PhD – Curriculum

The PhD requires 48 credits of course work beyond the attainment of a relevant master’s degree and 24 dissertation research credits for a total of 72 credit hours.

Course Work (48 credits / 16 courses)

Core Courses (15 credits / 5 courses; Required of all PhD students)

  • 26:834:617 Intellectual History of Public Administration (3)
    This course examines the field of public administration through historical lenses, focusing on the periods of development from "the Orthodoxy" to New Public Management and beyond.
    Sample Syllabus
  • 26:834:605 Government Budgeting and Resources Acquisition (3)
    This course addresses the macro and micro aspects of budgeting and finance from both the normative and descriptive views in the fields of public management, political science, and economics.
    Sample Syllabus
  • 26:834:601 Study of Public Organizations (3)
    This course covers such topics as public sector organization theory and behavior at the micro and macro levels; networking; interorganizational relations.
    Sample Syllabus
  • 26:834:603 Governance and Politics (3)
    This course covers such topics as bureaucratic politics; democratic theory and public sector governance.
    Sample Syllabus
  • 26:834:618 Leadership, Equity and Diversity (3)
    This courses addresses governance from a human resources perspective, focusing on such topics as leadership and diversity in the public sector.
    Sample Syllabus

Upon completion of the core, students are required to complete a comprehensive exam (Comp I) that covers the content learned in the core.

(More information on the format and requirements of each comprehensive exam can be found on the Comprehensive Exams page.)


Research Methods (12 credits / 3 courses plus 1 methodology elective; Required of all PhD students)

  • 26:834:607 Quantitative I (3)
    This course covers the design, production and analysis of quantitative data for research in public affairs and administration. It reviews quantitative theory and models, measurement, sampling, and the logic of causal inference. The course will focus attention in particular on multiple regression as a tool for data analysis as well as a framework for answering substantive, causal questions. The course will introduce students to some additional multivariate methods, such as reliability analysis, factor analysis, path analysis, and the basics of structural equation modeling. Emphasis will be on the use of statistical software and the interpretation of results, with applications to substantive research questions.
    Sample Syllabus
  • 26:834:608 Quantitative II (3)
    This course covers various advanced, multivariate statistical techniques used in public administration and policy research. It begins with regression models for limited dependent variables, i.e., models for nominal outcomes, ordered outcomes, and count outcomes, using maximum likelihood estimation techniques. The course then covers the basics of panel data analyses and selection models. Throughout, students will be given hand-on training in the use of statistical software, the interpretation of results from real data, and the translation of results into useful summaries through tables and figures. Students are encouraged to apply the methods learned to their own datasets, including data from their on- going projects or dissertation research.
    Sample Syllabus
  • 26:834:609 Qualitative I (3)
    The purpose of this course is to introduce doctoral students to the philosophy and methods of qualitative research. Through an examination of the evolution of qualitative methods, the various forms of qualitative research and the ways to conduct qualitative research studies, students will develop the basic skills necessary to develop qualitative research designs and to conduct qualitative research. It will examine the similarities and differences between qualitative and quantitative research design, different approaches to qualitative research, including grounded theory, analytic induction and ethnomethodology, and how these relate to mixed methods design. Students will be introduced to qualitative methods of data collection and analysis, including interviews, observation and participant observation, ethnography, case studies, content analysis, historical and archival methods, action research, and video methods The course will enable students will be able to interpret, evaluate and present qualitative data and to design their own qualitative research proposal.
  • One Methodology Elective Course (3)
    In addition, students are required to take one methodology elective course. The methodology elective can be either quantitative or qualitative (including legal or historical methods) and should focus on a methodology related to the student’s dissertation research. The methodology elective should be selected in consultation with the student’s adviser and be approved by the PhD director.


Specialization Fields (21 credits / 7 courses; Required of all PhD students)

Students are required to select two fields of specialization and complete at least 9 credit hours of study in each field. The 3 remaining credit hours can be taken in either specialization field, or in another area of the student’s choice. The student should define their two specialization fields in consultation with their adviser, preferably soon after completing the core courses, and receive approval from the PhD director. Below are some suggested specialization fields, although students may propose other specializations in consultation with their adviser and the PhD director:

  • Public management
  • Public budgeting and finance
  • Comparative public administration
  • Human resource management
  • Performance measurement and management
  • Organizational theory and behavior
  • Nonprofit management and philanthropy
  • Technology and e-government
  • Policy analysis and evaluation
  • Health policy and administration
  • Urban affairs and administration
  • Ethics, transparency and accountability
  • Historical and legal foundations of public administration

Note: SPAA attempts to offers several electives each semester that are relevant to various fields. Still, most students will need to do several independent studies to complete coursework in their specialization fields as well as look for elective courses outside of SPAA, including the School of Business, the Bloustein School, the Division of Global Affairs, the School of Criminal Justice, and other units of Rutgers University (and also NJIT). After completing their first year, doctoral students are also eligible to participate in the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium, which allows them to take courses at Columbia University, Princeton University, NYU, the Graduate School CUNY, and other area institutions, see

Upon completion of their elective coursework, students are required to write a second comprehensive exam (Comp II) covering their two major fields.

(More information on the format and requirements of each comprehensive exam can be found on the Comprehensive Exams page.)


Dissertation Research (24 credits)

The dissertation committee must consist of at least four faculty members; one committee member should be from outside the core faculty of Rutgers SPAA. The committee must be approved by the graduate program director.


For students admitted before Fall 2015, please see the prior curriculum.

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