Guide to the Public Administration Field
in the PhD Program in Political Science

The PhD Program

Public administration is one of the fields that doctoral students may pursue in the Department of Political Science at NIU. Because of the strong national reputation of the PA faculty, PA 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 PhD program in political science requires 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 fields. Applicants with a prior master's degree from an accredited university may transfer credit for up to 30 hours towards their NIU program of courses.

While some PhD students work full-time in public-service jobs (current students include a city manager, a city planner, municipal attorney, a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) senior investigator, and a police lieutenant) and take classes as part-time students; other PhD students are full-time graduate students. Most full-time PhD 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 PhD 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 $1,314/month, and includes 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 master's 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 609 Public Personnel Management

*PSPA 610 Public Budgeting and Financial Management

*PSPA 630 Local and Metropolitan Government

*PSPA 600 Scope and Dynamics of Public Administration

*PSPA 612 Information Management and Design Support in Public Organizations

*PSPA 655 Organization Development in the Public Sector

PSPA 661 Theory and Analysis in Public Administration (doctoral survey course)

PSPA 664 Politics of Public Budgeting

POLS 620 Study of Public Policy (policy survey course)

*PSPA 604 Public Program Evaluation Methods

*PSPA 631 Urban Planning and Zoning

*PSPA 635 Local Economic Development Policy

Courses outside the first and second fields

POLS 624 Natural Resources Policy

POLS 653 The Federalist

POLS 633 International Biotechnology Policy

Methods & General

POLS 603 Scope and Methods of Political Science II

*PSPA 601 Data Analysis in Public Administration

POLS 642 Intermediate Analysis of Political Data

POLS 643 Advanced Analysis of Political Data

POLS 645 Qualitative Research Methods

POLS 799 Doctoral Research and Dissertation (dissertation hours)

POLS 691 Teaching Political Science (3 hour teaching seminar)

POLS 690 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 PA faculty work with their doctoral students to assist them in presenting their research at this conference.

The MA Program

While the main master's degree program of the Department is the MPA, graduate students admitted to the MA program in Political Science can and do take PA as their MA field. In contrast to the MPA, the MA 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 MA students are eligible for teaching assistantships; TA appointments in Political Science receive $1,080 in monthly stipend, plus a tuition scholarship.