academic year, based on the student’s academic performance in the program.  While these are not guaranteed, funding opportunities may also be available for admitted students during the summer semesters. Such opportunities may include, but are not limited to, teaching and involvement in faculty-sponsored research.  Students may also apply for other financial aid programs through the University’s financial aid office.

In addition, the program faculty may admit to the program qualified full-time students who will finance their educations with scholarships from sources outside Penn State or with personal funds. These sources may include foreign governments that fund international students for PhD studies in the United States and other funding agencies, such as Fulbright commissions.

Degree Requirements

Students progress through the following phases and take the required courses indicated as part of their study for the Ph.D. A student must successfully complete the prerequisite courses specified by the program to make up for deficiencies, if any exist. After these courses, a student must take five 3-credit foundation courses, four 3-credit research methods courses, and five 3-credit specialization area courses. In addition to these 42 course credits, students must take a minimum of 18 research credits as P ADM 600 (or an equivalent combination of P ADM 600 and P ADM 601, as approved in advance by the head of the program in compliance with Graduate Council policy regarding SUBJ 601). Students are also required to pass a candidacy examination and a comprehensive examination and to prepare and defend a dissertation.

Prerequisite courses and provisional admission: Applicants who do not have necessary background, but otherwise meet the criteria for admission may be admitted provisionally and must make up any deficiencies in graduate courses in public administration noted in the letter of acceptance. Students who must make up deficiencies are considered to be provisionally admitted into the program.

Provisionally admitted students are required to take some or all of the following prerequisite courses: PADM 500 (Public Organization and Management), PADM 507 (Introduction to Public Policy Analysis), and PADM 510 (Organization Behavior). In consultation with the program faculty members, the coordinator of the PhD program makes the decisions on which prerequisite courses each student should be required to take.

A student may remain in this temporary classification for a period of no longer than two semesters following admission. Upon successful completion of the prerequisite courses noted in the letter (with at least a 3.5 grade-point average), the student will be removed from provisional status and be regularly enrolled. The provisional status must be removed before a student takes his/her candidacy exam.

Foundations of public administration: All the students in the program will be required to take the following foundational courses in the first year of their studies and before they are eligible to take the candidacy examination.
PADM 570. Scope and Methods (3 credits):
PADM 571. Seminar in Organizational Theory (3 credits)
PADM 573. Research and Theory in Public Policy and Governance (3 credits)
PADM 574. Research and Theory in Public Management (3 credits)
PADM 557. Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations (3 credits)

Specialization area courses: In consultation with the student’s adviser and doctoral committee, each doctoral student will develop a public administration specialization that consists of five 3-credit courses. These specialization areas are not pre-defined. They may be tailor-made by the student and his/her committee, based on the student’s interests and the availability of the courses in the School of Public Affairs and other colleges and graduate programs at Penn State. Examples of possible specialization areas are nonprofit administration, organizational management and leadership, public finance and budgeting, public management, public policy analysis, and state and local government administration.

Research methods courses: Students are required to take four 3-credit research methods courses. The following two research methods courses are required for all Public Administration PhD students:

PADM 503. Research Methods (3 credits)
PADM 575. Advanced Research Design (3 credits)

Students also will select two in-depth 3-credit research methods courses on the basis of their research interests (quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods), suitability of the courses in preparing students for their dissertation studies, and the availability of the courses.

Students may find suitable courses in the PhD program in Public Administration or other graduate programs at Penn State. These two in-depth methods courses should be approved in advance by the student’s doctoral committee. A student’s committee may also allow him/her to take in-depth methods courses that are offered by other universities or research institutions, if the equivalent courses cannot be found within Penn State, if the equivalency of these courses to 3-credit graduate-level courses offered at Penn State can be verified by Graduate Enrollment Services, and if the costs of taking these courses can be covered by the student or another arrangement can be made to cover the costs.

Candidacy examination: Only students who complete the required courses in the Foundations of Public Administration successfully, with a minimum 3.5 GPA, may take the candidacy examination. The candidacy examination will cover topics about the intellectual history and enduring questions in the field. Many of these subjects are covered in the required foundational doctoral courses; they include such topics as public administration and democratic theory, public organizations and management, and constitutional and legal foundations. The exam is written and graded by the Public Administration graduate faculty.

Comprehensive Examination: Upon the completion of the specialization courses and research methods courses successfully, with a minimum 3.5 GPA, a doctoral candidate takes a written comprehensive examination. Comprehensive examinations are administered by the student’s doctoral committee. In comprehensive examinations students are tested about the contents of their specialization areas and they will be required to propose a research design on a relevant topic.

Dissertation: After passing the comprehensive examination, a student must work with his or her adviser and doctoral committee to develop a full dissertation proposal within three months of the exam. Once the doctoral committee approves the full proposal, dissertation research can begin. Students will be required to conduct their dissertation research and write and defend their dissertations in accordance with Graduate Council policy and as agreed on by their doctoral committees.

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

Grade Point Average and Time Limit

Full-time students are expected to finish the program in four to five years. Graduate Council policy requires that a student must complete the program within eight years after passing the candidacy examination. The PhD Program in Public Administration requires that students have at least a 3.50 grade-point average in order to graduate.



(Number of credit hours for each course is noted in parentheses.)






  • PADM 570 (3)
  • PADM 557 (3)
  • PADM 571 (3)
  • PADM 574 (3)
  • PADM 573 (3)
  • First specialization area course (3)


Student may take courses.



  • PADM 503 (3)
  • Second specialization area course (3)
  • Third specialization area course (3)
  • Candidacy exam (early in semester)
  • PADM 575 (3)
  • Fourth specialization area course (3)
  • Fifth specialization area course (3)



Student may take courses.



  • Elective research methods course (3)
  • Elective research methods course (3)
  • Comprehensive exams (early in the semester)
  • Dissertation Proposal Defense (early in the semester
  • Dissertation Research and Writing (variable credits)


Student works on dissertation.



  • Dissertation Research (variable credits)

Dissertation Research, Writing, and Defense (variable credits)




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.


Graduate courses carry numbers from 500 to 699 and 800 to 899. Advanced undergraduate courses numbered between 400 and 499 may be used to meet some graduate degree requirements when taken by graduate students. Courses below the 400 level may not. A graduate student may register for or audit these courses in order to make up deficiencies or to fill in gaps in previous education but not to meet requirements for an advanced degree.


Last Revised by the Department: Spring Semester 2015

Blue Sheet Item #: 43-06

Review Date: 04/14/2015

Faculty linked: 8/14/14