Guide to the Public Administration Field
in the Ph.D. Program P.A. and Ph.D. Program

NIU's Department of Political Science offers both M.A. and Ph.D. degree programs, as well as the Division of Public Administration's MPA degree. Even though the M.P.A. is often described as a "terminal" professional degree, a number of MPA alumni have gone on to successful doctoral studies at NIU.

The Ph.D. Program

Public administration is one of the seven fields that doctoral students may pursue at NIU. Because of the strong national reputation of the P.A. faculty, P.A. has been perhaps the strongest field in the department, particularly in terms of the number of alumni placed in U.S. graduate-level teaching positions over the past decade.

Doctoral programs-of-courses total at least 90 hours of graduate credit; these consist of at least 60 hours of graduate coursework and up to 30 hours of dissertation or other political science research credit. The Department require students to offer two political science fields. Students take at least five courses in their first field and four in their second field. Students can opt to take two fields plus either a third minor field or an interdisciplinary field-of-study; if they do not take a third field or area of study, students normally take three courses outside their first and second field. Applicants with a prior Masters degree from an accredited university may transfer credit for up to 30 hours towards their NIU program-of-courses.

While some Ph.D. students work full-time in public-service jobs (current students include a city manager, a city planner, municipal attorney, a NTSB senior investigator, and a police lieutenant) and take classes as part-time students, other Ph.D. students are full-time graduate students. Most full-time Ph.D. students also serve as graduate assistants. Some work as teaching assistants in the Department of Political Science; TA work (20 hours/week) includes a variety of duties, such as assistance in computer labs, discussion leader in large undergraduate American government courses, to (for senior Ph.D. students) teaching independent sections of upper-division undergraduate courses. Such teaching experience constitutes crucial experience, preparing the doctoral student for a university teaching career. The current TA stipend in the Department is $967/month, and includes a full tuition scholarship. Many other doctoral students have worked as research assistants, particularly at NIU's Social Science Research Institute. This kind of experience can also be an excellent introduction to organized research for the student's scholarly career. The stipend for research assistantships at SSRI are typically higher than in the department, and also carry a full tuition scholarship.

The key to planning the student's individual program is to work with a good advisory committee, which can help the student move from the introductory survey courses to more advanced doctoral work in an efficient manner (particularly regarding effective use of transfer Masters credit). For example, the committee might recommend the following program for a student beginning the doctoral program with a prior NIU MPA degree and an interest in environmental and land use policy ("*" denotes courses from the MPA degree program):

Public Administration

*PSPA 509 Public Personnel Management

*PSPA 510 Public Budgeting and Financial Management

*PSPA 530 Local and Metropolitan Government

*PSPA 500 Scope and Dynamics of Public Administration

*PSPA 512 Information Management and Design Support in Public Organizations

*PSPA 555 Organization Development in the Public Sector

PSPA 561 Theory and Analysis in Public Administration (doctoral survey course)

PSPA 564 Politics of Public Budgeting

POLS 520 Study of Public Policy (policy survey course)

*PSPA 504 Public Program Evaluation Methods

*PSPA 531 Urban Planning and Zoning

*PSPA 535 Local Economic Development Policy

Courses outside the first and second fields

POLS 524 Natural Resources Policy

POLS 553 The Federalist

POLS 533 International Biotechnology Policy

Methods & General

POLS 503 Scope and Methods of Political Science II

*PSPA 501 Data Analysis in Public Administration

POLS 542 Intermediate Analysis of Political Data

POLS 543 Advanced Analysis of Political Data

POLS 545 Qualitative Research Methods

POLS 699 Doctoral Research and Dissertation (dissertation hours)

POLS 591 Teaching Political Science (3 hour teaching seminar)

POLS 590 Political Science Research (individual research training)

Note that this program of courses would be somewhat minimalist at the doctoral level. Due to the scheduling sequence of especially advanced methods courses, a student would likely take some additional elective courses. In particular, students would be well advised to sample courses from other fields, such as comparative politics, biopolitics, or American politics to obtain a balanced sense of the kind of work done throughout the discipline. The final element of an effective doctoral program involves the mentoring of students to begin work on their own research agendas. In addition to--or in conjunction with--work on the dissertation, students are mentored to begin presenting papers at professional conferences and publishing their work in refereed journals. Since the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, the second most important conference in political science, is held annually in Chicago, many of the P.A. faculty work with their doctoral students to assist them in presenting their research at this conference.

The M.A. Program

While the main Masters degree program of the Division is the M.P.A., graduate students admitted to the M.A. program in Political Science can and do take P.A. as their M.A. field. In contrast to the M.P.A., the M.A. is a 30-hour program in which the student takes a minimum of three courses in one field and can sample among other fields for the remaining courses. Full-time M.A. students are eligible for teaching assistantships; TA appointments in Political Science currently receive a $858/month stipend, plus a tuition scholarship.