Doctoral programs

Public Affairs and Policy Ph.D.

The Ph.D. in public affairs and policy is an interdisciplinary program designed to prepare individuals to pursue research, teaching, advocacy, public service, and/or consulting in a variety of settings ranging from universities to policy research organizations, public agencies, and private consulting firms. The degree may be pursued on a full- or part-time basis.

The degree program is administered by the Hatfield School of Government, but draws on faculty from the entire College of Urban and Public Affairs. Faculty members are drawn from public administration, political science, economics, criminal justice, policy sciences, and urban studies.

The curriculum focus is governance, the integrated study of political, administrative, and policy processes. This curriculum is taught against the backdrop of globalizing economies and political systems seeking to recognize governance in a modern world characterized by both cooperation and conflict among the public, private, and non-profit organizations.

The doctoral program in public affairs and policy is designed to enable students to approach governance as an applied area of knowledge in which theory informs and is informed by real-world practice.

Admission requirements

More information about the public affairs and policy Ph.D. program and all application forms are available at For further assistance, contact the program administrator at or 503-725-3920. Application materials should be sent (not emailed) to: Public Affairs and Policy Ph.D. Program, Hatfield School of Government, Portland State University, P. O. Box 751, Portland, OR 97207-0751. Applications are accepted for fall admission only; the application deadline is 31 December.

Degree requirements


All students entering the doctoral program must have completed a basic course in statistics either upon entering or within the first year of study. No degree credit will be awarded for this coursework.

Credit requirements

The Ph.D. in public affairs and policy requires 90 credit hours of required and elective coursework. In addition, the student receives 27 credits for dissertation research and writing.

The credits are distributed as follows:

Core Coursework


Field of Specialization (Tracks-1-3)


Research Methods


Departmental Dissertation (minimum)


Total Credit Hours:116-120

To meet these credit requirements, relevant past academic coursework and previous professional experience is recognized in these ways:

Up to 30 credits of coursework related to governance or research methods completed at the master's level may be counted toward the Ph.D. degree.

In addition, students with extensive academic background and/or experience in using quantitative or qualitative research methods may substitute one or more required research methods courses with other coursework with permission of their academic adviser.

Core courses and Credits

Core courses

PAP 611Normative Foundations of Governance


PAP 613Organization Theory and Behavior


PAP 614Contemporary Governance


PAP 616Policy Process


PAP 620Seminar on American Political Institutions


PAP 621Comparative Political Institutions


Total Credit Hours:18

Specialization fields (Tracks 1-3)

Students must choose one of the following three tracks as their primary domain of study.

1. Public Administration and Policy (48 credit hours)

Students focus on the functioning, management, and leadership of organizations in the public sector as well as the analysis of public policy. Required courses:

PA 534Administrative Law


PS 559Political and Economic Decision-making


PAP 615Administrative Process



PA 540Administrative Theory and Behavior


PAP 653Policy Analysis: Theoretical Foundations


2. Politics and Public Policy (48 credit hours)

Students focus on the political and economic determinants as well as the analysis of public policy at the local, national, and international levels. Required courses:

PAP 653Policy Analysis: Theoretical Foundations


PAP 656Advanced Political Economy


PAP 630Proseminar in International Relations


3. Criminology and Criminal Justice (48 credit hours)

Students focus on the causes, prevention, and control of criminal activity and public policy as it affects law enforcement and corrections. Required courses:

CCJ 615Theories of Crime and Justice


CCJ 625Criminal Justice Theory


CCJ 630Criminal Justice Research


CCJ 635Criminal Justice Policy


Research Methods

Coursework in research methods is normally completed concurrently with field specialization coursework. Approved substitutes for methods coursework will be listed in the PAP Course Planner each year.

Methods courses and credits

PS 593Philosophy of the Social Sciences


PAP 690Research Design for Politics and Policy


PS 595Research Methods for Political Science




Total Credit Hours:24

Dissertation Research

Students must register for a minimum of 27 credits of 603 Dissertation to represent the work of researching and writing the doctoral dissertation.

Comprehensive examinations

In order to evaluate one’s ability to integrate, analyze, and critique the diverse materials and ideas presented in the PAP curriculum, students are required to complete a two-part comprehensive examination. Part A of the examination (core exam) covers the 18 credit hours of foundational core courses. Part B (field exam) covers all coursework done in the student’s specialization field (Tracks 1-3).

Dissertation requirements

The dissertation process is designed to evaluate the student’s ability to successfully conduct a significant, independent applied research project. The dissertation thesis represents the culmination of a student’s doctoral studies.

Program Rules

A more comprehensive set of rules governing satisfactory completion of field area examinations, presentation of dissertation, and timely completion of doctoral program requirements appear in the General Handbook for the Public Affairs and Policy Doctoral Program issued to incoming students and available online.

Limitation on graduate/undergraduate courses

Students in the PAP program are strongly advised to use no more than 12 credits of courses offered simultaneously at the 400- and 500-level in support of their degree programs. These courses must be an integral part of the student’s program, and courses with the same content must not be available on a purely graduate basis.

Limitation on by-arrangement courses

Admitted Ph.D. students may utilize no more than 12 credits of Research and/or Reading and Conference credits (501/601 and 505/605). In cases where more than 12 credits are needed because of the lack of regularly scheduled classes, the student must submit a written request waiver to their adviser for approval.

Continuous enrollment and leave of absence

All students admitted to the Ph.D. program in public affairs and policy must be continuously enrolled until graduation, except for periods in which they are absent for an approved leave. Taking a minimum 3 credits per term during the regular academic year will constitute continuous enrollment. Failure to register without an approved leave may result in termination of a student’s admission. Students may have no more than six terms of approved leave.

Grade requirement

A student who receives more than 9 credits of C+ or below in all coursework attempted after admission to the Ph.D. program will be dropped from the program.

Performance in core courses

A grade of C+ or below received for work performed in a core course is not considered passing. A PAP doctoral student who receives a grade of C+ or below in one of the core course offerings during fall or winter terms may not proceed to take the core course offerings in the subsequent term until the course in which a failing grade was received has been repeated, and the failing grade is replaced with a passing grade of B- or better.

Research and Teaching Opportunities

The doctoral degree in public affairs and policy offers a number of research and teaching opportunities.

Hatfield Residency Program

This program, conducted in cooperation with the Hatfield School’s Executive Leadership Institute, places qualified doctoral students in public and not-for-profit agencies as paid residents. Agency placements provide students opportunities to conduct dissertation research, gain advanced research experience, and receive assistance in financing their educational objectives.

Graduate research assistantships

Dependent on available funds, a number of graduate research assistantships are available each year. Students must apply for these by February 1 of the academic year in which the assistantships are desired. Assistantships pay tuition and a small additional stipend.

Teaching opportunities

All doctoral students in the program are strongly encouraged to teach prior to completing their Ph.D. programs. There are a number of opportunities available in this regard.

Teaching apprenticeships with a university faculty member

These duties can include teaching one or more class sessions, assistance in preparing courses, and correction of examinations.

Teaching in the University Studies Program

Advanced doctoral students may also teach in sophomore inquiry coursework sponsored by the Hatfield School of Government. This coursework deals largely with citizen participation and leadership. Advanced doctoral students may also propose and teach a senior Capstone course at the undergraduate level. These are interdisciplinary community-based courses required of all PSU seniors. These students will develop and implement strategies to deal with a community issue in cooperation with one or more community organizations.